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.

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.

More Liguria…Is there ever enough?

Season’s end

Given the opportunity to walk around Chiavari in the morning, the afternoon was spent with Imra and several of her children along the cost in the city to the south, Sistri Levante. Here we had the chance to walk along and visit, take a few photographs of both the scenery and the kids.

Casperana

One in particular put me to the challenge of catching her posed. She constantly managed to outwit me and what pictures I did get were often out of focus. Nevertheless, the children are all delightful and now the older ones are pretty much going around as they please. Exams of one kind or another were being given so the older girls didn’t accompany us to Sistri Levante.

…More from Trento in the north

Regrettably, I only had one full day in Trento before going on to Parma. I hadn’t been invited for more than Sunday so on my first trip I preferred not to over-stay my welcome. This is especially true when one has likely kicked someone out of their bed.

On Sunday morning we gathered ourselves up and loaded ourselves into the car for the ride down the mountain to the city and the church. Arriving early and in vacation season the church seemed sparsely attended but by the time we moved from worship to preaching there was a respectable crowd of about seventy or so people of all ages and a number of nationalities represented.

Pastor Pippo (Giuseppe Rizza) welcomed me to the pulpit where I preached on the mark Rutland theme of doing ministry in the spirit (style) of Jesus. This is a great “body-life” message that takes us behind the Book of Acts asking two important questions. I will put both questions into one statement because they are similar in content. When and where did Jesus think he was engaged in ministry? In my view, the early church was (more) effective than we are because they did not have the New Testament and only the living model of Jesus Himself. We are hearing a great deal about missional rather than attractional  church and frankly, it is not all so complicated. The “missional” church is no contradcition.  It is just doing what Jesus did. The first believers simply did what he did. He did almost nothing inside of a building and when he did, he was invariably kicked out. The early church did not rely on what they did not have, seminaries, power point or special lighting. Of course, I want us to use whatever we have available and do not advocate giving up technology. No one wants to give up electricity or resort to travel by mule. I just believe we need to reassess what constitutes ministry. Look at the Gospels to see what Jesus thought ministry was. He was always in the divine moment. He was sensitive to every divine appointment. The raising of Lazarus story makes no sense without this fact. Well, this is what I talked about to what I think was a good reception.

My room at “The Ducale”

Later, we went over to Pippo’s  and for lunch where we did the entire “nine yards” Enrica’s. From there to the train and after what should have been a three-hour journey that turned into six, I arrived at the door of my B and B in Parma, The Ducale.

North to Murska Subota

Regrettably, I decided on a diet the very year Pastor Chris Scobie wants me to end my complaint that he doesn’t know about or care for food. Honestly, his God is not his stomach and I am trying to repent of this sin myself. On this visit he hasn’t helped a bit, as he intentionally tries to set before me luscious treats like the baked goods and other delicacies we found in the store along the highway to Murska Subota. I’ll share a few photos of what I mean.

There were several things we set out to accomplish. First, Sergeja and Sabina had preparatory meetings for the children’s camp being held in that region during the coming week.

While they were busy doing that, we went over to the coffee shop where we were later met by Borut B. Borut is well-read and a bit of a philosopher as well as an artist. There is no question, this man is a character! I enjoyed his inquiring mind. So many who consider themselves thinkers here in this part of the world are smug, annoying, cynical and filled with buffoonery (not much substance). Borut is cheery by Slovenian standards. I liked his company and we had a lot to talk about.

Later we picked up Jernej  K., a lawyer and young leader of the church in Murska Subota. This is one of the largest congregations in Slovenia, with about one hundred-fifty attendees. All of Slovenia has only about a thousand Christians in this country of two million. It takes a lot of courage to go counter culturally.

After we dropped Sergeja and Sabina at Sabina’s mother’s place in the country we went on to another of Chris’ culinary surprises, a dish called Bograč – made like a stew but with wild game. It was delicious!

Tired, I asked to be taken back to Sabina’s mom’s place for a brief nap before preaching. After a sleep I took a walk down over the hill where I took some images for potential watercolors (feature photo above).

Evangelical Church, Murska Subota

Later, we met with a congregation of some sixty people who came out for the Wednesday evening meeting. I had spoken to this group before so they seemed to anticipate my visit and I experienced good receptivity. After the two-hour drive back to Lubljana, I crashed.

I do NOT always holiday in the mountains…

 

On Saturday morning I was featured to speak to about ten or more men on the subject of what else(?) “Being Men of God.” We had a good time of breakfast and then I spoke for about forty minutes with translation. I started by talking about my father who suffered from the loss of an arm and yet, while working at a job and preaching part-time, planted or restored about ten churches along with my mother’s help. They were both inspiring to me to demonstrate what can be done even when one has few advantages. No one really has any excuse. We are all in ministry – we just have to figure what it is then go about doing it. Most people choose to drive with the clutch half depressed. Those of you grew up in the age of automatic everything may not understand this illustration. Ask someone over fifty years of age to explain it.

LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA… Hitting the ground running

Chris Scobie, Pastor of Binkostna Centre (Church), in the capital city of Ljubljana didn’t wait long to break the news. Chris is not known for letting moss

Pastor and missionary Chris Scobie

grow under his feet, so on the way by car from Venice he filled me in on how things would look between now and Monday morning, when I leave for Trieste and Italy. This agenda sounds better (even exciting) than it did when I had been twenty-seven hours without sleep. Having caught up on the missing day of sleep and the six hour time change, I am now feeling refreshed and rested.

I will be speaking a number of times over the next few days and doing two nights out with the young people in evangelism. One of the meetings will be tomorrow night up on the Hungarian border in a city called Murska Subota. I have preached there once before about four years ago.

This morning I parked myself across the street and reviewed a number of talks that I think are important for this part of the world.

By the way, Italy is as dry as mid-America and the fields of maise (corn) lost. Many of the trees have already gone brown from drought. Here in the mountains of Slovenia I am enjoying a pleasant warm and sunny day with little humidity.