Trip 38 / Entry 37 / Meat in the heat

Sunday, June 8, 2014

 

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After a long drive into the mountains we arrived at a small house with cars parked along the side of the road. As we made our way into the yard we saw young men playing football (soccer), while older women sat talking under tall poplar trees trying to stay out of the sun. There was not a hint of a breeze.

We were invited inside the one room house to change into our casual clothes in the bathroom but when we went through the door we were immediately arrested by the air conditioned interior and the couch along the wall. We sat and waited our turn as we watched six Spanish girls chop tomatoes, lettuce and cilantro. We regretted to hear that the bathroom was now free, we could change our clothing and go out under the roof or the trees with the other forty hot, sweating people. Being the oldest people in the crowd allowed us few special privileges.

Outside the unfinished, three sided building was empty except for two guys playing ping pong and three others standing around a grill turning mounds of meat. I wasn’t surprised to see our guests and my Brazilian friend from Portugal giving a hand. Brazilians, barbecue and meat are synonymous. After what seemed like a very long time due to the heat and the lack of shade an incredible sit down meal was laid out for about forty or more people. We all had more than we could eat and frankly, some of the food had to go home with folks as leftovers. Bacon chunks and rice found its way to the table and almost always does when Spanish or Brazilians are prepping the food.

It was a wonderful time of fellowship and since I didn’t know everyone attending I took up a conversation with five people who were apparently unbelievers but I didn’t know so they all got plan “A” as I explained the purpose of apologetics by presenting several examples which caught their attention. For one thing, I talked about it means to have a Christian worldview and what it means to be human (Imago Dei) and the meaning of the fall using the text, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Indirectly many of my comments were affirmed though as it often happens, once the conversation gets too deep some retreat into obvious but utter silence.

In reality though, this is the most effective method for doing evangelism in a gospel resistant culture like Italy. The party model where Christians having a good time are put together with non-believers is most convincing since people can see the gospel before they ever hear it. The chances that any of these unchurched friends will find themselves in an evangelical church anytime soon are beyond remote unless they have prior positive exposure to the message or messenger(s).

 

Trip 38 / Entry 36 / The Last Day of Mnistry

Sunday, June 8, 2014

1,300 nights on the road

Perhaps some of you wonder why I go to this trouble of writing 36 blogs over a period of seven weeks? There are a variety of reasons but probably the most important might be this, it is a way of document my missionary journey. I doubt if anyone will care once I am dead and gone but for me it is quite interesting to have this history now documented over eight years or more in some 470 small vignettes likely been missing from my bed for at least 1,300 nights over the last thirteen years so this all stretches into quite a story for a boy from small town Oklahoma and Kansas.

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Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano

I wound up the seven weeks on the road in my home church in Europe where I have such old and good friends. This morning we had an attendance of around one hundred twenty or so in the sanctuary, so altogether, there were probably 150 in attendance when the children are added.

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This church has pretty much what it needs from parking to sanctuary and classroom space. It also has the advantage of good music and leadership. I mostly just sit back and enjoy it all until it comes my turn.

IMG_3239Today, I preached a message I have been carrying with me (something I think folks need to hear), “Disappointment with God.” What’s the meaning of disappointment? What does God have in mind by putting his people through it?

It all went well and I gave no real altar call but it almost always turns out people came for prayer for various needs and this morning two couples who happened to attend for the first time came with the intention of serving God in this church. There were several others. I love the openness of Latin people. It is so difficult to move a comfortable American by any appeal. 

 

Trip 38 / Entry 34 / Alberto and Karla’s

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Leaving Jeanne in the B and B for a couple of hours, I went down to Pulchinella (a coffee shop) to meet Pastor Aldo. All along it was planned that we would carve a little time to talk about recognized ministerial training for a new generation of pastors and the anticipated growth of biblical Christianity in Italy. We were together until noon until I rushed off to get Jeanne and go to Karla and Alberto’s for lunch.

The color coordination was a total accident!

The color coordination was a total accident!

