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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Park (10/25/12)

TITLE: God has a Great Sense of Humour
By Noel Mitaxa


With the mission team’s day off, I was leaning back against trunk of a massive elm tree. The shade of its vast canopy was slowly creeping across lawns that extended between the car park and the beach, as families relaxed on picnic blankets or indulged in energetic bursts that wryly exposed parents’ newly-discovered lack of stamina.

Against an industrial backdrop of ships discharging or reloading their cargo at the wharves, I could see people swimming out in deeper water, and kids splashing around in the shallows or building sandcastles. I could others squealing with delight as they stretched in to touch hands from opposite ends of the tunnels they had clawed out of the sand.

Seagulls added their brief squawks to the relaxed holiday sounds as life went on unaided by me or the rest of the team. We were half-way through our twelve-day beach mission with Scripture Union, and the balmy mood invited some reflection on how God enjoys starting from small beginnings.

Scripture Union missions had an inauspicious start in 1868, when Josiah Spiers was holidaying in Llandudno in North Wales. While strolling along the beach, he paused, stretched out his cane and drew the text ‘God is Love’ in the sand. He invited some nearby children to decorate it, and when they had finished he told them a bible story. A beach mission was born - to develop a momentum that has since spanned the globe.

I thought back to our own arrival at the park; greeted with great anticipation from the kids and great relief from their parents - for “I’m booooored!”, moans had started producing their own tedium. We were eager to start sharing and living out the gospel through our planned stories, craft activities, serials, songs, games and plays that all throw fresh light on God’s grace.

Experienced team members were also anticipating those moments when God would invade some unexpected interruption with yet another un-plannable, spontaneous solution to an unforeseen interruption.

Happily, our team day off coincided with a circus visit, reassuring us of God’s providence, for the kids’ loyalties would not be divided. Still, one boy’s response had blown me away. “Oh no,” he said, “we don’t like circuses!” I learned later that his dad was pastor of St Anaesthesia’s, a church whose members were trained to be so narrow-minded that they could look through a keyhole with both eyes – at the same time!

Here in the park we had seen whole families warming to the gospel, and a day off gave us time to recharge and to reflect. Tomorrow would see us building on a positive foundation...

“Hey you!”

My reverie suddenly shattered, I opened my eyes to see a large dark shape leaning in from my left. An original Neanderthal Man, and a little too close for comfort. I turned towards him.

“Yeah, you!”

Neanderthal’s curiosity leaned him even closer, thus enriching my oxygen intake with alcohol fumes. “You’re one o’ them Scripture Union fellas arncha?”

It’s hard to resist such persuasive interrogation, so I nodded. His features screwed up into something that resembled a grin: “Yeah. Me an’ me bruvver useta go to that. And we sing all them old songs whenever we get drunk!”

“Fantastic!” I couldn’t help but smile, “because God loves you as much now as he ever did.”

“Yeah, I s’pose he does,” Neanderthal murmured and shuffled away. Then, half-turning, he called back over his shoulder: “But thanks for comin’ again for the kids. Ya doin’ a great job.”

That brief encounter in the park sits higher in my memory than many of our programs, as it invites me to try visualizing the fun God has in fulfilling his promise from Isaiah 55:11 - that his word should not return void, but accomplish the task he set for it – because “all them old songs” that Neanderthal and his “bruvver” remembered were straight scripture quotes!

God’s word has been sown invisibly, like the kids linking hands through their tunnels, and I pray that a sober Neanderthal mind and heart will one day connect with God’s grace and step into new life.

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Member Comments
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Danielle King 11/02/12
This is a great read. You've packed a lot of story into few words and ended with a clear message about God's word not returning void. Along the way it was entertaining with your subtle humour, St Anaesthesia's narrow minded members being trained up to look through a keyhole with both eyes at the same time. That was funny but also highlighted some real issues within the church. And the Neanderthal, enriching your oxygen intake with alcohol fumes. I thought it was a good mix of humour with a great message to finish with. Jobs a good 'un as they say!
Beth LaBuff 11/04/12
You do a fantastic job of "showing and not telling" with phrases like "enriching my oxygen intake with alcohol fumes" and "that wryly exposed parents' newly-discovered lack of stamina." :) I'd never heard of the ministry you mention but loved reading this, and how it originated, as well as the "old songs" being straight Scripture quotes. Amazing! The Word of God is truly alive.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/05/12
This is a powerful devotion. The mission trip on the beach sounds quite intriguing. I almost wish you had focused more on Neanderthal and played that scene out some more. He sounds like a fascinating character. You did a nice job on this piece.
Margaret Kearley 11/06/12
This is inspirational and a fantastic reminder of the great work on God done on Beach Missions. I love your touches of humour and reality, I love the introduction of Neo...(whatever) man and his bruvver and the unstoppable power of the Word of God. This was just great to read! I was there on the beach, with your wonderful descriptions, re-living some of the beach missions I have enjoyed in the past, particularly at Llandudno! Just great - thankyou.
Loren T. Lowery11/06/12
Isaiah 55:11 one of my favorite scriptures. I've come to rely/believe on it quite often. I like the story and the way it is told; and the way you've shown the reality of the way mission work requires people called to do its work. Not everyone could keep the faith when confronted with the starkness (not always seen as humorous) of the human condition.
Bea Edwards 11/07/12
I really enjoyed your story and how it highlighted God's sense of humor along with His timing and providence.
I heard a statement yesterday on the radio that I found hilarious- "Want to make God laugh-just tell him your plans."
Aren't we fortunate that our Father has a sense of humor?
Ellen Carr 11/07/12
I enjoyed your story which I'm pretty sure is true. Those SU Beach Missions have done great work and it's always good to hear later of adults who remember attending. Scriptures in song are certainly a great way of planting them in memories. The only part I'd have left out, though funny, was the part about 'St Anaesthesia's' - I didn't think it fitted. But I liked the 'so narrow-minded...' joke. But that aside, you did a great job.
lynn gipson 11/08/12
As a recovering alcoholic of 20 years I can relate to this story. I remember praying constantly for God to release me and He did! In spite of everything Neanterthol has the spirit of Christ in Him.

This was wonderful to read, touched me on all levels, beautifully written and something I didnt want to end!