I spent Saturday at the cricket (third day of the Lord's test, England v Australia) during which, with Australia at their devastating best, we witnessed an increasingly impossible scenario facing the hapless England team. The game, which lasts up to five days, is called a "test match" and Alastair Cook's England is being tested to the limit.
The Go and Grow project is also being tested and is now in what can only be described as its most critical phase thus far. Sometimes I look at the challenges we face and think this feels impossible. Someone recently reminded me of the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel when he challenged the prophets of Baal to call down fire on their sacrifices (1 Kings 18). Them having completely failed, it then came to Elijah's turn to do likewise. But before he asked God to provide the fire, he poured vast quantities of water over the sacrifice until everything was utterly soaked, to make the fire falling challenge all the more impossible. Right now I want to say to the Lord: "Please, no more water". Over the next few weeks the project is being tested like never before. So my second prayer is: "Please Lord, now send the fire".
During this challenging phase, as part of our plan to keep the project on track, I recently had to write to a number of people to ask them if they would pledge to underwrite the project. I've always felt like a reluctant fundraiser and I found it embarrassing to send, in effect, a begging letter to these people, many of whom I count as close friends. But something I hadn't anticipated happened as a result of these letters. In asking for help, people quite rightly had to re-evaluate what they thought about the project. Inadvertently I had set in motion a prayerful testing before God, by a sample group of people, as to whether the project was still His purpose for us. I have been amazed by the responses, which have been mature and full of faith and overwhelmingly supportive. Of course some had questions and concerns, but even within these I sensed a universal desire to encourage and support. It is incredibly strengthening to be surrounded by wonderful people.
Whatever happens next, we can be certain that God is with us, and that we are facing these challenges together as a church community.