I enjoy walking. When the weather’s fit and it’s not too far. Most mornings I get off the tube a stop early and walk in to work, and given the opportunity I’ll happily walk for miles along the coast or the canal towpath. But when Gary Lamb emailed me about his book, Legs of Lamb (New Wine Ministries, ISBN 9781905991235, £11.99), I knew I’d met my match.
I emailed him back: “You’re obviously insane,” I said, “and I like that in a man. Tell us about it.”
So he did…
Hi there, my name is Gary Lamb – 29 years old, but still feeling about 16. I’ve been in full time youth work for the South Kent Community Church since I was twenty, but things have changed dramatically in the last year – where the Church has decided to employ me full-time to pray – pretty random and new, but also a massive privilege (and no, I don’t get commision for answered prayer!)
I enjoy all sports, especially football. Being a social animal, I love being around family and friends and do all I can to make sure that happens. I guess I have been asked to write this because – along with God on April Fools’ Day 2005 (and why not!) – we decided to do a bit of a mad adventure, and together we walked around the entire coast of Britain! The journey was about 4500 miles, and took ten and a half months altogether.
It all started when I was 19 – in the middle of a worship time I hear this voice in my head that comes like a bolt out of the blue; “Gary, I want you to walk around Britain.”
“Hmmm…. I don’t really like walking much,” were my first thoughts. I’m more into active sports, but if that voice really was God there had to be more to it. There was, as the next day He directed me to Matt 10. It was going to be all about doing what the disciples did, all the cool, crazy stuff – miracles! Yes that was more of what I was all about. Over the next six years (long time) God confirmed that it was Him over and over again. So we decided that I needed to get fit and do some trial walks, and that’s what happened.
Then, at the age of 25, God and I set off. The walk was full of adventure, and amazing answers to prayer, along with some incredibly kind hosts, and – yes – there were times that I felt like giving up. I remember one time in particular, when it just kept raining. (I was in Wales of course). Day after day. I would pray for it to stop, and it would just get harder! At the same time, I somehow managed to get food poisoning, and death threats from some nutter. In fact, in those couple of weeks so much happened that I just thought I must plough on, rather than take the easy option . God was so close over those few weeks, I could touch Him. All my aches and pains – physical and emotional – melted in His embrace. We were walking hand in hand.
Don’t get me wrong. You read the above, and think it must have been hard going. Well, some of the time it was, but most of the time I was on top of the world. I loved it! Day to day just chatting with God. The most simple things would become massive conversations – I had never been so close to Him. Story after story would emerge, day would follow day of answered prayer.. God used me, and I am so grateful for that. Let me end with a couple of stories, excerpts from the book:
I was in a somewhat run-down area near the Cleveland coast. You may be able to suggest numerous possibilities! The previous night, my hosts had been reading about helping those who are shunned by society at large. The passage from their book was about a man who used to go out and pray that God would send him the ‘worst of the worst.’ As I was listening to the story, I felt that I had been having it all a bit easy. My conversations had been mainly with those who had seemed to be the most approachable, like old ladies at bus stops. I have since found out that that is not always true anyway! Surely it would be a doddle to pray that God would send me a ‘worst of the worst’ sort of person. I became sure that after praying nothing would actually happen anyway, leaving me let off the hook.
Finding myself at Macdonalds for lunch, wolfing down some chicken nuggets, I felt prompted to repeat that prayer. Well, I never! In no time at all, Dave was sitting at my table. “Unusual,” I thought, as the restaurant was only half full, and he could have sat at an empty table if he wanted. We got talking, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that Dave was the answer to the prayer. He was in a really bad way. Dave has been a heavy heroin addict for the last twelve years, which I’m told is about the rough life expectancy. Having bought him a milkshake, I listened to him chatting for the next couple of hours.
Dave’s life story is a living nightmare. He was making a real effort to stay clean. After lasting three days so far, he was in dire need of a score. I told him about Jesus, and how He can help. Dave’s eyes lit up, he needed hope. He also needed to get out of the area, because people were after him. So I took him to the bus stop, and paid the bus driver the fare. Dave left, clutching a tract, and saying; “I’m gonna give Jesus a try!”
Although he has my web card, Dave has never made contact since. I fear the worst, but what I do know is that I was destined to meet him, and to share about Jesus before it was too late.
Lunch in Gardenstown
Surely I’m not alone in having the occasional “can’t-be-bothered” morning, where you wish you had not woken up. My misery was compounded, when I drew back the curtains to see the rain coming down in sheets. It took every ounce of will power to get out of the door. Within minutes, I was as drowned as a rat. The inclines around Banff were spectacularly energy-sapping, and the scenery incredible, but enough was enough, when I had realised that I had neglected to load up with a packed lunch, or sort my route out for the day – entirely my own fault!
I trudged along mindlessly, moaning at God the whole time, which makes you feel a whole load worse, because He is completely and utterly perfect. Lunch time arrived: I was hungry, wet and cold, and there was not a pub in sight. I was beat up outside and in, close to tears, and feeling alone, and rejected. I saw a sign saying, “Gardenstown one mile”. My GPS declared that this hamlet had a pub, so I took the extra detour, all one thousand seven hundred and sixty yards of it.
No pub could be seen, but I popped into a little post office and made enquiries. “Sorry, dear, there used to be a pub, but it’s not there anymore, and everything else is closed for the day.” I dragged myself outside, dejected and soggy. Yes, still alive but only just, or that’s how it felt. At this defining moment, I uttered a prayer that I will never forget, it was so me-orientated. “God, can you find a way of fixing me some lunch?”
I hadn’t got to Amen in my prayer, or anything spiritual like that, when a car driver pulled up alongside me outside what turned out to be her own house. A lady wound down her window, and asked if my name was Gary. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. Here I was, in the middle of nowhere, half way up the east coast of Scotland, miles away from home, and my name was being called out from a car window!
“Yes, I’m Gary,” came my somewhat stuttering reply, whereupon she smilingly invited me in for some lunch! I must admit I made sure that I polished the meal off before troubling to find out how this lady knew who I was. Shirley is a Crusaders leader who had read an article which included my web site details. She had been regularly following the itinerary, and my daily blog. Even though she knew that I wasn’t scheduled to pass her way, Shirley had awoken that morning with the prayer that she would get a chance to bump into me, so she could fix me some lunch.