Pietro

Pietro

Karla is married to Alberto and she is Kevin’s sister. Kevin is an Italian living with us and attending university. Karla and Alberto have a little baby boy by the name of Pietro and Jeanne wanted to see him so we got a free lunch. Karla cooked up gnocchi followed by salad, potatoes and a rolled Parmesan styled chicken item stuffed with pancetta and mozerella.

Trip 38 / Entry 33 / The Gambian

Friday, June 6, 2014

We were delivered to the Fasano train station. Oreste and Mary wouldn’t just deliver the bags, get in the car and go. Nope they waited with us until the train came, we boarded and then watched as we pulled away. They were very attentive hosts. It seemed to me that Jeanne enjoyed Mary’s company. I know this because Jeanne learned and attempted a lot of Italian while just talking to Mary in the back seat.

As I stood in the gangway in order to keep my eyes on the luggage (it is a dangerous world down here) as things can just suddenly disappear. A seated, young African continued to watch me while I chatted with two college aged girls. Finally, I  left the bags to go up the stairs of the “carozza” (car) to sit beside him. It was then that I noticed he was either on drugs or perhaps drunk and this was at 10:30 in the morning.

He was twenty-six, spoke English and from Gambia. Before the thirty minute ride was over I had his favor and gripped his attention with a need for change. He agreed with me as best he could. I think he got what I had to say as I challenged him to buy a New Testament and find an evangelical church in Bari. I told him that he needs a father and today, I am that man. I could tell that he liked me and I liked him. Some drunks I just don’t like but my heart went out to this fellow. So many of these illegal’s are quite hopeless. I asked him if he liked it in Italy and he told me that whatever happens here is better than Gambia. “We are very poor in Gambia.” This was said by a man who appears to me to have nothing.

While I was talking to him, Jeanne had engaged two Afghan men (refugees) in their mid twenties and was treating them like their mother. They were obviously far away from home and desperately lonely. She’s good at this.

North Street Band arrives in England

Arriving at Gatwick

Arriving at Gatwick

If you’ve kept up with my blogs you will have, by now, heard of North Street Band from Perth, Ontario and my plans to bring them over for concerts in England, Italy and Slovenia. Planning and fund-raising for this took the better part of a year, so we were excited to see how things might unfold after all of the dreaming and preparation.

Pastor John and Daniel showed up at Gatwick to meet us while we waited together for the five to show up. We carefully watched people come and go until after an hour, out of the doors they came. For the young guys, this was their first international trip so they were “eyes wide open.”

After greeting and loading the mini-bus, off we went to Eltham where we would be serving Eltham Green Community Church for the next week.

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They took a day or so to bounce back from jet lag and then it was concert time. They performed three times. First, they performed in the open air on High Street with many of us handing out invitations to the concert on Friday night and Worship Party at the church on Sunday morning.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 460Eltham is tough ground. The community is riddled with social dysfunction. Many children come from broken, abusive homes. Some leave home early so there are many teenage mothers and girls living on social assistance. Public drunkenness is rampant.  Drop out rates are high and large numbers of young people are involved in delinquent activities. It is within the context of this chaos that Eltham Community Church tries to make a difference.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 541North Street went ahead as best they could and though attendance at the events were not as high as we had hoped, the band was well received everywhere they played.

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A performance hall was rented for Friday night . It was cold and raining when the band finally took the stage. This turned out to be a good event seeing that so many in the church had no idea of who the band was or the music they played.

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UK 09-06 to )9-25 673The church on Sunday morning was packed where the band played a worship concert and I preached the gospel.

Oxford is normally a lovely city

Jeanne expressing her feelings

We sweat our way to Oxford hoping the tire (tyre) would hold out until we made our way to the very center of the city where the Avis garage sat behind the central rail station.  We did arrive okay and showed our problem to the attendant, who suggested we could save money (avoid the standard charge) and time if we went to the garage about three blocks away and bought a tire out of pocket (wink, wink).  That’s what we attempted to do.

