NTE Mission ‘09 – Friday

Okay day 3. Last night’s shenanigans include the following: By 6:30am the sun was already streaming into our room, and for one reason or another, Josef wakes up and in a loud voice declared to the heavens: “Hey guys! Wow it’s so bright already, I wonder what time it is? Oh, it’s only 6:30am, well let’s go back to sleep.” But what the angels can hear, me and Ben could hear too, so we were woken up to no avail. But at least there was no snoring at night haha.

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RICErally ‘09 – The Torn Identity

Oh wow, to describe the night RICE event in one word, it would have to be: EPIC! Indeed it was a hard run but I think the end result really does justify all the sweat involved. I especially was extremely exhausted at the end of it, since it was merely a week since the previous RICE event.

 

Anyway, us techies were sort of due in at 5:50am originally, to the Sydney Entertainment Centre, but luckily the admins managed to secure some set up time on Friday and so some of it was already done. This meant we were allowed to arrive by 8am. We were really relieved when we heard the news; those extra two hours really does help. Our health was boosted a lot more for the entire day and night as a result. We arrived at 8, and had to proceed inside through the back gates, through the loading dock. This was the first time I had been inside the SEC through the alternate route. They had security and we had our leader passes to get past.

 

Pre-Event

Set up was delayed a bit because our equipment had not arrived yet. Meanwhile we went to the backstage restricted area where we dumped our stuff. It was quite nice; there were rooms for different teams (we added our own directions on top of them), a vending machine, dressing room, etc. The stage seemed partially set; all the lights were set on their hanging beams, waiting to be hoisted up. As we began setting up, at about 9am, we saw these cool LCD panels which would create the ultimate backdrop for the stage. The professionals told us that each of the seven panels we used were $50k each, and they looked so fragile as well; so I just simply stayed away from them.

 

After a few more hours, we uncoiled more cables, and attached them to speakers, instruments and microphones. By the time we were all set up, music teams and everyone else arrived and finally main rehearsal was underway. It was mainly sound checking; lighting was still yet to be set. I think about 12pm we were finally done, and of course by then everyone had arrived. We were then finally let off to have lunch. But before that we met the professionals we were going to be working with. The cameramen and directors were from Hillsong, friends of one of our coordinators; we were meant to learn from them for this year so that we could do the same job next year T.T”

 

I was determined to have a good meal today, anticipating nothing but quick McDonald’s meals. So I immediately rushed off to have a nice bowl of ramen, best meal of the day! By the time I got back we were all either mucking around or wandering aimlessly with nothing to do. I went around admin and the other teams to see what they were doing. We were meant to be having a production rehearsal right after lunch but for some reason it got delayed by like an entire hour. Such that is the timetable at RICE, it is set at Asian Standard Time – add about 30 minutes to each displayed time.

 

When we actually did rehearse I got to see the control room right behind the stage. My job for the night was assistant director; it wouldn’t be the best view of the show but then it was the most interesting job. I was to help the director by looking ahead in the program and telling her what was coming up and what would be needed; whether it be a video, a shot of the audience or a close up of whoever is on stage. The bad thing was that I hadn’t read the program run-through beforehand. They only just gave me the program like at 1:30pm and I had like a few hours to learn it all, so not cool. Luckily I had been through the rehearsals on Wednesday night so I had a vague idea of how each of the acts flowed from one to another, and hence the overall structure of the night. That gave me a little bit of advantage for the night, since I had actually “seen” the show already. Videos of this will be on Facebook.

 

We had a short run-through of the night; we didn’t rehearse everything, there were a lot of acts that we didn’t get a chance to go through because of time. In fact Nicole C Mullen came only at about 4:30pm, and we only had a chance to practice the opening song with her like twice, that was it before we had dinner at 5pm. At that time it had already been a long day. Think about it, 8am to 5pm, having seen the stage put together over a period of three hours and then some, it really takes a lot of energy out of you to be alert for the rest of the night.

