I'm on a little journey of discovery into the fascinating UK subculture of health and healing festivals. These events attract visitors interested in developing a healthier lifestyle, wanting to explore their spiritual side, or are just intrigued to find out if there is anything real behind exhibitors who claim to be able to tell them about their future, pass on messages from their dead relatives, or tell them how to live in harmony with their world.
Now here's a thought. What if we could find someone who was a universal expert in spirituality, showed an unparalleled mastery over sickness, had gone through death, come back to life, and could speak with authority about the experience. Surely such a person would be an ideal exhibitor at an event like this. Well it just so happens that we know such a person.
Stardream was set up to introduce this person Jesus to this particular group of people. To exhibit at an event like this you need to offer something to the organisers, that's sufficiently different to distinguish it from the plethora of other exhibitors. Stardream offers 'spiritual encounters' which can take a number of forms. So if, for example, you sit down with one of our team (a gifted artist) she will ask Jesus what he wants to communicate to you at this point in your life, and express that in a small watercolour. At Leeds she sat down with one young mum and painted a flower - a poppy - in a heart. Our artist didn't know that the Mum's daughter was named Poppy. This led to Mum (and her partner) sitting down with two of our team to see what else Jesus might have to say to them. We found ourselves praying with Mum for relief from past trauma and its after-effects, and coming up with a Bible passage that related in impressive detail to an incident in her life. Most of all we were able to tell her a little bit about what God is like - really like - and how he feels about her.
In other encounters we were able to pray with people about family tensions and lead them in decisions to forgive. In one of my own conversations I had the impression that various frustrations in my visitor's life situation stemmed back to a fairly recent relationship breakdown. Sure enough, a sudden change in her family's circumstances, leading to someone leaving the home, coincided with my visitor's life heading down what they described as a series of 'dead ends.' Whilst we can't guarantee how other people will respond to us, we can make decisions to seek reconciliation and maintain an attitude of forgiving. Our visitors were amazingly and positively responsive to this sort of encouragement.
We like to talk about 'changing the atmosphere' in places. One gentlemen who joined us for a spiritual encounter said he came over because he 'liked the atmosphere' we were creating. Like visitors who came to our stands in other events he remarked there was a 'lightness' about us.
It was great to have another Christian group running a stand in another part of the venue. They were encouraged to see some people physically healed and one lady commit her life to following Christ. Since this lady lived nearer our church than theirs, they came and introduced her to us. Hopefully we can support her well in her continuing journey through life.
One last incident (among others I could relate) sticks in my mind. One of our other artists wanted to develop a communication technique that built on something unique about individual visitors. She hit upon fingerprints. She asks visitors to dab a little coloured paint on each of their fingers and imprint it on a small card. From there she paints a simple picture, expressing something of God's mind and heart for that individual.
For one visitor, a lady, our artist drew a simple flower. The lady wanted to follow this up with a spiritual encounter and sat down with two of our team. One of them, looking at the painting, had an immediate sense that the flower represented the beauty and intricacy of her beauty and potential, but that the lady was 'hiding behind the flower.' An amazing conversation ensued in which we discovered she had continually been overlooked in her childhood in relation to her siblings. She felt as if she was running a race in which she was continually hidden within a pack of runners. We were able to lead her in forgiveness for an individual who had treated her in a particularly insensitive and uncharitable way, and affirm her true identity - and uniqueness - as God intended it for her.
Some of our visitors want to keep in touch, and we are looking for the best and most appropriate way to do that for them. There are many spiritually hungry people all around us, exploring sources of power or enlightenment to meet this yearning. We aim to meet them on their journey.
And the first step in that direction is simply to go to some of the places where they stop to satisfy that hunger and simply to be there for them.