Day 46-48 Guernsey

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Guernsey is a 3hr fast ferry ride from Poole. It is off-season so the tourist hordes have not yet descended. I’m grateful for small mercies. I take a taxi to the hotel and settle in. The island has a lazy feel to it and a moderate time warp from a previous time. Church on Sunday is the local ‘Baptist Tabernacle’ with a balcony and wonderful acoustics. The last time the church was full was for David Pawson, many years ago. I will have to go into the second and third worlds to see churches full to overflowing again. I can’t wait.

On Sunday morning before church I am interviewed for the local BBC radio station, but this is not face to face (like the Isle of Wight/Southampton interview) so it does not flow so well, and at the evening service/concert only a dozen or so brave the realm of the unknown beyond the comfort of their living room to come to the concert. If my name was Matt Redman maybe they would come, but the Holy Spirit does not have the same drawing power, sadly.

Photographically the island is a delight, but I am left saddened at the state of the church in the West. Not just here, but generally speaking. Our wealth (yes, we are the wealthiest Christians of all history) has led to spiritual stagnation, a grieving of the Holy Spirit, compromise, prayerlessness & powerlessness.. (I’m talking about me, not you..)

So, with declining numbers at concerts, and steadily declining CD sales in the last eighteen years I am faced with (if I am to stay in this ministry) the need to seek God for a funding strategy to release new music for new audiences in the first, second and third worlds. So my time on Guernsey has been profitable to strengthen my resolve to follow my calling (Ephesians 4.1) while the Lord continues to bless me with the love of travel, with good health and most of my marbles.

Day 39-44 Northampton, England

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My time in Northampton is a bit yellow and blue. The sun shines (thankfully) and the road takes on a metallic hue to it with early rain then sun rising through fog. The church services go well, in fact the sound system is on the better side of good, so able to perform vocally with nuance and expression (often lacking on the generic average sound systems that are the norm). The Holy Spirit touches lives.. which is my constant prayer. On the Mon/Tues I stay in Flore at the Jesus People community which is in the recovery stage after its controlling founder (now passed on) was found lacking in some areas. The people seem nice enough, and I sing a new song Take It To The Cross at their Tuesday weekly meeting. A Wednesday evening house concert in the green-themed lounge at Cathy’s place back in Northampton sees a full house and lots of laughter and cake. Then onto Crewe for a Thursday drop-in concert, where again the Holy Spirit moves in such a gentle but impact-full way. Tears are part of God’s healing process for so many. It is a privilege and a great blessing to be used by the Lord in this way to touch lives & hearts.

Day 27-38 Isle of Wight, England

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Its funny how one thing leads to another. My wonderful German contact Erika knows someone on the Isle of Wight and in less than 2 weeks, a concert is organised, promoted and looked-forward-to. Bob Dylan sang here in 1969.. why not me? So here I am, guitar and camera at the ready, but the weather does not oblige my photographic urges. Brooding overcast skies become the norm, a light rain begins to fall. I head for the cafes instead and work on another page of my memoirs: My Life As A Brain Surgeon.

The concert goes well. In fact, very well. Wendy says: ‘The most moving songs I have ever heard’.  I am moved, and thankful to the Lord (at my age) that I can still sing and have the wherewithal to do what I do. And I meet such a wide range of lovely people (like Jonathan & Natascha) on the road. Normally, in my NZ setting I am withdrawn, introverted, quite non-social, happy to hide away, reclusive.. and plan the next project or tour. On the road I become more social (of necessity) and find myself rediscovering the social side of my personality, knowing full-well the status quo will return, once the plane touches down at  Auckland Airport.

The weather gods allow me one fine day a week here. But theres only so many sights you can cram into one frantic day. After a week with hosts in Newport (the main centre) I find myself in a cheap hotel in Sandown, on the southern coast. This place has a wonderful beach and promenade but is a mildly rundown seaside town, past its best, paint flaking, shopfronts 20yrs out-of-date but still functioning. A bit like me.. but hey.. I can still jog 6km and walk all day if I have to. I feel freer and more content on the road, like no other time in my life, but in the knowledge that everything good must come to an end, except in heaven where my Lord Jesus reigns..  (Recollection album, disc two)

Day 21-26 London, England

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London is a city of 8,788,029 people, give or take a few. Over the years I have been fortunate (blessed) to stay in homes close to a forest where I can walk daily  and talk to the Lord. Even though it rains I venture out every day, tread carefully on muddy paths, keep my camera at the ready for unsuspecting deer, foxes and badgers, look up through trees at grey skies, examine water droplets on branches, and touch the sodden bark of dark trees. No one is here. So I ponder the startling question: Why do so few start the day with a walk at first light? What is it that compels me to walk when others sleep, check email, drink coffee, or beyond my comprehension: watch tv?

