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ACross Country

ACross Country is a registered charity, number 1108983

enquiries@acrosscountry.org.uk


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ACross Country

Dressed in an assortment of donated clothes, we walked two hours through heavy rain. Eventually the cave loomed up in front of us . . .


ACross Country’s mission statement is "a place of stillness and adventure to be more fully ourselves, with others, our world and with God". We run about one programme per year.


At the end of November we took a group of 8 Kurdish and Iranian asylum seekers away for the weekend. The group came from the St Augustine's Centre in Halifax. When we discussed the purpose of the weekend, St Augustine's suggested increasing self-esteem, developing communication and group belonging whilst actively engaging in the countryside within a Christian ethos. As asylum seekers are not permitted by law to earn money, our charity covered the cost, we did however charge a nominal amount to foster a sense of ownership. St Augustine's organised some fundraising opportunities for the group to enable this. As is to be expected with people in transition, we only found out final numbers on the Friday evening as we picked them up. Local churches had supported the group with gifts of sleeping bags and spare clothes (one man who came with us only owned the clothes he was wearing at the time).


Using a section of Scargill House as "home-base" we explored inside and out:


Walking the last 3 miles of the journey there, in the dark, across the hillside we experienced creation in a different way. Reaching the security of home-base after a shared adventure helped the relationships to develop and started building trust.


Input and activities from us - prompting lively discussion about needs, priorities and beliefs - enabled self-exploration and learning; some of which was expressed through pictures, music and clay. This gave new believers and those who were searching a safe, but rich opportunity to learn about themselves and others and God. We were nurturing individuals emotionally through listening and giving time; nurturing spiritually through discussion, example and group prayer.


Giving these men an opportunity to go away, and then making some decisions jointly (including not to sleep outside!) balanced some of the unjust structures in their lives.


Sharing cooking and eating together, lots of laughter, late night social, walking two hours in the rain to a cave where we warmed around a fire, made food and abseiled all built a sense of community as we learnt to be responsible for ourselves, each other and the environment.


The "bring and share worship", where there was silence and prayer and poetry and music, seemed to bring the whole weekend to a focus.


Our weekend followed Jesus' example. In his own ministry Jesus did preach to the masses, sometimes in places of worship; but he also walked beside people, spent time with and spoke with outcasts, travelled with others (probably in all weathers), ate and relaxed with others, told people about himself, whilst listening about them, spoke of the countryside - creation, encouraged people to step out, challenged, gave boundaries and showed where God fits into everything.


To many people, mission and evangelism is about converting people, getting them to learn certain scriptures and to live according to certain rules and regulations. This was not our goal; we didn't want to make people "look like Christians", and according to Hans Rookmaaker Jesus didn't either:


Jesus didn't come to make us Christian, he came to make us fully human.


We believe that to be human is to be free, to be full, to be individual yet a part of a group, to have God involved in all that we are and all that we do whether or not it looks right, to agree or disagree with others and yet still be at peace.


On our weekend, we saw one man on the edge become a part of the group. A nervous laugh become deep conversation. A reticence with praying become a request for prayer. Stories shared. Hearts touched, including ours.