You know those moments where it’s one thing after another, & it’s often the stupidest, most easily avoidable things? That’s me lately. In fact, I keep visualizing that fairground stall with the things that pop up out the hole & you must try to shoot them before they sink back into the hole again. Except, this is real life. “Shooting it” is messy, the prize isn’t an adult size stuffy teddy bear, & most likely you find yourself saying: “I think I’m done, get me off this ride now.”
On Tuesday I did the stupidest thing. I put my glasses down, which slipped without me realizing from where I had put them &… I sat on them. My dad asked me if they broke because of the size of my bum, I told him no, it was because I have buns of steel. I wish my butt was made from steel, but let’s not go there.
You see, I didn’t just break my glasses. I broke my life line. I rarely talk about my hearing, but Tuesday I was confronted with quite a serious issue. I can’t hear, & now I can’t see. My sight isn’t the best, the shocked faces of those who try my glasses on tell me that. You know, just in case eyeballing my laptop keyboard didn’t give me that message. But even still, because of my hearing loss my sight has become my dominant sense. Go figure, our bodies are crazy cool. My level of dependency on my sight is insane… & without it, I don’t just struggle to see, I can’t hear.
I read an amazing quote recently from a lipreading person & I thought it was so perfect:
“There is a misconception that lipreading is just like reading a book. You look at the mouth & read. But no, it’s far, far more complicated than that. I have to queue up words in my mind, invent possibilities that fit the facial expression, body language, approximate number of syllables etc etc. Sometimes there are a couple of possibilities, & I hold both in my mind simultaneously, waiting for it to become clear. While I’m doing this, collecting possibilities & sifting through them all, I need to keep the conversation going. So I smile, nod, & say “mmm” & “yep…” as appropriate. If I don’t do that, the speaker stops, & we haven’t gotten anywhere. Sometimes though I get right to the end, & I realize that none of the possibilities work. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. & then I have to say, “Sorry, can you go right back to the start?” & you might wonder, well why were you nodding & smiling & saying yes all along when I didn’t understand. But that’s because it’s how lipreading works. It’s not a lie. It’s the only practical way to do it. It can take a whole minute or two after the speaker finished, that it suddenly comes to me what was said. As you can imagine, this is incredibly hard work. I have an hour of lipreading in me a day, tops. After that, fatigue sets in. And if I go too far, pushing myself for maybe 3 hours, I am WIPED afterwards, & my head pounds. It can literally take me days to recover. This is way I prefer other methods of conversation….”
I WISH I wrote this. This quote is 1000000% accurate. My mum can tell you horror stories of how frustrated I would be after school each day. As an adult, the many “side effects” still exist; like how more days than not I struggle with headaches & feel overly stimulated. But every single day I fight my hearing loss & refuse to bow down to this disability. My ability to cope is a rock. But it’s a rock that’s balancing on a very fragile system of “everything must go correctly in the universe.” Take away my glasses, my rock suddenly free falls.
Ironically yesterday God talked to me a lot about His Provision. How He is strong like denim & tenderly compassionate like lace; & how He goes ahead of us to make a path possible or to soften a heart. So, when the butt snapping glasses incident happened I had a deep sense of peace. It didn’t take away the freak out & the tears but the first thing I did was point out to God who He just said He was, & that I really needed Him to show up because I was massively screwed.
What followed next was: (1) I found an old pair of glasses that are old, awful on the prescription & give me a monster headache but it’s better than nothing; (2) I went to life group later that evening & they immediately spoke encouragement over me when I told them what happened; (3) their offer to help practically was also immediate; (4) a friend from the life group arranged for me to see an optician yesterday; (5) the optician ever so graciously gave me a discounted rate for the test eye & offered to get me free trial contacts to tie me over until I get back to the UK; (6)…
You see 1-5 can be examples of the Almighty Strong Denim God. God the go getter, fighting for us, lining everything up: friends, support, practical help… But point 6 was my highlight.
My friend who organized the appointment with the optician wanted to pay the bill. He’s the kind of guy who is so quick to extravagantly bless people where finances are involved, & normally he won’t take no for an answer. This time around however, when I said no to his offer, he accepted it. It was only later as I reflected that I realized something. I don’t know why he accepted it. Was he strapped for cash? Or did he have discernment & understand the importance of letting me pay? Either way, his actions of lining up an appointment for me & allowing me to pay for myself gave me an incredible sense control in a horrible situation. Not control like pride, but control in the way of a real sense of dignity & empowerment.
