The Bridge from Oklahoma to Cornwall
Wow! What an exciting month July has been already! While Souls Harbour Church has hosted many missions teams over the years, this is the first time that we have been here to be a part of it. And it was even more exciting since the group chose to come here as a result of our family’s personal connection to their church.
The Bridge, a church in Bixby, Oklahoma (just outside Tulsa), USA, is pastored by our dear friends and spiritual mentors, Pastor Orlando and Kim Juarez. Their daughter Jennifer, who is the youth pastor, used to be Trevor’s assistant when we were youth pastors at The Crossing Church in Texas. And their other daughter Victoria was a student in our youth group. Furthermore, The Bridge is a faithful supporter of UK for Jesus, providing financial support to us monthly.
When Jen contacted us last summer to see if The Bridge’s first-ever mission trip could be a youth mission trip to Camelford, we nearly exploded with excitement! Now, a year has passed and the trip has come and gone but the memories and effect of their coming here will surely last a lifetime.
On 2 July 2012, we welcomed a group of 20 (15 students plus their leaders) to Souls Harbour Church here in Camelford, Cornwall. We lined up a week full of activities that included practical service to the church and community and evangelistic outreach events. And, as much as they were able to, our own teens here joined in too! One of the biggest, most tangible miracles of the week was the weather. The forecast was nothing but rain, rain and more rain. Not only did we not have to cancel or change ANY activities due to weather, we actually had full-on sunshine on the day of our ‘beach reach’ outreach event!
(Below: The Bridge Team with the Smiths, Pastor David, and a few of our teens)
Here’s a summary of our action-packed week…
TUESDAY - The team arrived and was ready to pass out! But not before enjoying some local, award-winning fish & chips for dinner, of course! 🙂
WEDNESDAY - With 20 pairs of hands to keep busy, some much needed help with painting, cleaning and organizing around the church was made into quick work. They were also able to bless Pastor David directly by doing some power washing at his home as he preps it for painting (if it ever stops raining long enough for him to do it!). Three of the students were able to go with Trevor into the nearby secondary school to be guest speakers at the Christian Union meeting over lunch. The team then got to go out for some site seeing, visit our family’s new home here in town and hear the mini version of our England ‘story’ and wrap up their first full day with a good, ol’ fashioned “4th of July BBQ” at the church! There was lots singing, dancing, laughing and eating! The only thing missing was the fireworks! Oddly, they don’t sell those here this time of year… (wink) ;o)
(Below: Pastor David working his magic at the grill for our 4th of July BBQ!)
THURSDAY - Armed with tea, coffee and loads of home-baked goods donated by families in the church, the group went to the nearby tourist-magnet town of Tintagel to help raise money for Souls Harbour’s outreach-focused teen cafe and to evangelize ‘open air’ style. We rented a small hall situated directly across from the primary parking and drop off point for visitors to the area. With a portable PA set up outside, the students rotated throughout the day serving the guests who stopped in, doing drama and singing, sharing their personal testimonies, and so on. It was a huge success. Two young men prayed to receive salvation through Jesus Christ right there! Many more stopped to watch and listen and over £100 ($155) was raised! Also, the sound carried far beyond our immediate line-of-site, so there were certainly many, many others throughout the main street who were hearing the ministry happening at our little portable cafe! Later that evening, the team joined us (with schools ministry band L.E.D) at a special outreach concert at a secondary school in the town of Liskeard. There were about 150 teens eager to sing and dance to the beat-driven music of L.E.D, so help with security, crowd management and packing-up was a huge blessing. Before the night ended, the teens at the concert were presented with the clear and simple Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes outreaches like this come with restrictions regarding how overt we are permitted to be at a certain venue. For this particular event, we weren’t able to facilitate prayer or ask for any type of formal response. However, packets with more information about God and salvation through Jesus Christ were made available for students to request and all 65 packets were taken! We know that good seed was planted that night and we greatly appreciate the teams help. It was also fun to have them come be a part of another aspect of our ministry here.
(Below: A member of the team sharing his testimony.)
(Below: A large group of students pass by slowly watching the drama in progress.)
FRIDAY - Have bucket, will travel! Next to the church property is a town car park where people park their cars to walk to local businesses. With water, rags, soap and buckets at the ready, our crew was in place to offer a free car wash to anyone who parked there between 10am and 2pm and, boy, did they stay busy! This was a simple act of ‘no strings attached’ kindness to show people the love of God in a practical way. Many were astonished and very grateful and several even gave further donations for the Cafe. That evening, the gang joined us for our usual Solid Rock Cafe night. Every Friday our cafe fills up with unsaved/unchurched teens from the community who come to hang out, eat fast food and play pool and video games. This week, Trevor set up an ‘open mic night’ as well. The team mingled so well with all of the local teens and even helped some of the shy ones get up the courage to go to the mic to share their talents!
