SMConfidential Day 4

And Thursday is nearly over.

In five minutes, I’m due to take a dander round the site with the two other Security folks on site – the rest arrive tomorrow. We had the usual hundreds of people setting up their tents tonight – but it always seems to be scary amounts, especially when you look out at practically full subcamps (it’s ok, there is still lots of room for everyone who has booked – even if the Londonderry Hall has overflowed into the Alexander Hall)

Otherwise, Comms got established, staging got put out, the Subcamp leaders’ tents were put up, and other stuff to make the site happen. Some of our exhibitors arrived today as well, beginning to make the Nugent Hall a little less bare…

The office has been busy in general, sorting out staff, confused subcamp leaders, and trying to track just about everything. Meantime, the Cinema DVDs have been organised, and it’s time I went out on this last patrol.

Night all!

SMConfidential Day 3

Well, I’m currently watching three people writing out tent tickets. I did a similar number to them earlier on, so I’m not being totally lazy.

Today, in my absence (I took a run home after work and picked up my Streetreach leader’s guide and the book I won on Juls’ show on u105 on Sunday – they’re broadcasting live from here this Sunday) the guys moved 2000 chairs around the site – 1500 in the King’s Hall (I assume upstairs, otherwise at the back), and assorted venues around the site. Powerlight also came in and set up the lights for SMart One in the Alexander Hall.

When I arrived, the team was putting the fence round the overflow site. Tomorrow I’ll know more of what’s happening, because I’ve taken the extra day off work. Why am I up this late…

For those who are wondering, the bike behaved today.

SMConfidential Day 2

And so Day 2 draws to a close. We had our first set of Event Crew onsite today, but I had severe cycle difficulties.

I had cycled down Sandy Row (take me home, Sandy Row, to the place I belong… Streetreachers from 2005 will get the joke) and had just turned into Bruce Street when I had a serious puncture – my rear inner tube and the valve tubing had split at the join. Finally getting to a local bike shop with a badly out of shape wheel (he told me to give up and get a new wheel – I needed a new tyre and inner tube anyway), I picked up forty quid’s worth of wheel, tyre and inner tube at lunchtime.

Just after four I started to head up the road again. I travelled 200 yards from my office and got another puncture… eek. A trip back to the bike shop revealed that a piece of glass had fallen into the tyre in the shop when a guy had accidentally smashed a fluorescent tube lifting down a bike some time ago – so I got another inner tube, this time for free. One of those things, but more on that later.

Arriving onsite over an hour later than planned, I found that the NOMAD staging (from the Big Top, also the Pavilion at New Horizon) had been put up in the Alexander Hall, and we were taping down carpet. Yes, you will have mojo barriers on CARPET this year!

Otherwise we moved around a few crash barriers (including at the showers), and I looked in on the 24/5 venue. Not going to say very much (or I’ll spoil the surprise), but even the preparatory work is rather exciting.

Tomorrow I’m hoping that nothing else will happen with the bike. What’s bothering me right now is that every time something goes wrong with it, it seems to be when I’m trying to do something for God (eg Summer Madness) or just be with God (last month at a 24/3 weekend in Rostrevor my rear axle broke altogether).

My conclusion, and two others agree with me so far, is that there’s stuff happening in the spiritual realms, in the business of distracting me. If I’m worried about my bike, I’m probably not thinking about God at the same time – and that reduces my effectiveness.

Keep praying. I need to keep my focus where it belongs, and I’ll be praying about the whole thing, but others’ prayers always help.

SMConfidential Day 1

Breakfast cereal – Check.

Milk – Check.

Bread – Check.

Butter – Check.

Toaster – JOHN! You forgot to bring the toaster!

Such is the way of things. Right now it’s Monday night, and it’s just me and King’s Hall security on site. All sensible people (ie Stephen Glasgow, Rick Thompson, Ryan Adair, Rachael B and JK) have gone home to their beds, but I’m here on site, ready to go off to work as normal in the morning (but on the bike).

It’s a bit different this year – I’m usually down, living and working on site from today, but I can’t afford the leave this year. My dad and I got here about 8pm, only to discover noone else was, because Steve, Rick and Ryan were off in the van picking stuff up. Anyway, I got a brief glimpse at the site. Half of the square subcamp has been lifted and covered in hardcore this year (apart from the fact that more people want to come to Summer Madness every year, this is the main reason why we’re so short on capacity this year), as we noticed yesterday at the Staff barbecue, all those lovely cement-filled sign buckets have arrived on site (where’s my new one for the Cinema?) and two marquees have arrived – one behind the Northern Bank (Hostility Hospitality… get out of these bad habits, Andy) and one where the big white tent was last year. Otherwise things are fairly quiet, and I’ve settled down for a quiet night in front of the computer.

