Serving Christ on a Beach Mission

As Christians, we may often talk of ‘believing and doing’. But when was the last time we shared the gospel with a person or a group of people? We are called to take the gospel into all the world and make disciples of all men. This is part of our faith; we should be active and alive. This is where organisations such as UBM (United Beach Missions) play an important role.

Serving the Lord on a beach mission offers a brilliant opportunity for Christians to share their faith to children, families and individuals on beaches up and down the country. Whilst our lives should be continuous testimonies before the Lord and men; too often we can slip into a routine of saying little and doing little, blending into the world, or even leading a ‘double-life’. For this reason, beach missions are a great opportunity, especially for young believers. They are a real challenge and test of your faith.

Introduction to Beach Missions

Essentially, beach missions consist of small-ish teams of Christians, working with children on beaches across Britain (as well as parts of Europe). Each mission lasts a week (although many places run for several weeks) with the stated aim of building lasting friendships with children and parents, and more importantly, pointing them to Christ. The following video (although a little dated) provides a good overview of how UBM achieve this:

Blessings

Beach missions aren’t just about serving others, there is time set aside for personal study and spiritual growth, as well as collective prayer and worship. Being with other brothers and sisters in Christ (from mixed backgrounds), day in, day out is one of my favourite things about beach missions. It is so refreshing and revitalising, compared with day to day life. There is no swearing, no crude humour, no girl-boy flirting, immodest dress or other temptations. This difference was something that was brought home to me in stark form yet again as I arrived back home from a mission in Cornwall on a Saturday night. Almost everyone was boozing or getting ready for a night-out.

Instead of judging the poor souls who ‘live for the weekend’ and the sex, drugs, alcohol lifestyle, we should be filled with compassion, a love for the lost, a burden for lost souls, a desire to share with them the most amazing gift of God that we have. 1 Peter 3:15-16 says:

“In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

When we do so, we will be blessed, you can be sure of that!

One of the greatest things about beach missions is the fact that the gospel is being proclaimed to a receptive audience, publicly on a beach (something we still have freedom to do, although opposition abounds). The sight of boys and girls eagerly singing songs of Christ and listening attentively to Bible stories, and their parents watching on, happy to have a break from parenting; is one of the highlights for me.

Challenges

A beach mission is a test of your faith, your character and a test of your ability to survive with not that much sleep; but with God’s grace it’ll be a doddle and great fun too.

For the first couple of years I dreaded going on a beach mission, my shy old self wanted to hide away. It was only with the persuasion of my parents that I somewhat reluctantly went along. I loved every minute of my first beach mission however, having just turned fifteen, but no sooner had I returned home than I retreated back into my shell like a tortoise.

Now, having aged a bit and lost some of that shyness, I can look forward to beach missions with great anticipation and excitement; it is now one of the highlights of my year. This year, I was given much more responsibility, which is daunting and scary, but with God’s grace I survived! Beach missions are an excellent training ground for building yourself up into an effective soldier of Christ. The uniform, the team, make it easier (although it’s still hard!) talking to strangers, inviting them along to beach events and pointing them to Christ, perhaps by sharing your own testimony. Before every event there’s prayer, always a primary focus – we go not in our own strength with our own message but as servants and children of God bringing his message of forgiveness to the world.

 

So next year, put your name down for a beach mission! You won’t regret it.

UBM can be found online at: UBM.org.uk

 

(With thanks to Stefan Kindall for providing the featured image).

That Homeschooling Lark

Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Arguably the most important stage of a person’s life is their childhood, their upbringing. Take one look at the packed prisons up and down the country: nine times out of ten, for many of the poor inmates who seem to know no better, it all went wrong from the start. There is a clear correlation between how a child was brought up and where they end up. Although, of course, it isn’t always as simple as that.

My first day of school was September 11 2001. A day synonymous with another dreadful event, a harrowing reminder of the dangerous world we live in. When I was almost seven years old, my parents took the decision to home educate me and my siblings. This decision has impacted my whole life, and ultimately I believe was the right decision.

So yes, I am one of those weird homeschooled kids, not from a necessarily large or particularly wild family (as far as home educated families go!). It is my desire in this brief piece to reflect on my homeschooled childhood and weigh it up as I see it. Hopefully you’ll find it interesting, if not edifying.

 

Broadening one’s horizons

Home-schooling/home-educating/home-edding/CHEddering (or whatever term floats your blow-up dinghy) opens up new doors and opportunities whilst closing others. Basically – it’s quite different from the orthodox state-school approach (as anybody with even the faintest idea of what it is will agree).

One of the fun things about home-education is that you get to do everything, washing clothes, cooking dinner, cleaning out gutters, emptying drains, carrying out archaeological digs on veg patches, etc. These, all being things that normal kids don’t often get the opportunity to do, with schoolwork and homework. Home education is very hands-on, although different parents do different things.

