Trip 38 / Entry 14 / Kobarid, Slovenia

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Always treasure where and when you find it.

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Later we took a drive to visit a few of the friends of Andrej and Lydja’s ministry. At this point Andrej wisely doesn’t  intend to start a “church” and for good reason. This would be considered suspiciously and viewed as competitive with the Parish church. AFTER ALL, THE REFORMATION WAS STOPPED IN IT’S ADVANCE RIGHT HERE. Protestant and evangelical faith here is the doctrine of hell. He doesn’t need to contend with undue attention and criticism so he prefers to simply create a community of people who want to learn the Bible together and this approach has caused people to drive some distance to hear him teach on Friday nights.

In this group that met on Friday night were two interesting attenders I said that I would like to meet. The first of these were Maja and her father, Branko who was an atheist for most of his life. Though she didn’t give the details, it appeared that Maja was a bit of a party girl but finally came up empty and while tutoring a village lady in mathematics who inquired about her spiritual condition, she, in time, called upon the name of the Lord.

IMG_2214Maja doesn’t seem to be intimidated by much so she shared the gospel with many. Her family members were resistant but now some of them have also embraced Jesus alone for their eternity. It turned out that her dad who lived under the same roof was the most difficult but eventually surrendered to Jesus as well. Branko is now as soft as putty and whenever he mentioned his conversion or the name of Jesus, his eyes filled with tears and he has to look away. This strong, physical Yugoslav is no push over (most men in this region are real men) but now rushes to his bedside to retrieve his crumpled and well-worn prayer list of some thirty or more names.

As most of you know, I am not an advocate of a hard, fatalistic, Reform sovereignty but when one finds any believer here, it is always “a brand plucked from the fire.” The stories are always so amazing that one must admit to the sovereign reach of God. It is so very dark. The box is sealed so tightly, there is so little light but one word can punch a hole in the box and the truth is, the box is no longer pitch dark at all. The light may be dim for years until another hole comes and more light floods in but finally the entire, once dark  box, is flooded with light. Even after a person is “converted” there is much work to be done. Andrej knows that the key is the word of God and that “the entrance of His word gives light.”

Trip 38 / Entry 10 / Osijek, Croatia

Tuesday to Thursday, April 29 – May 1, 2014

The Osijek Evangelical Theological Seminary

The Osijek Evangelical Theological Seminary

IMG_2044We arrived at The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia where Chris once interned at about five in the afternoon, registered for our rooms and took a short ride into the heart of the city. I would be preaching here on Wednesday evening at the one hundred year old Pentecostal Church that now meets in a former Jewish synagogue.

Vukovar 

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Abandoned

Abandoned

Wednesday morning Chris wanted to drive me some thirty minutes away to Vukovar where 2,000 local defenders held off 36,000 over a period of 87 days. In the end two thousand were killed, 800 went missing and 22,000 were exiled many never to return. Vukovar took the brunt of the fighting and the evidence of automatic rifle fire and shelling  is still everywhere. Many houses remain abandoned.

Osijek

Me, Pastor Damir and Pastor Chris Scobie

Me, Pastor Damir and Pastor Chris Scobie

Osijek Centro

Osijek Centro

We returned to Osijek in the early after noon, met Pastor Damir, had supper and I prepared to preach. There were about forty to fifty who were very receptive and thought they seemed “Slavickly” stern and unmoved at first but were soon laughing and enjoying the message. The message on “Disappointment with God,” is not a theologically light one, I put a few bits of humor which they livened up to and I happily discovered that they are a very hospitable audience.

Chris, Pastor Damir and I went out for dessert where I was given an open invitation to come anytime I like.

The Evangelical Theological Seminary

IMG_2062IMG_2064I was absolutely stunned by the amazing facility that house the students and faculty and remarked that, “Even in America, we rarely see a campus facility as first rate as this one.” Built with over 4.5 million American dollars there are three floors of administration and classrooms unrivaled by most other seminaries in all of southern Europe. The library is one of the best in the Balkan region. Nevertheless, this being said, it suffers for a lack of enrolled students. They are desperate for new, young, trained workers for church planting and leadership.