That’s pretty much day 1. This computer could become the server for the site, which is a little scary (we need an LAN to update the database with those who registered offline), but we’ll see what happens tomorrow night. Meantime, I’m off to bed… supposedly.

Change of focus…

For the next two weeks, I’m going to be blogging Summer Madness and Streetreach here. A bit about construction over the next few days, then the two events…

Watch this space. As ever, there’ll be plenty of thoughts about God…

Spiderman lives… or something

I will catch up with what’s happening in the forums at some stage. Promise.

Meantime, I want to write about something that’s been on my mind for a few days since the Connect Weekend in Rostrevor (it was fantastic, by the way).

Every Sunday Spiderman strip has a throwaway row at the top that editors can leave out. Nearly every US comic strip is the same, except for Calvin and Hobbes (my hero or something) where Bill Watterson fought to have the whole thing printed – it’s just one of the rules. That’s why the old Peanuts Sunday cartoons so often had a picture illustrating the strip at the start – like when Linus carved a sailing ship out of soap and Lucy used it to wash her hands… the first picture was a bust of Linus carved in soap.

Anyway, the most frequent one I saw was the reference to Peter’s Uncle Ben saying “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Move away from Spiderman, and it doesn’t cease to be true. In fact, it’s even more true when you’re dealing with God.

God gives us so much power. The power to pray, the power to tell others (in however unscary a way that we choose!), the power inherent in the gifts of the Spirit and so on.

And with that comes responsibility. The responsibility to follow God with all your heart, the responsibility to use the gifts he has given you, the responsibility, as a beggar, to show other beggars where to find bread (it’s a great metaphor. I know it’s used too much, but it’s still a great metaphor).

And that’s a real challenge. For people like me, and most of the readers I expect, it’s so easy to say “God’s given us gifts!” “I like praying in tongues!” etc etc and not do anything with them, just using them for ourselves.

Without inventing things to do (is doing the wrong “good” things worse than not doing the right things?), we’re supposed to turn round and ask God “Thank you for these amazing gifts. What can I do with them for you?” And then obey.

Radio and Railways

Well… I was on Radio Ulster this morning at 8.15, asking Keith Moffatt and Mal McGreevy questions about fares to Bangor. As I do.

If you want to listen to it yourself, go to the BBC website, find Northern Ireland and Good Morning Ulster, and listen to Wednesday’s programme – fast forward to 1:45 and you’ll hear my dulcet tones. Surprising they used me really, because we all know people have difficulty understanding me – but the material was good.

It was actually part of Translink’s meet the managers event which they are having instead of an AGM. It has many advantages, in terms of individuals getting to talk to managers and so on over the three nights, but means there’s no chance to flag up the companies’ financial performance. Still, it’ll be fine.

Otherwise, little to report. I got a Box 1 at work (Woohoo!), Sunday was busy as I got the train to church, then a lift to Mark and Angie’s house, where we discussed the future of theweeprayerroomthing. It’s been toddling along as just a chance to meet and pray for each other and Belfast twice a week, but it always had a “Boiler Room” subtext – and the conclusion is that a Boiler Room as such is not where God is leading us. Possibilities include a prayer hub/base etc, where the core is basically the hosts of the prayer room, networking through those who visit or come regularly to other groups, lifting members and other groups in prayer, interceding, supporting, generally worshipping. A powerhouse.

It is exciting, and it’s interesting to see where God will actually lead us.

This weekend I’m off to Rostrevor again to the Connect weekend! Shouldn’t be playing much bass, but really looking forward to it.

Prayer walks

I think I talked about Prayer Walks last night, which Mark Spence organised under The Wee Prayer Room Thing.

I was only able to do the first one and the last two – round the City Centre, out the Newtownards Road and back along the Albertbridge Road, and the last one on Saturday night round Stormont.

Things that struck me as I went round were:

  1. Round the Newtownards Road area, all the memorials to those killed by Republicans, to the loyalist terror groups, and being British in general
  2. Round Stormont, it just hit me how complacent the middle class are

I walked round, looking at the murals and the memorials, including the one at Freedom Corner (opposite Templemore Avenue). I could cry, but on Friday night all I did was say “What have we done, Lord?”

What have we done?

We’ve taken a legitimate political aspiration and made it into our God. How do we know God is for Ulster? Is he for either side?

Ultimately, by turning God into a political football, we are certainly blocking God from moving in power in our lives. How crazy are we!