You see, as humans we are all trying to reach for the same key things right? Ability being central. Ability to work, be in community, live life to the fullest… Being “disabled” is “simply” a matter of trying to reach for the same things as an able person but having to make significant adaptations to get there. We are a strong group of people; & now that I think about it, that makes us quite powerful I guess. We fight for our quality of life every single second of every single day. Most of us do it “behind the scenes”, taking ownership of our disability & the fight for quality privately on our own shoulders. We so often “just get on with it.”. We fight simply, & for no other reason than because we have a deep desire inbuilt into our human DNA, just like an able person, for connection & intimacy.
Every day we face separation, isolation & exclusion in every area of our lives. And maybe that’s why it’s so powerful when someone comes along side us individually & communicates: I see you. Remember what I once quoted? “Intimacy: Into Me You See.” So yes, whilst we can fight & do what we need to do, we also understand how precious being connected is. I don’t know if I can describe what it does to our souls. There is LIFE. You bring someone life, real tangible life when you communicate they are seen & not alone. It’s easy to do the obvious surface level seeing but the deeper seeing is a whole different ball game. It can be a friend reminding another friend to not cover their mouth with their hand when they speak to me, or it can be the honor of a wish to let me pay the bill.
This is the tender compassion of God. Lace. I, the LORD your GOD will provide for ALL your needs. Both Denim & Lace. He meets us in the practical, & He meets us in the heart stuff. He doesn’t just care, He sees. Me, Akila Knight, a speck on planet earth, who is currently trying to ass crunch her way through life is Seen.
Nearly two weeks ago I went out for dinner with my friends & as we sat around the table I couldn’t help, yet again, thinking how blessed I am to have this amazing community. Unfortunately the moment was slammed with another thought, “The last time I had an amazing community of friends my brother died. Why do I have this community? Who is going to die this time?”
Lately I’ve been very aware of fear in my life. It’s like my heart is conflicted in a beautiful tension of feeling paralysed & breaking down walls or lies. Let me give you two battle grounds where this is going on.
Firstly, I love my community of friends here; so much so that I made a decision to be very intentional about not letting anything happen to it. For example, our group has guys in it. The fastest & surest way of division happening is to like someone & they don’t like you back.
So I purposely set out to make sure no guys could pick up a signal of interest from me & misinterpret it. In fact I was so set on doing this that it was a surprise to me last Sunday when one guy said to me, “But I thought you didn’t want to be in a relationship. You keep saying you don’t want anything to compromise this community & family.”
I realised then that I can think I’m communicating clearly but what I’m communicating may not be what people hear. I do want to be in a relationship, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of loss, of rejection, & I’m afraid of losing my best friend (at least you should be BFFs if you’re dating them?! Haha).
After Mike, after my last relationship, after saying goodbye to the UK… I’m not closed to relationships at all, but my heart is fragile to loss & change. This community is my family, I’m scared that too will go away. Yet, if a guy does come along in my life, I do want to be brave enough to jump in.
The second battle ground is this. One of the coolest things about this group of friends is they give me so much permission to be myself… I know what I’m about to say is going to sound like a complete contradiction but bear with me… however, the deeper into community I get, the more this seems to be challenged.
I’m still figuring out who I am. Especially post Mike. A lot changed once he died. Especially the way I see the world, people & life. Certain things became more meaningful & I became a lot more intentional. I like deep conversations, I like encouraging people to be greater versions of who they already are, I like asking people how they are really doing… But in order to do that I first must be vulnerable. Even if my vulnerability is simply asking the question. No matter how great or small the vulnerability, it’s direct contrast is rejection.
The constant threat of rejection is exhausting but lately the consequences of vulnerability seems more intense. Like recently things have happened, or comments have been made to me that were not supposed to be negative but Satan has used it to cut deep into my heart. The thoughts going around in my head subsequently are:
“You drain people Akila”, “People want to laugh & deep stuff doesn’t refresh them”, “Akila people can only handle you in small doses”, “Akila people push you away because you are too intense”, “Akila you are too emotional”, “Akila you think you are trying to treat people the way you want to be treated but really you are just broken.”
I don’t want to be any of those things that are in my head. That wasn’t what was supposed to happen. I didn’t ask for Mike to die. I didn’t ask for me to change. I don’t want to drain people. I don’t want people to only be able to cope with me in small doses. My heart feel so raw, shaken & vulnerable thinking this could be.
Tonight, before church, I was trying to put on mascara without crying it off & I was talking to God about all this. I said to God, “I want to me just me. I want to be real & intentional. I want the deep conversations. I want to genuinely know how someone is doing. I really love & care for people. Even if people can only cope with me in small doses, I don’t want to change because this stuff matters to me, this is how I show people they matter to me.”
