Just back from a wet week at New Wine. It didn’t really rain all the time, but when I found out that the West Country had received 250% of the average for July, I wasn’t surprised.
However, the work with the children in ‘Pebbles’ (the name of the 3 and 4 year olds group) went very well. We were a team of nearly 100, working with over 300 children in a morning. Despite arriving in gumboots and waterproofs, the children’s enthusiasm for all the activities was not dampened. They played with toys, sang songs, listened to stories, watched cartoons and puppets, chatted to their leaders and learnt different ways of praying. I was, as I am every year, impressed.
I was impressed with how quickly they settled in. After the first day, the children came in as eagerly as if they had been coming every day for several months.
I was impressed with how well the children listened. At times, you could almost hear a pin drop in a marquee filled with more than 200 people.
I was impressed with how simply, yet confidently, they prayed. Watching a little girl put her hands on the shoulder of an adult as she prayed, or hearing a small boy say, after I had prayed for his sore leg: ‘It’s better now.’
I was impressed with how caring they are. One 4 year old asked me: ‘Is your arm all right now?’ He had remembered that we had prayed for my tendinitis a few days previously.
I was impressed when one mother told me how her 4 year old had woken at 1am, asking if he could pray for New Wine.
I was impressed when parents said, time and time again, how the sessions (one and a half hours a day for five days) had changed their children’s lives. ‘Pebbles’ is not a babysitting service. It is not even some kind of a mini nursery school. The sole aim is to help the children have an encounter with Jesus. When that happens, no one is ever the same again.
I was impressed with the parents. I teach, having a good mix of parents to deal with, ranging from the charming to the downright unpleasant and aggressive. Yet the parents of the children, despite arriving with dripping coats and hair, or having had to wait precious minutes before the doors opened, making them late for their next session, were invariably delightful. They had had a difficult week in the rain and the mud yet they were incredibly positive. They were calm, smiling, thankful and enthusiastic: thrilled with the sessions offered in Pebbles.
I know, given the same circumstances, that most people would not have responded like this.
I’ve always said that the Holy Spirit is tangibly present in the quiet, listening atmosphere surrounding these tiny tots it is my privilege to work with this week.
Now I have seen the same presence in their parents.