We left the car off and went across to a tea room for lunch after being advised that it would all take about an hour. We came back over at the appointed time to learn that first, they didn’t have the correct size of tire and secondly, they could not find the “lug nut lock” or something like that required to replace a tire.  This created a day-long phone conversation with Avis at Gatwick Airport who finally, after trying every expert to no avail, suggested that they would send someone for us, drive us to Heathrow (two hours away) where they would get a car to match our contract. To us, this seemed insane since we had only one more rental day and needed to drive another three hours south to get to our booked hotel. This, they assured us, was the only option. It was now 4:30 and the shop was on the verge of closing up and putting us and the car out on the street. Fortunately, just in time, Avis did locate a VW Passat stationwagon in Oxford and told us to come right over to make the trade. We were greatly relieved when the gentleman at the desk wrote “no charge” on the bill because of our inconvenience.

Happy to finally have a car of manageable size, we drove toward our hotel in the country near Farnham. It would be our final night on our 12 day whirlwind trip around England before heading back to Crawley to connect with the band arriving from Canada. It had been a frustrating day in a lot of ways, but God had faithfully provided what we needed just in time!

Trip to Cotswold gets cut short

On the way to Burford

The next morning, after another “Full English Breakfast” in Banbury, Jeanne and I packed for an exciting trip in to the Peaks District and Cotswold Country,  a region with old English, Beatrix Potter charm.  For a time, for a few hours in the morning, this was what we enjoyed.  We went by lovely private estates lined by thatched roofed, immaculately tailored, beige stone homes. Once we came to the village of Burford, near other towns with names like Chipping Norton and Shipston on Stour, we got out to take in the picture-book beauty.

The Cotswold Arms

We enjoyed a cup of tea and sweet rolls, then Jeanne went to the car while I took about half an hour to snap a few pictures. This is when the bad news came. A fellow came walking down the hill, looked suspiciously at our car, and then gained Jeanne’s attention to tell her that it appeared that we had a bubble on our tire, a potential for a blow-out. He gravely suggested that we should have it looked at, since a member of his own family had recently suffered a blow out on the highway from the same thing. When I returned to the car, Jeanne relayed the message. I shrugged my shoulders, nonchalantly pulled on out to go to the next village, and then I began to think that it would be best to have this attended to in a more populated area.  I coasted into a safe spot at an intersection along a narrow road and took a look for myself. “Yep, I have a problem,” I decided, so I called Avis. This was where the real problem began. The plans for this day had to be shelved while we attended to this automotive distraction. After a rather annoying series of  calls to the Avis Roadside Assistance Team, I was told that if they came to help I would be charged about two-hundred thirty pounds or more than $350. So I decided to drive to the Avis location in Oxford, some thirty minutes to the southeast, and hopefully visit Cotswold on some other day.

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.

Ambleside, Grasmere to James Herriott’s Thirsk

Windemere

Ambleside

Perhaps we should have spent more time roaming the villages of the Lake District, but after a few they all seemed very much alike. After breakfast, we did do a “walk about” around Windemere before going to Ambleside.

Ambleside

One of the reasons to visit Ambleside is to see the stone work. For the most part, the town is constructed of neatly cut slate taken from the nearby hills.  Jeanne did a bit of shopping and then we drove on to the nearby village of Grasmere, where a number of other people had the same idea at the same time. Again, we walked around and then headed out of the Lake District toward York, hoping to be there in the morning on Sunday.

Thirsk

Thirsk

Ambleside

On the way, Jeanne had circled the town of Thirsk and we arrived on Saturday afternoon to a town square set up for market day. There is really nothing

Harriott Society

special about Thirsk except for it being the home of James Herriott. The only thing of note besides this was that the town had a rather authentic English feel about it. There was really nothing touristy, just people going about their business. For this reason we liked it.

We stopped in at a tea room and had a nice sandwich, tea, chips and carrot cake and then drove toward York with the idea of finding a B and B before nightfall. It turns out that we had no such luck. Most places had signs in the window, “No Vacancy'” so when we did see an opening we took a look, but being disappointed with it, we went  back the way we had come trying to find something more suitable in a rural setting. Perhaps I have said this already in one way or another.

