Pitching up at the local green fair, Andrea Campanale, Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course student and CMS mission partner, found it heartbreaking to see so many spiritual seekers ignored by the church. Helen Harwood talked to her about the excitement and the loneliness of pioneering mission in a world of spiritual seekers.
HH: Describe a ‘typical’ day at a spiritual seeker event.
AC: We go to an event and set up our stall as an inviting space offering free massage, spiritual readings and dream interpretation or prayer for healing. This might be in an exhibition hall, outside in a tent at a festival or in the high street as part of a community fair. Around us will be those selling crystals or natural health products, doing tarot card readings or Reiki healing tasters. There is usually a mix of products being sold and therapies to be sampled. I always try to chat to those on the stalls around us and encourage my team to be as helpful and friendly as possible. You can get to see the same people year after year and we are as much there to bless and introduce Christ to them as those attending the event.
Throughout the day we seek to enter into conversations and I find that the activities we offer mean we get to go to a deeper level with people in a very short space of time. The most important thing we do is listen – listen to the people we are seeking to touch with the love of God, particularly for where he might already be at work in their lives, and listen for how the Holy Spirit would have us respond to them and their unique need. Most of those we interact with are very open to chat about what they believe, the practices they are into and the issues that have led them to seek greater spiritual fulfilment.
Once we have done a massage, reading or dream interpretation we will usually offer to pray with them in the name of Jesus. They are perfectly at liberty to turn this down but in 90 per cent of cases they are happy to let us pray for them. We might then refer them to a website for more information or sign them up to a mailing list where they can receive details of future events we are putting on. I would expect us to have between 15 and 30 conversations like this in a typical day. It can be tiring but also fantastically rewarding. I consider it a real privilege to be used by God in this way.
How do you feel when you’re there? What excites/worries/scares/enthrals you?
I always feel slightly apprehensive when I start out at an event. You wonder if people are going to be responsive to you and worry that you might get into something you can’t handle. Stepping out is a challenge no matter how many times you have done it. I think this is a good thing because it means you are always having to rely on God’s Spirit. There is no formula. We have to reach out to him for every person we talk to so that it is personal and relevant in the moment. What I love is when you can see that what you are saying is really resonating with them and that God is encouraging them and reaching out to them through your words and gestures. God is so gracious to use us in this way. We are truly more blessed in giving than receiving.
How did you get into the pioneering work you do?
David, my husband, and I always used to attend Kingston Green Fair and one year at Spring Harvest I went to a talk by Yvonne Richmond about how to engage with those having spiritual experiences outside of church. She mentioned a group in Guildford who were going to fair and festivals and offering to pray for people. I knew in that moment what God wanted me to do that at the Green Fair. When I investigated booking a pitch I was told another church group had already expressed an interest and we joined forces as they had felt God tell them exactly the same thing! On the day, we were totally overwhelmed by the number of visitors to the healing field who wanted to be prayed for. It nearly broke my heart that here were all these searching people and yet the church had withdrawn and written them off as being lost to the occult. Since that time I have felt called to present a Christian experience of spirituality and it has enlarged my faith to see how much God loves spiritual seekers and is already beginning to reveal himself through their dreams and what we would consider dodgy practices!
How does the CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training Course support you?
I feel much of what I have done in terms of mission over the last seven years has been because I followed my instinct and tried to be obedient to what I felt God was directing me to do. This has made it very difficult for me to justify my activities to other Christians who are rightly wary of going into places that the church has taught as being potentially harmful. The course is giving me an understanding of theology from different perspectives and lessons from experiences of cross cultural mission so I have greater confidence in what I do and a language to help me explain why it is right and necessary.
I have also found pioneering a very lonely and often painful experience. It is such a blessing to be part of a learning community that understand the struggles and can support and encourage me when others are confused and threatened by my ministry.
What does the future hold? I know you don’t have a crystal ball, but what are your hopes?
I would really like a fresh expression of church to emerge that sees the people I encounter from a spiritual seeker background come into a transforming relationship with Christ in community with other followers who are actively pursuing the values and lifestyle of the Kingdom of God. I would also like to empower and equip a generation of pioneers so that it is expected church will be constantly re-invented. This will ensure we use the creativity God has given us and force us to make the gospel relevant in every era and sub-culture.
Andrea and the SafeSpace team can be found online at http://sacred-space-kingston.posterous.com/