As I’m trying to figure all this out with Jesus a thought came to me, “Akila they’re not running from you, they’re running from vulnerability.”
Later after church I shared my fears with my life group leader & she gave a really beautiful illustration of a needle with thread. The needle point of vulnerability is so sharp that it can be painful for me & for others, but the thread that the needle brings is community.
Community is so much bigger than just a group of people hanging out. If God is the heart then community is what He uses to pump life into our souls. Life that fills our being with purpose. Life that He uses to demonstrate His love, His freedom, His truth. Community is life. Messy, beautiful, adventurous, living life. But it’s His life, & He gives it to us. He calls us to be our Brother’s Keepers.
This fear malarkey is hard core to address, but once upon a time when I was 14 years old God told me, “Akila I made you for people.” I want to be faithful to that calling. It’s my heart, it’s how I’m wired. What an incredible joy it is to be called my Brother’s Keeper. I’m not confused about this, but the fears bury this so that everything dumped on top causes confusion & disunity.
I don’t have a conclusion to this blog post as this is still a journey. But I do know that I don’t want these fears to kill me. I don’t want to change the root of who I am. I do want to grow. I do want to walk in freedom rather than fear. & whilst I’m trying to move away from acceptance in other people’s eyes, I really do hope I can be a good friend to people.
Last week I was walking down Long Street in Cape Town CBD with a group of friends at about 11.30pm when a guy pushed himself against my back and rubbed himself on me. I spun around only to see he was already doing it to another girl who was with us. Then he walked off. It happened so quickly.
Later that evening I was talking about it to the girl’s brother, let’s call him Abs, and to another guy friend, let’s call him Toes. Abs asked me did I say something to the guy and I said, “No, why would I put myself in an intimidating situation? I’ve no idea if calling him out on it will cause him to get aggressive with me.” Abs said, “But Akila, you were with 4 other guys at the time who have your back. What did you think would happen?”
I found myself unable to respond but inside thinking to myself, “You have my back? I didn’t even think of you guys.”
The next night it was New Year’s Eve. We were on the beach overlooking Cape Town City and once the firework shows ended we decided to go to the restaurant directly behind us because for NYE they had a DJ. Once we got our faces painted by the staff – literally, it was white paint and looked freakin awesome – we hit the dance floor.
I never really realized this until I was going home, but all night I had been looking around me. The whole time I was on the dance floor I did what I always do, observe what others around me are doing. Who is where, who looks shifty, who should I be alert to, do I need to protect someone…
Do I need to protect someone? The number one question I continually ask myself.
Back home when we go out I’m usually the oldest one in the group and/or with my younger sister. Between her and the younger ones in the group I end up stepping into that protector role every time we go out. There is always at least one guy who gets far too close, physical or friendly. Whilst it’s such an honor to be used as a trusted shield by my sister or our friends, I have to switch off my brain, compartmentalize any fear, and address the guy.
The guy’s reaction 99% of the time is either to then hit on me, or to get aggressive. Once a guy punched me three times in the face and busted my lip when I explained the girl wasn’t interested. Another time the guy grabbed my hair so hard I landed head first on the edge of the street curb which caused my head to bleed.
But on the night of NYE something magically strange happened on the dance floor.
I was dancing next to the sister, the same one who was with me on Long Street the night before, and noticed the guy behind her was bumping his backside against her. So I grabbed her hand and spun her into the opposite direction. But then that left me with butt guy and I was thinking, “Oh no?! Where do I go?! His butt is going to bump into me now?!”
I think I dived to the other side of our circle of friends but when I turned around Toes had moved into the spot where the sister and I were. I wish I filmed it because it was genuinely the funniest thing – Toes had no shame, he just danced the same way as the guy, backside to backside, and soon enough the guy moved away.
After a while the lights dimmed and the music got better so myself and two other girls moved to the center of the dance floor. And we just went for it dancing. I could see this tall, creepy, older dude dancing near us and sure enough he made a move on one girl. I grabbed her away from him but then the creep started hitting on the other girl. I grabbed her too and held onto them while dancing in hope that creep would get the message that we were not interested. But as I looked over my shoulder all I saw was Toes and Abs leading the other guys in our group across the dance floor straight to us. They gathered around us dancing and Toes made conversation with creep.
P.s. creep doesn’t deserve a capital “C”.
