Be careful what you pray for…
Harold thought he had his retirement all planned out, until he took part in the BMS Day of Prayer
Church prayer meetings come and go, but last year’s BMS World Mission Day of Prayer is not one Harold Liberty is going to forget. He was leading one of the sessions at his church, Walsworth Road Baptist Church in Hitchin when one prayer point changed the course of his year.
Alex and Huw Anderson, BMS workers in Matera, southern Italy, were about to lose their church organist. They asked people to pray that someone from the UK would come over for a few months to help them start a music group there.
As he prayed for this with others, Harold suddenly felt uncomfortable. Here he was praying for someone to help Alex and Huw with their music ministry and it dawned on him he may know who could do it. Harold was a recently retired music teacher and church organist. Could he be the person for the job?
Going to Italy was not what Harold had in mind for his first year of retirement. He wanted to work on his allotment and get involved in some groups. But over the next day or so, Harold couldn’t get the prayer point out of his mind.
“It felt like someone had slapped me across the face,” he says. He decided to contact BMS and had soon arranged a provisional visit to see Alex and Huw in Italy. After that visit, all became clear. “It was obvious I had to do this,” Harold said.
In September 2014, Harold was back in Matera to start his task of forming a music group at Alex and Huw’s church. He had three months to get the group to a high enough standard to perform together. “The key element for me was whether I could establish enough musicianship to continue after I left,” says Harold.
One challenge he faced was the language. Harold had never taught music in Italian before and needed to learn fast. But he soon discovered that through his study of Greek and Latin at university he had learned the structure of language, enabling him to pick up the basics of Italian pretty quickly. Language CDs and books also helped. “It’s amazing how much you can learn while digging the allotment with your headphones on, listening to this man rabbiting on in Italian while you are planting out the leeks,” he says. “It begins to sink in after a while.”
It all paid off, as his music group understood his Italian. Most of the guitar players started from scratch, but after three weeks of Harold’s teaching, they were able to play some simple songs and their confidence grew. A few weeks later, Harold got them to the point where they were not fazed by playing a song in church they had not practised. “That was enormously encouraging,” he says.
Harold was also asked to support an inter-church choir called Coromag. He sang the bass part and was involved in their autumn concert, which many who attended said was their best yet. He also provided music at some of the Bible studies at Alex and Huw’s church and enjoyed using his Italian in the discussions. “To share something in Italian and hear their contributions enhanced a sense of unity and made me feel being part of their family,” he says, “part of their fellowship. That was special.”
While he was there, Harold was getting regular prayer support from his church back home, Walsworth Road Baptist Church in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Harold knew he was being prayed for all the time as the church had organised a prayer rota, something which greatly encouraged him when he had a bad day. “There were times when it was almost tangible,” he says.
Harold left in December to return to the UK, his job done. “People appeared to be sorry to see me go,” he says. “It felt like I had helped them. I hope I have given them some tools they can use.”
Will he get involved in this year’s BMS Day of Prayer after what happened last year? “I did say quite loudly a number of times, ‘that’s the last time I am going to lead a BMS Day of Prayer!’” Harold says. “If they want me to, I am going to be involved in the Day of Prayer this year. I’m keeping the day clear.”
Take part in the 2015 BMS Day of Prayer by downloading our Day of Prayer resources. Interested in volunteering with BMS? Find out about our current short-term placements.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission