Gratitude – Remembering John Smith

Sean writes …
 
 Initiatives like Zac’s Place and the stuff that happens at places like it, doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes dedicated commitment from volunteers, staff & a broad support base. It also carries a vision and a passion that the world doesn’t have to stay the way it is, that there is another way to live, to love and to serve. This too doesn’t happen by accident. Somewhere along the way, a spark ignites a flame and fire burns bright.
 
 Pivotal in the story of Zac’s Place is the fire that burns in the core of my soul, that was further fanned into flame by an Australian preacher 30 years ago, who became my friend a mentor. He pointed me to the words and teaching of Jesus that seemed too tough to follow – loving your enemies, forgiving aggressors, caring for and speaking up for the rights of the outcast and marginalised – the stuff of the Sermon on the Mount. It transformed my faith and the course of my life.
 
 This week, John Smith died in the arms of his bride of 51 years, at the age of 77 — and in the spirit of John Wesley, the world had been his parish. Zac’s Place was part of that parish.
 
 He may have had the ear of politicians, activists, global icons, narrowly escaped execution for human rights efforts, and addressed thousands of people in public gatherings, but he was also no more at home than at our soup kitchen when he was in Swansea, (& similar ventures around the world), listening to someone’s story.
 
 He wasn’t perfect, he was wobbly at times, just like the rest of us all are. An ordinary bloke, but committed to the fire of faith in Christ that burned in his soul to his last breath. May we each be grateful for those who have gone before, inspired us and pointed us to a road that says, ‘things don’t have to stay as they are’.
 


The following article was John’s last published essay and is as poignant, insightful and as challenging as ever.
 
 “For the church, as for cancer, the key question is not how fast you are growing but what you are growing.” Rev. Dr. K. John Smith.

 
 https://www.eternitynews.com.au/in-depth/john-smith-prophet-teacher-evangelist-and-biker-takes-his-final-ride/

How Was Your Journey

From an original post written by Sean Stillman for the SPCK blog.

After having ridden, what is fast approaching, half a million miles by motorcycle, the road has become more than just a means of getting from one place to another as quickly as possible. The road has become both a friend and an enemy. It has provided the necessary space to think in isolation, uninterrupted by the demands of gadgets. It has created the lens through which to marvel at the natural world and also the challenge to battle against its elements. The heightened risks that come with riding a motorcycle are never far away though – there’s an edginess that keeps things real and keeps your focus sharp.

The road has also become a place of learning to welcome unexpected interruptions along the way. Moments that could so easily be missed, stories so easily untold if it is all about getting somewhere as quick as you can. Over the decades, I have learned to welcome the interruptions. Far from being inconveniences, they have become milestones of significant insight, often from the most surprising sources.

Sometimes I’ve literally been sat in the gutter sharing soup with a homeless friend, who pointed out something that everyone else was missing. On other occasions, it may be a chance conversation that uncovers a captivating story of marginalised indigenous people, being prepared to risk their lives to save their oppressors. It could be the easy to miss grave of a twelve-year-old girl, whose death brought peace to an entire nation of warrior tribes or, it could be the guy who grabbed the opportunity to tell his story of growing up in the shadow of Chernobyl, because he thought the world had forgotten him and his community.

So often the perfect journey, is thought to be the one without interruptions, wrong turns and side-tracks. As I reflect back over the years and miles, some of the most valuable experiences of my life have been exactly at these moments. Ambushed by disaster, frustrated by delays and disappointed in my own stupidity. Often my own broader journey has been far from perfect – yet somehow amid the chaos, the questions and the heartache, it has become a beautiful adventure.

We live in a climate when the perfect selfie is sought and with an obsession for filters to enhance the image, we strive for perfection. We are fearful of our own imperfections, blemishes, fractures and flaws amid the brokenness of our lives. There’s a tendency to fall apart when we realise we cannot place a sunny warm-up filter over every blemish, every stain, every missed opportunity or every mistake. I am reminded of U2’s lyric concerning grace making beauty out of ugly things and this concept has become a significant part of my own story. I have come to discover that moment of liberating surrender; letting go of putting on a perfect performance, and finding, and embracing beauty in broken places.