I cannot tell you how much that blew my mind. It was so simple and non-threatening but so effective. It never crossed my mind that I wasn’t the only one observing things on the dance floor. I never thought our guys would have our backs like that. I never thought they would step into that protective brother role. I never thought it because I never saw it before.
I know what happens when I say no. I know what it’s like to be hit repeatedly in the face and on multiple occasions. I know what it’s like for guys to force their hands onto me. I know what happens when a guy 60 years older than me kisses me inappropriately. I know what it’s like to not be able to press charges because there, “isn’t enough evidence to make the case stick in court”. I know so much more than what anyone should ever have to know.
More than anything I know exactly what it’s like to be a woman in a world where men are animals.
I didn’t know, genuinely did not know, that a group of guys, like my friends, could exist. I don’t know what overwhelms my heart more with love and gratitude – that these guys exist or that I have the joy of calling them my brothers.
I shared some of my personal life story with a friend on the way back to Pretoria from Cape Town. And after she asked me do I have someone who can help me work through some of the things I’ve been through. I do have people, but I said to her, “Do you know what, God’s really amazing. The stuff He’s doing in my heart is insane. I can’t escape Him. He’s using so many people and situations to address things in my life and to heal my heart. It’s absolutely incredible. Just like the other night the way the guys responded on the dance floor. That whole event has shifted so much in my heart.”
I really wish I could show my South Africa family how much God is using them. I’ve said this before but I can’t help repeating it when I realize how full my heart is when I think of them. I actually kinda get sad at my human limitations in expressing my gratitude to them. But I guess I can only keep encouraging them with words of affirmation; and before God just continually ask that He blesses each of them.
In the mean time, I’m so so so freakin blessed to call them my brothers and sisters. Teddi, thanks for pushing me to write about this.
Once upon a time, a situation happened where I think I accidentally pooped on a policeman… I’ll get to that story in a second. This week has been a big week for me!
For starters I learnt how to ride a motorbike, alone?! Ok so my friend was chasing the bike up and down the road in case I started to tumble but still, I was alone on the bike! Secondly, I hosted my first ever dinner “party” here! For 2 years I’ve been putting it off, mainly due to the size of my flat. But I really really miss having people over so I just decided to make it happen. God was kind, the thunder and lightning was CRAY (down with the lingo) and it rained but not enough for us to move from outside to inside. However what made this a big week was – for the first time in South Africa I told someone my testimony.
It’s been interesting for me coming to South Africa. I came to a place where really no one knew me. Apart from one person who was my cabin mate on the ship. I have no history here. No one I went to school with, did life with… in so many ways it has been kind of freeing. Like a way to start over. No one remembers that one time I may or may not have pooped on a policeman. True story. It’s titled “The Flying Poo Story”. Keep reading, I will get to it.
But what has also been interesting is no one has asked to hear my story until very recently. Each one of us has a life story; stories of powerful journeys that shape us into who we are today. Our hopes, dreams, fears, memories, heartbreaks, failures, winning moments, funny stories, family… our heart and mind is formed from these. So I’ve been wondering a question, do people not ask me, or is asking, “tell me your story”, something we just don’t do?
If my guess is right, and we are just not very good at asking people to share their story, then why is that?
When I was invited to share my life story this week I was a little anxious. Anxious because it has potential to bring up thoughts or even past addictions; and anxious because it does definitely bring up fear. Fear of rejection, fear of judgement. I know in my head the issue lies with that person if they chose to reject or judge but in my heart it’s still painful. I find people sometimes don’t look at me the same way again. I’m so sensitive to loss and change; and that type of relationship shift is next level sucky.
On the flip side, do we actually really want to know people? Sometimes I chose to not ask people to share their stories because I fear being burdened with it. Like somehow I will open Pandora’s Box by asking them to share and I then will have to deal with any life issues they reveal about themselves. Sometimes my relationships existed only for the purpose of having a good time; and there was no reason to break the illusion by bringing authenticity in it. I think I was a little too broken to know how to do real friendship with my old party friends. We only knew how to party. Hard.
In other words, maybe we don’t ask people because we’re afraid of their reaction; the impact it might have on us; the fear of being burdened; or maybe we just don’t want that kind of friendship. Maybe we have relationships where we are actually actively saying, “I chose not to know you.”
I know right… #micdrop
I’ve always loved people but I think my attitude to relationships changed after I got sick when I was 19 years old. My body gave up a little and I found myself in hospital for 3 weeks, then a wheelchair for an additional month. It changed even more when I was 20 years old, once I went to the ship for a year. Then when Mike died… shoot, at 21 years old there was no going back for me after that.
