A soggy London day

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I suppose it would be fitting for Jeanne to see London in the traditional way – under an umbrella. I had planned all along to give her one last day touring central London and seeing such famous attractions as Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Truth be told, the most exciting place of the day might have turned out to be the Sherlock Holmes Pub where we got warm and enjoyed a good lunch though the man seated next to us was an annoying atheist who presented a string of well-worn phrases in support of his position.

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UK 09-06 to )9-25 687Because it was raining like crazy, I decided to buy her a ride on one of the famous double-decker buses that lets you on and off as you please. It sounds like a good idea if one could sit outside on the top deck under bright skies and over-arching trees full of summer shade. What we got instead was a huddle inside with a bunch of Russians who could see no better than we could. The windows were covered with fog and attempts at taking photographs bordered on nil to useless. Even the Japanese had put their cameras back in their cases.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 703At one point I got the idea that we should try the getting-off-and-on option and take in the Tate Gallery. After UK 09-06 to )9-25 707slogging through four blocks of ankle deep water we entered the Tate, a most disappointing experience. I am well aware that museum curators and art gallery owners turn art into art even though it be crap by any standard. We lasted about twenty minutes and though it took some doing, went back to where we started, boarded the bus and made our way back to Victoria Station and then to Eltham, more than hour away.

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The rest of the evening was spent at John and Jana’s eating a wonderful supper prepared for the whole team. We returned to our room to pack up for an early departure on the next morning. Jeanne was going back to America and the rest of us were headed for Milano and Parma, Italy.

Dinner at VIKALINKA

UK 09-06 to )9-25 678One of our missionaries, Julia Frey, is an amazing cook! You can read her food blog at www.vikalinka.com.  She likes to serve me new dishes when I come for a visit but this night she indulged me by serving something I’d had before… and loved.  Jeanne and I showed up for dinner and enjoyed her unforgettable French chicken dish.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 681Brad and Julia have cute kids, Mitchell and Vika (Brad is Canadian and Julia is Russian). I do, however, think they are slightly spoiled to good cooking; they paid little attention to her creations until dessert was served. Her fruit tarts were pretty amazing, though.

During the evening we enjoyed catching up on their lives and praying together for their ministry future.

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.

From Venice to Verona and Trento

The Verona Roman Amphitheater where, under the stars,you can enjoy the world’s best opera.

Leaving Venice I trained to Verona arriving in the middle of a hot afternoon. Did I say it was hot?   Remind me never to go to Italy in August. Firstly, it is blazing hot and humid and secondly, everyone is at the beach or in the mountains.

Verona is a gracious city north and west of Venice just at the bottom of the Dolomites and the Alps. The town is also not far from beautiful Lake Garda but I rarely go there. Verona hints of wealth and rightly so as it is surrounded by marvelous vineyards, wineries and orchards. Then city is recognized for its famous Roman amphitheatre where they annually have incredible operas and concerts attended by people from all over the world. On one of the nights I was there, they had Carmen for a measly twenty-seven euro but I didn’t go simply because I had no one to go with.

Verona is also renowned for the Shakespearian work, “Romeo and Juliet” though they never really lived in Verona, Juliet’s balconetta is visited by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world who scribble love notes on paper and do their best to lodge them somewhere between the stones already packed with previous decades of decaying paper, failed hopes and dreams. People desperate to find this fictional location (especially female Japanese tourists) will almost panic if they have already walked long distances in stilettos and have not yet arrived in the alley way. I tried to assist several distraught tourists but since I had no idea of where I was at any given time, I was of little help.

I spent one full day and two nights there and then went on Saturday morning to Trento where I would meet Marcio and Noemi my hosts for the weekend. Even as an extrovert, I occasionally want to get a break from socializing so after more than a week with mostly being with people. I look forward to a day of just walking the streets and taking photographs.

Nevertheless, once my batteries were re-charged I was introduced to Marcio and Noemi people I have been in contact with but had never met. It was a joy to finally see them face to face and see their children.

Marcio and his two small boys waited patiently has my itinerary failed me. I looked on the website and found a train arriving at what I thought to be 10 something but when I got to the station I was told, “Oh, that one only runs during the week.” On Saturday you must take a later train. In any case, after several corrective text messages I arrived, went to the store, to the house out on a hillside and there we ate a nice pasta lunch before going to an area lake where they were engaged in some sort of “Kontiki” races.

We lounged around, the kids played on the swing sets and Emile D. drove down to meet me for coffee.

