Sunday, November 23, 2008

A new found hero...

We all have our heroes in life - people who inspire us by the things they do or say. Let me introduce you to one of my new found heroes. I have never met this guy before but I heard a lot about him recently so I thought I would have to go and read his book and watch him on the TV to find out a bit more.

Edward Michael "Bear" Grylls (born 7 June 1974) is a British adventurer and writer currently best known for his popular television series Born Survivor (Man vs. Wild in the US). He was christened Eddie, that became Teddy, and that became Bear! In 1998, Grylls achieved a Guinness World Record as the youngest Briton, at 23, to summit Mount Everest. In 2000, Grylls was among the first team to circumnavigate the UK on a jet ski, to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Three years later, he led a team of five British men on the first unassisted crossing of the north Atlantic Arctic Ocean, in an open rigid inflatable boat. The team battled giant waves, icebergs and storms. Indeed he has went on to break several other world records including the record for the highest ever open-air dinner party at 25,000 ft in a hot air balloon in full formal clothing!

For those of you who haven’t seen the Born Survivor or Man vs Wild show it documents survival techniques in some of the harshest conditions of the world from the Arctic to the jungle to the swamplands. Bear will show how to keep warm, how to make a shelter and how to eat pretty much anything at anytime. If you haven’t seen it then here is a short clip that documents some of his meals. If you are squeamish then don't bother!

It really is a fantastic show (Sunday's 5.45pm CH4) that has become the number one cable show in America. If you still don't think this guy is amazing then let me share with you some more of his story. After leaving school, Grylls joined the British Army's Special Forces reserve, serving for three years as a Specialist Combat Survival Instructor and Patrol Medic with the 21 SAS regiment. His service ended following a parachuting accident in 1996 during a training exercise in Kenya. His canopy ripped at 16,000 feet (4500 m), partially opening, causing him to fall and land on his parachute pack on his back, which broke three vertebrae, and left him struggling to feel his legs and unsure if he would ever walk again. Grylls spent the next 18 months in rehabilitation and with his military service over, directed his efforts into trying to get well enough to fulfill his childhood dream of climbing Mount Everest.

This journey from the hospital bed to the top of the world is documented in his book ‘Facing Up’ which went into the UK top 10 best-seller list. The book details the climb, from his first reconnaissance climb on which he fell in a crevasse and was knocked unconscious, regaining consciousness to find himself swinging on the end of a rope, to the gruelling ascent that took him over ninety days of extreme weather, sleep deprivation and almost running out of oxygen inside the death zone. If you have ever thought of climbing Everest then the book is a sure fire way of putting you off! What an amazing guy to be one of only 2300 people ever to have climbed the tallest mountain in the world!

However, what sold it for me and put Bear Grylls into the rank of a hero of mine is his honesty that he does not do these things alone. This is a quote from his book about climbing Everest:

'But I knew that I had to stretch myself further, and reach beyond my grasp. I felt this burning urge to go higher and I longed to witness the summit. The beauty of the places on the way was unquestioned – what I had seen so far had stunned me in its sheer scale and beauty, but I felt there was more. My eyes and heart were for the summit, and my dream was to reach it with the Person who had created it. I wanted this to be my journey.’
Can you see in these words that Bear understands there is a God who has created the mountains and even at the top of the highest mountain of the world he knows that God is there with him. This reminds me of the words of Psalm 139:
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Throughout the book Bear talks very openly about his faith:
  • ‘The more time I stay here the more I believe the only way to survive is to stay close to Jesus.’
  • He carries a shell with him all the way to the summit and back with words of his favourite quote inscribed on the inside from Matthew 28:20 ‘Be sure of this, that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ Words of great comfort whenever he felt very much at the end of the world.
  • At another time when he fell sick and it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to complete the climb he was at his lowest and turned his anger toward God. It was then he remembered the dying words of his great uncle ‘Remember this if you remember nothing else. When God goes, everything goes. Never let your faith leave you. Promise me.’ He didn’t lose faith on that mountain and of course he did go on to reach the summit.
Bear Grylls did not find God on the mountain. None of us have to climb a mountain to find God. Bear became a Christian when he was a sixteen year old lad struggling with normal stuff. God became his friend and they have been friends ever since! Bear Grylls when asked the question ‘How is your Christian faith important to you?’ answered as follows:
'Faith gives me a strong backbone and when we find that within ourselves we can then live more exciting, effective, kind, passionate and giving lives. Life has a meaning again. It doesn’t though make life easier in any way, and I still battle with my fair share of struggles and doubt and often great self-doubt, but that is just the product of trying to stretch beyond the norm and to live life fully.'
So why is Bear Grylls a hero of mine? Because he is adventurous, he climbs mountains and he can survive in the jungle and kill and eat an alligator AND he is a Christian and acknowledges that he does it all with the help of God. Often, being a Christian for young people can be incredibly difficult because it is often seen as not cool, boring and a bit sissy! That idea is blown out of the water by Bear Grylls who is so cool that any young man would aspire to be like him – and he’s a Christian! So if you are a Christian then I hope you are encouraged that a life with Jesus is incredibly exciting and fulfilling in every way when you take time to develop a friendship with the God who will never leave you as we are told in Psalm 139.

