Our family trip to The Dome.
I can't summarise the last few weeks here, but you can read about this time in the trip report instead.
We take Joan to Highgrove with us. I ask Nigel if I can have a couple of minutes to ask people in the church to get people praying for the students, and he says I can lead a prayer time and then lead communion. The trouble was, the worship leader handed over to me late, and I needed to do a bridge from the worship to the prayer, and the whole thing took longer than I wanted... and the preacher was Rob Scott-Cook. I apologised to him afterwards.
In the afternoon, I took Joan and Ian to Bristol Zoo - my first visit. Parts were quite impressive. We could have watched the underwater views of the seals and penguins for a long time. Sue made good use of the weather to continue weeding the garden
Nine o'clock in the morning was the departure time for the Howes and all four students, according to Mark's plan. And, loa dn behold, at five past nine they were on the road and heading for the ferry. There was quite a crowd to wave them off: Korky and Anni, Jennifer from America, a few more OAC chaps, Angela, Joan and myself. Even Alan made a brief appearance.
In the evening, Sue and I went to Cardiff for a meal with Kevin and Nicky Savory. I had hoped to stay with them while in Cardiff a few weeks ago, but it didn't work. Anyway, we had a lovely evening, and it was great to re-establish contact with an old friend, both from the university and Nightingale Road.
Joan Knevett comes to stay for a week. It's great to see her again, and she gets to meet Mark and the students before they head off on Saturday morning.
Joan comes to Team Supper, which is the 'goodbye' to the students and lots of people come, so gets to meet and pray with a good variety of people. She really appreciates the opportunity to pray with people for effective evangelism - it doesn't happen very much in the ordinary church context.
As I take Ian and Philip to school this morning, we notice that the VW has been broken into. One of the rear windows has been smashed and all the doors are unlocked. On the plus side, it seems that nothing has been stolen. It can't be secured, so I take everything out of the car. The lock on the driver's door has been attacked as well - looks like they used a screwdriver - but it seems to be working okay.
After the teaching sessions in the morning, I ring the police then the insurance company, and then the windscreen people. They can't send anyone out this afternoon, so I have to miss the prayer meeting at Pip'n'Jay and drive over to Bradley Stoke. Get back just in time to pick the boys up from school - they had problems with the wind-down window in the door, which delayed things somewhat. £50 to cover the insurance excess, but fortunately we don't lose our NCD for windscreens.
Sue's birthday. To celebrate, I go out with the open air as usual. Elena preaches her first open air message, and I start to talk to the man standing by my side. He is Faris, a Moslem training to be a doctor, and we talk for an hour or so about the gospel message and what he believes. It is a fascinating time, as he is not a traditional Moslem, and he is very interested in the message of grace. The other do some more messages and get good crowds, but I miss all that.
A full cooked English breakfast by Terry - wonderful! We lay out the tents and other damp stuff in the church hall, and Pam Cribbin takes the boys off while Sue and I visit Ted and Audrey Kingham, then David Race. We much appreciated these times, which would not have happened without the camp being rained off.
Then it is off to pack the cars and collect the boys. I take Alan back to Bristol, while Sue, Philip and Ian stay for the banquet. Back in Bristol, Mark, Sue and family have arrived, so I sort out their room. Later, Mark, Steve and I finally have our planned meeting to prepare for the European gathering the next day. Sue turns up - the banquet was great fun. Ah well, can't do everything.
It rains solidly through the night. Sue and I are woken at 0630 to be told that the site is flooding. The tent we are in (near the top of the field) is safe, but Philip and Ian were with Ben in a tent near the stream, and they had already been evacuated. The cars needed to be moved before they were under water.
The bridge is something like 18 inches below the water now, so getting to the cars involves a long, roundabout journey as we start to evacuate people. Fortunately, a local man takes pity on us and offers us passage through his garden, which makes the journey much shorter and easier. In his garden, the water is 5 feet above its normal level. The waterfall on the other side of the main road is really quite impressive.
We eventually get all the families away. Phil stays to help Simon, and we take Sam back to Guildford. We stop at the services and meet up with Mark & Sue Howe, who have just come off the ferry. On to Guildford, where Sue drops Sam off and I get rid of the cushions we rescued.
The plan was to have the 'banquet' in the church on Monday evening, and we were offered the church building to sleep in overnight. However, Sally Pryde offered to let the boys sleep at their house, and Terry Butler offered Sue and me a bed, and breakfast for us all, so that is what we ended up doing. After sorting it all out, I went for a sauna at Bracknell - the closest thing to Heaven I could imagine, under the circumstances!
