That’s it… that’s all. There’s many more stories that I could tell but this is enough for now.
About every four weeks or so Eltham Green Community Church hosts what they have tagged “Church in a Tea Cup”. On a Sunday afternoon at five they have a traditional “High-Tea” of sorts. They set up nice tables and fill them with half sandwiches, cakes, fruit and then serve tea and coffee. This attracts an entirely different crowd. The invitation is extended to people who, for whatever reason, would not feel comfortable in a “normal” churchy Sunday morning service. In all about forty to fifty people show up. Ten of these will be regular church people who wind up being the servers.
It goes like this. They will visit for about a half an hour and then a speaker will share something from the Bible for about twenty minutes. Many of these folks have short retention spans and some are altogether illiterate. Things have to be kept simple. As it turns out, my talk was well received.
About six month ago I was a speaker at the same event. Afterwards, I saw this lady that I was just sure needed to hear the gospel. As I walked over and began a conversation, she interrupted me by saying something like this, “Boy this little church has sure made a difference in my life! I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t started comin’ here. My life is completely different.” I confess to being shocked. I suppose I have gotten used to middle class Christianity. I reckon God does grade on a bit of a curve after all. It is clear to me that where this lady comes from was someplace totally alien to anything that most people know of. I am told that she has a number of children. Some suggest at least seven and only a couple have the same father. Yet, this lady is now beaming and radiant. She says to me, “I make sure all a my young’uns are here. They need to hear this.”
I wonder what might happen if we really decided to go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in? What would church look and smell like if we brought in those in wheel chairs, laid upon gurneys, taken from the mental asylum or found under a bridge laying upon a piece of cardboard? Maybe a congregation of this sort was the very thing that authenticated the gospel in the first century?
Less than 15 minutes away is the historic maritime village of Greenwich where they are presently filming another “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. No, I didn’t see Johnny Depp but I did see millions of people who were looking for Johnny Depp. The streets were packed with tourists all seemingly going to the same market that we were headed for. Once we arrived, it was shoulder to shoulder gawkers with their hands full of every kind of ethnic food and item imaginable. The colors and smells were fantastic as we saw foods being prepared from the Caribbean to Marrakesh. Though you will be jostled this is a must see!
I was quite happy to have a few days to simply stay in my room or wander the streets by myself. I was pretty much peopled out and needed some personal time. My host couple, Mike and Jane Haley who live on the same floor and sleep in the room next to mine (they claim that I snore) were happy to allow me to be myself. They said,”Look just come and go as ya like and if ya want something jist let us know.” I think we’re good enough friends now that we can just be frank as we need to be. Anyway, I didn’t do much on Saturday but hang around the Costa Coffee Shop on High Street and draw pictures of its’ customers. Later in the evening I went out for dinner at a restaurant called Electriq where I had a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese. On the way home I stopped by the Tudor Barn to have a cup of coffee and found the place empty but as I left and went around the shrubbery to the gate I met with four young but profane girls in their early teens. As we talked, I encouraged them to choose something different for their futures. They wanted me to give them money for fags and drugs. This encounter haunted me for most of the night as I pondered the overall cultural environment and thought, “What will these and thousands of other young people grow up to be in a world of such chaos and bad parenting.”
In the morning I dressed and went to prayer and then preached to about 100 or more people. This, by American standards of success is nothing but one must understand that this congregation and perhaps two other African churches are the only expressions of the gospel within miles. People simply do not go to church nor do they have any thought that they should. The message seemed to be enjoyed by all in attendance.
Someone should remind me to bring along more sweaters and fewer pairs of pants. I have live out of a suitcase for more than ten years now and have learned (or at least I had thought that I had learned) what to take for the region and the season. Of course, Canada is never predictable so larger suitcases may be required when traveling there. I did, however, have it in my mind that though Norway might be some chilly from the mid of October, I did not expect so much ”frost on the pumpkin” here in London. Perhaps I am just up and out too early but my breath is clearly visible and this little sweater and light jacket I am wearing failed to keep me warm as I walked up the hill to High Street this morning. I will report one good thing, I have not once had to open my umbrella in the more than a month I have been over here. Opps… I spoke too soon… at the moment it’s raining cats and dogs outside. By times, I have been days under the umbrella in saturating downpours with not even so much as a sunny break. Okay, all clear. Just wait a minute and English weather will change.
