“He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.” Those of you who are familiar with the JR Tolkien trilogy ‘Lord of the Rings’ will recall these words uttered in the very last sentence by Frodo’s travelling companion, Sam Gamgee. He had just returned to his hobbit-hole of a home in the Shire following his epic adventures, having succeeded in helping to destroy the evil powers that had threatened to destroy Middle Earth. Well, I’ve just returned from the land of Tanzania with my faithful travelling companion following our 31-month adventure, and now that we’ve settled into our Wiltshire stable cottage, we’re able to sit back and draw a breath, ponder our adventures and take stock of what’s been happening, and finally say those words: “We’re back”!
“Count your blessings, see what God has done.” We arrived safely back in the UK on 8th March, together with our luggage, which is always a blessing! Whilst it might sound strange to most of you, we felt a tinge of excitement and relief as we landed in a snow-covered Zurich airport! The temperatures in Delightful Dar had been 35oC when we left. Before we took off from Zurich bound for London, the plane had to be de-iced! We then had fun hauling our five pieces of luggage across the London underground system before taking a train to Carlisle where a blustery Cumbrian platform was the scene for a much-anticipated reunion with Ma & Pa Lancs! The requested fry-up duly appeared, followed the next day by the desired pork pie and celery! It’s amazing what brings pleasure to a returning missionary! Mum & Dad have lent us their run-around car for the next five months so we haven’t had the added hassle of looking for some wheels to use – yet another blessing!
Having rummaged through our stored stuff we grabbed our winter gear and travelled down to Newark to spend some time with Ruth’s parents, and then headed to the Swiss Alps with Oak Hall to ski the pistes above Wengen, Grindlewald and Murren. After three years, it was great to be skiing again, especially in the place where it all began for us, in the shadow of the north face of the Eiger! We tried to make the most of being in such majestic surroundings – covering 130,000 ft of ascent and descent; using 140 ski lifts in the process, and enjoying six days of good snow and blue skies! Could it get any better!? Needless to say – we came away feeling extremely blessed and very refreshed, despite putting our legs through 160 miles of downhill distance!
We arrived back in Wiltshire last Thursday – and straight into another couple of blessings! Through a friend at church a cottage has been made available for us to use during our time here, on a farm about six miles from Corsham, near Yatton Keynell. Our nearest neighbours, who we’re getting to know quite well with the help of some carrots, are a couple of donkeys! Incidentally, to get to Corsham from Yatton Keynell, you drive through the delightfully-named village of ‘Tiddleywink’. Not sure how I’d explain that to a Tanzanian! And to think that we laughed at the meaning of the village name Sanga Sanga! Furthermore, to add blessing upon blessing, we arrived to find that someone from our church had been in and stocked the shelves with all sorts of edible goodies! Yet again, awesomely blessed!
Over the next few weeks and months, we’ll be spending time with our home church in Corsham, meeting up with family members we’ve never met before (and those we have!), and talking to folks about the work we’ve been involved in, and I’ll be back in the pulpit to do some preaching – although this time in English! Among the more routine matters that need attending to are visits to doctors, dentists and opticians, renewing passports, preparing presentations and sermons, sorting out tax and pension issues, and having debriefs at AIM’s HQ in Nottingham. We’ve listed below our current speaking appointments and diary dates to give you an idea of where we’ll be and when – and we look forward to seeing many of you along the way at some of these events!
April 4th Wimborne Africa Prayer Group (7.30pm)
10th: Corsham Baptist Church – reporting back to our church (6pm)
11th: Chippenham: Ladyfield Church ladies meeting
13th: Lincoln Evangelical Church – Ruth speaking at Ladies meeting (10.30am)
14th: Nottingham AIM offices for debrief
23rd: Wallington (Surrey) for AIM South Conference (1.30-6pm)
24th: Corsham Baptist Church – Steve preaching (6pm)
27th: Elgin – Steve to visit family until 6th May – Ruth to Elgin on 2nd May
May 8th: Chippenham Ladyfield Evangelical Church – Steve preaching (11am)
11th: Street Baptist Church missions meeting (7.30pm)
15th: Corsham Baptist Church – Steve preaching (6pm)
16th: London AIM prayer group (10.30am)
20-22: Otford, Kent – Oak Hall team weekend
23rd: Leamington Spa – Midlands AIM prayer group (7.30pm)
29th: Corsham Baptist Church – Steve preaching (11.15am)
June 5th: Corsham Baptist Church – Steve preaching (11.15am)
14-25: Israel Oak Hall trip – Steve leading
July 10th: Corsham Baptist Church – Steve preaching (11.15am & 6pm)
14-23: France family holiday
26th: Atworth Chapel Wiltshire – AIM presentation
Aug 14th: Street Baptist Church – Steve preaching (11am & 6.30pm)
20th: Nairn half-marathon & Ruth’s 50th birthday!
Sept 7th: Return to Tanzania!
Praise & Prayer Points:
- Please join us in thanking God for the completion of our first term, for safety and good health, and for the little accomplishments along the way! “All that we have accomplished, You have done for us.” Is. 26: 12
- We’re certainly thanking God for the many blessings that he has poured out upon us during this first term and for those we’ve received since we’ve been back: for faithful supporters who have prayed and given, for good travel home, for the use of a wonderful farm cottage near to our home church, and for the generosity of parents prepared to lend cars!
- Please pray for times of refreshing as we reconnect with friends and family, and as I prepare sermons. Pray, as we prepare and deliver our various presentations, that we would inspire, encourage and challenge.
- Please continue to pray for the work of IBM and for the team we’ve left behind; for Tony as he will be doing the bulk of this year’s Bible teaching; for Matt as he continues to supervise the building of the conference centre at Sanga; for Amy as she takes up some of Ruth’s responsibilities, and for Cath as she continues with her child protection work and takes on the unit leader role in my absence.