Today is much dryer. We have the traditional egg race, this time down the stream in boats made entirely of natural materials. A short walk round the area, a few sessions in the barn, and a very muddy game of hand ball. All great fun. Rounded off round a fire in the barn, with a sort of epilogue by Simon based on the pilgrim's staff. As we go to bed, the rain starts to come down more heavily again.
Off to Longbarn, the annual Westborough family camp. The journey down is dreadful, with the weather, the traffic, and hold ups at the services. When we arrive, Simon directs us where to drive onto the field so we don't get bogged down. The stream is up to the level of the bridge. Fortunately, some people have not turned up, so we do not have to put up our tent, and so we sleep in one of the bell tents already pitched for us.
Into the centre of Cardiff for an open air meeting this afternoon. It rained solidly all yesterday, and threatened to rain all day, but the rain held off until the last sketchboard message was complete - then it poured down.
We had a number of really good conversations. A couple of girls who stopped had just become Christians, and did not have a church to attend, so we put them in contact with a good one. There was a lengthy conversation with one couple. I had a tremendous time with a Moslem chap who was really hungry to know more of the gospel message, but struggled with the language as he had only been in the country a short while. Please pray for Kusay - God is clearly touching his life.
And then, after the last message, we found we had a Moslem evangelist in the crowd. Judith was preaching, and he started to ask her questions. At the second, I took over, and for the next 30 or 40 minutes we had a public debate in the pouring rain. It was fantastic. He was very well prepared, and so as soon as I answered one question there was another ready to be fired off. I have not enjoyed myself so much in ages, and in answering his questions I could bring him back to the basic gospel truths over and over again. It was both a great opportunity to commuunicate God's love to someone who needs to know it so much, and also a wonderful teaching exercise for the students - showing them in practice so much of what we have been talking about as principles over the past week or so. Thank you Lord!
Off to Cardiff first thing, to spend time with Pete Hodge and his church. It is very impressive - he is clearly in a tremendous church.
In the evening, I drive Rob back to Bristol and go to the Woodlands Missionary Prayer meeting - having missed the last few, I didn't want to miss this as well.
Alan departs for Guildford today. He has been invited to Edward's party, which is a trip to the Dome tomorrow. Sue drops him off at Membury services and then returns to collect Philip and Ian who have been out on some wide game with the cubs.
I am back in Bristol in the evening, with the open air outside the Hippodrome. For various reasons, the numbers are down, and it is very hard work. However, Rob paints up a children's club picture, and while he does this, we are surrounded by people wanting to know what is going on. It is the first time I have ever heard an open air preacher asking people to move further away, to give him room to get to the sketchboard - usually the request is to "Please come closer!"
The local Community Project meeting in Sea Mills school. I rashly offer to put their Community Directory on the Internet if they can provide it in electronic format. Looks like I escaped this time...
RT Kendall came to Bristol today. An open meeting at Woodlands in the evening, and an invitation-only meeting for church leaders lunchtime and early afternoon. I was really impressed, both by the Biblical content of the message, and also the incredible honesty with with he addressed issues. It was a real privilege to be there, and good to be able to chat briefly afterwards.
Ian dancing with his school at Blaise Castle today. Sue went with him and said they did very well.
A large envelope arrived in the post, with photocopies of documents about the Chapman family in Essex in the 19th century. In the evening, I updated the web page to include most of the new information, and started to structure it a bit more logically. This is fascinating stuff - I could really get into it if there was enough time.
Went off with Rob and had lunch with a couple of chaps from OM. Talking about the possibility of joint activities, and of them placing people with us for a year to do Snowball as a part of their training programme.
Ian is trying to persuade me to allow him to spend £5 on two 'really good' Pokémon cards that someone in Alan's school is prepared to sell. Strangely enough, I am not keen on this.
I have had one success, though. Philip and Ian want the cards to play 'battles' with them, so they have written out a whole load of new 'cards' on bits of paper, and are having battles with these new cards quite happily.
A few weeks ago, there was a request in the British Go Association email list for someone to review a copy of an updated Go programme. Sue and I talked about it briefly, and I offered to do this. Much to my surprise, the offer was accepted. Last week the programme turned up, and tonight I wrote the review. It should appear in the next edition of the BGA Journal.
Paul's parents and brother came down for the weekend. On Saturday, we went to Cheddar Gorge - all eight of us. We had lunch at the fish and chip restaurant - good, healthy helpings. Not even Alan managed to finish everything.
