Pip Wilson

Thursday November 06, 2003
My dear friend Pip

I've been thinking today about the game of baseball—and I've come to the conclusion that I reckon the fast balls that come our way most of us deal with pretty well - they come at you hard and fast - you know what you're getting, but the curve balls...hmm, they're a different proposition all together - in a sense they aren't as predictable. It's funny Pip, Mike the one I want to talk to about all this...I want to tell him how I'm feeling, how I'm once again confused by this painfully beautiful life we live. I want to pick up the phone and hear that gentle but crazy affirming voice...but I can't anymore. None of us can.

I've been reading some of the memories our friends have of a treasured man, and in doing so I am realising just how much I loved him, and I'm wondering, how, in 4 short years a man who I only see a couple of times a year at best has drawn so near. I've lost count of how many cigars we've smoked together. I've lost count of how many bottles of chardonnay we've drunk together...but I haven't lost count of how many times we've cried and laughed together. I haven't lost count of how many times we've vulnerable and transparent together. Maybe that's the mystery...just maybe. I remember when he came to stay with Claire and I in Guernsey. I remember the now legendary 'WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO' when Claire told him he could smoke his cigars, but only in the kitchen. I remember 8 hours later on returning from work, and walking into that same kitchen not being able to see Yac for the smoke (he got through 7 for the record!). I also remember our church around the meal table. I remember his passion for good food and wine, of his excitement of the banquet to come beyond this world. But I also remember us sharing our inner demons and resident Pharisees - the stuff not normally reserved for supper conversation - but I remember most his own tears as he listened to the stories of the broken people sat around our table. And I remember more tears when he took his own turn in confessing.

I remember the excitement when he saw little Samuel this summer - I remember seeing the child in his eyes as I watched Karla cuddle our little one. i remember lots more but it's too raw to go near at present - but I remember it. This though all seems selfish. When I check myself it's Karla my tears and angst is for. I remember Mike and I having too many cigars and too much to drink at Greenbelt 2001. We had been talking 'deep stuff' and Mike was in tears and had to go to his room to phone Karla. He felt he was in a sacred moment and the one he most wanted to share that moment with was missing. That's why my thoughts turn to Karla - from now on she has to live that everyday.

As Stocki said in similar circumstances 6 years ago when we lost Rich, 'Our hearts are feebly attempting to temper it. We lost so much more than skin and bone...you are the world as I best remember it.'

You too Pip are a great man, and I'm proud to have you as a friend. Let me know about the 23rd - I'll move heaven and earth to get there.



Dear Pip,
one can only imagine how, if mike touched the likes of me, from a distance, so profoundly, the unbearable suffering and pain his wife, Karla, and his family must be hit with right now.

That night you introduced me to your circle of friends at the hotel at Greenbelt, and the short time i spent in the company of you good folk, touched me greatly.

That Grace that shepherded me into the fold that weekend—remember the one He went after, the stray, leaving the rest of the flock, to seek the lost one out—thats what it felt, and still feels like.

The man gave me one of his big fat cigars.
I smoked it like a sacrement.

I Talked to Karla late in to the night one of those dear evenings, everyone else had gone to bed, she didnt know me from Adam, but we ended up praying for each other and our loved ones. (something i can only ever remember doing out loud in front of others twice before)

She said i was on the journey of dangerous wonder, the same road we all travel, and occasionally we have the providence to meet with other beautiful travellers along the path.

We talked about losing loved ones, mainly, if i remember correctly, our dads, and i asked her if she thought someday she thought she would see them again.

Really poignant now—it started to get real late and i guess we were in danger of rambling off into philosophical debate about the cosmos and physical time being different to God time, i remember her saying she believed sometimes the veil between this world and the next, in places, special places, becomes very thin, almost transparent, deep awareness you are in the presence of Bigness—Dangerous Wonder in the flesh I guess.

I know what she meant i think.

Greenbelt lifts many layers of the veil, the people and spirit that are Greenbelt help lift the layers.

Mike was the very first speaker i ever saw at greenbelt, mid eighties—i was only there beacause Julie, my wife was working for Traidcraft and had been the previous year and had come home raving about this that and t'other, and the fact that Bono had been a visiting, i made sure i was there that next year.

I wasnt there for any religious reasons, i was in a band and liked festivals!

I had never been to a seminar, but julie said this funny guy called yacconelli was doing a seminar and i should come along, reluctantly (i was there for the music, man!), i did.

