The Hazelden Family,
Avon Way,
Stoke Bishop,
Tel: (0117) 377 0476

Christmas 1999

Dear friends,

It's been quite a year.   We anticipated that 1999 would be quite exciting, but didn't anticipate just how exciting it would turn out to be.

You know we were planning to move to Bristol for Snowball, the training programme we were setting up there.   The initial question was exactly how to move to Bristol how to arrange the details so we would have somewhere to live.

Having explored various possibilities, the only one that seemed feasible was for Paul to get a transfer to the eXchange office in Gloucester, then re-locate the family to Bristol.   That way, we could get a mortgage while Paul had a job (at least, a job that paid real money!), and Paul could move to Bristol without needing to commute from there to Woking.

Accordingly, Paul applied for a job in the Gloucester office. There qas quite a lot of internal office negotiations going on, and the job being applied for changed twice, but in the end he was interviewed for one of the vacant posts there, and offered the position of Configuration Management Analyst.

So, in April Paul started working at the Gloucester office, driving up on Monday morning, back to Guildford on Friday night, and staying with Steve in Bristol during the week. The travelling was difficult - Paul was doing about 600 miles a week, minimum, when his previous total had been around 60.

It was also a very disorienting lifestyle, where everything you might need in three places had to be carried around. If anything was needed for a meeting in Bristol after work on a Monday evening, it has to be packed on the previous Thursday evening so it could be taken to Glouster Friday morning, Guildford Friday evening, Gloucester Monday morning, and then to the meeting Monday evening before arriving back 'home' to Steve's place later that night.

This arrangement left Sue with most of the work of sorting out our house in Guildford while Paul was getting on with preparations for Snowball in Bristol However, one of the schools which had been hightly recommended to us turned out to have a policy of accepting people from Christian homes wherever they lived - we did not need to give them an address so they could work out if we were in the catchment area - and it was located in central Bristol, so anywhere with reasonable transport would give Alan a sensible journey each day.

We therefore applied to St. Mary Redcliffe and Temple.   They turned us down, but after praying it still seemed like the right school for Alan, so we appealed against the decision.

In February, we had looked at a lovely house in Bristol, but decided we couldn't afford it.   Once Paul started living in Bristol during the week, he started house-hunting in earnest.   People kept saying to us that prices in Bristol must be much lower than those in Guildford.   This may be so in general terms, but both places have very nice areas and the not-so-nice ones.   While the area of Bristol we were looking at is far from being the most expensive, it is certainly not the cheapest, and our house in Guildford was in one of the cheapest areas.   So, for us, Bristol was not full of cheap housing.   Anyway, at the start of June, we made an offer on a house in the Sea Mills area, which was accepted.  

In August, our appeal for Alan's place at St MR was held.   Very intimidating.

Then we went on holiday with Paul's brother Roger to a gite in France.   The location was perfect, as far as it could be planned.   We were about as close to the centre line of the eclipse as you can get without a satelite tracking device.   Unfortunately, on the day, solid cloud at the wrong time covered over the totality.   Even so, it still went quite cold and dark, and you could see the sun hitting the clouds a long way off all round.

Just to show God has a sense of humour - Mark & Sue Howe had booked a holiday at the same time, and were on the path of the eclipse quite by accident, a bit to the East of us.   They had brilliant sunshine and a perfect view of the whole event.

While in France, we learned that the vendors of the house we thought we were buying had withdrawn from the sale.   We had been gazumped!   We could hardly believe it.   We thought maybe the new sale would fall through.

We came back early from France, and started house-hunting again.   It was a dismal experience

The boys and Sue joined Paul on an almost full-time basis early in September, just in time for them to start school. We continued house-hunting.

