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.

Not bad, $3,000 and about 250 attendees.

The North Street Band Fund Raiser

We relied heavily on free social media like Facebook and MailChimp for getting our crowd so we had no idea how things would turn out. One of the guys thought he’d be happy not to be “skunked.” Thirty would have been his idea of success.

The Carleton Place Arena

Putting the event into the Carleton Place Arena seemed like it made sense when our crowd would be drawn from thirty miles in four different directions, Perth, Almonte, Merrickville, Smith’s Falls and Ottawa. With people having to add a rather lengthy drive no one could read how things might go. When at 7:30, the start-up time came, it looked pretty ominous – as ominous as the threatening weather outside. The day had been sultry and now the wind had kicked up with perilous “tornado-belt” skies and warnings all around us. We were sunk.

Still, with the first lick of the guitars the room started to fill up and at its peak about two-hundred fifty friends and well-wishers filled out the crowd.

Joel Williams

The band was terrific! They were much better than anyone had thought they might be especially since lead guitarist and vocalist, Fred Williams had run a wood chisel through two very important “fret” fingers which considerably limited practice time in the weeks leading up to the concert.  It all turned out to be a rousing success wit a mix of popular cover tunes and composed Christian tunes written by father and son  Fred and Joel.

The party atmosphere was evident and the crowd was some noisy at the back since so many people were renewing old friendships. Somehow my warning them not to have such a good time went over and after the second break it became less like a coffee house and more like a concert.

With Asher on the double bass and Dave the drums the music filled in to make a terrific sound causing a great deal of well-deserved applause. Later Joel’s two sisters, Meriam and Emma stood up to sing one of Meriam’s compositions. Incredibly, the siblings bluegrass harmonies gave us something akin to Emilou Harris or Nancy Griffith. This was a delightful surprise for everyone even the two girls.

People stepped up in a big way to help out by donating almost $3,000 for the ministry trip to Europe in September. In all they’ll need about $12,000 but this was a good start with another gift coming in for $500. In all they are half way there and three more months to go.

Thanks to everyone who came and gave to the project!

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.

Entry 36 / Church in a Tea Cup

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?