 

Anyway I rushed off for dinner, back to Central because I had to deliver tickets to some of the my youth. I met Matthew, Charlie, Katie and a few others from our uni group as I walked outside; yeah a lot of people were here by the time we decided to have dinner. I had a short chat with them, sold my spare ticket to them and then ran off the meet my youth group. I handed them the tickets, had dinner with them; Hungry Jacks inside a McDonald’s restaurant haha! I was pretty tired by them so I didn’t really manage much good conversation for them; the coffee in the morning hadn’t helped either. Coffee has never helped me which sucks; it’s like it has no effect on me whatsoever, am I drug resistant?

 

I got back just before 6pm, to find that our show was being delayed by 5 minutes already; I figured that was the case because as I returned the youth were still waiting outside the SEC even though they all should’ve been inside since like half an hour ago. We still had a short while to make sure everything was ready; I had a short read over the program again; I guess I was going to have to learn it as I went along haha! It was too hard to remember everything. The stage looked so awesome; it was dark and the smoke machine just made that eerie awesome atmosphere. Matt Chandler was also here by this time; we didn’t get time to chat with him although we could’ve, he was being briefed on how we were going to introduce him; Sam was messing around with him at this time.

 

I snuck out of the main arena to take a peek at our youth group stall. Poor Eva pulled off the stall on her own; she put in such grand effort and it looked spectacular; we had stuff to hand out, we had photos and videos, it was very easy to spot as well thanks to her banner! I didn’t have time to analyse any further because they were already letting the kids inside the arena; I ran past a lot of them as they sat down, and disappeared behind the stage curtains to get ready for the show.

 

During the Event

Alright the show was finally on. The rest of the day seemed a blur to me at this point; everything happened so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time. And now it was time for the show to go on. Immediately we had the Nicole C Mullen show. I’m not sure we had her perform for an hour, or part thereof; I guess she just really wanted to. She did a lot of up beat dancing songs which got a lot of the kids pumped up, everyone was sort of dancing I guess in the space that they had. I had my first look at the types of shots the director wanted to capture from our four cameras set up for the night.

 

We were late by the time she was finished. We even tried to cut one of her songs out to save time but she was persistent in finishing it. And finally after a few minutes of random-ness, the lights went pitch black and the crowd was suddenly roaring in that tone that you, as the production team, would want to hear; they sounded so excited about the event that it got me excited too. We had our countdown sequence and boom! Immediate jump into our opening dance. Nicole C Mullen was performing it with her dancers; our opening song. I think it was a bit rough that she had her own dancers because for rehearsal we had youth dancers who had their own choreography for the song; a whole 5 minutes of it and it was not used which seemed kind of bad now that I think about it.

 

But at least the opening song had everyone super pumped up. I won;t pay much more attention to the sequence of events for the night now; I’ll actually move onto what was happening backstage; the other side of RICErally.

 

As you might have expected from some other stimulus, backstage was just as exciting and nerve-racking as some could imagine. It really did come down to “Oh no we have a problem and it must be alleviated within the next few seconds, minutes, and at worst, milliseconds. First major bit of drama was at the very beginning of the show. We were going to go backstage to where Matt Chandler, Steve and Sam were, and our mobile camera guy was moving back there when all of a sudden the cable snapped! Or something like that – and our supervisor fully freaked out and we had to change to another camera, which gave a dud view of the auditorium. We got back visual like a few seconds later, shifted back, and again the cable cut out and our supervisor panicked once more.

 

I really thought my job for the night would be boring; fair enough, I didn’t know how to use he equipment and all. Assistant director had its unique roles too; ie. memorising the program and telling the director what was coming up, making sure the tapes that were recording were running fine. Major mess up of that. The tapes that were meant to record for 60 minutes lasted only 40, because of some short-play/long-play issue I don’t know. And so we lost a bit of footage for the night; I know we didn’t get one of the songs completely; I wonder if my core leader is going to rip my head off once he finds he can’t use some of our disjointed footage for next year’s promotional DVD.

