A few years ago, my wife Anne and I were both sitting in a familiar spot, the front row of the main adult venue at Spring Harvest.

We were having a great week and being blown away by all the Lord was doing. The theme of Only the Brave’ exploring determined discipleship from the book of James was having a huge impact on the event and we were settling down to hear another message. The diminutive figure of Hae Woo unassumingly made her way onto the stage. She was being interviewed by our friends from Open Doors, Eddie Lyle and Emma Worrall. Nothing in our ministry up to this point had quite prepared us for the challenge that was about to come from the mouth of this heroine of the faith.

Hae Woo is from North Korea. She had been incarcerated for her faith in a labour camp and was one of the bravest and most sold out’ Christians we had ever met. The power of her words was not lost in translation, and as she explained about starving in North Korea and all that it meant to be a Christian there, even the hardest
of hearts in the room couldn’t avoid being deeply moved. As Hae Woo shared what it looked like to plant a church in the labour camp where she was imprisoned, the
true cost of following Jesus in her context seemed strikingly real. The church had to be planted in the toilets as this was the only place you could ever realistically gather together in a queue. The congregation would whisper quietly the truths of God, knowing their very lives depended on not getting caught.

The church in the labour camp especially loved it when it would rain. This provided the only real opportunity to worship in song without fear of being caught. As the rain lashed down, the Christians would cry out in worship with the kind of unbridled freedom that they were denied the rest of the time. The interview with Hae Woo lasted about 45 minutes but the time flew by. You could hear a pin drop as the whole crowd of thousands hung onto this incredible woman’s words.


As she drew to a close, she rose to her feet and sang in what was little more than a whisper Amazing Grace’ in her native tongue. There was not a dry eye in the
house as we all realised quite how different it would be to live out our faith were we to instead live in her homeland. This small North Korean woman instantly became a spiritual hero to the gathered crowd of thousands of western Christians.

The whole thing got me thinking… what does it really mean to be the church? Have we been a little blunted in this country? How would we respond if such persecution came our way? Do we really need that in order to live as the church fully in the UK? What might it look like for the church in our country to be fully unleashed? Off the back of this huge challenge Anne and I began to write. We wrote about the lessons we can learn from the early church in Acts as well as Christians all over the world. We wrote about how the church in the UK could really impact our nations and minister in words, works and wonders. It’s this material that will form the basis for this year’s Spring Harvest.

Every one of us has an opportunity to be part of such a church in our day. Standing on the shoulders of the many giants that have come before, we could see something amazing happen in our land at this time. The church is wonderful, I love it, I’m an active and committed member within it, and I take my role as an ordained church minister seriously in seeing the UK impacted. There are so many possibilities in front of us and it’s a genuine privilege for all of us to have the opportunity to be in active service of the saviour of the world. The one remaining question for me is this: if there’s more available to us, what is stopping us stepping
into that?

Unleashed: The Acts Church Today by Gavin and Anne Calver is published by IVP and released in March 2020.