Later in the evening, Marcio and Noemi had some lovely Syrian friends over for dessert and I enjoyed speaking English thought the conversation often drifted back to Italian. I speak just enough Italian, well enough for people to think I can follow a conversation so I am often left in a lurch and have to gracefully slide out of the conversations.

A night in a FIVE STAR…

Hilton-Stucky Five Star and Pugiotto’s in Venice…

 

 

 

 

 

I have never stayed in a Five-Star hotel so would be the first time. I arrived in Venice on Tuesday afternoon and soon after de-boarding the train that comes right to the Grand Canal Piero with his four year-old son, Cristiano  showed up in his boat to take me to his home on Isola Judiaca only four hundred meters where he works as a concierge for the Hilton. Natasha, his wife works there as well in the gift shop.

Shopping for lunch

They have a cute little place of their own and after walking from where he moors his boat we walked into a simple but charming AIR-CONDITIONED apartment. Natasha finally arrived home at eight to an incredible meal put together by Piero, one of my favorite Venetian chefs. This boy, he do know how to cook.

The first night I would stay with them on a rather comfortable couch right beneath the air conditioner and was warned that if I got cold, I could do this or that -not a chance! After days and nights of almost intolerable, sweltering heat, I was happy to sleep in my clothes if it should prove necessary. What is cold to an Italian is tepid to an American. There are many apologies regarding moving air to which I say, “Bring it on!”

Imagine trying on clothes in a dressing room where the temperature is forty-one degrees, humidity at 90% and not a hint of air? Jeanne nearly suffocated once while trying this in Napoli. She panicked as anyone from America would though the Italian’s seem to take sweating in stride.

Booking in at the Hilton

The next morning as soon as possible Piero booked me into the Hilton as his Uncle Tony at a measly sixty euro for a night. Soon thereafter we were back on his boat treading through the canals of Venice dodging this gondola and that delivery barge. Again, it was a sweltering hot day and the sun beat down on us. Sadly, to make matters worse, my camera had begun to fail me and no matter how much time I spent adjusting this setting or that, the camera would not shoot into direct light, the only light we had.

Murano at eye level

Recognizing that not everyone gets a personal and free tour at eye level, I took what pictures I could, though none, it seems, turned out to be particularly impressive. Piero announced that we would soon be out into open water and then we would catch a good breeze which should make the day more enjoyable and this was the case. He put up the canopy to cover us but the wind was so brisk that it broke a strap and left us with a pile of canvas. All of the time, I did my best to hide behind the skippers shadow. He took me across to Murano where they have the amazing glass factories. Next it was on to Burano an island made famous by its brightly colored houses. He made one more run to the first settlement in Venice where now only eighteen people live. The island was the first to be separated from the sea and provided a bastion against the invading hoards coming from the north.

My morning coffee taken here.

With pizza in a nearby restaurant our day ended. In the morning I packed and waited for Piero, Natasha and Cristiano to come by boat and take me to the station and off I would go to Verona for a day to myself before ministry in Trento.

POST SCRIPT:

My camera was failing fast while in Venice so some of the photos re pretty “Iffy.” Next, I do want you o know that the Five Star wound up costing me sixty Euro. This isn’t bad when one considers that my Two Star night in Milan cost the same amount. Here’s a picture of my exciting Two Star experience. It wasn’t only the room that was horrible. My next door neighbor was an African that called his friends on the phone in the middle of the night. Have you ever heard African’s talk on the phone? They scream.

Coming Soon! Fred and Joel Williams & North Street Band

Ottawa Valley Friends

Help us promote this FUND Raising Concert by telling your friends. This is going to be a terrific night of listening to great music and reuniting with old friends. Forward to your contacts the link and let them know.

Meet the lads…

Dan, Tano, Brad, Sam and John

It is interesting that boundaries from country to country, denomination to denomination vary widely as to what constitutes a “good” Christian. In some countries like Norway, among my present associates there is no drinking, no smoking and so forth, while in Italy, wine and beer with supper is quite normal and then in England one may go so far as to have  Bible studies in the local pub with a Guiness in hand (this makes it slightly difficult to turn the pages of their Bibles). Of course these observations are only generalities but this what I have encountered. I don’t know quite what to conclude so I don’t criticize any spiritual mores as long as believers are kind and exhibit Christian disposition, character and integrity. When it comes to lifestyles, I have seen very severe believers that were quite holy on the outside but on the inside as nasty as could be. Jesus, Paul and the New Testament are all pretty clear about what boundaries matter. The overiding  principle is not to cause another brother to stumble and Paul said that if eating meat would cause his brother to stumble he wouldn’t touch it so long as he lived.