But who am I to judge. I have a long list of failings, so daren’t compare myself with those who have better social skills than me, those who love better, those with a better sense of humour, those more generous or less prone to depression or cynicism than myself. Oscar Wilde said comparisons are odious, so it is better for me to be content with who I am, and happy with my own skin (even as it wrinkles) and learn to like myself better, before I shuffle off this mortal coil (Enid Blyton).

In London I stay with friends from last year, Rob and Sally, who are the epitome of generous and hospitable hosts. I am humbled that people like this can take a stranger in and give them food, lodging, accommodation, local knowledge, finance, and the use of a vehicle: a dark blue 2003 Saab Aero SW. Wow, fly baby fly.

On Good Friday I participate in a public march with the Cross, which reminds me of the time years ago on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem on a Good Friday, one of the most moving experiences of my entire life. On Sunday I attend a resurrection day service at the local Baptist church, where a young autistic man is baptised, giving testimony that finding Jesus has given meaning to his life. Within 4  days (on the Isle of Wight) I attend the funeral of a young autistic man who did not find Christ and hung himself. The contrast couldn’t be more stark, and reminds me why I am on the road sharing the hope I have in Jesus, restoration & healing at the foot of the Cross, with those who will listen.

Day 16-20 Herscheid, Germany

IMG_5561In the beginning.. there was er, snow. Not deep snow but a light dusting, about a days worth, an inch thick (two centimetres to you). It cluttered up the roads, seeped into hedges, made white sculptures of the vehicles, turned green rolling hills into toboggan highways, horses into Eeyores, fluttered down got in my hair, soaked into my jacket, and then overnight disappeared. Traitor.

So now I’m left with an conspicuous absence of snow, but the penetrating cold remains with nothing to show for it. I feel short-changed and with SPF (snowy photo frustration) because I only managed a few pics on my arrival day in Herscheid. Now I have to rug up to survive the day, and dream of the 24deg back home in NZ. Well, I was the one who chose to come to Europe at the tail end of winter. Only myself to blame.

But Herscheid is kind to me. My hosts Armin & Erika (in Herscheid) and Reinhard & Karin (in Kierspe) lavish me with hospitality. I feel like a king. People feel sorry for me in itinerant ministry. Oh you must get tired of the travelling, they say. Oh it wouldn’t suit me, they say. Well I say, I enjoy what I do and have great fulfilment in sharing my faith thru music. It is a great privilege to be in people’s homes and be treated as a special guest in concerts and services. In fact, it’s a wonderful calling that God has equipped me for, over a long and varied life, beginning with the inspiration of Bob Dylan as a teen.

Thursday evening is prayer & praise in Herscheid. Friday evening a Brethren church in Altena. The church almost full but the sound system is inadequate so an evening of potential & promise is sabotaged by technical glitches & frustration. Saturday night is Attendorn, a small but warm responsive group which makes up for the previous night. Sunday morning is Wipperfürth. I am given most of the service so lead worship with my own songs, then proceed with testimony and songs from ‘Cataclysm’. There is a strong anointing of the Holy Spirit as I speak, a number of folk are visibly moved, and I receive wonderful life-changing feedback afterwards. God is good (all the time). Sunday evening a small turnout in a medium size church in Lüdenscheid. For some reason my spirit is heavy and I don’t sing well. An intercessor tells me later she too feels the heaviness. We battle not against flesh & blood but against powers & principalities.. Ephesians 6.12

In this ministry I have long since learned that God can use even difficult events, or times when I don’t sing/perform well (by my standards) for his purposes and glory. So I commit all these events into the Lord’s safe keeping and sleep like a baby.
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