I just got back from a week in the UK with more great stories of what God is doing in CLC around the world. The team had asked me to be the devotional speaker for their conference and I spoke on the subject of transformation. Little did I know that I would be impacted so deeply by this trip and these passionate people. Here is one reason why.
In the world of retail as in real estate, location is vitally important. This is particularly true with ministries like CLC that do not have the financial resources of major secular retail chains. Over the years God has been very good to us and allowed us to find surprisingly effective locations on secondary streets near busy thoroughfares. In the case of CLC Birmingham, they are located just off of one of the busiest retail shopping streets in the UK and next to a major train station.
Last year, plans were announced for a new facade to be built on the train station and shopping mall that will really be eye catching once it is done. As these things sometimes happen, nothing was said to the Birmingham team about the impact of this construction project over the next few years. Instead, one day in October of last year, they came in to work and saw that six foot fences had been put up in front of the store. As the work progressed, things got worse and worse until it was virtually impossible to see the store. Many customers thought we had closed and others simply could not be bothered to find out.
This retail catastrophe had a major impact on Christmas sales and foot traffic to the store. As you can imagine this was a real challenge to our team. In the face of this, our team, led by their manager Richard Morris decided not to accept this situation and responded with the kind of creativity and determination you might expect from the people who stood up in the face of Hitler’s bombs and did not give in.
Richard decided that a radical solution was needed and that he would be a part of the plan himself. Rather than tell others what to do or simply wallow in despair, he had a simple sign made and attached it to a piece of wood. After some moments of trepidation, he took that sign and stood on the corner of the busy street near our store and waited to see what God would do.
As you might expect, he got lots of stares and many questions about directions to local attractions. God did not let Richard down. On one of the days that he was out with the sign, a man in his early 30s approached him and seemed quite stunned to see the sign. After a few moments of gathering his thoughts, the man proceeded to tell Richard that he had just flown in from Tenarife and taken the train straight into Birmingham. He had lived a pretty wild life of drugs, alcohol and chasing women while living overseas. Interestingly, when he was 16 he had attended a Christian youth camp, but had no contact with the church since that point in his life. The week before he flew in to England was the first time that he had prayed in years asking God to make Himself known. As he came up the steps of the train station, he asked God for a sign and there was Richard. Neither man knew who was more surprised by this encounter. As a result, Richard was able to talk with him, direct him to the store and help him select a Bible to help him begin a new chapter in his life.
Greatly encouraged by this encounter, Richard and the team decided to put up bright yellow and black signs telling people that CLC is still open. The signs are the only thing visible above the barriers in the street in front of the store. A couple who had traveled from another town to the store almost gave up searching when they saw the signs and realized that the store was open in the midst of all that was going on around it. What a testimony of God’s faithfulness to our team. This story helped me understand in a new way the famous quote from Winston Churchill,