 

There was a time when I did get a go at directing. The opening song had a lot of quick cuts from live feed to video; I couldn’t tell the director in time, nor could she change the view that fast anyway; so they gave me an LCD screen and a mouse which had complete control over the projecting screens so I just had to click between video and live feed – now that was awesome! My little LCD panel had priority over the director so basically I had more of the control bwahaha! Later on during the night the director messed something up and her panel wasn’t working for some reason. She couldn’t change between cameras, especially to pre-recorded video so I had to do all of it while they got a professional to come over and sort things out; had heaps of fun being in control haha!

 

One bad thing about the backstage section we were working in, was that we couldn’t hear the sounds on stage too well; so if everyone was speaking normally and not shouting I would not be able to hear it; this meant I missed out on the talk, sort of. I caught the first bit of it but the rest of it was too soft for me to hear from where I was. I also missed out on the game; I still have no idea how it’s meant to work and all.

 

The rest of the night started to go bad gradually; we were already starting late and as the night went on, we found ourselves running out of time – leading to some quick “trimming” of the program, snipping minutes off this section and that section. The original 3-minute timer for the Master Chef section was cut down to 1 minute, and that massive game was cut from 10 to 5. Even Matt Chandler shortened his talk a bit. I could hear a lot of the commotion going on over the headsets – all the “tell Sam that we need to wrap this section up now”.

 

I didn’t get any time to enjoy the show; it was always looking ahead to see what was next, and what was needed for video; by the time RICErally ended it was overtime and I was extremely tired, it was getting harder and harder to concentrate, but I managed to hang in there some how. I guess I can’t give much more detail about what actually happened, maybe I’ll do a reflection on what I thought of the program in a later post.

 

 

Post-Rally

Oh yeah, post-rally seemed more interesting than the show. I immediately popped out once half the crowd had left through the doors; I went out along with them, found my friends, my youth group and just hung around our stall for a good half hour, chilling out and all. I managed to meet up with a lot of people I haven’t seen for ages, from Baulko and from Livingstone. Had a short chat with them but it was definitely worth it.

 

But apart from that half hour of bliss, I went back to an empty auditorium where all the lights were on and things began falling apart. Lights were coming down, the speakers, all the microphones the stage looked completely different once we started tearing it down. Pack up went rather quickly because we had like 30-40 people working hard, pulling things down, coiling the cables and placing equipment back into crates. The auditorium automatically began a “hard-hat zone” so we all had to go over to a big box out back and grab hard hats – stupid OHS. But fair enough there was a lot stuff hanging above us; those $50K LDC panels I mentioned earlier, huge speakers hung from a single giant metal chain (I really wondered how that one chain could’ve supported such huge speakers – it was like 8 units joined together, hanging from that one chain).

 

Packup was really tiring as well – having to move stuff here and there, having to lift things back inside crates, taping all the cables back together, sorting them out into piles. There were these really huge cables too, not just microphone ones, huge power cables which were really thick and heavy; even after coiling them up they asked us to tape them together and I was thinking: “How can tape possible hold such huge heavy cables together?” The answer: just wrap tape around it a million times and it should be fine.

 

The untangling of cables was the hardest process because everything was just shoved under the stage so it wouldn’t get in the way during the night; we would find that a 15m cable was stuck on the other side of the stage and so we had to go there to find the source of the tangle, or give up and try the next cable.

 

The night went on and by 12am we were nearly done – most of the equipment was back in crates; the only thing left was to move them back out of the auditorium to the truck, and loading each crate one by one onto it, in a tetris fashion; I’m amazed at how a truck could hold all that heavy equipment, especially when it packed so tight that it really was like tetris. I’ll  try to put photos of these things up later. By then lots of people were tired, we had people pushing stuff further out to the door, others moving them onto the lift thingy that raises things into the truck, and other stacking them into a truck – it was all systematic and by 1am we had finished the pack up procedure. The professionals announced that we had finished an hour earlier than expected and all the leaders who stayed for this pack up all gave a cheer! It really was a great accomplishment.