(Below: A team member performing to a packed house for the ‘open mic night’)
SATURDAY - You can’t come to Cornwall without visiting the magnificent cliff-lined beaches. So, we decided to work some ministry and play time together by having a ‘beach reach’ day. Polzeath beach is one of the renown surfing beaches in this country and is only about 25 minutes from Camelford. With a portable (battery powered) PA and miraculously clear skies, we spent most of the day there. The kids would explore and play in the sand and water, then at a predetermined time and location, Trevor would suddenly start blaring the music from his inconspicuous location and the team would gather ‘flash mob’ style and suddenly the beach came to life with choreographed dance! Everyone nearby (and there were lots of people because it was a gorgeous day in that area) would stop to watch and listen. As soon as the music stopped, the microphone was in the hand of one of the students sharing their testimony (their personal story of coming to know God) with the crowd before they had a chance to disperse. Then as soon as that finished, the music started up and the team performed a brief but powerful evangelistic drama, then another testimony, then another group ‘flash mob’ style dance. It was the perfect style of ministry for a location like that. We had many people stop to ask what was happening and why. In fact, news reports and photographs this week show Prince William and Prince Harry hanging out and surfing on that very beach at the very time we were there! Who knows?! Perhaps they heard and/or saw some of the ministry that took place! After a long, wonderful day of ministry and fun, we then went back to the church to prep for Sunday morning.
(Below: Our ‘flash mob’ dance in progress at Polzeath.)
SUNDAY - The team led our service from start to finish and did an amazing job. They led worship, shared personal testimonies about their faith and their experiences on this trip, performed their drama and encouraged our congregation and visitors to be bold in our faith. Afterward, the entire church went down to Trebarwith, our local beach. We had a picnic lunch, then 6 of our own teens were baptized in a tide pool there on the beach. Again, we used the fantastic “flash mob” method to draw the attention of those around the beach, then Pastor David took the microphone to explain what was happening and why. We sang a praise song, then he had each of the young people share, over the microphone, why they were choosing to be baptized. What an act of boldness for these local teens! Many of them had unsaved friends from school who were hanging out at the beach that day and were watching what was happening. Here being a Christian at any age you are the definite minority. However, the younger generation seems to be especially ostracized and openly persecuted for their faith. It’s a hard journey for these young believers, but they stood tall and boldly declared their faith! I know the team being here with them was a huge support and in many ways it created a special bond between them that will truly last a lifetime. That evening, our teens mingled with the team whilst we (Pastor David, Trevor and I) were blessed to be treated to a lovely meal out with the team leaders. We reflected on the week, swapped stories of our various adventures in ministry and God’s faithfulness in the midst of it all… it was truly wonderful and refreshing.
(Below: The Bridge team (+ Trevor) preparing to lead worship for service).
(Below: Pastor David explaining salvation and baptism to those gathered.)
(Below: Baptisms in progress by Pastor David with help from Trevor.)
MONDAY - Saying goodbye is never easy. They were only here for a week, but some very special bonds were made, and we all found it quite difficult to say goodbye. Our own sweet Brooklyn had formed quite an attachment to many of the team members and was very upset to see them go. But thankfully the magic of the internet and social networking can keep us all connected in a way that is the next best thing to being in the same place at the same time. After a full day exploring London on Tuesday and some unexpected flight changes, the team finally made it home safe and sound to Tulsa by Wednesday night.
(Below: A final prayer over the team before they head back to London.)
(Below: Trevor, Brooklyn and me with Jen and Victoria Juarez)
Having spent many a summer break going on foreign mission trips, I understand firsthand the affect it can have. Suddenly you see the world differently. Suddenly you realize to a greater extent the need for people to hear about God and salvation through Jesus Christ and you discover that you do, in fact, have the ability to tell them. For the kids that came and for our own here, I feel that the filters through which they see life will forever be altered for the better because of their experiences this week. Coming from a strong Christian community in the States, it can be difficult to comprehend a society that is nearly completely indifferent to such things and in many ways is completely against it. That is what it’s like here and these kids gave a full week of their lives (and A LOT of money) to help plant and water seeds of hope and life in Jesus Christ. I’m confident that the ripple effect of their visit (both here and in their own lives) will carry on for generations.
In closing, we would like to give a special THANK YOU to The Bridge for sending such an amazing group of students and leaders. Thank you for trusting Souls Harbour and UKFJ with them for a week! Their group had to raise over $50,000 (£32,300) to make this trip possible! WOW!! They could have done ANYTHING with that much money, but they chose to serve and spread the Gospel. The students worked hard to prepare their personal testimonies and a drama, all of which were amazing. They also had to learn two fully choreographed dances, one of which was put to one of Trevor’s songs (LaLaLa) and created just the night before they had to perform it at the beach reach! It was all FANTASTIC! They were all so friendly, polite and helpful… whatever tasks they were given to do, they did so with joy and enthusiasm.
We were so blessed to get to be a part of this experience! We can’t wait for God to open the doors for more groups to come be a part of what He is doing here in Cornwall, England! (Click here for more about what UKFJ and Souls Harbour have been up to!).
Blessings and more to come soon!
- Connie, Trevor & Brooklyn Smith (UK for Jesus)
(Below: A “sweet welcome” by some of our teens just for the team!)