The Tent Meeting

Posted: April 12, 2011 in Chawn, The World Needs More Canada

I am in Canada, leading a team of teenagers in Stoughton; a small town in Saskatchewan where they will put their faiths on the line and see what happens when they make a stand for Jesus.

I’ve won 48 straight Wii Tennis games at the outstanding Jeremiah House youth centre where we’ve been hanging out with youth every night, but tonight’s different! Tonight we’re performing at a Native tent meeting, and sacking off the Jez. I’m Man United pulling out of the FA Cup, and it feels good.

English lass Katie is excited to go to a Native reserve. I smile, but don’t have the heart to tell her that it’s exactly the same as a not-reserve. Some of us are staying at the Jeremy Clarkson, but I make sure Katie gets to fill her mukluks. I wave the Wii a tearful goodbye, and just about manage to open the door for myself and my bike. It’s sad, because I’ve had a great time beating the kids.


We’ve arrived at the marquis and it’s big. Like the kennel of a Chinese New Year monster-dog thing folded in half. It is the Maracana. Only nobody’s there. I meet a dog. And smile. It’s fine. We don’t care about numbers, because we give our best every time!

Especially when the boss is watching.


The meeting kicks off and before too long we’re drawing with Necaxa. And then we score! The acting’s strong, and every word spoken is clear and concise. It’s going brilliantly. Until my turn to speak.

When I remember something.

It’s hot… and this is the World Tent Meeting Championship…

…And Man United got destroyed!

My default action man settings wet themselves. This is definitely going to go horribly wrong.

I step up to the spot.

And put it in the top left corner.

The Boss beams.

I take my seat with head held high and the evening’s last-minute-stand-in speaker takes the stage. And in one sentence completely changes the tone of the meeting. He announces that he wants to talk about an irrelevant and flatly refuted piece of theological pie and that he’ll go to extreme lengths to prove that he’s right.

Is he freaking kidding me? I stare at him in astonishment. And feel something inside me. Something very wrong. I’ve never had this reaction to pie.

I drift in and out as 45 minutes of turtle-time crawls by; peas and gravy being flung at the front row. I turn to see The Boss’s face. He’s drifting in and out. Cornish-Pasty-Catherine-Wheel-Man makes a throwaway comment.

“I’m coming in to land with this.”

A lifeline! I am energised enough to shuffle in my chair and remember the theological landfill excavation inexorably falling from his lips.

The dog walks onto the stage.

YES! This is the best thing tonight! The dog is eating some steak & kidney, but is shooed away. I slump back into lack-of-lucidity. Dodgy Dodgy SpeakerMan continues.

For another hour. An hour that feels like an hour. I hear distant claps.



Canadian storms are a treat. If you’re indoors. In Canada lightning calls for all its’ lightning mates up the road and goes bullying Walter The Softie fields. There’ve literally been storms lasting literally hours literally every night this week.

More thunderclaps. We all know what’s coming our way. We are in a field.

An empty field. In a marquis.

A large marquis. With lots of equipment.

Lots of electrical equipment. I’m sitting next to a fat metal pole. My oh-so-Anglo stiff upper lip buckles and I fall into fear mode, exacerbated by being unsure of how much danger I may or may not be in. Crucially, I’m responsible for the lives of seven or eight brilliant teenagers. I turn to ask Stoughton Stalwart Holly if we’re safe. She’s a local! She has to know!!

“Well, Dan, I don’t know.”

What? I am at Defcon 1! Or 5! Whatever’s highest.

The walls of the tent begin to sway in the wind. Everybody’s noticed. People are shuffling in their chairs and looking about nervously. At this, Talks You To Death With Heresy finally relents.

“I’ll finish here before the power goes out.”

Hallelujah!!!! Now we can get the heck out of here, without looking like we don’t have any faith in our God to save us. The organiser of the event takes the mic, and to my despair, has had a brainwave. I can see it in his face. The look of a man with questionable wisdom about to attempt a miracle. Please no…!

“Ok then folks, we’re gonna take on the storm in prayer.”

Mother of pearl! I just want to get my team to safety! But The Boss is here, and I’m supposed to be team leader! The man who can part the Assiniboine! I actually have to do this! I click the ‘Help’ button in my theology. Can I do this? Technically yes… but it’s been a while since I raised anybody from the dead or feng shui-d Snowdon.

We begin to pray.

“Dear Father…”


The storm goes into turbo mode!!!! We are in the eye of a maelstrom of roaring winds and continual thunderbolts. I look around. The walls of the tent are swaying in increments of metres. People pelt it!! Finally!! I bark at my team to get into the cars, and have to physically restrain the tent door to stop my team members getting Lennox Lewis-ed as they escape. I get outside. It’s spitting.

And I know all about Saskatchewan rain.

We pile into the cars.

Phew. The team are safe. I won’t be responsible for any deaths today. I breathe, and consider the insanity of what we just tried. Sometimes signs of danger and time to escape are what God gives us instead of a ridiculously massive miracle. Distant thunderclaps perhaps, or a photograph of Richard Moss.

Hang on…

My brain is saying something in Wii Rabbid language and pointing furiously at a jpeg of something I just saw. I look at The Boss. Our eyes have a conversation.

“There are half a dozen people still inside! Taking down equipment! That tent is a ridiculously major hazard! It could fly away at any second, and huge metal poles would be slapping people upside the head at 100 knots!”

Our default action man settings are activated. If a little damp.

We nod.

I bellow in my now-impressively genuinely authoritative voice at the girls in our car to stay put as I run with The Boss back into the tent. The spit will turn apocalyptic any second. I restrain the door and we charge in.

Chairs lie strewn. The 5ft-long outer tent pegs have been pulled from the ground and are windsocks flying in mid-air. The central metal poles are still standing. I breathe.  That’s vital. If they stay locked down we have a chance of getting out of here, but by the looks of it we may only have minutes.

“What can we do?”

The extremely high sudden dose of adrenaline makes me shake a little. My brain apologises, and has a quiet word with itself.

“If you could help us take down those speakers, that would be great!”

I and The Boss run to each of the speakers, skidding on frightened gravy. I shimmy the heavy speaker off the tall pole and place it safely on the ground. The Boss is struggling. I run to him and lift the speaker off the top.

“Two man job, isn’t it?”

I turn round, and see the techies packing ridiculously slowly. They allow us to leave and we get the heck out of there. This time the gale is kindly already holding the door wide open for us.
We run.

And close the car doors with seconds to spare. Saskatchewan rain slightly scrapes our backs and unleashes its’ unsatisfied frustration with fiery fists of rainy fury. We start back and hit the main road.

This is hellish.

Funnel clouds have formed in the fields all around us.

I’m scared, so close my eyes and tell myself over and over that I’m Eric Cantona; which does the job nicely. I turn to see how Katie and Joelle are doing. Joelle is Canadian, and is more interested in smelling my bug spray. Katie’s absolutely thrilled. And clapping her hands.


We arrive back in safe Stoughton and my boss debunks the theological tripe and calms our/my nerves.

A dog walks past the window.

I smile.

Turn up my collar.

And go and beat some kids.



The Eric Cantona Kung Fu Kick!—————————————————————————————————————————————————-


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