The Pride and Prejudice Chatsworth House

With little time to spare and lots of distance to cover, we  were in a spin. I had no idea where to get off of the A/(M)-1, so at some point I just left the highway with the hope of finding some road that would overpass the M-1 and take us west. As I committed myself to this task it wasn’t but minutes before I realized we could drive hours in a south-easterly direction without ever finding a way to head west. We were sunk more, especially because we began seeing signs for Doncaster and Lincoln cities I knew to be in the exact opposite direction.

Finally, I just grasped the first road that went the opposite way and eventually we put the M-1 under us. Though we were still on small, unmarked roads with little villages (Wellow would have been worth a stop) we did occasionally see the name Chesterfield, which provided some encouragement to ignore the speed limits.

After quite a few necessary miles, eventually, we did pick our way into the almost picture- book grounds of Chatsworth, which went on for about five miles through herds of fat Shorthorn cattle and Oxford or Hampshire flocks of sheep. Every tree and shrub seemed tailored to perfection. If one has ever visited Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina and were awed by the wealth and decadence, “you ain’t seen nuthun yet.” I’m fairly certain that only Versaille in France could top this decadent, over-the-top, opulence. A real Duke and Duchess still live there.

We reached the parking lot with less than an hour to spare. In the drizzle Jeanne got out to get our tickets while I parked and rushed back to meet her. In we went. Whew!

I will just show you rather than tell you. Here are some of the photos we took of the university-sized house and grounds.

Dark was encroaching as we went on to our hard-to-find room in Banbury. This was the first occasion when I came close to killing us with a head on collision. In my hurry to turn around and get back to our B & B, I turned the corner on the right and into the path of a oncoming vehicle. Its driver did not mind blaring his horn.  All the time he was doing this, I was saying aloud, “Sorry, I’m a foreigner, I’m a foreigner.”  We did get our room where, once the windows were opened, we got to listen to trucks, cars and motorcycles all the night long.

Note: In this town I had my first inedible food item when I ordered a pizza at Pizza Express. They advertise themselves as authentic Italian pizza put used what came very close to barbecue sauce or ketchup for their base. I could actually feel the sugar granular between my teeth. For those who don’t know better, it would be the closest they will ever come to Italy.

I came close to expletives until Beddgelert emerged!

No photoshopping this one

Okay, we came across some wild landscape of hills dotted with more sheep than Wales has people. This is likely an understatement.

Then I got lost. I came off of the main, well-marked road on to a country road that took me through one small hamlet after another, most of which were not on the map. I suppose I could have turned around but going one direction would be as purposeless as going the other, so I just kept moving forward into the dusk hoping to wind up in a town of some consequence. I knew the name of most towns I would not be able to pronounce. Finally, we popped out of the mountains, cliffs, and hedge rows at a “T” with an arrow pointing toward Beddgelert. I should have known, Beddgelert is not far from other memorable places like Rhyd Ddu, Plas Gywnant and not far from the ever popular, Penrhydeudraeth and the town we were shopping for in the first place, Portmeirion where there was purported to be a good place to eat (what else) according to our guide book.

Thinking it couldn’t be far and besides a rather scenic drive, I betrayed my good sense and went toward Beddgelert. Once I crossed over the bridge, I’m glad I did. There were a number of good places to stay and I was attracted to The Royal Goat (who wouldn’t be?) but they were full. So we booked into the Saracens Head Hotel, something more like a youth hostel than a hotel. It catered to hikers, who look for an inexpensive place to sleep, but we were off season and so the accommodation was sparsely inhabited and quiet. Nevertheless, I can assure the reader that there was nothing glamorous about it.

Castell Deudraeth

We settled and then drove to Portmeirion for supper at the Castell Deudraeth, notable for a rather “know-how” chef. This being said and while the interior of the restaurant was first class, five star dining, the food wasn’t spectacular and we were disappointed at the price. For us, the only “spiff” we look forward to in our travels is jointly discovering memorable cuisine. This was not one of those occasions.

We were scheduled  to arrive in Colwyn Bay at our friends the Usserys’ place at four on the next day and with a good deal of driving ahead of us, I jumped to my feet early and ran out with my camera before the sun had pulled itself over the hills to the east. I waited for an hour with camera in hand but in so doing captured some beautiful shots of the town where some of the movie, “Inn of the Sixth Happiness” (the story of missionary to China, Gladys Aylward) had been filmed, starring Ingrid Bergman.