 

Sam came out, gave thanks to the professionals and yeah there was a bit of loitering afterwards as we all rested for a moment. And then came the after party! For those who were hungry or still didn’t want to go home yet were invited to come to a Chinese Restaurant close by to have dinner; dinner at 1:30am? No way! But yes there were a few places that were still open that late at night, in fact there were a number of people there; we just added our 20-30 leaders to the crowd haha! So we all ordered food, all showed each other how tired we were, all ate and all laughed and joked around. Some of us had some good conversations going, relaying our experiences for the night, especially in the lounge where the evangelism was taking place; good stories there.

 

We ate till 2:30am, it went on for ages because someone on our table ordered way too much food and it was impossible to finish – eventually people started leaving, and we’d all sing happy birthday in loud voices to get everyone’s attention and to keep them from leaving, it was just a gag haha! I got home at 3am, slept at 3:30am. Long day, a reflection post might come out later.

RICEfever ‘09

Oh man the day is finally here! Either for me waiting an entire year to come back to RICE, or just those few months in preparing in advance for it, or even all those years of waiting to become a leader at this event. The day was finally here! Just as some background information, I got conscripted into the Tech team; I didn’t really want to be in it as much as I wanted to be in Admin but it was still heaps of fun. However, Admin does have its down side, which is that we have to arrive early to set up all the equipment, and leave late packing up the equipment.

 

So for Saturday, 15th August, I had to wake up at about 5:30am, which isn’t too bad. Although Andy’s party from the previous night was still washing around inside my stomach. Hence I had a light breakfast. Someone else in my team gave me a lift, along with Sarah, who was in Games. She didn’t have to come early, just that she needed a lift. We got to the Downes Pavilion at 7am; had a bit of trouble finding close parking spots, The place was completely bare; a pure green field and a completely empty warehouse.

 

   

 

I was really excited already because I knew that within 5 hours, all of that emptiness was going to be turned into a mesmerising place where the gospel of Jesus Christ would be preached to hundreds of high school youth. I was also in awe of how a large event of RICE was set up; you’d think it be hard, but today’s set up seemed relatively light, well, on our end anyway.

 

Few people were on site when we arrived, mostly Logistic people. First thing to set up were the tents we were going to place in the pavilion. They would act as the more peaceful stalls away from the games and stuff. It was mostly just DIY assembling work. We opened boxes of unassembled tents, marquees or whatever, and just pieced it together like jig-saw.

 

   

 

Eventually Admin arrived as well as the rest of our Tech team, and we disappeared to go set up the stage equipment. Of course RICE doesn’t own any sort of high-tech equipment, it’s too expensive. So we hired out our favourite company who brought their truck in at about 7:30-ish. We had to move some stuff out of the way in order to get the truck closer to where the stage was. The truck was rather heavy when loaded with the stuff, so we had to lay down boards for the truck to drive across the grass:

 

 

Yeah ignore me and my weird laughing. Eventually we set up the stage, had the microphones and cables running into the huge sound system – I still don’t really know how to use one haha. There were so many cables everywhere, so many microphone stands and all. I never actually realised that we would need like two microphones for each instrument, and maybe like six alone for the drums haha!

 

The morning dragged on for a really long time, And when you think about it, we were setting up from 7am to 12pm; that’s five hours already! And then RICEfever actually ran for four hours until 4pm haha. By 8am other teams had arrived and began setting up more things on the grass and inside the pavilion.

 

       

       

 

As the day drove on more of the field was taken up by rides and games; RICEfever was looking so awesome before it even started. I wonder why us leaders even had an extra hour to spare to have our pre-event motivation through singing and a small talk haha; at least it got us pumped up for 12pm. Unfortunately my energy levels were dropping a bit by 10am so I went and got a coffee from a stand inside the pavilion. I didn’t like the new regulations of Sydney Showgrounds, where we had to get all our food and drinks from them. Lunch for everyone was $6.00 for a sausage sizzle, are you serious?!