I changed, and I’m not the same person anymore. I still struggle with that change. Especially after Mike. It messes a lot with one’s identity. Like for so long I was confused whether I really was an extrovert or if I was actually an introvert. Thankfully I’m still 100% an extrovert?! But I’m deeper, way more sensitive, far more intentional, and the story matters to me. Your story, their story, my story, His story.
Asking someone to share their story is major. Yes, you need wisdom and discernment in doing so. But where possible I really want to encourage you to look for those opportunities to ask someone to tell you their story! It has so so so much potential:to bring healing to the person; to bring fresh revelations of who God is for you and for them; to bring reestablishment of their identity and value; and to basically bring truth, hope, and freedom to their lives.
Unless you really want to choose not know someone, if asking a person to share their story has so much power, why wouldn’t we want to embrace these beautiful opportunities to say to each other, “I see you”.
P.s. Yea, so sorry. I’m totally not ready to blog about the poop story yet haha 😉
Tuesday night I was with my church small group for our weekly “doing life together”, and we were talking about guilt and shame. I have to admit I felt pretty detached throughout the whole evening but towards the end I started praying & a revelation literally hit me so intensely that I lost it crying.
Exactly 5 weeks ago today I went to visit the hospital; and I was diagnosed with PCOS. My revelation on Tuesday night was that since that hospital trip I’ve been walking around with so much fear, and so much shame. My head knows truth, my heart is struggling to stay on the same track.
PCOS is short for polycystic ovarian syndrome. Apparently it effects 10-20% of women, according to the internet, though I’m not sure how much I trust the internet. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I feel a little sick I try to diagnose myself by googling my symptoms. And every time I do so Google tells me I need to seek urgent medical help because I’m basically dying of some random disease that I’ve never heard of.
I’m going to save you the biological lesson, you can Google “PCOS” and research it yourself, but basically I’m not producing the hormones needed to release eggs and that has a knock on effect in other ways. For example it also messes with insulin and causes one to be resistant to insulin. If you don’t get that under control then it can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
The great news is I don’t have diabetes and there’s a lot I can do to keep things going in a good direction – eat a low GI diet, exercise, be healthy… basically do all the things I should be doing anyways. But there is one key thing that it also effects, fertility.
I have talked to people since finding all this out but I don’t tell them the fertility part. Just the insulin part. I call the PCOS, “a medical condition”. It’s not that I don’t want people to know, it’s I just don’t know what to say. What do you say? Actually… there is a lot to be said. Which brings me to my blog.
PCOS causes certain things to happen, for example a bit of extra hair in places. Thankfully that isn’t such a big deal except I do have slightly hairy feet. Once a boy called me monkey feet and since then I wax them all the time. I hate my feet. Even if they are hair free which they usually are… I still hate my feet. And I still think that boy is a loser. Because he spoke something out over me that I still today, 15 years later, cannot shake off.
It also causes weight gain because of the whole insulin factor. The weight thing is a battle. Girls as a general statement have a real issue with self-image. My testimony for those who know it has been my battle with proving my self-worth. In every way not just self-image. I put on weight and the king of lies has a field day with my head.
But then losing weight, well that’s ironic in itself because now I find I’m fighting the battle not to take things in extreme ways. Right now I feel like there is so much riding on losing weight. The words in my head, “if you lose weight everything will be ok” and “you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough…” over and over again. Do I believe that, my head tells me no and I truly believe no. My heart, well Jesus is working on its conviction.
But the fertility thing. I never really imagined having kids. I guess I just hadn’t met the guy I wanted to have a family with. But I know I love family, love doing life with others, and I don’t want to be alone. I really do hope God has someone for me… But that hope is being challenged. Fertility is a big deal. And for many guys a deal breaker.
I genuinely believe all life is from God and if it’s His plan on my life it WILL happen. I feel really quite chill about that! But I just don’t see a guy being ok with it. I can’t envision a guy having that kind of faith. Am I belittling people’s faith – no, not at all. What I’m saying is I don’t think a guy will have faith in me. I can’t imagine being good enough just as I am for someone else. I can’t imagine a guy would pick me: Akila, with PCOS, and her monkey feet.
But I really really DO hope that God will include someone else in my story one day. And yes, yes, yes I KNOW if a guy picks me it will be because for the great qualities haha. But remember there’s a tension between head and heart right now.
