I saw this on the TV on Sunday evening. (about 1/2 hour)
It is mainly about Harry Westcott, a man who played a massive part in my Christian life through the 80s.
He led (leads) a group called Vision Ministries. In the early 1980s I started their Bible College correspondence course and completed about half of the requirements for their lowest qualification (certificate of theology – or something like that). I went along to a lot of their big events in Sydney to hear speakers like Colin Urquhart, Benson Idahosa, TL & Daisy Osborn and others. David Pawson was a regular speaker but I never got to hear him in person.
Vision Ministries started to hold Saturday night meetings in Parramatta and I drove there from Wollongong as often as I could to attend, taking a few friends along each time. It was about a four hour round trip.
At those meetings I met a woman called Jackie Hamill, a very friendly God-loving woman who always made my friends and I feel very welcome. She was a full time student at the Vision Bible College. Whenever I went to a Vision event she was often the first to greet me. She later gave her life for the Lord, becoming the only literal martyr I’ve known personally.
She went on a mission trip to the Philippines, was taken hostage while visiting a prison and was raped and shot . (see here for more information http://onefiles.blogspot.co.nz/2009/08/martyrdom-of-friend.html)
Years afterwards I found that Harry Westcott entered his own period of spiritual crisis in the late 80s (around the time my own crisis began). He left Sydney and moved back to his parents’ property in Parkes. He was given his parents’ house and given the opportunity to buy some land around it to farm. After a little time away from ministry he turned part of the property in a new Vision ministries headquarters where he started holding annual “Old Fashioned Camp Meetings” to which people would come to stay in tents and caravans to hear invited speakers. After one camp was disrupted by severe storms he set out to build a “Bush Cathedral” – a huge shed with meeting facilities to house future events.
About 10 years ago I got back in contact with Harry, and when Gloria and I started looking for a country escape from Sydney, Parkes was my favoured choice (though we didn’t end up living there).
On one of our regular trips to stay with Gloria’s parents, we decided to go a different route, heading through Parkes instead of Wagga. My planned visit to have coffee with Harry and his wife Doreen was changed to an overnight stay at their invitation. We were given accommodation in a cabin next to the main house, and spent the evening with the Westcotts. The visitors book in the cabin was fascinating – seeing names (and addresses) of some very well-known preachers. It was tempting to note down addresses, but I thought that would have been an abuse of our host’s hospitality.
Further involvement with Harry and Vision Ministries didn’t eventuate. I felt there were still too many associations with questionable personalities from the charismatic and WOF worlds. Although he was one of the few who spoke out against the excesses of Toronto when that was happening, he remained loyal to the late Benson Idahosa, one of the Nigerian adherents to the prosperity “gospel”, and from the video linked above it is clear that Westcott still holds to the prosperity “gospel” himself.
For a long time Harry and Vision Ministries seemed to have most of the answers I was looking for – they were almost OOC before anyone had dreamed of there being OOC believers. Harry was big on inter-denominationalism, drawing people from all kinds of backgrounds together to put the focus on Jesus and the gospel instead of denominational theology. But while the right desire and intention may have been there – putting it into practice wasn’t always a success.