 

Here’s another video before we started. I think this is Ushering who were rehearsing their dance which they were going to perform at random locations and at random times:

 

 

By the time it hit 11am, youth started coming. Sort of glad that they didn’t show up earlier because we didn’t ready to go just yet. Some games were still being set up and for us tech, we were being manned up with cameras. Me and Ben got handy cams while Andy had a larger camera to do interviews with. We were also given a number of tapes to record with. Eventually 12pm came round and we were all set. All the leaders gathered just behind the entrance and a huge number of kids had arrived. Luckily whoever was in charge at the front had set up huge balls for the kids to play around, some pre-event entertainment. Smart!

 

We had a loud countdown, as loud as the years when we used to go to RICE and the kids charged through in a stampede; it was a bit scary but also enthralling, seeing all those kids pumped up for RICE. And everything was on. Lines immediately stacked for the rides and other games; and us tech people began running around the place, filming anything and everything. Playgerise and New Empire were here too; I don’t remember who was who, but they had started performing; the day went off to an epic start.

 

Some highlights of the day included a huge water tank where youth had the chance to dunk their leaders by throwing projectiles at at target on a board. It was funny seeing the leaders get full soaked in water. However, most kids were rather inaccurate in their throwing, which kind of annoyed me because I kept filming all these fail shots; so some leaders standing by just slammed their hands on the targets just to get the victim leader wet haha! Leaders to look out for included Ronnie and Jono Tam. At the end of RICE we got to see Steve Chong get dunked. Our core tech leader was a bit annoyed at me for missing out when Sam Mak got dunked but I made up for it and got a rather epic view of the entire ordeal, beginning to end.

 

Next memorable, we had live Pacman! It was such a funny game. The guys set up a nice labyrinth, some large coloured sheets as ghosts, and a pacman head to wear around the front and back of the body. The objective was for pacman to gather tennis balls that were scattered on the ground in the maze, and the ghosts to tag him/her. It was pretty epic, and heaps fun doing PoV shots of the game. I tried my best to not get in anyone’s way and luckily no-one ran into me. I was fearful that somehow I’d drop the camera if someone collided into me haha.

 

There was binocular soccer, a very interesting idea; I didn’t get many shots of it for some reason, I don’t know why but it surely went well. Other groups set up human tetris, finally! They did it quite sparingly as well. They had thin foam sheets and tried their best not to break them, to preserve them throughout the entire day. That went pretty well; most of the holes were easy so the smaller kids had nearly not trouble with it haha!

 

Well if you weren’t there to enjoy the event, pity. It was a really fun day. I myself was felt a bit dismayed that I didn’t get the chance to enjoy the event, but on the contrary, I had a job to do, which was to film as much as I could of the event. This was where our 2-hour photography/filmography came into play; putting to practice all the things we had learnt. I didn’t really much attention to what we learnt, only that if what I caught looked good, then it should be fine.

 

So I went around the entire day with a handy cam. It was very tiring I can tell you. Maybe I’m just weak haha. But it was quite fun being able to just wave the camera around, see who responds with a wave, see who responds by looking away in shyness. I also learnt that having a camera means I have a VIP backstage ticket, which lets me get as close to excitement as much as I want, even if it means actually getting in the way of other people. Of course I tried not to do it but then the trade-off was that I didn’t get a good enough view of whatever was going on. I’m still in experienced as a camera man, maybe I’ll be more “aggressive” next time.

 

One of the most challenging moments during the day, as said before, was filming the pacman game. Again I just didn’t want to get in the way or people and luckily I didn’t. I was also meant to take a few shots from the rides, but then that would’ve meant cutting in, and I am so not waiting in the line like a kid when I could be filming other things elsewhere T.T” Well I didn’t feel I had the privilege of pushing in haha.

 

At the end of the event I rushed to the entrance and took some shots of the youth leaving; them seemed pretty tired, which is a good thing. Then I rushed back and helped with pack up. Well for Fever I didn’t help much because I had to rush off for badminton, and early because of lame trackwork T.T” Thank you CityRail. One good thing was that on my way back I ran into a bunch of Caucasian guys and girls who were all wearing the RICEfever armband. Sat down next to them on the bus and had a really good and encouraging conversation with a guy called Colby from St John’s Asquith. It was good chatting to him about school and how the Christian environment is like there. I guess I found it encouraging to hear that they were having some troubles there,, not in that way; but like it good to see that they were holding up against oppression and perhaps how fortunate other high schools are. Anyway we eventually parted but I certainly enjoyed that conversation. I later found out they belonged to Andrew’s church, and he joked with me about how he brought all those Caucasian youth to a supposed “Asian” event haha.