Maybe you don’t know who your creator is? The one who in the words of Psalm 139 says ‘you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb.’ Maybe you have never known the peace and promise of God in Matthew 28 when he says ‘Be sure of this, that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ Bear Grylls along with model Kim Johnson and footballer Linvoy Primus produced a promotional video for the popular Christian Alpha course 3 years ago. Check it out below.

Is there more to life than this? Bear Grylls said ‘when I was a kid I never looked before I leaped. Now I know better, but I still leap!’ Maybe you are someone who has thought about God for a long time but has never taken that leap of faith. Is there more to life than this? It is my hope and prayer that you will search for the answer to that question and that you also will find out as Bear Grylls found and many others including myself have found, that life in all its fullness is only found in a leap of faith with Jesus.

P.S. I prepared this for a BB Enrollment service recently so thought I would share.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I can go to London baby...

So I was in London on Wednesday for a wee day trip. We arrived about 9.30am in Liverpool St Station and purchased a day pass on the for the tube. As we waited on the Underground platform for our first tube of the day thoughts cannot fail to enter your mind of the London Bombings in July 2005. With this slightly unnerving thought fresh in our heads we heard our train approaching in the distance and began to shuffle towards the platform edge surrounded by scores of other commuters. It was at this point i noticed an official London Underground staff member running towards the platform which i thought was a little strange but i definitely wasn't prepared for what happened next! With panic and urgency in his voice he yelled 'CAN ALL PASSENGERS LEAVE THE PLATFORM NOW!' Panic immediately entered everyone and we ran to the nearest escalator with thoughts of an imminent terrorist attack. No longer were people leisurely allowing the machine to defy gravity and carry them upwards, on the contrary people were bounding 2 steps at a time as quickly as they could and overtaking anyone who wasn't quite as agile! After quickly ascending 2 levels we slowed down as the panic around us had subsided. This was slightly comforting as it became obvious that staff were not asking travellers to exit all lines. It was a few minutes later that we discovered the reason for the swift evacuation was due to a passenger falling/jumping in front of a train further up the line. It seems the staff had reason to believe that the passenger may be trapped under the train that was approaching the platform we were on and hence the need to clear the public quickly.
It took a good half hour for my nerves to settle again and to feel relaxed with underground travel given that my life had just flashed before my eyes! A dramatic reminder though that we really don't ever know what lies around the next corner. Every day is a gift from God.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Kenya Info how did it go...

So last Thursday night we had our long-awaited Kenya Info Evening. The prep for this was hard work as i wasn't sure how much the guys were going to do live on the night and we weren't certain if people would actually turn up! Both fears were unqualified as 4 of the guys agreed to be interviewed live on the night and we had an overwhelming attendance of almost 150 people! My hope for the evening was that people would get a flavour of what the experience involved through hearing stories told by the team. We worked hard to make the evening as relaxed as possible by creating a chat show type feel with interviews taking place on the couch and video footage interwoven throughout. The informality of the evening was topped off with a supper of 'pizza & puddings' which seemed to be well received. All in all, feedback from the night has been very positive so it looks like all the hard work paid off!

I found it quite an emotional evening at times as happy memories were recalled and the thought of this being the final chapter of the Kenya Team experience. I take comfort in the knowledge that the shared experience of the trip can never be taken away from any of us and will continue to form part of our regular conversations with each other. And of course there will be many reunions!

If you couldn't make it along on the night then here are the videos to give you a flavour of the experience!

First Impressions of Kenya...

The Building Project...

The Highlights...