The Pharisees were very insistent on the details concerning certain observances, like special days, washings, cleansings, dietary laws and the like. Though strong drink is indeed dangerous (I am not advocating drinking at all), Jesus on the other hand made it clear that foods and drinks didn’t defile a person but rather that which is on the inside – that which came out of the heart. Paul went on to say that the kingdom had nothing to do with what a person ate or drank but the kingdom was actually a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the holy ghost. The kingdom was not a matter of hair splitting over religious specifics.

Now, I say all of this because, while I am not an ale or stout drinker myself, some of my English brothers are and so we spent a couple of hours at the Tudor Barn discussing the matter of extending the gospel to the citizens of Eltham. All of this was done over a pint or two.

Leadership and Vision Seminar, Etham…

Leadership Seminar at the Tudor Barn

One of the reasons I came around this way was to do a seminar on Leadership. Pastor John Watson picked me up at Eltham Station, took me to house, fed me a good supper and while he was out, his wife Janna and I laughed our heads off watching comedians Brian Regan and Tim Hawkins  – if you haven’t seen these guys, you need to Google or You Tube them immediately. I can’t think of two funnier people and apparently Janna thought so too. No one I know of laughs as hysterically as Janna does. The next day she could remember almost every line.

My watercolor of the Tudor Barn

On Saturday at ten we came together at the Tudor Barn for the seminar. There were about twenty in attendance. It is my guess that many greatly benefitted from the ideas presented as there was good interaction and feedback.

On Sunday morning I preached at the Eltham Green Community Church. It was a good time of worship and then following the service I treated ACCI missionaries Brad and Julia Frey (Brad is the youth pastor at Eltham Green and the Frey’s are candidates for Italy in about a year) and former BCOM students Tano and Angela Bellone. We were joined by guests Tom and Marcy McEvoy. Marcy is the daughter of Luciano and Marlene Cassandro of Parma, Italy. Luciano and Marlene are very dear friends in the Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano congregation.

Eltham, Sunday morning

It was great to see Tom and Marcy again after about a year. I last saw them when they were married at a Villa outside of Parma last year. You can scroll back to the story and photographs of the entire affair on this site.  I was honored to be invited to preach the wedding sermon on that occasion. They obviously went to some trouble to come around to Eltham as they live some distance away.

The lunch crowd

Another of the things I love to do is connect people so now we have an entire network of new relationships between McEvoy’s,  the Bellone’s, Frey’s and Watson’s. It’s been a good day and I finish up tonight meeting with some of the guys at Tudor Barn as we have a drink and go over the weekend events.  

To Colwyn Bay in Wales…

What you might expect

For at least three years the Ussery’s have extended to me a standing invitation to come for a visit. Nate and Ali (Greenhalgh) Ussery were my students at Bethany College of Missions in Bloomington, Minnesota. After a period of time living in Bawtry, near Doncaster in England, they have for about three years  lived here on the coast North in Wales. Nate continues to work in Balkan reconciliation so he spends time in Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo and other nations of that ethnically and religiously divided region. 

Whar I'ad me bed

On Monday the 31st, I took a flight from Bologna, Italy to Stansted in the UK, caught trains, the underground, more trains and finally arrived at the Colwyn Bay station at around five in the evening. I was met by Ali and taken to the enormous home they share with her dad and mother Keith and Myra. The home sets straight across the road from the ocean so one might on a clear day see a hint of Ireland somewhere to the southeast.

In the morning after a good rest, we went out for a drive to see the countryside. Yes, Wales has a varied a beautiful countryside. I would love to have scheduled more time for photography. There are numerous and quaint hamlets at almost every turn.

 

The next day we spent time walking and stopping to pray at the UK’s smallest chapel. That afternoon Nate drove me down to Chester where I spent the night before boarding the train to London.

 

I arrived in London in a down pour and then had to navigate my way across the city to the other side and Eltham in the middle of rush hour. I have a word for you (especially older folks) don’t plan to do this with two suitcases. I lugged my cases in and out-of-doors and up and down one set of stairs after another. I finally made it to Eltham at around seven in the evening, then taken to Mike and Jane Haley’s for my billet. I sure needed a good sleep but I had eaten something that upset my stomach so for the entire night long I had no idea what to expect. I was up and down all night so I woke up exhausted and forced myself out of bed at eight, went over to visit Brad and Julia Frey’s only to find that I had to head back to the Haley’s and my bed. This I did and finally woke up after noon feeling much better.

Entry 37 / Goodbye European Tour Twenty-Nine

On the hunt

That’s it… that’s all. There’s many more stories that I could tell but this is enough for now.