Off we went through more of Snowdonia in North Wales. Having a little time before going to the Ussery’s we went over the bridge to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch… located on the isle called Anglesey, where Prince William and Kate live. Yes, that’s right, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, otherwise known as, “Saint Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near to the Rapid Whirlpool of  Llantysilio of the Red Cave.” Lovely. It would be hard to miss, wouldn’t it? Since time was short, we headed on down the road towards Nate and Ali’s and didn’t get to explore the rest of the island.

Trekking through Snowdonia National Park of Wales

Out of our window

I wanted to get on the road, thinking that it might take more time than it did to reach Wales. We briskly swung up the M4, around and then across the Bristol Channel. Turning up the A449 we went off for the night at Ragland and found the Beaufort Inn. Jeanne loved the room with a nice view of a church out the window. After settling in we went downstairs to the dining room for supper.

The night that followed proved to be interesting. The lovely room turned out to be a challenge. Somehow the room tilted from foot to head. So, what looked like a good night’s sleep left us feeling like drunken sailors. In the morning we both awoke with the same complaint, “Didn’t you feel like you were sleeping upside down?” As we investigated we found that repairs had been made to the floor but it did slant at the foot. When we asked about it, we were given an explanation that this was a historical building and there were certain things they were not allowed to change when they remodeled the hotel. One of those things was the curvature of the floor. The floor curves.

It just isn’t so anymore!

A BREAK(fast) from the standard fare

There was a time when one would be hard pressed to find a decent meal from any kitchen in England, but that isn’t at all true anymore. Though good food might be more costly than in the United States, one can have some of the grandest meals they’ve ever eaten when they visit in the UK. At least this is my opinion. I am not talking about Fish ‘n Chips, Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s or Kidney Pie. We sat down in the dining room at the Beaufort next to a couple just about our ages. It was her birthday and they had come back to where they had grown up and met to celebrate. In fact, the fellow told us that he had worked in this very hotel as a lad in the days when it was rundown. He never thought to see the day when the hotel would be restored to its original style. They recommended several dishes, and we ordered up. He promised we wouldn’t be disappointed and we weren’t.

In the morning we joined them for breakfast (which is always included in the room price) and for the first time, there was something beyond the “Full English Breakfast”! After four in a row, Jeanne leapt on the yogurt, fresh fruit, and berries. I took her lead and gave it a try as well.

After packing we drove out and made our way across the southern half of Snowdonia, taking pictures of the  beautiful countryside and stopping at the occasional tea room in a small village here or there. I say it in this way because there were many marvelous photo ops we passed up  simply due to the fact there was no safe place to pull off the road. In fact, it was along one of these narrow roads that I entered a bridge at the same time as a semi trailer truck, going at about sixty miles per hour. I had no choice but to drive onto the sidewalk at my left. He didn’t so much as bat an eye.

Enjoy the picture that we did manage to get.

From Plymouth to Marazion and Mousehole

Since they had other visitors, it would be several days before we could visit with Bethany Fellowship missionaries Nate and Ali, who live at Rhos on Sea, Colwyn Bay, Wales.

So we took a couple of days to explore the southwestern tip of England. We had been told by Jeanne’s brother, should we ever get the chance we should pop into the small port of Mousehole (from what I could tell pronounced Muss Hul), we should check it out. And we did.

On the way, we attempted to get closer to the coast and made the delightful mistake of driving through Seaton. This might work well if one is a Morris Minor but it took everything I had to wrench the VW van through the one ways, around the tight corners and overhangs. I figured, “If buses can do it, I ought to be able to.” In retrospect, it was worth the squeeze as we saw a beautiful seaside village that is in many ways (except for the traffic) just as it once was. The downside turned out to be that it was the last weekend of the seaside holidaying season, so it wound up being a real challenge to negotiate the crowds and cars. We got through it all with a huge sigh of relief.