 

So much to do for Rally. Here we go!

05. The Core of Evangelism

My apologies for the delay in this post. Perhaps I was wrong to post number 04  as “The Heart of Evangelism” because this post is going to deal more strictly to the gospel but I suppose it is all relative when it comes down to the general details. Okay this post originates from the post below this one, regarding the evangelical event run by a church in Blacktown. A typical evangelical question we like to see answered is “Where is He?” that is, God. Where is God amongst all the suffering, pain and injustice of the world. Read that carefully again and you might just pick up the discrepancy there.

 

I did not like the speaker’s talk very much, despite the fact that he was a pastor; the format of his talk seemed very disjoint with no logical flow. In fact in the isn’t he hadn’t even gone past the basic observations in the world; that is we, who claim to be Christians, may see our faith shatter from all the suffering around us because we expected God to protect us from the bad things in the world. And all he got through in the first half hour was asking the question “Why?”, not answering it, just asking.

 

And from that point on, his talked started to fall and in the end he kept on repeating “We want to see God work in this place, don’t we?” and then “Well tonight if you truly want to have your life fixed up and you truly want to see God work in your life then believe strongly and just ask him.” And the talked concluded on that note. Everything else in between really did seem like a waste of time. But there was one thing I noticed that I thought was the most strange thing ever; something that made this talk different from nearly every other talk I’ve heard. I wonder if anyone on the night actually noticed it. One thing was missing. One word was missing throughout his 45 minute talk; and that was the name “Jesus”.

 

To be precise He did say the word “Jesus” but only through quoting scripture. But apart from that one time he never used the name “Jesus” in his talk, with direct reference to Him. And that was something that made me really disappointed about the night. So many people turned up to a wonderful evangelistic service, with great music and stuff. And the entire night get ruined because in a sense, Jesus was not part of it.

 

I was more afraid at how new believers would receive the gospel on that night; in terms of “how” I mean that they’re going to receive the gospel without Jesus, even though the entire gospel is BASED on Jesus. How can you spread the gospel without mentioning Jesus at all? It was absolutely absurd hearing this pastor preach.

 

Before I move on about Jesus, there was also a slight misunderstanding concerning his points about the suffering in the world. He moved on to say that the world is awful, full of pain, etc; okay that is logical acceptable because it is widely observed. And then he moved on to say that “God wants us to have a wonderful life, He doesn’t want us to suffer’”. That is also true BUT, and it is a huge BUT, on what basis does he make such a claim. For example, I tell you that “the sky is blue; BECAUSE, if you look up you’ll see that it is so’”. He tells you that “God wants you to have a wonderful life, BECAUSE…” where was the reason for his claim? Where was the evidence to back up that statement? It might be true but believers don’t know what evidence provides enough reason for such a statement.

 

And in an apologetics book I read a while back, this is what is known as “wish-fulfilment”, painting a picture of God in a way so that it is appealing to your eyes, regardless of what the truth is. Some atheists, according to the book, do not believe in God because they reckon that the character God was created as “wish-fulfilment” by those who are suffering in the world. Some atheists believe that “Christians” saw the horridness in the world, and in strict denial they conjured up an image of God to provide them reassurance, and in that way they fulfil their “wish” of having a God who can take away the nagging problem of suffering.

 

This was exactly the way the pastor was presenting God, it made God sound like wish fulfilment to everyone. “Are you tired of being miserable? Are you broken by the financial crisis? Well God can solve all of your problems!” Such a statement is true but there was not evidence or reasoning in to convict that as the truth; what the speaker said sounded like nothing more than wish-fulfilment. This is an absolute “no-no” in evangelism. You cannot just present claims of God (even if they’re true) without authoritative evidence from some source, because it seems as if you’re just appealing to new believers. And sure enough those people will put their faith in God without question, because He is being presented in a way where He can satisfy their desires, there would be no other reason for them to accept God.