Next time someone asks, ‘How was your journey?’ – wouldn’t it be great to say, ‘You wouldn’t believe what happened on the way!’

Originally written for and published by SPCK here

God’s Biker Book Tour

Thank you for the recent support and encouragement on the tour of dates following the release of God’s Biker. Here’s a few snapshots from along the way. It really was such an encouragement to connect and sometimes re-connect with so many people. I shall be making a return to Australia for a few dates there, after a long absence, and listen out for some features on UCB radio here in the UK and other features in the press regarding God’s Biker: Motorcycles & Misfits. Grateful to Wynne Evans at BBC Radio Wales for a recent interview who gave room for some stories from Zac’s Place. In all of this the ongoing efforts at Zac’s Place continue with a great team of volunteers and community connections./ Thanks for your ongoing interest and support.

Fully Loaded for the week on the road

Signing at the Reading event

Swansea at The Hyst

Back at the BBC

God’s Biker needed to go into it’s first reprint prior to release date due to the high numbers of pre-orders thank you! Zac’s Place will be benefitting from all of Sean’s royalties.

At Kennet Valley Free Church, Reading

Pleased to get their copies!

With Wynne Evans at BBC Radio Wales in Cardiff

Book Launch – Swansea Date Announced

Sean will be doing a few dates on the road to support the publishing of his book on 20 Sep 2018.
 
 A particularly special night is planned at The Hyst in Swansea on Sun 30 Sep.
 
 Other dates will also include Sun 23 Luton, Mon 24 Leicester, Wed 26 West Bromwich and Reading on Thur 27 Sep. More info to follow.
 

Book Release

We are pleased to announce that Sean Stillman’s book ‘God’s Biker: Motorcycles and Misfits’ is being published by SPCK and due for release on 20 Sep, 2018. It is now available for pre-order in local bookshops or via all the usual online book stores internationally.

Now available for pre-order

 

‘Sean has shown me constantly what lies at the heart of the Christian community.’ 

– Lord Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Foreword.

 

For more information please go HERE.

Beatitudes Exhibition Now Open

We are so pleased to be able to write with news that our wonderful Beatitudes exhibition opened at Swansea Grand Theatre on 21 November 2016 and will remain on view until 4 Feb 2017.

These eight pieces of work from seven different artists cover a wide variety of art mediums and pack a real punch as each artist poured their heart and soul into their work, drawing on Jesus’ words know as ‘The Beatitudes’ in Matthew’s Gospel chapter five.

For the last ten years this work has been based at Zac’s Place and now is available to a wider audience. You can view that work for free on Level two of the exhibition area of the theatre whenever the threat is open, which is usually daily from 9.30am and until the end of the evening performances in the main house or the depot theatre.

Please find below a few pictures from our opening night – hopefully they’ll serve as enough of a taster to get you along! It was great to have a couple of the artists there too!

And here’s how they got there! 
These cases now mean that the exhibition is available to travel to other venues.

Fundraiser Gig at Swansea Grand Theatre

Join Steve Balsamo & Rosalie Deighton and friends, on Fri 2 Dec,2016 for what will be a great night of live music that benefits Zac’s Place.
 
 As well as Balsamo Deighton, Who’s Molly perform and the house band is expected to feature some of the areas finest musicians including Andy Collins, Tony Kiley, Tim Hamill and Mal Pope.
 
 Support us and support live music – get in early for your tickets!
 

The Beatitudes at The Grand

We are delighted to announce that our in house art commission inspired by The Beatitudes of Jesus, recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, will be exhibited on Level 2 at Swansea Grand Theatre from 21 Nov 2016 until 4 Feb 2017.
 
 Feel free to get the word out and encourage conversation around these stunning pieces of work.