Thursday, 4 September 2008

Pouring out your life in the mud

I sit in an old country house, the sun sinking over tree-fringed fields, with the buzz of students milling below around three large multicoloured marquees and a big top, and the strains of 'It is well with my soul' drifting up to the window in male four part harmony. I'm pretty sure the main voice is Welsh, and would hazard a guess at their being Relay workers. I'm not sure whether they're singing it referring to the weather we've been having, but it may well be significant that the previous song I heard coming from them so beautifully was of an anchor that keeps the soul safe and secure while the billows roll... The rain has been pouring down on the campsite since 750 student CU leaders arrived on Monday for their UCCF training conference, and some would say the defining feature of this year's Forum has been the general descent into mud (never seen the like) and the flooding of tents. But that has not been the defining feature of Forum. What I'll remember this Forum for, more than John Piper's Bible preaching, the big top worship, the workshop I led or the joys of going into it on the back of a week of Relay training conference; what I'll remember this Forum for is the joyful Spirit-ful gospel response of the students to their circumstances. Their neighbours' tent flooded: they serve them and clean up for them. They haven't grumbled or grown bitter. They've got on with joyfully receiving the word which is able to save their souls, and humbly serving each other. They may have bad nights of sleep but they refocus on their Saviour in the morning, praise Him, and love each other. Why? Do they not have rights? They've paid to come to this conference! The answer comes in the song that's now started to ascend from the impromptu Welsh-led quartet beneath my window, whose numbers seem to have swelled: "And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour's blood? ... 'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore!" We have nothing of which to complain.

Bish, of course, is liveblogging Forum - notes on the talks and other miscellanies.

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