Lots of people have asked what we are going to be doing over the course of our 4 months study leave, and so here is a brief summary of our plans:
15/1/2011 To Scotland:
We have arrived near Forres and are staying in a house in a clearing of a forest beside the Dava Way (http://www.davaway.org.uk/). This picture of the house was taken a few weeks ago – the snow has now gone! Forres is not far from Lossiemouth, Findhorn Bay, RAF Kinloss, and the Moray Firth. We are here for two weeks on holiday, catching up on sleep, reading, relaxing, walking, exploring the area, and we may drink a bottle or two of red wine!
It was a long drive up, stopping briefly in Sheffiled to drop some stuff off on Tom and have lunch with him, and then staying at a B&B near Peebles. Yesterday, driving through the highlands was beautiful, though it was very heavy rain most of the way, with warnings of flooded roads. But we got here, and have woken up today to sunshine.
One of our aims here is to get into a good pattern of praying together that will sustain us over the next few months, and this morning, over a late breakfast we were praying for you all as you gathered for the morning service. Using the Anglican set readings, our reading today was from 1 Corinthians on sexual immorality!
31/1/2011 To Matlock:
After a couple of weeks in Scotland we drive back south and stop off in Matlock for a few days to see my
Mum. Whilst there we will pop over to Sheffield to have some time with Tom before we go abroad, and we are leaving Guinness, our black labrador, with my sister who also lives in Matlock whilst we travel.
4/2/2011 To London
On the Friday we drive down to visit Jim and Vicky and are going to spend the weekend with them in their new house, and visiting the area and church where Miriam and I first met 27 years ago. Can’t quite believe that it is our 25th wedding anniversary this year – must remember, since we both missed our wedding anniversary last year!!
7/2/2011 To Tonbridge:
We are back to Tonbridge for a few days to get some washing done and get packed ready for travelling. Hannah is going to drive us to the airport on Thursday.
10/2/2011 To Malawi:
We fly from Heathrow to Malawi via Johannesburg, arriving in Blantyre at 15:50 on Friday 11th. Pastor Nedson is meeting us there, and we are going to be living with him and his family during our time in Malawi. Nedson is involved in many different aspects of ministry – church planting, training of pastors, schools, health clinic, youth, prisons…. – and we are going to be following him around, joining in with what he is doing, experiencing the things that he is involved with. We will no doubt be speaking and joining in with whatever else Nedson would like us to, but above all we are there to learn, to see how mission and ministry are done in a completely different culture, and to see God at work there. It feels quite daunting at this point, and yet exciting as well.
4/3/2011 To New Zealand:
Some people who we have met through Miriam’s step-mother, who is a New Zealander, have offered us a cottage on their farm on the southern tip of the South Island, and also use of their holiday home in Queenstown. So we are looking forward to some rest and time for reflection and study after Malawi, and exploring some of God’s amazing creation. I have even been offered lessons in fly-fishing on the river that runs through their farm! After two weeks there, we fly up to the North Island to spend a week at the Bay of Islands.
27/3/2011 To Sydney:
On my birthday we fly to Sydney, a place I have always wanted to visit as one of my ancestors was the second Bishop of Sydney, and the first Archbishop of the Southern Hemisphere. I am hoping to do some research into some of the ministry and mission that he and his wife were involved in whilst there, as they were in many ways missionaries, setting up ministries to support the poor and needy of the diocese, including schools, orphanages and women’s refuges. It is said that they were a very pioneering couple, but I know little about them. Their many letters to one another are archived in Sydney and we hope that we will learn much from them. We hope, both in Australia and New Zealand, to be in touch with some missional communities to learn more about how communities are involved in mission around the world.
7/4/2011 To Thailand:
Ten days later we fly to Thailand, and after one night at the Christian Guest house in Bangkok, we travel to the House of Grace orphanage that St. Stepehen’s supported through our building project tithe. It was Bill and Marion Love who put us in touch with Alan and Maelynn, who will be hosting us whilst there. We are going to spend a few days there, seeing what they do, how our money was spent, and meeting the children. Again we want to learn about mission, and how the House of Grace reaches out into the local community. At the end we have a couple of days break by the sea, followed by a couple of days in Bangkok, staying with the vicar of Bangkok, who I was ordained with and got to know through the New Wine network in Essex.
21/4/2011 To England:
We fly back on Maundy Thursday to England, and take some days to go and see my Mum, pick up the dog, and then a week away with Hannah and Tom in Devon, before we head back to Tonbridge to unpack, sort out and get ourselves ready for getting back to normal life!!
So that is our itinerary. It sounds busy, but we have hopefully planned in periods of rest as well as things that will stretch us, teach us and give us new experiences. Please be praying that we will meet with God during these 4 months, that we will be open to the opportunities he puts in our way, that we will be a blessing to others, and that God will bless us, teach us, refresh us, renew us and protect us – especially from upset stomachs etc and that we will keep well. Please also pray for the two of us, that we will have some quality time together and grow in our love for each other as well as for God.
Thank you for all your prayers and words of encouragement and support before we left. We will be praying for you all.