We sold our house in Guildford mid-September, but had still not been able to buy anywhere here

We concluded that we should try to buy a house with Steve, but it was not a straightforward process I started job-hunting early in October

Paul asked if he could work part-time in order to both give him more time for Snowball and enable us to pay for the house we were still attempting to buy The MD said no, he didn't want part-timers Paul resigned His line manager negotiated for him to work two days pw until Christmas We completed on the purchase of a house called Abbeywood last Monday (8th)

On Wednesday 10th, Sue's sixth job interview was the most gruelling practical test and difficult interview I had yet experienced, but I was offered the job On Thursday I accepted the job On Friday (was it only yesterday?) the first half of our furniture was moved from the storage unit to Abbeywood

and I have been vacuuming ever since! The rest of the furniture is coming next Friday, as are the few items of Steve's furniture which went to his parents. We have far too many wardrobes and not enought armchairs and settees, so I think we will be haunting the second hand furniture shops for the next few months! After that we have just over a week in which to finish unpacking, vacuum everything in sight, and move in before I start work. Oh, and I also have to tie up a few loose ends as Europe Now Administrator and hand over to Paul, while he spends three days pw teaching in Bristol and two days pw computing in Gloucester. So I guess if the last two months have been slightly stressful, the next two probably will be too. But God is good, and we know we are in the right place, doing the right thing. So we just keep on doing it, drawing on His strength!

The job is with Knightstone Housing Association, Team Administrator, with a team of six secretaries to lead. Philip asked "How do you get to be so important so soon?" How indeed! I start on 29 November. If I had time, I would be reeling with shock still. It's a good job, shorter hours and better pay than any of the others I applied for, and flexitime! Which is worth a lot when there are Christmas assemblies and the like coming up. Also, it's accessible by the local train, so Paul can have the car once he's returned his company car. The job itself will be a real challenge, not one I can do standing on my head, which I think I had hoped for initially. But I guess God knows best: certainly job-hunting has been very time-consuming, and it's good to stop!!!

Steve will meet Philip and Ian from school when Paul can't: Alan of course is thoroughly grown up and travels to and fro by bus. The intention is to transfer most of the teaching from the room we have been renting at the local Anglican church to Abbeywood. School holidays will be interesting when they don't overlap precisely with breaks in the training course, but I think there are probably more playschemes near where I will be working than there are in this area - not that that is difficult!

It is an ideal house for our needs: there is a utility room and a kitchen, so we can give the students drink- and snack-making facilities without them intruding on the family kitchen. There is a breakfast room off the kitchen, large enough to be our dining room (especially as we have never had a dining room before!), a dining room which we will use for teaching and as a library, and a very large lounge which will be private to the family. We also have a downstairs toilet, huge entrance hall (our triple width wardrobe is currently standing along the shortest wall, and does not look out of place), and large enclosed porch. Upstairs is a family bathroom, and four large bedrooms, one en-suite. The landing is large enough to accomodate a desk and doubtless several bookcases, and is certainly where at least one computer will end up. Upstairs again is a loft conversion, which Steve has bagged, much to Alan's chagrin. There is also a garage/workshop, and a drive sufficiently large that we should be able to park the current Europe Now office there. The neighbours will think it is a bright pink caravan, which is probably not quaite the thing to park on one's drive in Stoke Bishop, but there we go. The garden is lovely: we are hoping one of the Austrian students will tell us how to look after the plants. And we have a view of the River Trym to the front (stream-sized to me, but we're not far from the Avon), with lots of horse chestnut trees, and, lest we lose touch with reality, the local waste disposal transport depot to the side!

After squeezing into the smallish 3-bed semi which Steve was renting, it will be bliss! The boys have all been in one room, with Ian on a mattress on the floor, and they have coped far better than any of us expected with this. Alan especially values his own space and privacy, and there has not been a lot of either! The staff and students from the course usually have lunch here during the week, which of course does not affect the boys, but their presence at other times can be quite intrusive for them.

The students are a good bunch: Stefan and Judith are Austrians, and knew each other before they arrived, so it has not been too surprising to see them becoming quite close. Stefan had also worked with Elena and Katka, sisters from Slovakia, very different to each other, but both charming. Stefan in particular is already quite an experienced evangelist, and the hope is that at the end of the year he will return to Austria far better equipped to train others, perhaps even to replicate Snowball for German-speakers, while Mark Howe returns to France to run Boule de Neige for Francophones. Maybe next year we'll have some Italians - do say if you want more details for anyone you know!