Note: Next time, and this is my advice to you, just find a place to stay for three nights and make day trips, England is not all that big compared to America and one could make day trips in various directions and not have to set up accommodation or haul tyour bags from place to place.

York

The Manor House

We began to panic as it grew darker and darker and we weren’t finding any “rooms to let.” We drove through a number of small towns in the direction of Thirsk and would only occasionally see a room over a pub. I finally got off of the roads that made sense and decided that I would follow my instincts back toward York. Don’t do this. Roads almost never go the way you think they should. We finally came through a little village in the middle of farmers’ fields called “Liston-on-Ouse.” Just as we were about to leave the edge of town (this took all of thirty seconds), on our right was a lovely home  called The Manor House, Mann Farm Bed and Breakfast. Though there was no sign, I pulled around to ask. They were quick to say they were filled and gave me rough directions toward York. I must have looked like Joseph because as I talked to them they seemed to soften and finally said, “We do have a room but I’m afraid it’s not made up yet.” I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was about ready to make a bed. I said, “How long would something like that take? We need supper, we could go to the pub. Would you have it ready in, let’s say an hour?” We got the deal and had a perfect room at a reasonable price staying with some very nice people. We heartily recommend it but do call for a reservation. It is situated about thirty minutes from York and well in the country side.

Kendal (sort of) and Kirkby-Lonsdale in The Lake District

Ruskin’s most beautiful view. What do you think?

After driving into Kendal and then driving out again, I wanted to show Jeanne something a little more quaint. About seven or eight years ago I came up this way  and friends drove me around to the prettiest villages. I remember one little hamlet with a beautiful, wide stream, a small castle turret and gate on the other side with this old stone arching bridge surrounded by massive trees on both sides. This is what I had hoped to find.

The authentic Lonsdale Bakery

We back-tracked and eventually wound up at lovely Kirkby Lonsdale. Though it was spitting rain and threatening more to come, we took a long walk first around the village. We were told by S. that we needed to see and experience several things. The first, he said, you must have lunch at the Lonsdale Bakery and he was right. Then, he advised us to take a walk through the St. Mary’s church yard and behind the church on a pathway, you will overlook what Ruskin called “The most beautiful view in all of England.” No doubt about it, it’s a good one but, in our opinion, there are many contenders for this title. I took the picture above pictures so I’ll let you decide.

The Ellerwaite

At about four, we drove on to Windermere  where we took a room at the Ellerwaite Lodge. The truth is, we didn’t shop very hard. Being off-season, if we would have just driven a little farther we would have found plenty of vacancies closer to the lake. We advise the reader to do this. Stopping at almost the first hotel that came into view, we looked at the room (perhaps one of the three nicest we had) and took it.

Jeanne likes our room

Unfortunately, in so doing we had somehow landed on another planet. The hostess was the oddest person we have ever encountered. Most of the service people working in the UK are from India or eastern Europe, but here was an authentic English or Scottish person with the strangest demeanor in the world. First, she began with, “May I please have your passport?” This always happens in Italy but never once in the UK, so I inquired, “Why would you want my passport?  It’s in the car, no one else has asked for it.” She countered with a stern, “It is the law. It is the law in England that I must see your passport.” Well, I have nothing to hide so with my eyebrows raised and eyeballs rolling, I went out to the car and got my suitcase and dug out my passport. So I gave it to her. She seemed satisfied for the moment, that is, until we stepped toward the door. That was when she said in rather wooden diction, “Most people want to know.” I turned to ask, “Most people want to know what?” She responded with a steely eyed, “Most people want to know what time breakfast will be served.” I was relieved that it wasn’t something more threatening. “Oh, what time is breakfast served?” I asked and once we had the answer, we were out of the door, shaking our collective heads and looking at one another in disbelief.

In spite of this journey into the middle kingdom of Never-Never Land, the room turned out to be a good one, though more flights up than I would have liked.

Jeanne took a bath and relaxed while I walked the streets, going into a pub to experience the village life.