 

On the contrary, what is vital to evangelism is the fact that God already has done something to change the world; in fact the world is changed. What did He do? He sent Jesus to die for everyone’s sin so that those who believe in Him shall be saved from the pain and suffering in the world. Isn’t that good enough already? Those who have faith in Jesus already are saved spiritually; whatever happens to their physical bodies is irrelevant.

 

What is wrong with the world is not the financial crisis, violence, famine,  none of these are the real problem. The biggest problem in the world is sin, and God had already dealt with sin through Jesus. Don’t you see? God has dealt with the troubles of the world; God has rescued the believers from impending doom, what more do you want? Are we going to ask God for another Jesus event? No; that is absurd. If we need Jesus to die for our sins again then it’s like the first time was redundant. No, God has already done more than enough for everyone in the world and so it is foolish thinking that we NEED God to work more in our lives.

 

Until new believers get this fundamental fact into their system, I am afraid that they’ll be building their faith in God through the wrong facts and hence having faith in the wrong things; things that God didn’t promise. This is a crucial starting point as evangelism probably is the first point of contact between new Christians and God; and it should be made to be the right beginning.

Mini-RICE Evangelical

No, this has nothing to do with RICE at all; it was the only title I could think of  with the energy I have left at 11:30pm at night. Tonight, Lillian invited me and a number of people from Baulko out to this “Jesus Loves You” church out in Blacktown, where they were having an evangelical night for their youth group, at least I think that’s what it was; Lillian didn’t tell me much about what was happening, she just told me to come.

 

Strange enough it was  Pilipino church, first time I’ve ever been to one, there are many other single-culture churches that I haven’t been to, so it was a good experience tonight. I guess I do liken the evangelical event as a RICE-like thing. We arrived a tad late but already they were pumping music with lots of people bobbing up and down to it. I know it would’ve seemed strange to people who aren’t used to a church environment, surely I wasn’t either before. The last time I saw anything as “wild” as this was the church camp that Grace invited me to; still thanking her for letting me have the best 5 days of my life!

 

But yes I was not new to this sort of “wild” Christian activity; funny how you see it hard to associate the crazy rock concert activity with Christianity, who would’ve thought Christians could get this crazy? Shame they played so few songs, and also that I didn’t know any of the songs. But the music was really good; their band was really good I have to admit. One thing that stood out the most was the song leader (lead singer if taken out of context). He was very passionate in his song-leading; he got everyone to sing loudly, he sang really loud himself and he was dancing all over the stage in a fairly controlled manner. This is sort of the type of song-leading I like to see; one who can encourage the congregation to take part enthusiastically. How else are you going to encourage the congregation if you yourself aren’t willing to go crazy too? That’s the sort of effort I admired in him.

 

Afterwards was a short dance type skit which was okay; a copy of RICE much? Funny how the structure of tonight mirrored RICE very closely. I mean we even had a game like after the first round of singing. We played that animal farm game that we played at iLight; four teams, each with a given animal, and one leader for each team who has to find the other animals (who make their respective noises) while everyone is blind-folded. Me and most of our Baulko group took part; I must’ve jinxed something about being a leader because when I drew the piece of paper, I was given “Cow Leader”, deary me…We didn’t win though, yeah I’m a bad captain for this of game haha, I forgot to memorize the size of the room so I lost track of my position and I didn’t reach Vanessa, who was on the other side of the room.

 

We eventually got to the talk; and sadly this is the part which caused some controversy in my mind. I will create a separate post about it. The speaker was rather strange because he preached in an “African American” way, like in “those” type of churches. He constantly used phrases like “you get what I’m saying?” and “check this out”; strange slang like that. But I found his talk rather empty; in fact I couldn’t pick out the structure of his talk, and there didn’t seem to be any flow to it; he just kept ranting about those questions “Why does God let us suffer in this world?” those type of questions; and I don’t think he even answered any one of those questions. Vanessa pointed out that the one he did answer, sort of, was “Where is God?” although I will say he gave little effort in giving a proper answer for that.