We then took the coach tour up the gorge. This was well worth it, with a guide pointing out what to see. Then through two lots of caves, a shop and small exhibition. It was a bit confusing - I was sure that last time we went there was a holographic exhibition in a long cave, but we didn't seem to go through such a cave this time.
Then up Jacob's Ladder. Even Father made it, which was by no means certain. And at the top, the lookout tower was open, which had been closed last time. The weather was beautiful, and the view from the top was almost perfect. The boys took Roger exploring, while the other adults sat and had a coffee and biscuit. It was really delightful, and Father was so pleased to have made it to the top.
In the evening, we started to talk again about the family history, and Mother and I went upstairs and she dictated what she could remember of our relatives. I converted it into a web page, and uploaded it onto our site - my parents' first introduction to the Internet.
Sunday morning, I went with Stefan and Judith to Thornbury Baptist. We had been asked to look after the children while the usual helpers stayed for a special service, and then do it again during the second service. I counted 29 children in the first session and 32 in the second, plus a few parents each time. Stefan and Judith did well, and the parts that did not work so well first time were changed for the second session.
I did a brief two-minute introduction to us at each service, and we put out some leaflets. Not many went, but I did get to chat briefly to Liz Cooke and invite her and the family down to see us on 13 May.
Sue wanted to 'do' something, and the weather was not great, so we went to Wookey Hole. Minus Alan - he is big enough to stay home if he prefers, and he has already been once, when he was maybe six weeks old. The caves are much as last time, thank goodness. But a number of other parts of the 'experience' have changed. Some of the paths outside have been improved, there is a new exhibition about the caves, you can make some paper yourself in the paper mill, and there is a new 'Penny Arcade' since we were there last. The arcade includes an incredible hexagonal mirror maze - it can't be very large, but it is very easy to lose people inside, and even when you can see them, trying to work out how to reach them is decidedly non-trivial. We were impressed.
In the evening, Dr Bahat was speaking at Christchurch, Clifton. He has been an important archaeologist in Jerusalem for the past 30 years. Absolutely fascinating. Among the snippets was that the traditional site of the crucifixion is correct, and Gordon's Carvary could not be the site: General Gordon did not know that the walls of Jerusalem had moved, and the site he chose only took on its current appearance some time after Jesus' death.
Busy day today. The Adlem family (minus Nick, but plus two friends) came for lunch on their way to Minehead for Spring Harvest. It was good to see them again, and hear a bit more about how things are going for them and the other folk in Guildford.
Sue took the afternoon off, and we took Philip, Ian and five school friends off to the cinema for Ian's birthday treat - yes, it is the best part of a month since his birthday, but he wanted to go and see Pokémon, the First Movie, for his birthday treat, so we went on the first day. What an experience! I slept through most of the first film and bits of the second. The parts I saw gave the impression of trying to be deeply meaningful. There seemed to be some sort of anti-violence message, which I fully approve of, but it seems very odd in a work of fiction mainly devoted to acts of violence between animals.
The open air tonight was different again. We did one message outside the Hippodrome as usual, with a conversation or two afterwards. Then we moved across the road and set up in a pedestianised street, where Judith preached in German and Stefan translated. The point was to spare Judith's voice, which is still not strong. She had some difficulty with the German (!) but otherwise did a very professional talk.
The site was a lot quieter - less noise from the traffic, and fewer people stopping. The one person who did stop for more than a minute was Adrian. He heard most of the message, and several of us had a chat with him afterwards. He then stayed through the next message and talked some more. I have his address, and promised to take a Bible round to him.
After the third message was finished, and we had just started to pack away, another chap came up and asked what we were doing. Unfortunately, I did not catch his name, but Rob went though the sketchboard message again, then the EE gospel presentation - it really works well on the street. The plan, as I understand it, is for Rob to take him to church on Sunday morning. Please pray for both these contacts.
Off to find Dave again this morning. This time I locate his front door, but no response. After church, Paul Price and I shift some furniture around for Esme in her new flat.
I take Philip and Ian swimming after lunch. Ian manages to swim a length for the first time, then does it again, and then swims two lengths almost without stopping. His style is not much to look at, but who cares? And Philip manages four lengths with a combination af crawl and backstroke. Most of the time they are fighting in the water, of course, but not getting on other peoples' way too much.
