Looking Ahead

This is probably a bad day for me to be writing a blog post, given that it is very grey outside and has taken my mood with it. I’m afraid that I will unintentionally leave the impression that things are dismal, when really only the weather is. Please consider this to be a disclaimer, and read bright sunshine into everything below.

*Editors Note: The sun has shown up and rendered all of the above obsolete. Please disregard the previous comments.

Coming to the end of summer means that we are getting ready to get into a whole different gear. The kids will be out of the house. Julia may be back in it, depending on whether or not work is available after the summer. Youth work in the church in London begins again in earnest. At least two trips to Italy early in autumn. And who knows what else.

But that can wait, because we have a bit of a shift in our plans to let you in on. Originally in coming over here we were expecting that Trieste, in Italy, was going to be the next step. Nothing has changed in regards to Italy in general, but for a variety of reasons we are now looking at other opportunities, or needs, or challenges, or whatever, in Northern Italy.

It is, of course, a bit of a shift for us to have to begin re-imagining our future life in Italy all over again, but more than anything it is exciting.

Another part of the change is switching our idea of what we will be doing from working within an existing church to planting new churches (written with churches in plural, in faith).

And then, as we consider how we will become part of whatever community we end up in, exploring the possibility of establishing an English language school, both as a way to get to know some people in the city and earn a little income as well.

I had every intention as I began this post to expand on all of those different things-the cities that we may move to, our ideas around church planting, the language school, working with a team when we get there-but it would all be a bit much for one blog post. In any case, nothing is certain yet anyway. As we spend some time with the possibilities and get input from people who know more than we do it all evolves pretty quickly.

Instead I’ll flesh all of those out a bit more in the near future. Something else to be looking forward to is Julia (and Angela, a great friend of ours here in London) taking a trip to Italy in less than three weeks time.

In the meantime, please keep us in prayer, and thanks for staying with us on the journey!

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Sorting Through the Chaos

You may have heard, but it has been an eventful week over here in London. We were looking forward to living in a city with a lot of buzz when we moved, but this is not exactly what we had in mind.

Eltham, our little corner of London, was not at the epicenter of the rioting, but managed to make a few headlines nonetheless. Groups gathered on High Street intent of defending the shops from looting, organized by either Milwall supporters, a local football/soccer club, racist political organizations, or both. Last night there was a bit of a scuffle with police, but evidently it was dispersed somewhat quickly. On Tuesday, and in front of our flat we witnessed police chase a medium size crowd evidently trying to break into some shops next door. Add onto that constant police activity-sirens, lights, patrols and choppers-and it seemed like a very active few days.

A crowd in Eltham gathering to protect the local shops

Everyone I talk to, plus everyone with an opinion and access to the internet, have a different theory on why it has happened, and what to do about it. Inevitably it is some combination of genuine frustration bubbling to the surface and criminal opportunism, with only the proportions varying. I am no great authority, and the problems felt in areas, say, in north London, seem so far away from my world that it is unlikely that I will have anything to contribute on why this has happened.

What is so clear in all of this is that something is fundamentally broken over here, although I don’t believe for a second that the UK is unique. There is something in the way that culture is progressing that has been revealed in all of this. On one hand there is a sense of entitlement among many, frustration perhaps, contempt for authority and the agreed upon rules of society, and, I suspect, boredom.

One the other hand, there is an equally strong sense of helplessness in the face of a changing world-which I saw strongly in the groups gathered to defend various parts of the city, a reaction, I think, to helplessness and a need to make any kind of stand. As well, there seems to be an awareness that different parts of society are deeply disconnected. We live in the same city but exist with moral codes that are irreconcilable. I’m not sure that this can work. I don’t think that many people do.

It is unbelievably challenging to think about how the wounds from all of this should be patched up, or what to do about the disease at the center of it all. Hopefully the church is up to the challenge. We claim to have something essential to contribute. I guess it is times like these when it counts.

As a small aside, I remember when I lived in Nepal, where riots erupted when a Bollywood superstar mentioned in an interview that he hated Nepal (or something to that effect). Indian business were smashed and, generally, people became very excited and looked for someone from south of the border to take it out on. The area where my friend Curtis and I lived had a decent amount of damage done. Except that I was in the Philippines watching it all on the news. My 21 year old self desperately wanted to be there where all the action was. It looked like great fun on CNN!

My 31 year old self has discovered that it isn’t fun. At all. Exciting perhaps. But when I looked out the window to see twenty or thirty guys looking for something to loot, burn, or both, I was not enjoying myself. I find myself thinking about people in places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Mexico. The fact that they live not through only this, but something far worse and for far longer boggles my mind.

Surviving the English Summer

I’ve been observing an odd meteorological phenomenon over the last couple of weeks. That is, the next sunny day as called for by the weather report is always two days away. And so we wait the required amount of time, only to find that the predicted weather has shifted, leaving the next sunny day once again two days away. I spent no less than ten days under the illusion that if I just held it together for two more days of summer rain, proper sun was in store.

And that is the story of our London summer.

Or at least it was.

I’m happy to say that the sun has pulled through and decided to make an appearance. Oddly, the reverse to the above is now true. The next rainy day has remained firmly two days away (hopefully remaining that way).

I’m not sure what all this means, or why it is important. I guess it is simply a description of the dysfunctional weather in England, or equally dysfunctional weather service. Or both.

Moving on, the good news of the week is that our kids were offered entry into the best school in the area, and a big step up from the one they were at. In fact, a reputable website called it one of the top 1% of schools in the country for the level of education at the primary level. This may seem like a pretty minor thing, except that, for us, it isn’t.

One of the hardest things with choosing to be missionaries-and perhaps a reason why we delayed it longer than we expected-is the fear that the kids will be the ones to pay a price for it all. Julia and I chose to do what we do. The kids had it imposed upon them. They are left to deal with new schools, friends, and culture, and soon we will be doing it all again, only adding the complication of learning a new language. It could be great, but it could not. We are not unaware that there is a lot being asked of them.

But this somewhat little answer to prayer feels huge because it is a reminder that while we seek to be obedient as best we can, our Father can be trusted to take care of us all, kids not excluded. We are both left with the sense that he understood how important this is to us, and how much we are looking to him to take care of our kids. It’s great to be reminded that he cares too!