This was the OAC national Training Seminar, teaching people how to use the sketchboard for working with adults and children. In previous years, it has been held at the BBI (Birmingham Bible Institute), and a number of people refer to it as 'the BBI Seminar'. This year, it was sometimes 'BBI in Nottingham'.
The course wasn't really designed for me, but it was a good opportunity to meet some people, do some evangelism, and practice some sketchboard messages for myself. And, in any case, it's just one of those things you have to do if you are involved with OAC GB.
Take the train to Nottingham. Start off 0730 at Sea Mills station, where I bump into one of our neighbours and have a good chat - he once shared breakfast with Louis Palau. What can you say to that?
The trip is uneventful until some time mid-morning, when the train slows down and stops. We eventually have an announcement - the track ahead is broken, and they are working out whether to go ahead very slowly, or wait for it to be repaired. Eventually we continue, but I have missed the connection for the final train.
Once at Nottingham station, there seems to be no signs telling me where the main exit is. Try two exits, but they both take me into car parks and side streets. Had intended to take a bus from opposite the main exit, but give up and find a taxi instead.
Arrive at St Andrews and discover that there have been dreadful delays on the roads, and most of the other people have been delayed as well. We seem to be facing a re-run of the organisational difficulties that plagued the Vienna campaign last month, but fortunately the similarities are small.
I am staying, as I hoped, with Richard, the Vicar. I got to know him a couple of years ago, when we were thinking of moving to Bristol, so that is good.
The teaching sessions are mostly pretty standard stuff - most of it we have covered in much the same way in Snowball. Since I already know Richard and all the people involved in giving the training, and contribute helpful suggestions every now and then, some of the other students are a bit confused as to whether I'm a student or staff. Since I can honestly say I'm both, it's quite a good way into conversations.
Not a lot to say about the training today - the staff do all the work. The children's club is a bit disappointing - only 4 children - but we persevere and do the programme anyway. The high point is the day is the evening, when I get the chance to enjoy a good chat with Richard.
Up to 7 children today. I do the memory verse, which needed a bit more pace but was otherwise okay. Geoff did the message again, as none of the students volunteered.
Had a good conversation with a chap called Philip after one of the adult messages at lunchtime. Grew up in a Catholic home, fell in with a bad crowd, short prison term, can't hold down a job, but was very struck by the message, and allowed me to go through most of the EE gospel message before he had to move on. Interestingly, he was sure he was going to Heaven, and based his assurance on God's forgiveness. But his most pressing need was to find a hot drink and somewhere to stay for the night.
Today, I preached my first message on the street with a sketchboard. There was a good crowd, and three people responded to the invitation. It was a real thrill, and also quite a relief to be able to preach after watching other people do it so often. Geoff identified two areas to improve - it was a bit long (but I did keep them, despite the street cleaner coming through the middle of the message), and it was 'a bit political' (I padded the reference to the Russian revolution with a personal note from my time in Finland).
Only two children at the children's club today... Geoff did the message as before.
Learned some more rope tricks in the evening. One of them, Neither Dave Glover nor I could get when we were shown, but after working on it for half an hour or so, it finally started to work. Now all I need is a routine to use it in.
First thing, showed Dave G how to do the disappearing knot - he was quite pleased. It's good to be of service!
This lunchtime, we had a bit of time spare after the scheduled messages, so I did mine again. Kept it shorter, and missed out the 'political' bits - and had a smaller crowd. Also, my first heckler - a little old lady, maybe in her seventies. "Excuse me, you're talking about Jesus, aren't you?" "Yes, that's right." "Well, what about all the suffering in the world?" "I'll talk with you about that in a few minutes."
One person responded to the invitation, and I talked with the lady at the end - a Mrs. Booty. The amount of suffering in the world was a genuine problem for her, both spiritually and emotionally. She couldn't recognise human responsibility for causing suffing in many cases, and could not cope with the idea that she had ever caused any suffering to anyone. It was very sad: she was so bound up by this problem, and unable to do anything to lighten the burden. I promised to pray for her. She appreciated the chat.
Only one child at the children's club. I volunteered to do the message, which would have been easier if the people doing the memory verse beforehand had used the same verse that I had been working with. Still, it was all good experience, and the young lad seemed to enjoy himself and take in some of the Biblical truth, so it was worth doing.
After the last session, Dave Glover drove me to the station. There is another session on Saturday morning, but I had already arranged to sleep elsewhere tonight when I discovered this, and anyway it was on setting up a local ministry, which is not really what I need to do. It's surprising how fond you can get of people in such a short time - there are several folk on that course I am really going to miss.
Took the train to Leicester, where Paul Cockburn picked me up. The lights on his car were surprisingly dim, and when he parked, he tried to start the engine again and absolutely nothing happened. It seems we were extremely fortunate to get back in the car, so maybe the week had not turned out like the Vienna campaign after all.