England really does have summer regardless of what you’ve heard. As we write this blog, we are experiencing the most gorgeous days. Yesterday (Sunday) we went for a walk down on the beach where it seemed everyone in South Tyneside was for the afternoon. We took some pictures just to prove it to you. Yes, it is in the upper 70s (possibly hitting that 80 mark) and it is beautiful. Great time to get out amongst the locals and do what they do . . . but neither of us were interested in getting much more than our feet wet being that the North Sea is quite chilly. It’s the first day we haven’t had our heater on.
Dennis continued his teaching yesterday on Christ as the foundation of our faith. His message was on the fact that without or before Christ we are/were ALL under God’s wrath. The wrath of God is never an easy subject to teach on and especially since he does both a children’s sermon as well as the regular sermon. As difficult as it has been for him, this morning’s children sermon was amazing. Using Romans 3:23, he asked each of the children (5 little girls this morning) to make a paper towel into a ball and then throw it as far as they could. Geoff Aydon was the “volunteer” they were attempting to reach with their balls of paper towel. Obviously it was an impossible thing to do which set them up for Dennis’ teaching of how all of us fall short of God’s Glory. Dennis even attempted to try to throw his paper ball to Geoff, but his only went half the distance. When he asked the girls to define sin, one little girl responded, “Being naughty.” "Naughty," such a great English word! He continued his teaching to the adults using Ephesians 2:1-13. He will continue to build his sermons over the next 2-3 weeks on the theme of “preaching the Gospel to ourselves every day.”
As we left the church yesterday evening, our attention was drawn to a line of hand drawn American flags. It’s odd that we didn’t notice them this morning when we walked through the church hall. At closer examination, we discovered that these beautiful works of art were done by the boys of Boys Brigade last Thursday evening. They each drew their own version of the Stars and Stripes and added a sentiment of welcome to us on the back. We were so touched and just had to share a picture with you. We are humbled by their sweet expression to make us feel at home at Westoe Road.
As we mentioned last week, Wes and Suz arrived on Monday afternoon at Newcastle Central. They had enjoyed a whirlwind 24 hour “tour” of London before boarding the train and heading north to us. We’re not sure how you actually see London in a day, but if anyone could do it, it would be those two. As soon as they came through the stiles at the train station, we were off and running. A quick walk down to the River Tyne in Newcastle, then back on the Metro train to South Shields. After a short train ride to South Shields, we dropped their luggage at the house and headed to the cliffs for a walk and to show off God’s amazing creativity and majesty along the North Sea. Tuesday morning began a fast trip up into Scotland to see Edinburgh (raining all the way), then heading south along the coast on Wednesday morning with stops at Holy Island where there are ruins of a monastery which was the seat of evangelizing the British Isles during the 7th century. From Holy Island we continued down the coast to Bamburgh Castle. We’ve posted some additional pictures on Facebook. On Thursday we headed out into the countryside west of Newcastle to see Hadrian’s Wall which was begun by the Emperor Hadrian in 122 A.D. Since Suz teaches Roman history to 6th graders, this was a real treat for her to walk among the ruins of a 3rd century Roman fort and to stand and look out on this massive 1700 year old undertaking. The wall stretches across the English countryside from the east coast to the west coast, a length of 73 miles. Not wanting Wes and Suz to miss anything, we made the decision to travel some “single-track” roads. You must understand that most single-track roads are just a little wider than one car. Our experience in Oxfordshire last year was that every half mile or so there would be a place to pull over to allow for vehicles to pass. Well . . . that was not the case on the road we chose. Our road became more and more narrow. At the most narrow point we had 4 foot rock walls on both sides. It was at about that time that we looked up the hill ahead of us only to discover a DHL delivery van coming down the hill toward us with a car following it. Wes was in the front seat with Dennis when we saw the whites of their eyes. It was obvious that the driver of the DHL truck had no intention of backing up, so, being the nice (and quite intimidated) Americans that we are, we began to back down the hill. Dennis showed great backing skills in a standard shift car. Oh, and did we mention that we were being followed by an SUV and he had to put it in reverse and begin backing down the hill as well. Oh, and did we mention that it was raining! What an experience! While Wes, Suz and Brenda had a bit of a chuckle, Dennis’ nerves were quite shot and we quickly located a place to pull off and have lunch. We ended Thursday evening at the New Crown Pub with 6 of our friends from WRBC. It was a great evening of fellowship and Wes and Suz got to enjoy their wonderfully warm English hospitality. We put them on the train at Newcastle Central Friday morning and they are now safely back in Colorado, but it was a great week and we are hoping that they as well as Lane and Hannah will get to come see us before we head home in January.
We continue to find the English people very open and interested in why we are here. We had a bit of a rail delay trying to get Wes and Suz to Newcastle and were greatly helped by several ladies who were attempting to get to work in Newcastle that morning. They asked about our being in the area and we had the opportunity to tell them what we were doing. On the way back to South Shields from Newcastle we again had a little issue with the train service and ended up having a wonderful time visiting with a man from Boston who lives and works in Newcastle. He asked several times about the name of the church and we are hoping to see him walk through the door someday with his family.
Our ministry will get down to business this week as we begin truly pastoring this church. WRBC is like any church with its share of physical and spiritual needs. Jesus On Leadership books and workbooks are on their way from Abilene (Thanks to Granny Liz who tracked them down when LifeWay told her they were out of print!). We will start that study with the deacons as soon as the books arrive. The next big decision will be how to begin in-depth Bible study and to begin to develop a team of teachers. Dennis is praying about how to draw in several men who are on the outskirts of the congregation. There are several very faithful men with hearts to study God’s Word, but there is a need to reach out to younger men. Please pray that the Lord will direct him in a way that will be fitting to their culture. Brenda is finding that both the young and older ladies at eager to get started but we must determine that best time for each of these studies so as not to disrupt the younger families too much. So, we would definitely appreciate your prayers as we want to begin within the next couple of weeks.
So, week 3 ends and we remain so blessed to have received God's call to this beautiful country. The people are so warm and welcoming and the Spirit of God is moving among His people here as He does everywhere. We are so thankful to be a part of what He is doing in South Shields. We encourage those on both side of the Atlantic to "preach the Gospel to yourself every day" for it is life and hope.
Blessings to All!