The Slugs & Bugs UK tour left a powerfully deep impression. But it was not from the concerts, even though they went spectacularly well. It was not from the castles or ancient cliffs of Wales. It was not the rolling fields of yellow oil seed flowers. It was not the delicious traditional Sunday Roast or hearty and satisfying Full English Breakfast. It was not Big Ben, not Harry Potter Studios, not the Van Gogh paintings hanging in the National Gallery, not even the moving visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, where I strained my neck from staring up to see ALLELVIA painted across the choir lofts, my eyes brimming with tears.
Of course, it was the people. We met and made fast friendships with scores of wonderful people like Grace Forsythe, who traveled 8 hours round-trip to retrieve us from Heathrow with a smile and served us two spectacular home-cooked meals in Liverpool because she loves Jesus. I will remember Upney’s Pastor Johnny – with the quick lilt and humble confidence forged in the damp beauty of Northern Ireland. He’s funny. And he made us lasagna from scratch. I’ll remember Pastor Phil and his wife Monique – South African transplants to the Welsh seaside. Months earlier they saw us singing in our living room in Nashville through the magic of an online concert. Last week I sat in their living room in Wales and learned that I enjoy Rooibos tea, black, no sugar.
Then there was Ginger and Beth – our gracious and hardworking hosts at the American Air Force Base near Cambridge. Two enlisted women volunteered at the Slugs & Bugs merch table. They were so helpful and friendly with Livi. We arrived late to Winchelsea School in Dorset, but Tim (Assistant Head) and his staff didn’t even blink. They are used to improvising since it is a school for children with special needs. This concert was one of my favorites, again, because of the people.
I’m leaving many out, including my own kin (Grace and Michael Freeman – I’m looking at you), but the truth is, all our hosts went above and beyond to care for us, and none more than Tom and Rachael Hart. Tom is a associate pastor at a church in Dagenham, east of London. Tom and Rach contacted many churches about booking Slugs & Bugs, and because of their hustle and trusted reputation, we doubled our number of concerts. Then, they arranged details for every show – serving as the Slugs & Bugs “UK office.” Then, they decided it would be better for Livi and me if they provided the entire sound system for every show. That means loading their PA, driving us all over the United Kingdom in their Honda CRV, setting up, running sound, and tearing down for every concert.
Are you getting this? Did I mention they’ve got 2 girls under 4 years old? That means the grandparents pitched in as well, keeping the kids while Tom and Rach served us for two weeks. Add to all that, Tom and Rach are warm and hospitable companions, quick to laugh at my attempts at UK accents and even quicker to sound like Forrest Gump for laughs at their own expense. They deeply love Jesus and his gospel, and I’ll be forever grateful that Livi got to see them sacrifice with such joy and patience. I already liked the Harts before this trip. Now, for the Harts, I would fight a rabid badger to the death.
The point I’m finding in this post is, this tour was a massive effort, and many hands got dirty. The people of the Slugs & Bugs UK tour, are many. They are pastors and pastors wives, cooks and drivers, soldiers and missionaries, farmers, parents, grandparents, and cousins. People phoned newspapers, knitted spiders, painted backdrops and hung fliers. These people have kids and families and fiancés and some are in wheelchairs or they’ve recently lost loved ones. Some are battling depression, fatigue, or chronic pain. And they all came out and had a blast making much of Christ and little of ourselves. There is so much joy to be found among friends who take Jesus seriously, because that means they don’t take themselves very seriously at all.
I heard one British dad volunteer confess, “This is terrifying,” before launching into ‘I Wanna Help.’ In the end he wore a huge grin.
Thank you, people of the United Kingdom. Six months ago this tour was a dream. Now it is a memory as we’ve hit the U.S.A. ground running. Next week we launch a Kickstarter Campaign for Sing the Bible Vol. 2. But today I’m thinking of all those people we met in England and Wales. Many of them brought home Slugs & Bugs CDs. If they are tucking in kids tonight, they have a few new lullabies they can try.
“Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be thy name...”
Here’s a few fun pics from our tour through the United Kingdom! We’ll be back in 2016!
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