See pics from the past 2 days at http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=5ycydmus.2nrareeg&x=0&h=1&y=-oixxg
Oh my – if only each of you could’ve been with us on these fun past 2 days! At 12:30pm yesterday, our new friend Trevor (from a local church) called Chris and said he would drop by the hotel to take us (and our many belongings) in his wagon to The Thatched Roof Inn (in which, I must remind you, he managed to locate 2 rooms for us). In no time Trevor showed up, loaded our bags, carseats, and children in the car and helped us check in. He said he’d be back in 20 minutes to take us to lunch in his home (instead of waiting until our scheduled tea at 4pm). Not having lunch plans (or any idea as to where to get food since we’d left familiar Sutton and moved into Cheam) we were only too happy to oblige.
Trevor and his wife, Annalisa (a wonderful grandmotherly German woman), run a steel trading company from their home. They raised their 3 sons in India for some time and travel to all sorts of amazing places (including Iran in 2 weeks!). Long story short, we ended up spending lunch time through 8pm in this wonderful couples’ large English home. You probably recall how I mentioned the other night I felt awful about having to put the children up in one more location that was not home, but it is clear this was God’s plan. They actually ended up spending an entire afternoon and evening playing with the couples’ grandchildrens’ toys sprawled out on the “lounge” (living room) floor. Annalise read books to Blake. Mackenzie continually used the toy doctor’s kit to give shots to Trevor. The children were fed until they were stuffed and then fed some more. We had many sweets at tea time as well as a full meal at dinner (roast! potatoes! carrots! peas! salad!…all sorts of real food we’ve not had since we arrived a week ago). Blake and Mackenzie gave several hugs to “Auntie Annalisa” and “Uncle Trevor” (or “Trevahhh!” as Kenzie says) to thank them.
Before he dropped us off at the hotel, Trevor took Chris to schedule a taxi to bring all our bags to meet us at the Wimbledon flat when we arrived this afternoon. He arranged a late check out for us at the inn and ordered breakfast for us. I have tears in my eyes even to recall all these niceties. At some points in life it seems as though one must say, “That’s enough, Lord! We know you know what we need even more than we do. You don’t need to bless us so much. It’s a little akward!” We could never deserve such loving care from people we didn’t know two days ago.
I watched in amazement as the kids relaxed and had fun – Blake walking in the back garden and riding a tricycle, Mackenzie eating and eating and playing with a dollhouse. Chris and I sat for a few hours in the lounge with Trevor and Annalisa and absorbed every story they had to share, learning so much more about English culture and current events than any newspaper has taught us. They have visited several churches in the area and had all sorts of recommendations and comments about our hopes regarding expanding LC.tv in Europe. I could tell you all kinds of neat things we learned we have in common, but the best comment of the night was Annalisa’s mention of how they always speak of how special the international family of Christians is – they’ve trusted God to lead them to other Christian friends in their travels abroad and make it a point to do the same.
Trevor wanted us to know of a story dating back to 1970 when he visited his cousin who was working in NYC. Trevor decided to travel to the Grand Canyon and met a Christian couple at a bus stop there who told him if he’s ever in San Jose he should call to visit. He was in San Francisco some time later, called the couple, and they immediately came to take him home to rest. Trevor said he arrived exhausted and left their home 3 days later fully recovered because of the fellowship of believers spending time together. He said he regrets they couldn’t invite our family to stay (due to renovations being done in their home), but it was this American couples’ hospitality that has led him over the years to provide all he can for Christians who are foreigners in the UK. This couple generously paid for our family’s two rooms at the inn, three family meals, and the taxi service for our baggage – a total of over $500 (US) that was given to our family simply for showing up at church on Sunday morning instead of heading out to look for a flat as we’d planned. One handshake from Trevor – we opened our mouths to speak and he discovered we’re Americans – and the Lord provided in a special way we could never have thought up on our own. This is such a lesson to me personally! When I had my quiet time of prayer and Bible reading on Sunday morning, I truly wanted to solve the issue of finding a flat but kept sensing we should go to church. I told Chris immediately (and admitted to him I was only telling him to hold me accountable to obey because I didn’t want to go since we’d see LC.tv’s Internet service that afternoon). Chris agreed we should go, and the rest was an open door to blessing. May we all set aside our harmless daily plans more often when God’s still, small voice speaks! Think of all that we could miss out on. We have life-long friends…more than we ever bargained for in this journey when we set out. All praise and glory to God who honors obedience in His children!