Back from swimming, and off to Whiteshill Evangelical church again for the evening service, the final part of the mission weekend. Stefan preaches - very well - and the others all do a piece. Everyone is very impressed again, and we have a number of really good conversations with people who are interested in various aspects of our work. The students are thrilled by how well it all went, so a very productive time all round.
Our 'Open House' today. It went really well. The Cribbins arrived in time for a late lunch - roadworks on the motorway - and after that, we had a fairly constant stream of people: three sets of neighbours, people from Sue's work and the church. Not too busy, but a good number, and various conversations started up between people who had never met, with astonishing coincidences, and shared interests and friends.
However, the day started at 2:30 am when the alarm on the site over the road started to go off. I got up and went over there, but nothing could be seen. Took the number of the security guards and rang them, but they suggested I contact the police. The police did not think they attended 'audible alarms'...
The morning continued with Philip calling out to us from the bathroom at around 6:00 am, concerned he was about to be sick. So neither Philip nor Ian went to their normal Saturday morning club. And then Rob Davis rang to say we were booked to do a session at a Mission Weekend for Whiteshill Evangelical Church - at the other side of Bristol - tonight.
So while we were entertaining our guests, I was also putting together a two and a half hour programme for this church. The short notice was a monumental breakdown in communication, but we could not penalise the church just because of that. As it turned out, we had more than enough material, of course.
A different experence with the open air tonight. The team was smaller for a number of reasons, so we only had a few people while the sketchboard was being painted. But one stopped to talk, and while that conversation was going on, other people stopped and asked about the painting, so we kept on talking with people as they stopped and asked what we were doing. One of these was Dave, so I confirmed his address and he said he would like to come to Highgrove this week. He has lost the job he was about to start last week, so Judith and I prayed for him on the street.
We even had a totally novel experience. While looking round another area we might try out next week, a few girls stopped us and asked if we were going fishing. It is one of those situations where you really wish you could go back in time and use one of those smart replies you think up ten seconds too late... But I still had the picture, so unfolded it and we described the message again. It turned out the paint sets looked like fishing boxes.
At the 'Missing Peace' coffee shop today, Dave comes in for a quick bite. He confirms he had not been home on Sunday morning. Just as well I had not kept waiting.
I drove out to pick up Dave and bring him to the morning service, but could not find him. Perhaps the clocks changing last night caused a problem?
Doing the open air in Bristol tonight, we met Dave again - one of the people from last week - and after a conversation he expressed interest in going to church with me on Sunday. I have his address and plan to pick him up in the car.
Rob had one lengthy conversation with a lad who was very interested. They went through the whole gospel message in true EE style. However, he will be flying back to South America in a few days time, and was understandably reluctant to make any life-changing decisions just before heading home.
Apart from these, there were a few other conversations that didn't go very far. Not as exciting as last week, but it was quite a bit colder, so this is to be expected.
We did our second open air tonight, and it went much better than last week. Several times we had up to twenty people listening to the message, and it was often more than fifteen. Two people came up at the end of a message to take a tract as a public statement that they wanted to go God's way.
Apart from those responses, we had very good conversations with at least six people. Several of these were asking very probing, genuine questions about how you can be sure this message is true. It was really good to be able to use some of the theory I have been teaching the students - to use it 'for real' again, and see God touching these people's lives.
Please pray for the people I talked with tonight - Paul, David, Ding(!), James and Steve - and also for the folk the other team members talked with.
Our first open air in Bristol as part of Europe Now or Snowball. Various people tell us that Saturday afternoons in Broadmead don't work very well any more, so we have decided to try the town centre, near the new fountains, in the evening.
We tried three messages in several different locations. For the first two, a few people stopped for bits of the messages, but it was not very encouraging. The third message, we went back to the site of the first and got a better response, so the main problem seems to be that we went out too early.
The Housegroup had aranged a social today after church in the morning - a brisk walk on Brean Down, just the other side of Weston (nobody bothers to say 'super-Mare' down here). The walk was very pleasant, but the drive to reach the car park was a lot longer than anticipated. Interesting fortifications at the end of the peninsular, and some rocks to scramble about on which Philip and Ian enjoyed.
Afterwards, we drove into Weston to get something warm to eat, which we were very ready for. As it happened, the other members of the Housegroup either got lost or had to dash off, so we were left alone in Weston to have a short wander round parts of the town we had not reached when we stayed at the Methodist Hotel a few years ago.