We had booked a hotel at Marazion, which is a short distance from Mousehole and just aross the bay from Saint Michael’s Mount, a Benedictine monastery that dates from the mid 1200’s.  I was excited about this, not only from the historical point of view but also because I had seen a large number of amazing watercolors of this location and now I could see it for myself! I later learned that there are two of them (almost identical). The other St. Michael’s is in (Normandy) France and perhaps the one with the greatest notoriety.

We booked a nice room overlooking the street. Though chilly, I deaked out for a few photographs in the evening light. In so doing, I saw the evidence of a strong Wesleyan presence in the area with a Wesleyan Church and a Methodist Church on the main thoroughfare.

I rose early in the morning to catch the light for more photographs. I returned within the hour and treated Jeanne to her second “full English breakfast.” All of this food seemed really great…  so far.

In spite of the cold we made our way in the boat taxi across the bay to St. Michael’s and once there, huddled together on a bench in the sunlight out of the way of the brisk wind. Deciding it was too chilly to wait for the monastery to open, we rushed back across on the next boat, checked out of our hotel, and drove on to see the charming village of Mousehole.

We took the advice of the big “P” and parked the van on the edge of town, then walked in the additional twelve hundred meters into the harbor area. I began snapping every image that I thought might be paintable. The scenes were just as great as Jeanne’s brother had promised. Jeanne found a gift for Clara our granddaughter in one of the shops. We ended our time there in a cute little tea shop, where we enjoyed tea, scones, and clotted cream, and then drove on toward Bristol and finally Raglan, Wales.

Bere Ferres is much farther away than it looks on a map…

Finally

“Killing time.” Not something anyone should do after the age of sixty.

Jeanne had this idea of doing encouragement visits. She thought that since we were going to be in England, it would be really fun and good ministry to drop by and visit some extended family members like Elizabeth (our daughter-in-law Noemi’s sister) in Brixham along the coast then spend the night in Plymouth with a visit to Jeremy (our son-in-law’s) grandmother in the little village of Beres Ferrers. Good idea and easy enough, I thought! We had missed a connection with Elizabeth because of time constraints, so we really wanted to make this second connection if we could.

After saying our goodbyes to Suzy and James, we drove off to Plymouth where we found a nice little Bed and Breakfast, “Mia Casa” which is located only blocks from The Barbican, a famous waterfront area from which the Mayflower sailed to America.

It was raining when we arrived in Plymouth, so we spent the evening mostly in our room. Invigorated, the next morning we were up and ready, and after Jeanne’s  thrilling first encounter with “the full English breakfast,” we were out the door.  After several hours of walking and taking in the quiet Monday streets, we loaded up and raced off for Bere Ferres, only what appeared to be a “hop, skip and a jump” away. Surprise! True, it may have been less than twenty-five miles away. But there was no simple and straight way to get there. I tried the most sensible route but wound up having to back track, go across a six pound round-trip bridge twice, drive across a hedged in, single road surrounded by hedges for ten miles, to wind up where I started three hours earlier. So I made a decision! I was going to go the long way around or give up on the idea completely.

After another thirty minutes of pretty sensible driving we saw the sign: “Bere Ferres.” What a relief! We were going to make it to Jeremy’s grandma’s house after all! Here is some advice. In all of England, there may be no such a thing as a “short cut.” It pays to go the hard way.

Jeremy’s grandmother, Betty

Arriving at around noon we were surprised to find this ninety-year-old gal not at home. We had met Betty on several occasions, so, especially after this investment of time, emotions and petrol, we were pretty intent on seeing her. Now in Bere Ferrers there are no addresses. You find where you are going by the name of the cottage. Once we had asked around and found it, we went on to the pub to wait for a while.

After a half an hour or so, I suggested that we just drive on. So Jeanne wrote a note of regret that we’d missed her and we drove by to put the note in her mailbox. But this time we saw a car in the driveway! Happily, we jumped out of the car, went to the door, and were warmly received by Betty and her sister, who also lives in Bere Ferres. Once inside, we enjoyed a good visit over a cup of tea in her cheery little house. It was definitely worth the anxiety to get there.

Photos from Plymouth and “The Barbican.”

In the heart of Cornish Pasties… a Greenhouse favorite.

The Mayflower passenger comemorativ
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