On a practical level, for a homeschooled family, outside of the state school system and holidays: you can do what you want when you want. Discount term-time holidays; trips to adventure parks, museums, and swimming pools on weekdays minus the usual hustle and bustle; and etc. are all in order.

Due to the lack of a class-room atmosphere, and depending on how strict your parents are (and how much else they have on their plate), home education offers up chances of skipping work to focus on more ‘fun’ activities (I speak from experience!). We got up to all sorts…

Another result is that us home-educated kids can end up a narrow-minded lot. Our main sources of information are our parents, siblings and other home-educated kids. Whilst we miss out on some of the often erroneous and arguably dodgy teaching in public schools (as well as the increasing atheistic/humanistic agenda), we basically grow up in a bubble, protected from the outside; this can be good and bad. When the time comes to venture out into the big wide world, it can come as a bit of a shock!

 

Myth-busting: homeschool style

However, with all this, there are many popular myths flouted around by namby-pamby type people who don’t know any better (just kidding of course!).

One such is the perceived lack of social life. This isn’t completely true, and really annoys homeschooled kids. Home education groups offer children the opportunity to mix and interact in different circles, with older and younger children – a very rewarding experience, and something you don’t necessarily get in the same way in classrooms at school (bully from the year above anyone?).

Home education holidays, weekends and conferences take things further, with the added benefit of home-edding circles being fairly small.

Overall, I guess we do kind of miss out on social interaction outside of home education circles, but you do miss out on school bullies, and other school mischief (although home-educated kids can certainly get up to plenty of mischief on their own!).

 

The legal stuff

Fact time. In many countries, across the world, home education is illegal, including Germany where Adolf Hitler reportedly first banned it (a fact you may well hear often in home education circles). As you can see in the graphic below (Green is legal, yellow is legal in most political subdivisions but not all or is practiced, but legality is disputed. Red is illegal or unlawful. Orange is generally considered illegal, but untested legally. – cut n’ pasted from Wikipedia)

The United Kingdom is one of the few places where home education can be practiced with minimal interference from the state, a fact home educators are very grateful for. Up to 100,000 children are home educated in the UK, and roughly 2.5m in the USA. These figures have risen steadily over the last few decades, as dissatisfaction with the school system grows and (of course) the astronomically high birth-rate of home educated families (something we are all so dearly fond of).

As a slight diversionary note: In 2009, in England, home educators were required to register and report back annually to local authorities. This was based on a review conducted by a certain Mr G. Badman. Taking a leaf out of John Bunyan’s book, if names are anything to go by, this was resented by home educating folk!

However (and thanks to Peter Reynolds and others for pointing this mistake out to me in the comments section) there was such a large uproar over these plans that they were never actually passed through parliament.

Consequently, with understandable motives, there is a growing movement to discourage home education and better ‘support’ parents.

 

Concluding thoughts

Home education is a whole world apart from orthodox state schooling. In some ways it is less demanding on parents than school (my Mum was glad to be rid of the schoolrun!). However, it also presents new and different challenges for the family, which can be much more demanding in different areas. For the parents, you’ll never get away from the kids!

My home educated childhood has been the most important period of my life, a period of molding and shaping. I am immensely grateful for this upbringing. At times, I admit, I was envious of school kids; but hey, the grass is always greener on the other side, right? I knew many state-schooled kids who thought just the opposite…

Whilst on both sides, we can adopt a ‘them’ and ‘us’ attitude, our Christian faith and love transcends any such barriers. We should never judge each other, “This is how it should be done.” We are all different and should respect that. For many others, the situation is different, going to school is completely the right thing to do (much also depends on the local schools too and possibly a whole range of other factors). Both my parents happened to be teachers, giving my family a bit of a headstart. For me, home education was definitely the right step to take and so far I think I’ve turned out pretty good (although some might say otherwise!).

 

Life of a Christian at University

In this post, I aim to discuss the life of a Christian at university; the difficulties, the witness, but also the joys and experiences that one will find. I have been at university for four years, doing a BA and then a MA at Winchester and it has been an experience! I have met many people, from all backgrounds, and I have become richer culturally speaking because of it. I have met people from different Christian backgrounds, agnostics, atheists and those of other religions. I have certainly learnt a lot from them all, and I thank God for such an experience. However, it has not been all plain sailing, and in this post I aim to address what it is like to be a Christian on campus and the difficulties we can face.