But there’s something else I realise in all this. What I’m actually journeying with is not PCOS itself, but lies that I have allowed to be spoken over me which cause shame. I’ve even realised I thought I wasn’t sharing my news with others to be appropriate but actually I was just hiding out of fear and shame. “Akila you are not good enough and you really shouldn’t show others that awful side of you.”
Well Satan get on your bike and do one.
For a long time God used Mike’s death to show Himself to me, and show me my identity in Him. Now, like a multifaceted diamond, I have a whole new adventure to go on that will reveal even more to me.
I’m really honoured you are reading this; and please have total freedom to talk to me about anything. I really hope as I journey through this, and write, that it brings you hope too. But please do remember this blog is my space and I will be real. For some that might result in a decision to not read this blog. And that’s ok. I’m choosing to speak openly and honestly like this for the very simple reason…
… When a light shines on a lie it becomes powerless. When things are declared publicly, something happens in a spiritual realm. Given the situation I am supposedly in, and given that my bible tells me all I need is faith the size of a mustard seed, I’m not even going to debate this in my heart I’m just going to chose to take that leap.
“For God has unveiled them and revealed them to us through the Holy Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things diligently; even sounding and measuring the profound depths of God, the divine counsels and things far beyond human understanding. For what person knows the thoughts and motives of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So also no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Holy Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the wonderful things freely given to us by God.”
1 Corinthians 2:10-12
The long-awaited writing about September the 8th and “Mysterious?” is finally here!
For those of you just tuning in, my family and I decided to put on an event called “Mysterious?” The event actually kicked off in the days leading up to Saturday the 8th of September. But like all events, true planning started 3 years earlier soon after my brother’s death on August 1st 2009.
You see, Mike wanted to go to college and learn how to play a guitar with the intention of leading worship in Christian churches; but he didn’t make it. About 5 weeks before he was supposed to join Nexus College, and almost a year after he started working in McDonald’s to fund his course… he died in his sleep. He was 18 and a half years old… the coroner couldn’t find a single factor that could explain cause of death. Not even sudden adult death syndrome.
Pretty much straight away my family, myself, my friends, his friends, our friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues, school peers, church members… everyone in my life faced two key questions: “What happened?” and “Why?” Two years later we decided to put on a show that explored the mysteries of life. We as a family wanted to share our story, how we got through this massive life changing event… We wanted to encourage people to not be afraid of life, in all it’s forms, and to not be afraid of asking big questions. We wanted to inspire and challenge people’s attitudes to life. To find depth and meaning in amongst the superficial. We wanted to bring peace and hope… It’s ok to not have the answers. We wanted to explore the ancient question of why bad things happen to good people.
Whilst the vision had been simmering for almost 2 years by this point, practical planning started around February time this year (2012). Mum decided to check out our local entertainment centre with a simple prayer in mind “God, make this really clear to us whether we should pursue this.” And He did. We hired the venue and started developing a network around us before we even had a name for the event. People thought we were mad! Aren’t you supposed to have a programme together before you start hiring venues and issuing tickets? Truth be told… we only sat down to put together a programme 5 days before the event. That wasn’t for bad programme development… our network was in fact made up internationally of people from and living in several different countries. We only had the opportunity to sit down in person when they got here to do their part for the event!
God grew our dream into His dream and before we knew it our simple one night event turned into a week-long thing. We had hundreds of volunteers supporting us in making “Mysterious?” happen. The main churches in my city also came together to support us with this the event. We travelled to churches and camps to promote Mysterious… Maybe I should stop here and actual say our programme became three strands. Firstly we had “Mysterious?” the event. Secondly we had “One Wish.” We wanted to go into the city during the day before Mysterious and talk to the people we met on the streets. We wanted to encourage them and bring them joy, hope and peace. We refused to bible bash or stand on the street corners yelling how much we’re all gonna burn in hell. Instead, we had one simple question for them: “If you had one wish for God to give to you… What would it be?” What this meant was we LISTENED to them. We wanted to know THEIR story. We wanted to show them they are SIGNIFICANT. After they shared we simply offered to pray for them. Finally, the third strand was “One Wish: Skate Boarding” whereby we bought in two professional skate boarders to hang out with the youth on the Thursday, Friday and during the day on the Saturday.
What we didn’t foresee happening was the amount of publicity our event got!
Every time we want to the venue to discuss something with the managers, or to check how many tickets we sold… massive posters of naked women would greet us at the doors. The posters were advertising a very famous show called “Calender Girls“. Who were we to complete with them? Believe me, I seriously felt like I was Elijah waiting on God to rain down fire from heaven. Our main speaker for Mysterious was Stephen Baldwin. A famous Hollywood actor. Mum and dad met Stephen 6 years earlier and he gave them a signed dvd for Mike. On it he wrote “God Bless Mike“. One question my parents put to Stephen at Mysterious was “You wrote God Bless Mike; but Mike died. Explain that Stephen.” As soon as our small city heard a Hollywood actor was coming to town that was that! We were in the paper or on the night-time news every day for a week leading up to Saturday 8th!