It is an often repeated statement, “No one ever goes to Europe and says, “Gee, I think that I will take more stuff next time.” I have this down to miniature or portable everything. I can put six weeks into one small bag and a back pack. Admittedly, I will be returning home with almost nothing that doesn’t need to be washed. Though expensive, you may have to employ a professional laundry to do shirts and underwear. On occasion I have used the facilities in the homes where I stay.
Here’s my list…
1 regular t with sleeves.
7 of each, underwear, t-shirts and socks.
6 shirts (5 sport and one dress).
3 blue jeans (they’re great for every day and travel).
1 dress slack.
1 sleeveless pullover.
2 Ties (weddings happen).
Rain wear ( a combination jacket works best).
A fleecy or hoodie (takes up a lot of room but a real life saver)
Camera and/or Flip video.
Portable computer (the small 2.2 pound one).
Skype phone is very handy.
Plug Adapters (Mainland Europe and the UK)
Inflatable neck support.
A good travel document portfolio.
Portable speakers if not too large.
Small reading light.
Comfortable shoes. (One pair is usually enough if it’s the right pair). I like Timberland shoes… soft leather, good soles and reasonably stylish.
Apparently the English thing to do.
As many know, the national dish of England is not “fish ‘n chips” or “bangers ‘n mash” but rather curried chicken. On Friday evening Pastor John Watson spent a few hours pulling together dinner for about twenty-five men. I had no idea that there were so many grades and styles of curried chicken so when he had it all set out, there were four different trays that ranged from spicy to whhhhussssssy. I took a plate of whussy.
I spoke on, “A Man Sent from God.”
“There was a man sent from God and his name was John.” I contrasted the contemporary concept of what a man sent from God might look like to that of the Biblical examples. I wanted to ask the question, “What does an anointed man of God look like?” All of the world and especially in the United States there is the fallacious idea that a man must be sent from God if he is popular, handsome, flies on jets and stays in five-star hotels. The concept of anointing is also, in my opinion, misapprehended. In the scriptures, the most anointed people were mistreated, misunderstood and ultimately killed. John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, they were all anointed and equally as despised and rejected. How do we know, maybe someone right at one of these tables is ‘a man sent from God and his name is” Mike, Steve or Jim.
After my morning chapel session at “GO Center” Maitie dropped me at the train and I went to the city center to meet Gunnar and Roar at the Frontiers ministry office. We lunched over, what else? Bread, cheese, jelly and there was this “to die for” shrimp spread that I hovered over.
ACCI (Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives )and NLL (New Life Literature). I have these friends, Gunnar from Volda on the coast and Roar in Oslo. They are both just about my age so we have a lot of laughs amidst serious discussions regarding how we might more effectively change the world after we are dead. We serve on cooperating Boards and I assist them in trying to print and distribute Bibles to persecuted Christians. I would tell you more about the details but then I would have to kill you. Really, some of what they are engaged in we just couldn’t tell you about but only to say, “It is rather clever and as equally risky.”
Roar took us to “The Ali-Babba” where we had Turkish kabobs.
Following several hours of talking and “Blue Sky” thinking we went out to eat in “Little Asia” a part of Oslo that takes you to the streets of Cairo or Mogadishu. It is all of a sudden another world with scores of men just milling about in front of stores, burqa’d women from many parts of the Arab world hustling with baby strollers through the crowded streets. All of a sudden, there appears trash, trash everywhere on the streets. It is a different way of thinking about living collectively. Norway is within forty years of being more Arab-Asian than Norwegian. Blonde hair and blue eyes will be something of the past. This isn’t a racist statement, it is a fact. Presently ten percent of Oslo is made up of people of color but these immigrants are having far more children than those of Norwegian decent so combined with the present immigration patterns, perhaps all of Europe will be called, “Eurasia” as is being suggested. Just today in Eltham, a London suburb not the most known for ethnic shift, most of the school aged children and young adults are people of color.