At 07.30 hours on 14 July 2012 various youth pastors/leaders and young people from across Herefordshire were loading vehicles in various church car parks, ably assisted by a few older folk. By 08.00 hours these vehicles were parked on the path running through Bishop’s Meadow in Hereford, where an outreach event known as HYPE was due to take place, based on the forthcoming 2012 London Olympics. A mobile stage duly arrived, along with a sound crew and generator, vehicles carrying inflatables, food vans, etc.
A meadow is perhaps not the best place to hold an event at the height of the wettest UK summer since records began. Earlier in the week another event had been held in Bishop’s Meadow when HM Queen Elizabeth II visited the city as part of her Diamond Jubilee. This meant that damage had already been caused to the surface, which was saturated in many places. The enthusiasm of the youth was good to observe. They wanted the event to go ahead. Prayers for the rain to stop had already been answered, but the wet ground meant that the vehicles could not be driven onto the grass. When one tried it immediately became stuck and the decision had to be taken to cancel HYPE. I managed to catch my wife before she left home with the trays of cakes she and my daughter had baked the previous day. Vehicles were reloaded and driven back to the churches, while many other calls made to those who were due to be part of HYPE.
I do not understand why such things happen. It would be easy to be discouraged. My sixteen-year old daughter is a member of the HYPE committee. I know how hard they have all worked over the last eighteen months. But my prayer is that a wet boggy piece of land in Hereford that is usually enjoyed by so many people for recreation will not shake the faith of the youth or their leaders. I see the day through different eyes. As a parent and church member I am greatly blessed and encouraged by the way that this group of young people from different churches worked together as a team, guided by their leaders. Their hard work, commitment and willingness to operate across denominations are an excellent example to the rest of the church.
To the youth I say nothing is wasted. Who knows where God can use the experience they gained in working together to organise such a major event? Who knows what God is going to do in their lives or through their lives next? To those of us who forget what it was like to be young I ask that you celebrate and encourage the young people in your church. There may be times when you might not approve of their clothes, their music, or some of things they do and say. But before you criticise step back a moment and just ask yourself if you are setting an example. Then remember that your youth and your youth leaders are vitally important to the church. Make sure you tell them.