Last night Mackenzie shared a room with me (sleeping in a big girl bed for the first time!) and Chris and Blake slept in the same bed. To give you an idea of how therapeutic their time playing yesterday was, Chris told me this morning that Blake fell asleep holding Chris’s hand. Blake was so calm and peaceful. Mackenzie popped her little head up this morning and was sunny as could be. At breakfast, we met a French woman, a Russian woman, and a man who’d just traveled through Guatemala! Mackenzie was so refreshed she said, “Morning!” to people as they entered the dining area. Chris and I shared with each other at breakfast this morning that we’d both laid in our separate rooms last night, emotionally overwhelmed by God’s sweet provision of friendship from Britains so early on our in journey. The love they extended to us refreshed us and our children, and it was visible. Before falling asleep, a memory came back to my mind of a time when I must’ve been about 4 years old. My parents were part of a small Christian group of friends who met for marriage retreats regularly, and I remember hearing them sing the chorus, “They will know we are Christians by our love…”. Indeed, Trevor and Annalisa are a true part of the Body of Christ, as was visible by their love for and service to our family.
After our YUMMY family breakfast this morning, we set off for Ikea! We purchased a few items we knew we’d need to have in our flat tonight just so we could sleep. Imagine us trekking all over the village with the double stroller, 2 full giant blue Ikea bags, and a bright green kids’ chair. As if being American didn’t make us stick out enough as it is! Too funny. I’m certain I saw some high school boys snickering at us as we struggled on the bumpy sidewalk!
We (somehow) made it here, and I was blown away by our flat. Poor Chris – he just doesn’t have the skill for sharing juicy details! I am so pleased to have been surprised by the beauty and home-like feeling of this place. The children are WILD for running up the stairs and sliding down them only to do it all over again. We ran up to Sainsbury’s to get some grocieries then had dinner at the dining room table – something we’d been greatly missing. After a hot bath, the kids rolled into their shared bed – my only concern is not with the flat but how we’ll ever get the kids to quit giggling so they can sleep!! Chris is lounging on a couch, and our hopes are high that I can make some headway in this GIANT pile of dirty laundry we have. I’m hoping I’ve programmed the washer/dryer combo correctly (you know it’s just one tub here in the UK – not 2 separate units). At least the oven worked for dinner (using Celcius temperature grading!).
Needless to say, we are bursting with joy at the plan for a quiet weekend after settling into our darling little home tucked away a main street in Wimbledon. Keeping in mind our complete gratitude for God’s work in the details of landing us in our home base for ministry, our prayers now turn completely towards His will for the sweet time we anticipate with the staff from church who’ll visit next week. May God work in amazing and clear ways to lead us to His perfect will for the church here in Europe so that the population of heaven may be increased with many turning to salvation which comes alone through the saving name of Jesus Christ.
The Saturday before we left for England, God laid a plan on our hearts that drives Chris and me greatly. Now that our home has been located, please pray with us that this plan would unfold and take root when we meet with church staff. If you’ve managed to read this entire LONG post, Congratulations! I’ll wait for another day to share with you how the Lord is leading us in this ministry. I want to end this post with the lyrics from an old song we sang to close Sunday’s service in Sutton, written about Jacob’s encounter with God in a dream in Genesis 46:2 -
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?
I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide,
‘Til their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?
(Daniel L. Schutte, 1981)
May each of us answer “Send me” when we hear God calls us to go.
PS – Our neighbor just stopped by to introduce himself! He’s a wonderful man around our age named Matthew – likely married. I hope he has children! This is all too exciting. I doubt we’re able to sleep much tonight with all these blessings swimming around in our minds.