Saturday 1st: Laura, my 18-year-old sister came home from a 3 week conference in Europe.
Sunday 2nd: Laura had unpacked, washed everything, repacked, went to church to say farewell, had a small party and left us again for a planned trip to South Africa. Dan and Suzie, international illusionists and our event MC’s arrived from America.
Monday 3rd: Mum, dad, Suzie, Dan and I sat down to plan the programme. We went for a walk to cool our brains down, visited the venue, met some youth, built relationships with the youth, Dan did illusions for them, we had the chance to test “One Wish”… We had amazing responses for them. Monday night we had a meeting with over 100 volunteers to brief them on the week’s activities. Much of that time was connecting individuals with “team leaders” for various activities. We were greatly encouraged to see some much passion from everyone.
Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th: I have to admit… I don’t remember these days so much but we did have a band practice. Wes, one our pro skaters had a nightmare of a time getting out of Egypt where he was based. Wednesday we received news that he was on the flight to us! 5 days later than he was meant to be but nonetheless with us!
Thursday 6th: This was day 1 of great craziness… Wes arrived in the morning, Stephen arrived around lunch time. I had breakfast with Miles and then picked up Grandma from the train station in the afternoon. After dropping her off home I went straight down to the skate park and hung out with the youth for 2 hours. Wes and Jud Heald were there and Stephen arrived soon after. The news came down to film us and many kids/teenagers came along to skate. Even I did some skating! 😛 Dan, Suzie, mum and I left the park to check up on the drama we had for Mysterious. The girls had done a great job putting it together!
Dad and Stephen Baldwin didn’t come with us because Stephen needed to go to the hospital for a xray of his foot. The day before he ran over it on his motorbike. At first we were like “Great, we don’t have time to run around at the hospital.” But God proved yet again he makes ALL things work for the good. As it turns out, Stephen going to the hospital was some of the best publicity we could have gotten! His picture with the nurse was in the news the next day. When he and dad got home we all sat around the kitchen table, held hands, and Grandma prayed for us all. As soon as she finished I piped up and said, “Grandma that was a beautiful prayer but all I could keep thinking was ‘OMG I’M HOLDING STEPHEN BALDWIN’S HAND!!!” Stephen thought that was funny 😛
Friday 7th: Day 2 of craziness. I was already operating on little sleep… Friday I woke at 7am, showered and was out the door for 8am to pick up Stephen. When mum and I got to his accommodation we hung out with him whilst he ate and then we took him to the hairdresser. I was his unofficial gofer all day 😛 I loved it haha 😛 We then had a meeting with the main event participants back at the house to get everyone on the same page for the show and after we went to Mike’s old high school. During the lunch break we hung out with several hundred teenagers doing magic, signing our autographs and promoting the event. Wes also did some skating.
I thought it was hilarious doing all these autographs! I had to think of mine on the spot and I’m sure I changed it about 4 times haha. The whole thing was so surreal. My photo was on the Mysterious leaflets and many of the young people were like “OMG YOU’RE IN THIS EVENT! I WANT YOUR AUTOGRAPH!” Hahahahah, who knew Akila would get to do that. Will have to tell Mike about that when I get to Heaven 😀
The afternoon was spent driving around locating my missing purse, picking up the bestie from the train station (Leah), and spending time at the skate park for the second day. After a large group of us went for an Indian. Everywhere we went Stephen’s presence caused a stir. Leah and I spent a little bit of time reminiscing that evening.
She was with me for Mike’s funeral. The night before his funeral we spent the night at a classy local bar with some friends and family; the next morning she curled my hair and listened to my speech. I had no idea what I wanted to share at Mike’s funeral and only “threw it together” at 7am the morning of the funeral. I got up early, sat in the conservatory as the sun came up and shared my heart to my laptop. As it so happens, the night before and the morning of Mysterious wasn’t too disimilar.
