It was the end of one of those crazy DTS days, sometime near the beginning of 2016. I was uncomfortably pregnant, curled up on our much-loved sofa in Cambridge, clutching my invincible duct-taped Bible. I felt weary, physically and spiritually, less like a lissom deer panting for streams of living water and more like an unwieldy water buffalo groaning for a river to collapse into. I scanned the unreasonably small print, desperate for some comfort and guidance.
Isn’t it amazing how God’s Word is alive, speaking so directly into our situation? All of a sudden, these words from 1 Samuel 7 seemed to leap off the page:
Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the LORD.
Electrified, I started scribbling madly in the margin of my Bible. When Peter got home, I was bursting with the good things I felt like God had said to me: ‘We’re going to have a home! There we will build an altar, a place of worship and prayer and constant communion with God. And from that place of abiding, of rootedness, we can go out on ‘circuits’ carrying the love of God, and we will have somewhere to return to, to be refreshed and sent out again!’
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15)
As a young, idealistic, energetic, and childless married couple, Peter and I had heard and responded to the command to go. Now, a little older and more weather-beaten, God is gently reminding us of the call to stay. The sweet reality that we are discovering is that as we abide, remain, put down roots, find rest, make a home in His love, we are fruitful. Our staying will make our going much more effective.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” (Isaiah 49)
When we first stepped into full-time ministry, a friend prayed this verse over us, and said something like ‘God wants to hide you away in the secret place of his presence, but also to shoot you out ’. Over the years, it has become our hearts’ desire to dwell in constant communion with the Lord, and from there to overflow: ‘24/7 worship and prayer overflowing in bold evangelism’. And we are starting to see that desire come to fruition in a new way!
I (Taryn) was invited to help with evangelistic event organised by some of our friends in YWAM Wrexham. Realising that a lot of the locals were turning to spiritualists and tarot cards to find identity and hope for the future, they thought ‘if people are spiritually hungry, why not invite them to a Christian ‘spiritual fair’ and introduce them to the true God?’ I had been asked simply to play instrumental worship – I spent two hours in a corner resting in God’s presence as I quietly worshipped and prayed for the people I saw coming in.
When a friend offered to take over for half an hour, I wandered over to speak to one of the girls who had come in. It turned out she was from Pakistan. After a few minutes of friendly chatter, I said ‘I’m from that part of the world too, and I know that the transition to a new culture can be difficult. Is there anything you are struggling with that I can pray for?’ She responded with gratitude, ‘Please pray that I would find friends, I’m lonely. And pray that I would be able to sleep, I am often awake almost all night with anxious and fearful thoughts.’ I responded without overthinking it: ‘you know, I think you need to meet a Friend of mine, the closest Friend you could ever have, so close He isn’t just beside you but inside you. And He can cast out fear from the inside and give you peace, because He is the Holy Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. But He is Holy, so he can’t exist in the presence of sin.’ I explained simply how she could pray and put her trust in Jesus, so her heart would be clean and the Holy Spirit could dwell in her! She was delighted to pray a salvation prayer with me, and I was even more delighted to share the story with the YWAM Wrexham team, who are able to stay in touch with her. Her name is Huma, please pray for her continued walk with the Lord!
And that isn’t all. Peter and I took the kids to a prayer meeting last Saturday, and Isaac spent most of it with his fingers plugging his ears: ‘Mummy, it is TOO LOUD!’ We were just wondering whether it was a mistake to have come as a family when a lady went up to share a testimony, with tears streaming down her face: ‘I didn’t want to move to this city, but as I prayed, God showed me Liverpool ablaze with his glory! Now I know I’m in the right place!’ And as she said those words, we knew we were in the right place too.
You see, just a couple of months before, our YWAM Liverpool teammate, Shelly, had commented casually on Facebook: ‘maybe we should get together and do a weekend of nonstop worship – anybody up for it?’ None of us were prepared for the enthusiastic responses from all over the country! We called our friend Sarah Schrack, who works with Burn 24/7 helping people organise this sort of thing. Sarah was all for it, but said ‘if it’s a collaboration with YWAM, it should have a new name. It’s kind of a Burn, so maybe you could call it – a ‘Blaze’?
We ran with the name and thus was born Ablaze. Gladstones Café (a Christian coffee-shop and bookstore right in the centre of town, who have recently invited YWAM Liverpool to partner together with them) agreed that we could use their Upper Room; someone put us in touch with a friend who had bought a top-quality sound system specifically for events in Gladstones; Peter put together a website; and in no time, word was being spread on social media and through the Liverpool church network, and we had enough musicians signed up to lead two-hours of worship that 36 hours would be possible. We weren’t quite sure who would bother turning up (but if our focus was on worshipping God rather than on gathering people, then how could we not succeed?), but as the first session began suddenly the Upper Room was filled with fifty people, worshipping and praying together!
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3)
We feel amazed and privileged at the way things came so easily together to make Ablaze happen, and are excited as to what might come next. Already it feels like there’s momentum for a monthly 12-hour Burn — if you’re in Liverpool on the 18th November or the 16th December then come join us again in Gladstones’ Upper Room! And we recognise that many have gone before us and ploughed the ground. I was talking to Rita Leage, one of the original founders of YWAM Liverpool 30 years ago, about how they would walk the perimeter of the city (an entire day’s journey) and pray over Liverpool! God never forgets – those seeds planted over the years are springing up all around us. And surely the seeds we planted in the past will spring up too!
We are grateful for this new season, and for all of you who have run with us. This is a team effort! How wonderful to be a part of the Body of Christ. How wonderful to be called to communion with the One who satisfies. How wonderful to be a part of great story of redemption. We pray over you rest, sweet communion with the Lord, and a new courage stirring in your heart.
Love, Peter, Taryn, Isaac and Anu