On Friday my friend Hughie celebrated his birthday. I would tell you how old he is, but then he'd have to kill me, and Deborah says I haven't got enough money for her inheritance for me to die now, so you'll just have to ask the guy yourself.
The history of the relationship between Hughie and me goes back to the days that I was knee-high to a grasshopper it’s fair to say that I’ve known of the guy for the best part of 20 years. In1994 he was the Director (and founder) of the National Church’s Summer Retreat for young people and although it will go down with me as one of the WORST TIMES OF MY LIFE, one of the highlights was the way that Hughie really looked out for David and me. He really was a most helpful dude in checking if we were alright and stuff. I never forgot that, and I’ll always be grateful to him for doing that when no one else really did.
Put the clock forward three/four years and a more confident Christopher Dryden is at university having a whale of a time studying for a Philosophy and Politics degree in Essex. More significantly I am also getting well into radio through the student radio station. Here I am seriously consider taking it up as a profession for the future. To do that I need to get inside. Whose name should come wafting my way but that of a BBC Radio journalist and producer/presenter of gospel shows for UCB/Cross Rhythms – one H. Lawrence. I wrote a letter to him asking how I could get involved and if he could possibly help. The brother actually kept and read the letter … and left it for a year or two.
Then I saw a chance to link up with him by joining an evangelism programme he was developing. I signed up even though I didn’t have that heart of an evangelist. I linked up with Hughie and he suggested that I come up to Stoke-on-Trent to see his digs and see what he gets up to. The end of the year around this time there was scheduled to be a time of fasting and prayer in Stoke. So while he was in London promoting a concert, I linked with him and took the trip up the M6.
I look back fondly on that time. I had no idea what ministry really meant, always relating it to just a bloke standing in front of lectern chatting about what we should and shouldn’t do while working up a sweat for himself and his ‘listeners’. But that first experience of the prayer/fasting retreat under the leadership of Hughie was an eye-opener in terms of how ministry really engulfs your whole life. Hughie and I talked further and agreed that in February 2000 I would come up to do some work with a guy he knew who was based at the same radio station as he was.
When the Bible says the just shall live by faith, it is not just a light statement about believing God to pay your bill, it’s a life’s commitment to making unpopular, unconventional and uncomfortable decisions on the basis of having a knowing in your heart that this is what God wants for you. My family wasn’t thrilled at the fact that I’d left a fair paying job and stability in the capital city to go back to the middle of nowhere without a paying job. Yet I can look back and know without a shadow of a doubt that God was the author of it and I duly experienced tremendous spiritual blessing in getting to know God better and pursue Him with my whole being. Hughie was hugely instrumental in this. He allowed me to follow him on his many missions, whether it was a concert or an event or whatever the case was, I got insight into what it took to be a full-time minister of the gospel. I am convinced that Hughie did (and continues to do) a great deal for the gospel despite having a full-time job. Hughie walked the walk as well and talking the talk – and man did he ever talk! Now that is an awesome role-model to have.
He allowed me to share in some of his dreams and visions for Kingdom development, hence the Stoke-on-Trent church which came about after another end of year prayer and fasting session featuring Angela, Authrine, Hughie and myself. It was an exciting time and a challenging time, but with a good friend like Hughie I felt good going forward in faith believing that God would give us the victory. We prayed and studied together believing Him for the provision to support the vision we knew He had for Stoke-on-Trent. It was proven in the facility we now have at our disposal and the many contacts we developed. There’s just no way all of this could have come about if it wasn’t for God on our side.
So the guy – who was my best man at the wedding, a job he wouldn’t have done unless he felt called to do it – this guy was my best male friend for the last six years or so. He was there supporting my spiritual development like no one else before or after him. He’s more of a spiritual father to me that my own real dad was. He showed me what it is to be real in God and yet still powerful in His might than any other living person on the planet. I love Hughie Lawrence.
To reiterate, Hughie, I give God thanks for you. I’m grateful that you allowedme near your inner sanctum for the best part of at least three years. Thank you for allowing me to minister with you and witness you minister in the lives of others. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience real-life ministry and as a result gain a deeper relationship with our Father through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for sharing part of the vision God gave you and empowering me to explore aspects of my abilities that were untapped previously. Thank you for believing in me when other people did not even consider me. Thank you for praying with me and for me. Thank you for studying with me. Thank you for watching football with me. Thank you for getting me to PLAY football with you. Thank you for the jokes, the insights, the mistakes, the good times and bad. Thank you Hughie for being my friend.
For His Name's Sake