If someone had told me this time last year, that this year, I would have had a sailing and motorbike adventure then I would have been puzzled. How was I going to be able to do that? I hadn’t sailed before (a car-ferry is not the same) and I didn’t have a motorbike. Furthermore I didn’t know anyone willing to take me adventuring on either. But that was last year.
When announced if anyone at Trinity College would be interested in joining a ‘Celtic Saints mission trip thing’ I thought to myself — ‘I love adventure and nature and finding God in new places and people!’ But I assumed I wouldn’t get a place because I thought everyone would have the same idea, surely all the places had been snapped up already. But God had other ideas. He often does in my experience.
Contacting Howard about joining the crew, I found there was space and indeed it didn’t matter if I had no clue about sailing or even Celtic Saints because God’s provision was already in place. God wanted to give me some amazing experiences to build up my faith in Him. At the very least it would get me out the house for a few days. But seriously, although I didn’t know what to expect, I knew that God was waiting for me there —wherever that ‘there’ was. It was something I needed to do.
On the boat I recall:-
- seeing the sky melt down into the seawater with only the horizon dividing it, like a dream sequence.
- Participating in morning and evening prayer whatever the weather (which sometimes meant shouting the Benedictus to be heard or varying interest by adding different accents),
- Actually steering the boat myself (—thanks to Andy for showing me how and for being patient with me when changing tack).
- I got to see Brighton lit up at night from miles out at sea,
- saw the beautiful stars,
- saw the less beautiful offshore windfarm with its hundreds of glowing red eyes.
- Sailed through a thunderstorm and patiently listened while other boats were rescued from disaster by the lifeboat crew. Still we sailed on through.
- Watched seagulls fishing but alas no other wildlife, unless you count the crew, speaking of which, I made some great friends onboard the boat itself.
After my boating side of the adventure, I also shared hospitality from various people I hadn’t met before as our voyage became more on shore than offshore based. It was clear that just like the Church is referred to as its people and not its building, so too was ‘Navigators of Faith’. The mission was alive in the hearts of the crew even if it wasn’t in the heart of Rival Star’s engine. Therefore it didn’t matter how our destinations were reached because we were still navigators of faith even if we didn’t arrive by boat. We were like modern day equivalents of the Celtic Saints gone before us. Which gave us a truer appreciation for the initial journeys made by the saints who did not have access to the modern technology that we had. Instead of a basic fishing boat we had a motor enhanced sailing ship complete with flaming gas hob, sleeping bags and life jackets. Instead of walking miles, we coached and instead of equestrian power we had a motorized desert horse. Arriving at various places along the south-coast we encountered God’s provision for us through sincere hospitality and were blessed through unexpected but significant conversations. At times we resembled the Magi following a star as every place that we stopped just happened to be called ‘the star inn’ or ‘the star’ pub or right next to a boat called ‘the wandering star’ so the Rival Star was never far from our minds and our mission of searching for God in those places, I found really significant. Highlights included:-
- Walking: in the sunshine/ in sheet rain on a clifftop/ on the beach/ with all my belongings on my back
- Receiving unexpected gifts
- Hearing about ‘Creation-fest’ and barnacles.
- Admiring surfboards.
- Drinking out of jam jars.
- Drinking whiskey.
- Stroking Matty the dog.
- Sharing communion on beanbags and sofas.
- Meeting a Celtic saints wild goose for real- and she was called Derrick.
- Reading ‘Only Jesus Saves’ on the side of a lifeboat
- Sleeping in a makeshift den (comprising of an inflatable boat, tarpaulin, a blowup bed and good will)
- Listening to sea-shanties
- Praying with people
- Sharing the Gospel
- Giving hugs, encouragement and not a flying fig in equal measures as necessary
I found God holding up my self confidence in front of me many times and telling me that I was gonna be ok with Him. That He would give me the words I needed to share with people and the energy to keep going when I felt useless. It was in these few occasions of feeling inadequate (hungry, tired, bewildered) that God used me the most profoundly. That yes I could do this mission and not just that but this is a taste of ministry yet to come.
As a crew we were aware that even if the best sailors had been present, the boat brand new and the sea calm, we were still ultimately at God’s mercy; His control of the waves after setting out, the wind being in our sails and it being His timing when we sailed, when we waited and when we rested. We were humbled by His awesome control over the elements. Somehow even through us; imperfect sailors, the groggy engine and the unpredictable weather God put us in the right places at the right times. He was in control of the bigger picture which we were a part of and He gradually lined things up just so they worked in harmony. Before you ask —yes I would do it again. I told Howard that this voyage has felt like a dry-run for something else…..God only knows.
Was it what I was expecting?
I wasn’t expecting anything but enjoyed each moment that God gave me and tried to sift it for his voice about what he wanted me to get out of that moment. I pray that I remember how God made me feel during the journey, (now that this particular adventure is over) the surpassing peace and security of his love for me as I return to devouring books and knocking out essays back at college. I pray that the experience won’t have been wasted on me and that I will continue in the spirit of the Celtic Saints, seeking God’s wonder in the everyday and holding fast to the momentum of adventure, imbedded in God’s holistic rhythm of life.