 

Afterwards there was more singing; followed by something I would call “open ministry”. It’s hard to define what that is specifically. And somehow I am sort of against it depending on how it is performed. All other forms of “ministry” would be those regular “rituals” adopted by Christianity throughout history, such as the Holy Communion and water baptism. “Open ministry” I guess would be where preachers literally try to call on God, or God’s power, to actually move into people and stir them up. I guess one such account of something like it would be when the tongues of fire descend on the people in Acts.

 

Far be it from me to adopt these strange “rituals”, I don’t personally believe in being able to “call upon God or His power” to physically, or spiritually, do something. Logically I don’t believe in being able to “control” God in that sense; but I guess if God really did want to “move” someone He would do it of His own accord alone, influenced by people’s prayer. But I suppose I have been through something of the sort, this so-called “open ministry”. It was sort of conducted the same way as tonight; it was a chance for new believers to “experience” God and for others to re-new their faith. I will admit that at iLight, I really was moved for the first time in a way which somehow did feel as if God really did do something tangible to me; I don’t know whether such a feeling was emotional or spiritual but I surely felt something that seemed to transcend from God. And as corny as it sounds I did drop to my knees and I grovelled for a good hour amongst others, and I cried with utter remorse, something I’ve never cried over. That was an experience I would never forget.

 

But taking a step back from it now; I’m not sure if I do approve of what did happen to me 2 years ago, knowing what other similar “open ministry rituals” are like. I guess at this point I haven’t reached a conclusion as to whether it is “right” or not, since I did experience it for myself once, and somehow it does in a way convince me that God really can “move” you when you ask Him to. I will find an answer to that one day. Other things that conflict me is the tongues thing, where the preacher calls on God for a person to be filled with the Holy Spirit in a way in which they jabble on in tongues, sounding like jibberish. And another one I’ve encountered was tonight.

 

Practically everyone got up to have their faith re-newed and for God to directly work in them for that moment. Some people apparently were given a soft nudge on their head and they fell backwards, unconscious. Those people woke up like 5-10 minutes later; they were just sprawled over the ground during that time. It was very strange, and now having seen that it’s conflicting to wonder if something like that can actually happen. The idea of “this isn’t right” and “I’m seeing it, though” are two conflicting points which make you either re-assess your beliefs or force you to ignore what was clearly in front of your eyes.

 

But anyway I said I would leave this to another day when I’ve found out more; it was indeed a strange moment seeing “open ministry” conducted in this way; it’s all too confusing. And like usual, everyone was crying and were obviously emotionally moved and possibly spiritually if you weren’t crying but still felt that warmth. Ministry ended with more singing and that was the program for the night. The music finally began to fall flat because they played the same songs again T.T” and they played only one variety of music; hard rock, no soft mellow/emotional music. Not the strongest way to end, I’ve seen better haha. I was sort of disappointed that I couldn’t join in because I just wasn’t sparked by anything that happened. If I did know t he music, and if they had played enough songs and enough variety of songs I’d be full into it as everyone else haha! But on another note one thing is certain, I will never be moved by “open ministry” again. Again I can’t explain it too well but I just feel that people should only be able to go through ministry once; and feel “touched” by God in that way once. And so therefore I don’t think I can ever feel it again, hence I felt fairly indifferent throughout the course of the night.

 

Afterwards we had food, man I was starving then because I hadn’t had dinner yet and it was 9:30pm >.<” and then we chatted for like an hour and such; Philo-Christians are an odd bunch, or maybe it’s because they all grew up in the Blacktown region, where conduct is slightly less controlled; they were hooting and making noises which make them seem like drunks, very disorderly and slightly unfriendly. Adam from the grade above us was talking to me later about the “quality” of churches, quality as in what they teach about the gospel and such. Yes, I am beginning to understand that now. We took a bunch of photos in the carpark, Aaron should post them up soon, jump shots and various other weird photos haha so yeah.