The Beachcomber | A Parable

As it’s National Storytelling Week this week we thought we’d take a leaf out of Jesus’ book and publish a few of our own parables.

Just over a year ago Colourful Church held a parable writing competition which received an amazing variety of profound and entertaining submissions. Over the coming few weeks we’ll be publishing one of the top five winning parables each week, with a full listing of all the parables on the sixth week. You can keep up to date with these parables as we publish them through Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Google+ or by subscribing to this blog in the right hand sidebar.

Starting off the series is a parable called ‘The Beachcomber’ by Jenny Priestley.

Beach

The old man’s hut faced north and was as windswept and weather-beaten as his own face and hands.

This morning, as always, he stooped to sweep up the thin layer of sand that the salt wind had strewn across his floorboards.  He reached down to pick up two or three limpet shells and in doing so he felt the twinge of age in the muscles in his back.  He sighed as he straightened himself and went to place them on a shelf.  Every corner of his home was filled with his beach: a picture made from wave-worn driftwood, a mobile of clinking shells, a boat fashioned from pieces of plastic.

He was late today.  Soon the sound of children’s laughter would all but drown out the constant washing sound of the sea.  He pulled on a threadbare smock and made his way down to the tide line of kelp.

And so his inventory began: half a flip flop, a twist of fishing line, 5 battered cans, a plastic bottle, random pieces of bleached plastic, a deflated ball and three cuttlefish shells.  It was all swept up into carrier bags and as secretly as the salty deposit was made, it was taken away, leaving a clean stretch of sand for the holiday makers.

In 40 years he had seen the beach change.  On the east side, the sand was piled high towards the cliffs and on the west it has almost gone, leaving a mini delta of streams and rock pools.  It had been flatter once and easier to traverse.

Standing again in his hut, he felt weary. He still remembered his Father’s promise that if he faithfully looked after this stretch of beach, humble though it was, he would one day receive the family gold.  He had never seen gold before.  He was tired; his father long since dead.  He stared at the day’s haul and the weight of it all pressed in on his heart.  Not once had anyone thanked him and not once had he found anything of real worth.

Then it happened.

sand-pineconeThere can be months of rumination, but a decision is made at the speed of light.  He loved the beach and its people, but today would be his last day of combing the tide line.  I will always be a poor man, he thought to himself, but today I will be poor somewhere else, perhaps inland, perhaps I’ll find some farm work for a small wage.  And so he closed the door behind him and picked his way up and over the rocks that led him away from the ocean.

A little girl, fishing net in hand, smiled at him as she passed.  He paused for a moment and then disappeared up the lane that led inland.

Little fishing net girl returned again the next day.  Picking her way through the old bottles and tangled seaweed, she found a large wooden box, battered by the waves.  Moments later amidst the seagulls’ tumult she called out ‘Hey mummy, mummy, come quick.  Look what I’ve found….a box of gold coins!’

‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’
Galatians 6:9

Video Training Day

For a while now I’ve wanted to pass on what I’ve learned with making videos, and this tied in with realising that there’s a great crew of guys and girls doing video / media studies at college and university. So I arranged for everyone to come to the video studio where I work for a day’s training in both theory and practical video production.

Josh, Aidan, David, Charis, Naomi, Esme, George, and James

The team: Josh, Aidan, David, Charis, Naomi, Esme, George, and James

And a brilliant day it was – well anyway at least no one went home early in floods of tears. The overview of the video training day was a morning session on theory and editing techniques, lunch at a local community house, and then an afternoon where the group split into teams to each make a video on a set theme.

The theory session in the recently revamped video studio.

The theory session in the recently revamped video studio.

The technical detail behind video production is actually quite complicated and it’s hard to condense 7 years of learning into a couple of hours. So I focused on the main settings they’d need to know – like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, frame rate, and white balance. Simple. I had three cameras out so they could see how changing the settings would affect the image. Hands on is the best way to learn. I’ve uploaded the handouts in case anyone finds them useful.

Video Production – Filming (pdf)
Video Production – Editing (pdf)

Editing Huw's video

I went through a recent video I’d made showing them various tricks I’d learnt, and the importance of good audio / sound effects.

After three hours of cramming information into their craniums we popped out for a bite to eat at Anthem, a community house where I live with around 20 others. Anna kindly cooked for us.

Lunch is served.

Lunch is served, much to the apparent delight of Esme.

After we’d had lunch I split the group into three teams and gave them each some kit, a theme, and a computer to edit the video on – with the 30 second short to be made in just two hours!
This was a challenging task as they wouldn’t have been familiar with the kit or the location, and two hours isn’t long at all when it comes to planning, filming, and editing a video. However all three teams did brilliantly, and came up with original, well made videos.

The three teams hard at work editing their videos.