There are certainly a lot of pressures at university, to drink, to partake in sex before marriage and so forth. I was blessed by the fact that in my first year, my flatmates were completely understanding, and a few of them were Christians too. It was great going to the CU along with them, talking about God and encouraging each other, my non-Christian flatmates were also awesome, they never pressured me into doing anything and we had a lot of fun together. However, this isn’t always the case, and pressure can be tough to take, however, to take a stand for God is worth it, you realise you don’t need drink, sex or these things to make you happy or complete. In later blog posts I will discuss in more detail about the struggle with these individual items, particularly relationships. If you struggle with the pressure, then take it to the Lord in prayer, discuss it with him and talk to other Christians. Go to the CU for example and get involved, it is great to be around other Christians regardless of what background they have. In my first year, I had a great CU, great friends, and was greatly blessed, however, my case won’t be the same for all first year Christians. All I can say is that do not be discouraged, God is never far, he won’t let you go, his love never fails us! Once you have found yourself a great church that you feel at home at, whatever denomination (can even differ from the one you go to at home!), you will feel as though you have a home away from home!

Being a Christian on campus, means we have a great responsibility! We have a call to witness! Now this does not mean we go around forcing the gospel down people’s throats, dread to think what that would achieve! Our actions can speak louder than words, whether it is not swearing, or not going out to nightclubs, forgiving friends who have failed us, or to simply show love even in the darkest times, people notice these things and wonder why are they different? I have had many a good conversation with people about the Gospel, and I have hardly ever started any conversations myself! People are curious, and that is great, you don’t have to be going round saying “Jesus loves you” every five minutes, just show them by how you act. My biggest failing was that I never got involved in the CU properly, I attended events in my first year, but started to decline my attendances from 2nd year onwards, and it is shameful that I did. CU’s are called to evangelise, and have a great impact at University, whether its talking about the gospel or giving people tea and coffee on a Wednesday night to people who had been clubbing. The love shown at CU’s has been a great encouragement to me, and the desire for God never ceases to amaze. I have even had some amazing personal experiences, and I can only recommend them to people of all different denominations.

Being a Christian means that we are different from other students, but that doesn’t mean we keep ourselves in our little bubble and never talk to others! Many of my friends over the four years have been non-Christians and they have helped me as I have helped them. Do not feel as though you can only be friends with Christians, firstly it’s a bad witness, secondly you can learn so much from them, and learn more about human beings in general. University certainly moulded me as a person, I became more confident, I became crazier! Being at University moulded my faith; I began to trust God more and more. At uni, you will go through pain and hardship, I won’t make it sound like a fairy-tale, it isn’t. Do not however, be scared of it, God may call you to uni, he may not have, but if he has, take the challenge and be that light. Trust in the Lord, and if you wander, the Lord will bring you back, remember through the trials and temptations that he is standing next to you. Lean on him, let him carry you! I wish I had more and more when I look back. I messed up big time, and made some huge errors. We aren’t perfect, but God always brings us back, and that is just wonderful news.

Do not go to university expecting to find your one true love. In some ways, I thought I would, I was naïve in that. I will discuss relationships in more detail in the future as it needs an entire post dedicated to it, but I made mistakes, and it wasn’t good for my spiritual walk with Christ. Now you may find the perfect partner, that Christian girl or guy who is fantastic, many of my friends have, and I am really happy for them, but it isn’t guaranteed. Even though I tried, I have never had a Christian relationship, but God will put someone into our lives when we and that person are both ready. There is no rush, focus on the kingdom, and the people around you, and see what happens.

Another bit of advice would be about politics. Be careful! University is all about politics, it seems you have to either be really left wing or right wing, maybe that’s just me being sceptical, but don’t get drawn into needless political debates. It won’t solve anything, and will end up with people getting really angry and annoyed. I’m not saying do not get involved with politics, I truly believe that Christians should get involved as much as they can. What I suggest is to avoid all the petty arguments and hate. Learn to understand other points of view and respect others. Basically follow the example set by Jesus, as in all things!

I recommend that you should find a place to meditate.  A place where you feel at ease, where you feel inspired, or just a place that is quiet.  For me Winchester Cathedral was a fantastic place to go to, whether during the day or night.  I always found it easier to talk to God there, I could focus my mind better on him.  Of course God meets with us everywhere, and there is nothing special with the Cathedral, but places such as these can just help us focus, and allow us to clear our minds and can be a real blessing.

So in conclusion, university is a big step and change in one’s life, and it isn’t necessary easy. There will certainly be ups and downs, but is it worth it? For me personally, it was. It helped me build up my confidence, meet other people and learn so many lessons that I don’t think I would have learned anywhere else. University however, is not the be all and end all, you should not feel forced to go or feel it’s what everyone does so you should to. The life at university is not for everyone and no one should ever be ashamed for not going. However if you do go, then pray, and walk with the Lord, and who knows what might happen!