In recent months, I’ve been finding my rate of posting new blog entries has been around 3-4 times a week. But it is now Tuesday and the last time I posted was last Wednesday. The reason is simple: life has been fairly busy of late but the main cause for this is I have lost my Internet connection, reminding me once again how we can so easily become dependent on such things. In the hope that service will resume very shortly, I thought I would reflect on some of the happenings, on the surface unrelated although my experience of life suggests most things are related, in what has turned out to be an interesting few days.
It seems to me that much of what we do in our daily routines is just that – routine, i.e. ordinary and mundane. Unless we are particularly creative or sad, these are not the sort of thing we would want to write about. But such things are, nevertheless, still important, even if not deemed to be share worthy or (like me) things we are particularly good at it. Being a good dad, husband, neighbor etc., looking after the house, especially given my wife works full time, and managing our family affairs, e.g. in matters of finance, all need to be done and these take up a lot of time, and sometimes I find I struggle. That aside, there have been a number of things happening in the past few days that have been noteworthy.
Wednesday: In the afternoon, having found myself as a member of a sub-group looking into how we can improve communications in my local community, having an interesting but lively and useful exchange of ideas on what we could do e.g. around using social media, to try to get the community more involved. In the evening, I went to an amazing meeting at our church. The speaker was a missionary working in the Amazon jungle. While there was communication with the outside world (it was surprising how many of the village folk possessed mobile phones for example) and the means to get about, living conditions were basic and there was a lot of going without. It seemed to me that being able to make an important difference in peoples’ lives more than compensated for the deprivations. As if I needed reminding, there are needs and opportunities galore, not least for people like my missionary friend with a heart to serve.
Thursday: This was my taking “an Indian visitor out for the day” day, something I do from time to time. The visitor was Divakaram, who I had met and got to know a few years ago, who was staying in the house of a friend, who was responsible for his program. He is getting on in years but still is one of the important Christian Indian leaders, who has done much extending the work of God’s kingdom, and has a heart for serving the church under pressure, not least by Hindu militants, evidenced in the beating (and sometimes killing) of Christians and destroying their properties. Today, we agreed I would show him the sites of Southend and have a good chat. As this was Scottish Referendum day, we decided first to join in for a short time in a day of prayer being held at a local church. It was lovely to pray with other Christians and know, whatever the outcome, God is in control. We then proceeded to Southend sea front and “did” the pier, although time and physical limitations meant we took the train. It was nice to talk. After that we went to the multi-cultural men’s group I have been involved in for some years. I rather pushed my friend into the deep end, for he spoke, and did well and engaged well, with the men from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and many needs. After we visited a mosque, a (Hindu) temple and two churches (meeting some people on the way) and had tea at my house before I took him home. The evening was interesting and involved planning for Church Winter Night Shelter provision. We had a useful update and exchange and I agreed to manage one of the two nights not yet taken up by a church. But how do we proceed?
Friday: The first thing I found out when I got up was that the majority of Scottish people had voted “No” to independence – to my relief. The day was mainly about running around preparing for Sunday’s Community-in-Harmony “Big Event”. I was able to meet at my favorite coffee place with a friend wanting to help the homeless and passed on some pointers as to how things are in the town and what might be done to address the issues, which was well received. In the evening, I attended a Garth Hewitt concert. I first come across him as a teenager and he has been going ever since, making the transition from a pure gospel singer to someone using this medium to put across the message of social justice. Clearly, here is a man impassioned about these matters and it was good to hear his take on the situation in Nicaragua and, more controversially, Israel / Palestine. I got into a heated debate with someone who saw the Gaza situation from a purely anti-Israel perspective. During the concert we became just about aware there was a flash storm outside, although with the music going on inside we didn’t quite realize what was happening. On my way home, I saw the effects with water in the roads and arriving home found the router to my computer had been blown as a result, thereby losing Internet connection.
Saturday: More running around to prepare for the Big Event and I took time to read the newspapers as I would be reviewing them the next day. I spent the morning at my church helping to prepare for a baptism on the Sunday and a meal after. In the evening, I was out with Street Spirit and met around 30 “guests”, the majority of which were street homeless. It followed a similar pattern to previous weeks with a number of harrowing stories told and situations realised. We were able to provide some help.
Sunday: I had to get up early and go to the BBC Essex studios in Chelmsford in order to review the papers. I hope I acquitted myself ok but then how do you answer questions like: “what message would you give to the Scottish people in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum”? It was then on to Priory Park for the Big Event, although I managed to stop off for an English breakfast on the way. The Event went well and I got to meet a lot “old friends” from all sections of the community. While our stall was a bit cramped for what we wanted to do: a presentation of the gospel; a presentation of activities me and my church have an interest in: Gideons, Street Pastors, Winter Night Shelters, Southend Homeless Action Network and Southend Interfaith Working Group; and running a children’s craft table, it still ran relatively smoothly. While I was the advance guard to set up etc., a lot of people joined later from my church and elsewhere through the day and it was a happy and fruitful experience, and one where we had several good conversations. I was able to wander off and check out what else was going on and talk to folk. It was nice not organizing the event and seeing it from another perspective. In years gone by, I would have stayed to the end to help in the clear up operation but this time I could (and did) leave just before the end, with a clear conscience. I would have liked to have gone along to St. Andrew’s Open House and meet more of my on the edge friends but I felt all in! It had been a busy few days; I was pleased to go to bed early.
Monday: This was a day to unwind, “chill out” and tidy up following the preceding hectic few days and in the evening it was onto a committee meeting of Cluny Residents Association, which I chair. It was a good time, despite not having prepared much, and a lot was achieved – all with the aim of getting residents involved and making ours a better community. I took quite a few actions that I will need to follow up in the next few days. One nice thing was that I was able to talk to Stephen Dray, a local Baptist minister, who happens to be part of our committee, about using his church for one of the nights we still need covering for winter night shelter, and will meet again on Thursday to explore the practicalities.
Tuesday: This is a day to catch up further on chores and paper work. Right now, I await the visit of the Virgin engineer to hopefully sort out my Internet, when among other things I can post this on my blog … ok engineer been and gone and Internet back. All working except for my computer (another problem found) so posting via my wifes laptop – some issues adapting – uggh but then that is what life is about so it seems!