It is interesting to watch the interaction between Austrian efficiency and Slovakian 'improvisation', and I will not quickly forget the evening I was asked to drive them all home from a meeting in central Bristol, only to discover after dropping Katka off that Elena knew neither her own address nor Katka's phone number. (In her defence, it was only the day after she arrived, and she had been chauffered everywhere until that point, and if I could have found the Baptist church she could have directed me from there, and if I'd had the wit to ask before we left the meeting someone would have given me all the addresses. But Stefan was not impressed!)

Our church here has been hugely supportive: the last few months in Guildford were difficult, because we knew we were moving on, and we seemed to be out of step with the flow of things at Westborough. We had made contact with Woodlands Christian Fellowship before we arrived, and quickly settled at Highgrove, the original church which planted Woodlands. Woodlands is now the larger church and is very popular with students: it's near the centre of Bristol. Highgrove is small and within walking distance. We were very quickly offered the chance to join a housegroup, which is very important to us, and now we're on the coffee rota, so I guess we have 'arrived'! These people were praying for us even before we arrived, and several of them have told us that every time they walked past Abbeywood they prayed that it would become ours! And I am so conscious of their prayers for us as a family: initially I felt quite lonely, and felt in danger of slipping into depression, but having been able to share that with a couple of people the tearfulness quickly receded and has not returned.

Snowball, the training programme for evangelists, is up and running. We have four students this year: two Austrians and two Slovaks. They are very enthusiastic about the course so far, with only a few complaints about being worked too hard.

We are just starting the Evangelism Explosion part of the course - the launch 'banquet' was held at Highgrove church on Friday 12th November. Peter Crook, the EE National Director, joined us for the day, taught the training sessions and spoke at the meal. He is very impressed by the ability and enthusiasm of the students.

Back in September, when we decided to buy a house with Steve, Paul asked his employer if he could work part-time in order to both give him more time for Snowball and enable us to pay for the house. His Director said no, he didn't want to employ part-timers. After some discussions, Paul was told the companyy would not change its mind, so he resigned. But just before he left, his line manager negotiated for him to work two days a week until mid-January. The Snowball programme has been re-arranged to fit in with this work pattern for that period. There are a number of aspects of the course Paul cannot be involved with as a consequence, but it seems like a working compromise.

On Wednesday 12th, Sue was offered a job with Knightstone Housing Association. It looks like it will be quite pressurised, but the pay is reasonable, the hours are quite good, and it is accessible by train. She starts at the end of this month.

We completed on the purchase of a house called Abbeywood on Monday 8th. Many thanks to everyone who has been praying for this moment! On Friday 12th the first half of our furniture was moved from the storage unit to Abbeywood, and we have been moving boxes and furniture, sorting, cleaning and dusting in every 'spare' moment since.

The rest of the furniture is coming Friday 19th, as are the few items of Steve's furniture which went to his parents. We have far too many wardrobes and not enought armchairs and settees, so we will be haunting the second hand furniture shops for the next few months.

Paul's two days a week for two months will not make a vast difference to our finances long-term, but at the moment every little helps. We are seriously broke. We believe that Abbeywood is the place where God wants us, and the place He has provided for us, but in order to complete the purchase quickly we did not buy it in equal shares with Steve, and we borrowed the money for the legal fees from the bank. So we have to repay that loan, and also make repayments to Steve until we own equal shares of the house. Sue's new job is a good one, but even so she will be earning less than half Paul's previous salary, and we still need to spend a fair amount of time and money to make Abbeywood habitable even if we get everything (including a washing machine) second-hand.



Once we have moved and started to settle in, we will be inviting everyone to come and visit, so watch out for the invitation.

Much love,

Paul, Sue, Alan, Philip and Ian Hazelden