Paul is back from the EE training course in Parr, St Helens - between Liverpool and Manchester. A wonderful time. The teams went out visting on three evenings, and saw two people become Christians, with another person wanting to and looking forward to their next visit! Also, several others took major steps in their spiritual life, and the remaining visits were of great benefit pastorally.
It is not appropriate to talk in too much detail about the visits, but Paul went on the first evening to a man who believed but had no assurance of his salvation - he had a wonderful story to tell of how God had brought him out of his alcoholism a few years ago, and he was tremendously mature in accepting the responsibility for the things he had done in the past.
The second evening, a lady seriously told us she believed she was destined for Hell. "It's the flames for me," she said. It was an amazing evening, talking with her. By the end of the evening, we were all sure that if we had asked her to pray, she would have done so, but it would be a little premature for her.
The third evening, we presented the gospel to three people - a Christian man, his wife, and 14 year old son. Neither the wife nor the son had heard anything like it before - she was from a traditional Catholic background, and was amazed at what she was discovering. It was all very new, and they were all very keen for a return visit to hear more - the local Church is arranging it.
Paul went with Rob, and they are both now accredited EE Teacher/Trainers, authorised to establish an EE programme in a church, or some other appropriate context. If anybody in or near Bristol is interested in exploring this, do let us know!
Our first deputation trip is now complete. Difficult to say how it went, really. Four days in and around Guildford - it was going to be 8 days, but then we discovered the EE training had to be fitted in at this point as well.
The whole trip fitted into place at the last minute. We thought Paul would have to go alone, but then received two offers of accommodation - one from a couple we had never met! In the end, we took up both offers, on different nights.
The trip was very full, with constant visits through the days and into the evenings. We were very well looked after, and given a really warm welcome everywhere we went. It was very touching. We could not get to see everyone, of course, but managed to squeeze a lot into those few days. It was helped by having two cars (almost certainly our last trip in a long time when we will - the eXchange car is being returned in March!) so the boys could be taken to see their friends without this getting in the way of visits to church friends.
Mark came in today while we were eating lunch, holding a bit of the car window. He had borrowed it - the car, that is - earlier in the week, and then parked it against the wall opposite the house. We had not moved it for a couple of days, and he had just noticed that the near side rear passenger door window had been broken. Presumably whoever did it then discovered the car was double-locked, and decided that getting in was going to be too much work. It seems nothing was stolen.
So we have had the windscreen people out to replace the window - our second insurance claim on the car since we moved here.
Ian's posters now all have 'Out of Buisness' written across them. He wasn't making enough profit. We tried to employ him to tidy his room. but for some reason that was not the kind of thing he had in mind - he wanted to be paid to make people cups of tea and that kind of thing. Another small business (or 'buisness'?) goes to the wall.
Ian has put up posters around the house, advertising 'Servant Services'. It seems that for the sum of 15p he will act as your personal servant for the day. Maybe we ought to increase his pocket money...
Mind you, he is not desperate enough for money to do anything - 'I will not kill anybody or myself,' he warns. Very reassuring, really.
Mark & Sue have a baby boy - Joseph, 9 lb 5 oz, born around 5:30 this morning. Mother and baby doing well, as they say.
We got the phone call from Mark around 4:20 this morning. He had left Susan at the hospital, and was bringing Nathalie round to us. After he left, Sue tried putting Nathalie to bed in our spare room, but she was having none of it, so Sue took some blankets down to the lounge and Nathalie watched a Pingu video while her brother was being born.
Mark came back, told us the good news and took Nathalie away about 10:00 to visit her new brother. They hope Susan will be coming out of hospital Sunday afternoon.
According to the Bristol Observer, Bristol City Council has just obtained its first antisocial behaviour order. I was just going to comment on this when Sue told me about the killing of the six-month old baby by his twelve year-old brother. The family live in one of Knightstone's properties, and people in her office knew them. Please pray for the family, and all those who are and will be involved in handling the repurcussions.
Paul has a slot booked at Westborough and Normandy on the two Sundays.
We have agreed that Paul will do one day a week (on average) for the eXchange over the next eight weeks.
Our current plan is to spend half term week in Guildford, hopefully speaking at a couple of services there and meeting people during the week to bring them up to date with our news and progress with Snowball.
Paul's boss asked yesterday of he can continue working for the eXchange part time for another two months. They have not managed to recruit anyone to replace him yet. But there is far too much work to do on Snowball, and two days a week is now out of the question.
On the other hand, we really do need to raise some more support before Paul gives up work completely, so it looks like we shall try to go for one day a week at the eXchange, and squeeze the Snowball work in somehow.