Mark's Canada Experience (so far!)

For the last five years now I have been working closely with Duggie Dug Dug (a.k.a Doug Horley) in the area of Children’s work.  I have been on his core team at Spring Harvest, fronting his Summer Weeks Schemes along with Pete Bignall (drummer, children’s entertainer, friend, confidant), touring with him in his band, and playing and larking around at Praise Parties.  Doug and his family (Belinda, Jamie and Luke) have also become close friends of mine over this time, we have had many a meaningful discussion and many a raucous laugh over a glass of wine in his Hot Tub!


It was on such a praise party trip around three months ago when Doug looked over to Pete and I and asked us a question.


“Would you guys be interested in coming to Canada to help me out with a gig?”


Pete and I stared back over our Whopper Meals (standard lunchtime fare when your are “on tour” with Doug) a little unsure as to what we had just heard, Doug continued.


“Your flights would all be paid for of course, it would be really great to have you guys with me”


Still staring, Pete and I tried to take it all in our stride and pretended not to be as giddy as school girls…


“YEAH!That would be wicked”


“That’s so cool when do we go!”

“Whereabouts in Canada?  How long do we go for?”


…I’m not sure we really pulled it off.


That is why at 10am on Thursday 14th October I found myself waiting for the guys at Heathrow Airport beside the Air Canada Desk.  There were six of us going, meeting a seventh out in Halifax on the far East coast of Canada.


The flight was pretty standard for 6 hours or so (if you were a passenger, though I imagine the pilot was probably having to work quite hard) and we arrived in one piece if a little wearied.  As we arrived at the hotel, a bellboy took our luggage.  Now I know that this is probably quite a run of the mill event for frequent travellers – but I actually got quite excited about it – so I thought it was worth mentioning. 


Our bodies told us that it was 10pm and nearly time for bed – but our watches told us that it was 6pm and actually time for tea so we went over the street and had the most incredible steak I’ve ever tasted.  I gutted out the jet lag and went to bed at 11pm Halifax time (around 3am Maidenhead time) and that was the end of the outward journey.  In the morning we would get a chance to look at the venue we would be doing the “gig” in.


Walking into the 10,000 seat Metro Centre Ice Hockey Stadium we noticed that another band was sound-checking on a small stage at the other end of the arena, we wandered over to the small stage to see what equipment we would be using.  This taught us the difference between “small” and “far away”.  We walked to our changing room, past several TV cameras, a crane-cam and a portable TV Studio (portable if you happen to have a 12 wheel Big Rigger – no joke) which were to be used to beam everything live through to Sydney in Cape Breton (Further up into the Newfoundland province of Canada).  It finally dawned on us that this “gig” was actually going to be quite large and was an important one for Doug.




It finally dawned on us that this "gig" was actually going to be quite large...


The weekend-long festival was being run by Franklin Graham, on behalf of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in conjunction with the local churches of Halifax.  On the Friday night we went along to Franklin’s first evening, where he simply and effectively laid out the Gospel.  His very first words (to over 7,000 people) were these:


  “You are going to have a choice to make tonight, to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, or to reject him.  I am going to speak for about 20 minutes, then you’re going to have to make that choice.”


Pretty straight forward.  He continued to speak and when he gave the people the opportunity to respond, they did, in droves.  Hundreds of people walked down the aisles of the seats onto the covered playing surface and received Jesus.  Wow.


Saturday Morning arrived and it was time for Duggie Dug Dug and Friends (that’s me – I’m one of the friends) to take to the stage.  7am sound check, 10:30am start.  A BMX stunt team called Wheels of Chaos performed some crazy jumps over ramps – 360s, Tailwhips, Supermans – the lot, then one of the riders (with a broken foot!) gave the gospel in BMX speak – it rocked.


It was then time for Duggie Dug Dug to do his thang.  For an Hour and a half we played, danced, jumped and did sketches designed to make the kids laugh and to communicate Jesus. We had a great time, and then Doug preached on the Great Exchange of Jesus Life for ours.  He sent one of the kids and I on a 45 second litter collecting spree, running around the stadium collecting cola cups, fry boxes, sweet wrappers, full boxes of popcorn (thrown at us!).   We started with one carrier bag, and returned to the stage with three!  The girl was then told she could keep everything she had collected (her face dropped) OR swap it for a bag of goodies that he had (her face brightened somewhat).  To nobody’s great surprise she chose the full bag and Doug went on to liken the exchange to the one God made for us through Jesus. The whole crowd, all 4,500 of them listened intently.  Doug offered them the chance to meet Jesus by coming down from the seats and standing down on the arena floor in front of the stage.



During one of the sketches I had to pose as captain of the girl's swimming team.  These things come scarily easy to me...



The Band played and watched over our instruments and through rapidly blurring eyes as the first few Children started moving towards the arena floor, some alone, some dragging parents after them.  Then the flow increased, and then again.  For ten minutes we watched and played as children made the choice to come and join the rapidly growing throng in front of the stage.  It was a mind-blowing and very humbling experience to see so many children responding.  We later found that 569 children over the age of 9 made a first time commitment to follow Jesus on that morning – to put a little perspective on that, that’s more children than there are people in River Church.


The weekend didn’t finish there, after we had packed up we got straight into a van and drove four hours to Prince Edward Island where we did another gig for 600 people, seeing a further 40-50 children make commitments to follow Jesus.  The people were so friendly and hospitable and treated us so well.  I was challenged to revise my long held, ignorant opinions of our American and Canadian brothers and sisters and how they “do” Christianity.


The flight back on Monday was somehow longer and we arrived at Heathrow tired but happy, all in all, to indulge in a little bit of the legendary British understatement, over 5,000 people reached with the Gospel of Jesus, over 600 people making first time commitments to follow him…not a bad weekends work.


I shall be flying back to Canada on the 6th November to Join Doug and his daughter Jamie for the final two weeks of his tour, we shall be visiting Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Vancouver Island – please pray for fruit and effective follow up.  Thanks for reading!

Mark Middleton, 22/10/2004