I am so glad i did.

Mike Yaconnelli, pip and the stinking late show Deacon Blue steve apirana john smith martyn joseph bruce cockburn
Jesus God
Calling me back year after year
Thankyou guys one and all
Thankyou Michael for introducing me to the Kingdom
Thankyou, Pip, for introducing me to Mike.

To Mike - (Pip - do you have a forwarding email adress for Heaven???) - I am glad i met you I will never forget you.
Your work and words live on in the people you have touched
God loves you for the ears you have opened and the hearts you have troubled
and conspired with Jesus to ruin.
And for your honesty and humility and broken-ness
Big John

Sunday November 02, 2003
I have been strangely and deeply touched by the all too early death of Mike Yaconelli and the shock of it.

I took bread at communion for him this morning.

There is a deep well of emotion down inside which must be how a volcano feels. I guess the those tears are for the wondrous community of Greenbelt too because he was so fragile like us. He walked with during those tough years.

The whole service this morning, about the Saints, was all about Yac ......... but I doubt anyone else knew him or have heard of him.

One Bible reading said
"Jesus was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved"

The preacher quoted the Bishop of Capetown who recently said how he remembers his lips being measured, his hair texture being tested and his nose shape examined by the apartheid regime ....... to see if he was acceptable.!

I saw Mike Yaconelli as acceptable to God, like Greenbelt and me, with the flaws and the raw emotion.....................

His greatness and human-full-ness makes this Christian life all the more possible because of this acceptance despite the failure or success. Mike had all the beautiful imperfection and told us about so often in his passionate talks.

Thank you to all who have shared their own sadness with me. It is good to do that together.

Thursday October 31, 2003
i feel kind of numb pip hearing this truely awful news. trying to say something, but words wont do it pip.

a prayer.....

Heavenly Father
Thankyou, Lord for the Grace
That ushers us
Into your arms
Which lights up the dark path with a billion suns
And fills Your arena with a hundred million angels singing

For sending us your Ambassadors of Glory
The simple tellers of the story
Armed to the teeth with one weapon of devastation
The truth

Thankyou for giving me ears to hear things i really dont want to hear
Especially the silence
And a heart touched, moulded, ruined by making those ears listen

Tonight we live in a quieter place
Sadness awoken

Let us remember the words that came from that mouth
And flowed though that heart into the fingers on to the page
Let us act upon them

May we always hear
May You always be near


Thursday October 30, 2003
I have just heard that one of Greenbelt's finest friends and most popular contributors, Mike Yaconelli, was killed in a car crash last night.

Mike first came to Greenbelt in the mid-eighties and kept coming back—he has probably spoken to more people at the festival than anyone. We have never had a more animated and entertaining speaker. Even this last August he was still packing venues out, still inspiring people to know that they could make a difference.

Like Karla, his wife, he loved the Festival and was a real kindred spirit, part of our gang. He would do almost anything for us, particularly when we had hard times. Many of us became firm friends and we will miss him hugely.

Think of him when you say your prayers, think of Karla and his kids and grandchildren. We can be grateful that his bright spirit and mischievous soul came our way.


Mike Yaconelli
I first knew of him due to his publications in the US.
He was also a games person like myself.
Then he came to Greenbelt, the festival which makes faith real and live in concrete.
He came to visit the Rolling Magazine and fit that space like hand in glove. Everyone loved him.
The Very Stinking Late Show, starting at 11pm and finishing at 1 0r 2 was also the place to be for this great man. He was so funny. So powerful midst the humour.
So real..........................

Recently Joan and me have travelled in the car and listened to the essential c.d.'s bought at Greenbelt 2003. John Bell and yes, of course, Mike Yaconelli.

I know of his family, his church, his kissing, his passion, all through his open and honest speaking. I know his wife Karla first hand and through the talks. I want to be with her now to express those/these powerful feelings.

For so many years I have felt the person so close as we sat in the bar late night after GB. The pint of beer and the cigar cemented in place by passionate conversations. Sharing stuff, not heady debates of opinion.

I remember one evening, a few drinks into the evening .......... Mike started to weep. He was expressing his sense of freedom being here at Greenbelt. Being here with people who loved him and never judged him. A place far from home, where he felt at home.

The tears were his best communication of that.
We loved him then in is vulnerability.
We love him now in his ultimate vulnerability.

Lord have mercy