Listening to God’s voice and following His lead was a strong theme at last month’s New Wine festival on the Kāpiti Coast. It was no exception in Firewire, the youth zone where over 100 teenagers gathered twice daily to play games, worship God and receive amazing ministry from speakers such as Mike Pilavachi.
But perhaps the most unexpected and surprising opportunity to follow God’s leading came as a gang-affiliated youth walked in off the street looking for a place to get drunk. The young man heard contemporary worship music and assumed it must be a Shihad gig – but when Diocesan Youth Co-ordinator Luke Paynter and his co-leaders spotted that he didn’t have a New Wine wristband, they escorted him outside to question him.
That’s when his story began to unfold.
He had lost his job in the last few days, and his future wasn’t bright. His dad, a patched gang member, didn’t take too kindly to the news, and gave his son “the bash.” Reaching breaking point, the young man went looking for somewhere to drown his sorrows.
As the young man told his story, Luke and his co-leaders offered to pray with him. Luke shared of the experience:
“At the end I felt to give him a hug, so I said ‘This is going to sound strange, but I feel really strongly that God just wants me to give you a hug right now, and for you to know that God is a loving father and that you are a loved son.’ At that point he responded ‘That’s all I want right now is someone to give me a hug.'”
This young man’s encounter with his loving heavenly Father is perhaps the most striking of a host of stories of God-encounters at New Wine. God’s presence was strong, and it was clear from the ministry that as Christians, we are called to listen to the voice of our Shepherd so that we may follow Him. As the Firewire leaders listened and responded to God, a man far from his Father came a little nearer.
This story has a happy ending – the young man handed over his gang colours to the leaders and said “can you take this for me? [The gang] isn’t my family, I’m part of a bigger and better family.”