Meantime, suburban East Belfast where hardly a shop is open past 6pm, not even the video stores, sleeps on in complacency. Even after the Global Day Of Prayer, with thousands of people in Stormont, it sleeps.

And all we can do is cry out, as did the apostle Paul:

“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Or as Kathryn Warren yelled at the end of her prayer at the Global Day Of Prayer, COME ON.

Revival will form a regular theme here.

One week later…

Or near enough. I’m getting better at this regular updating malarkey.

On Tuesday I went off to Union Conference, which was good craic. In my room (although I’m taking it to my office tomorrow) is my shield for being in the winning team in the Wednesday night Table Quiz. As Sam’s Yer Man (presumably for a bargain) we were a point ahead of the Derry Airs (team from Stroke City Social Security I think), who as I remarked the next day at the end of a brief speech about how great it would be to have a way of signing up for the union online, were a little behind. My puns aren’t improving.

Other speeches included one on the needlessness of a political fund (we’re not a political union, we have views on nearly every aspect of public policy except the Good Friday Agreement, where we have apparently avoided having any opinion, so as I remarked we are issues-based, and tend to agree with one party one one policy in the morning and disagree with them on another the same afternoon) which went to a Card Vote whose result will come out next week as it was the very last item of business at the conference. I was relatively quiet, all things considered.

One week isn’t enough to recover from playing too much bass. My fingers were sore again this morning after a lot less hard work than the previous week.

I asked Luke Pratt to take photos this morning for Dave Lowry, but I found this evening that there weren’t any photos on the camera. Rather annoying – and a waste of poor Luke’s time. I’ll fix that some other time.

On the other hand, I did take 177 photographs at the Global Day of Prayer. The good ones will be uploaded to the Ignite website in due course, and I’ve to burn CDs for Margaret Clarke (Transformations Ireland) and Peter Boyd (UCB) with the 150-odd I haven’t scrapped. I don’t get rid of photos easily – but I’m quite pleased with the photos I took. I take a mixture of acceptable, good, and “right moment, right place” pictures – not bad, ya know.

The Global Day of Prayer itself was excellent. I cycled the six miles from the Church of the Resurrection, missing the Friends of the Centre meeting (it was running rather late as the service started even later than usual, Andrew Forster preached for his usual half hour which we’re no longer used to, the Sunday School presented a new banner, and we were commissioning a team going off to Brazil that day with Tear Fund). Oops.

Once I got there, I took said photographs. Thank goodness for a decent digital camera, which mine is. Not exactly top of the range, but good enough for the results.

Obviously, I was also worshipping and praying (albeit inbetween bumping into old friends and acquaintances!). I’ll post more about that later.

Talking of Ignite, I’ve a blog there now at Its purpose will be to write about God, my thoughts, and stuff which has never really fitted in here. There will be a certain amount of overlap, but this one will still be my main blog.


Who am I anyway? (originally on my Ignite blog)

Hey folks

Well, John has given me a blog, so it’s time to start writing.

My name’s Andy Boal, I’ve been around Summer Madness since 1994 when I arrived at Gosford as a fresh-faced 21 year old Steward (21 wasn’t as old for a Steward as it is now!), moving through the Site Team (2001-2003 or so) to MovieZone (2002-date), Technical Team (2005), and generally fixing things (2006).

I am also the only remaining Moderator from the original team appointed to help out on the Ignite forums.  I’ve seen a few people through the doors, but we’ve now got a very good, watchful team (go Mark and Dave!)

Out in real life, I’m a badly paid Civil Servant (I suppose you’d say I’d say that no matter what I got paid – but it’s true anyway), but am looking for a new job, and perhaps a new location if I’m listening to God correctly.

Churchwise, I’m a Christian (no!  really!) who belongs to the Church of the Resurrection at QUB.  I play bass there most weeks, sometimes piano (truthfully not enough piano – but even when our regular pianist is off I tend to get another, better pianist to play, although his repertoire is smaller – means we can have piano as well as bass), and it’s been my spiritual home for four and a half years.  For reasons I’ll go into at some stage, it’s only been a temporary home, but it’s one where I’ve settled well, and it proved a great refuge after a tough few years where I burnt out rather badly (all things considered, 2001 wasn’t a good year).

The plan here is to simply talk about God, what I know of God, what I think, my observations as I go around my daily business, and random thoughts.

I do have a personal blog where I post about day to day stuff, and a writing journal where I post a fair number of my poems etc.  If you’re on LiveJournal, feel free to add me as a friend, and I’ll add you back. (2012 note – this site is replacing both!)

Today was the Global Day of Prayer gathering at Stormont, and followed ten days of prayer walking round Belfast (even though I was only free for three days).  More later.