The three teams hard at work editing their videos with the deadline looming.

Here are the short 30 second videos they made.

I was encouraged to see this group of people get together and get something from the day – one of the main outcomes was a sense of team even though we’re all from different parts of the country (Brighton, Norwich, London, Northampton, Coventry, Leicester, and Sheffield). Unity is one of the hallmarks of the Jesus Army and I’m glad to see that’s still the case.

The future is exciting – there is a collaboration project in the works, where everyone makes a short section of a video that will then be joined together. And we’ll definitely have another training day when they’re on their summer holidays – if there is anyone I’ve missed out who’s involved in video production or animation then please let me know.

Josh trying to work out how to open a door while George looks on.

Josh trying to work out how to open a door while George looks on.

And finally it’s worth saying that one of the biggest challenges I had was getting the training day up and running in the first place. When you’ve spent years learning a skill it seems you want to hold onto it and not share it with others. Pride holds on to knowledge and responsibility and I’ve seen a fair bit of that over the years so I was determined to pass on what I’ve learned. May this next generation produce greater works than I ever will.

I’ll certainly do what I can to help them.

How to Live Stream a Church Event Over 3G / 4G in the UK

The Church that I’m part of has national events every couple of months for people from all around the country. It isn’t practical for everyone to travel long distances so I looked into ways of doing a video live stream of the event so they can watch from home.
After 6 months of frustration I found a setup that works in both remote locations and city centres. There might be someone out there who wants to know so here’s what works for me – the details of the parts I use are at the end of this post.

Livestreaming from

Successfully live streaming a Church event inside a marquee, in a field, in the middle of the English countryside.

Testing

We already do IMAG (3 video camera mix) so what I needed to do was take a feed from the BlackMagic ATEM mixer and broadcast it online. Our events are often in unusual locations – a tent in a field in the countryside, on Trafalgar Square, in sports halls – so a stable broadband connection isn’t possible. I first tried streaming with a 3G router and PC software (using a HDMI capture card) and it would cut out frequently. You have to bear in mind that the congregation will all have mobile phones and if you’re in a remote location this can overload the 3G cell tower you’re connected to and cause unstable 3G dropouts.

Using the PC software also led to complications – you have to keep the PC updated, it can crash, takes up a lot of room, not very energy efficient etc. So I found a small piece of hardware called the LiveStream Broadcaster that does all the encoding and uploading. This ties you into the LiveStream service but the end user interface is professional and wasn’t too expensive.

As 4G mobile connections were being rolled out across the country I checked to see where there is 4G coverage on EE’s map – and our marquee field was just in range of one of their 4G towers.

EE's 4G coverage checker - our event field was just in range.

EE’s 4G coverage checker – our event field was just in range.

I did a couple of tests with the Broadcaster and an unlocked 4G modem I got off eBay and it seemed to connect OK.

Testing the LiveStream Broadcaster and 4G dongle in the marquee field.

Testing the LiveStream Broadcaster and 4G dongle in the marquee field.

However using the Broadcaster’s USB slot for the 4G modem led to difficulties and it would sometimes reboot or not connect to EE. So I hunted around and found a 4G router that would take the USB dongle, and from there on I didn’t have any connection issues. Even when the marquee was filled with a thousand people (all probably connecting to one cell tower) there was no drop outs over 4G.

Insulation tape

Live streaming from Trafalgar Square in London. JVC GY-HM600 video camera with HDMI out to the LiveStream Broadcaster. The 4G router was held with insulation tape to the roof of the gazebo just above the camera. Very professional.

Final Solution

BlackMagic ATEM video mixer  ­->  HDMI 720p50 (audio embedded) ­ ->  Livestream Broadcaster  ­->  Ethernet  ­->  TP-­Link 4G router  ->  4G dongle

­ I chose the Adaptive Medium setting (678kbs at ­768 x 432) as this uses around 300MB an hour. This is the best setting for image clarity vs data usage. I could up the quality but the chances of dropouts are higher, and the data use increases.

The Jesus Army LiveStream page with the 5 events so far -

The Jesus Army LiveStream page with the 5 events we’ve held so far which are saved for repeat viewing.

Stats: So far we’ve had 6,600 views and 127 followers from the 5 events. People have accessed the video streams from 45 different countries.

Parts and Costing

  • EE 4G SIM + 6GB data (£17) ­ eBay
  • HUAWEI E398 4G USB dongle (£55) ­ eBay
JC router

A live stream from inside the Northampton Jesus Centre. Still haven’t got round to making the setup look tidy. That’s next years project.

There has been plenty of positive feedback about live streaming as people have been grateful to be able to watch the meetings and feel a part. It’s also helped many of our overseas friends and church members stay connected.
If you have any questions about the setup or details on how you’ve done it then please let me know in the comments below.