Saturday 8th: I woke up about 7am and was ready again for 8am. A family friend came to pick me up in his work van. The a close friend of my sister and his brother had made a tree for the stage. It was so beautiful…I was so proud of them. They had made it out of wood, paper, card, paint and fairy lights. I took it down to the venue and spent the entire morning at the venue helping to set up for the show. I almost cried my eyes out when I saw the stage… It was barely complete but already I could see the picture it was forming and the hard work that was being put into it. I thought I was going to be so stressed out but actually… I don’t think I’ve ever been so calm whilst preparing for an event before. Many others were very stressed and at one point a guy friend and I pretended to hide for a little while. Our stragegy was to sit on the couch in the eating area backstage and “look busy“. It sort of worked.
Leah came down around the same time the Cottinghams arrived and we all walked over to the youth zone where the third day of skate boarding was happening. While people were setting up the venue for the show, other had gotten up early to set up the youth zone. A group came up from Manchester to lay wood down to protect the flooring at the youth zone, build ramps and give out 60 boards and bikes for the youth. Leah and I didn’t stay too long… we left soon after I epically fell off the skate board 😛 She and I went back to the show venue where WriteWay, the rap group from London, had arrived and were rehearsing.
Around 4.30pm I went back stage and started getting ready. Mum and I had our own dressing room! I felt like a total celeb! Mum by this point had an emotional break down and hid crying in the changing room. I left her to it. Everyone was going through their own way of dealing with such an intense event. At one point I found mum, the Hendricks and Win Maiden all crying together… It’s going to sound wrong to say, but it genuinely was so funny to see them all! I teased them gently about it… The show must go on! Amongst our many awesome volunteers, one lady agreed to share her talents as a make up artist for Stephen. Dinner for the volunteers was served around 5.30pm and at 6pm we all met together to run through the programme one last time.
People started arriving….
We had 1000 tickets to sell in total… and in the last 24 hours we sold over 700 tickets. We actually sold out and started using additional seating to sell more tickets! There was a funny moment where I was backstage and was going through to the main seating area. I flung open the side curtain and saw many seats now filled! I’d been so used to seeing empty seats all day that I had a mini heart attack and thought “Oh.No.” Hahaha, a bit like a rollercoaster that you now can’t off hhaha.
The show started with a bang, an interactive illusionist trick that involved the crowd. Mum and dad introduced the event, CWB played Swtichfoot, I shared my story, my sister put together a video of her story… CWB played “This is your life” after Laura’s video and we had put together a string set to accompany the band. It was so powerful to have a rock song played alongside violins and cellos. Wes shared his story, the girls preformed the drama… The intermission came and went so quickly. Part two saw mum and dad share a bit more; Stephen spoke and had the attention of the audience from the moment he walked on stage; WriteWay preformed the closing act…
I was so afraid of the level of “Christianity” throughout the event. I just wanted people to be encouraged and challenged. I should have known better than to be afraid… Literally every single person who came to Mysterious left with something special to them. For weeks after we heard stories from all over the place of people who’s lives had changed for the better. I was so humbled and so grateful. Out of the whole event, it was when the band was playing “This is your Life” that I remember most distinctively. Somewhere in the centre of the crowd I sat in my seat with a tear that was making its way down my right cheek, and I was thinking to myself, “This is it. This is really happening.”
For months we’d planned. For months we had dreamed. I wanted to honor Mike in what we were doing just as much as I wanted to honor God. This show was different for me than any other shows I’d seen. I knew the stories behind each detail. I knew who generously paid for this, and I knew how hard someone worked at that… I knew the trials we faced at every single step. I walked first handedly through the many arguments mum and I got into about Mysterious… God took all of those things and turned it into something beautiful. Something life changing. Something that will always stick with me… I wish you were there at Mysterious to have seen it for yourself.
After the show people got the chance to buy cds and t-shirts from WriteWay, get photos with Stephen, or just mingle. Dan C was the “bodyguard” for Stephen that night… It’s pretty surreal, never once did I ever think that I’d be saying to Dan C, “Hey, can you body-guard for Stephen?” I think the best bit was when Dan C realised he would be driving Stephen back to mine in what he described as “a naff car” 😛 There was a miniature after party at mine… Dan C, Tim Christian, Leah and I sat on the couch in my living room and barely moved. I had some really special times with Leah throughout the day then later as we sat talking to Stephen. I miss that girl. I wished those days she was here wasn’t so crazy.
I finally got to bed around 3.30am…
So that’s basically the gist of Mysterious. And believe me when I say I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the stories that have resulted from those days. The finale song that night was called “New Song“. And there’s a line in it that says,
“We’re gonna scream til the walls come down, Singing a new song, Singing a new song.”
For now, that’s what I want to leave with you.
Thank you to God, Mike, my family and for everyone who made this happen. I’m truly blessed!