written by Richard Jackson // March 2020
A few weeks ago, I met with some local leaders, chatting and praying over the exciting vision of the South Downs Awakening. People were talking about the times they had prayer walked the Downs. Praying for reconciliation. Praying for revival. Praying for a fresh expression of the Holy Spirit. Reclaiming the land for Jesus. Proclaiming His Name from the high ground. I have been there. I have done that. I was up for the conversation.
About ten years ago I moved with my wife Jo from Essex to West Sussex. Soon after arriving, I spent a couple of days on retreat. Living as I did with an incredible view of the South Downs, there was only one place for me to go, and I packed the camping gear and set off to spend time with God on the South Downs Way.
It was the first morning of my walk. I was near Alfriston. I pitched my tent and set out. I had hardly started walking when the Lord told me to take some stones and make a cross at the side of the path. So, I took a few small stones, scarcely larger than pebbles, and laid them on a narrow strip of grass at the side of the path, in the shape of a cross.
I walked on. Again, take some stones and make a cross. Again and again. On that day I walked about 15 miles. I don’t know how many crosses I placed, but I know that as the day went on, the size of the pebbles became larger, until I was building crosses out of large stones. As the day progressed, the location of the crosses became more conspicuous, moving from the hedge line, towards the verge, and even onto the path.
As the sun was setting, I remember being at a crossroads, with a bridle path running from North to South, across the South Downs Way, running East to West.
Now, I was told. Build a large cross. In the fading light, I gathered maybe fifteen small rocks, and in the grass beside the path, laid out the shape of a cross. I remember praying over the cross. In my prayer, I was asking God why I was laying out crosses. He spoke to me about many things during my retreat, but he never gave me a clear sense of why I had been laying out crosses. It was just as if it was something he wanted me to do. Walk. Pray. Listen to my words. Put them into practice. Lay out crosses. Just because I have asked you to.
Over the years I have learned that moments with God are to be shared. By sharing the story we encourage one another. Often God uses the moment of sharing as a way of developing our understanding of our own testimony. As we share together, God draws our attention to connections.
I have shared stories of that retreat in conversation many times because it was a time when I felt close to God. It was at a time when God changed me. A time when he blessed me. But I am not sure that I have often mentioned the crosses. Until now.
So, there I was, a few weeks ago, meeting up with some local leaders, chatting and praying over the awesome vision of the South Downs Awakening. We were talking about the times they had prayer walked the Downs. Praying for reconciliation. Praying for revival. Praying for a fresh expression of the Holy Spirit. Reclaiming the land for Jesus. Proclaiming his Name from the high ground. I have been there. I have done that. I was part of the conversation.
But it didn’t occur to me to mention the crosses.
I had an early start the next day, so I was one of the first to leave the meeting. I drove down the farm track from the house where we had been meeting, and onto the A24, heading for home. I suppose I was reflecting on the conversations. Reflecting on the connections God had made between me and other people. And then, quite suddenly, it was in my mind. The crosses on the South Downs.
Ten years after He told me to build crosses on the South Downs, the Lord showed me why he had wanted me to do it. He showed me that I was a small part of something so much bigger. His will was that His Church would come together and pray over the land. He showed me that my walk, ten years ago, and my planting of crosses was part of that. As the crosses grew bigger and became more obvious, it was like a symbol of the growing confidence and visibility of His Church and His Holy Spirit over the land.
Alongside so many other people, my experience ten years ago was one tiny step on the journey of reclaiming of the land for Jesus. Only now do I really recognise it was one huge and important step for me!
The South Downs Awakening is another step on that path. Be excited as we continue to pray and see where this path is leading. When God speaks to us, it is right to share the story. The time for me to share this particular story is now!