Two weeks today (20th March) we will be heading back to Blantyre, Malawi, after over four weeks in the UK. But it has taken until today for us to reach the most northerly point of our trip and – passing along the western shore of Loch Lomond – reach Myles’ dad’s home in Crieff.
The first two weeks have been busy and rewarding as we have renewed old friendships and made new ones. And we want to thank everyone who has been praying for us as we travel and present, hosted us in their homes, or welcomed us into their church services, bible studies and gatherings.
We suddenly remembered what “cold” felt like, as we arrived before dawn on Thursday 2nd March at Heathrow. Two and a half years in the Malawian climate does that to you! The ever helpful Chairman of ZM, Trevor Matthews met us and whisked us to Motor Mission to pick up our loan car. And soon we were settling in to being ‘agogo’ (grandparents) with little Zachary.
On Saturday 4th we had a great time as we met with all our old friends from Great Blakenham Baptist Church and Mickfield Evangelical Church for a grand ‘high tea’ buffet, after which we gave a report back to those who – as our home churches and sending churches – have done so much to encourage and support us over the last few years.
Staying with Dave and Janet Brown for a few days in their (most importantly) warm (thermally and spiritually) home was a blessing. They have much experience in Africa, were instrumental in introducing us to Malawi in the first place, and have continued to show interest and give us help us ever step of the way.
Sunday 5th felt a little like a a busy Malawi Sunday as we travelled with Dave and Janet to Grange Baptist Church, Letchworth and later Soham Baptist Church in Cambridgeshire – with Myles preaching at both locations and Ruth and Myles presenting on their work in Malawi. Preaching at Soham was particularly interesting for Myles since the last time he had preached at their evening service it was by Skype with Myles sitting in his Malawi office and being projected at terrifying scale in the church!
After a rest day on Monday, we visited and gave the same presentation at mid-week meetings at the ‘Rendezvous’ at High Street Church, Isleham, and the prayer meetings at Stoke Ash Baptist Church in Suffolk, and West Row Baptist church in Cambridgeshire. We finished up at our home village of Debenham, speaking at Ruth’s mum’s church, Debenham United Reformed Church. The talk had been well promoted around the village and there was a very good turnout across a wide age range. Many who attended knew us well as commuting business man or piano teacher so we took the opportunity to show how God had shaped us for his service in Malawi in so many ways during our time in Debenham, and to highlight the help our children’s visits have been.
Friday and Saturday saw Myles go off to London to a reunion with some of his old Disney team, and to visit Cliff Walk Evangelical Church in Canning Town – long term supporters of ZM. There is a strong Latin American and African/Caribbean influence to this fellowship which leads to lively worship. A group are due to visit ZM in Malawi later in the year which should make for some interesting cross-cultural fun 🙂
After so many speaking engagements it was great to spend more time with family, and in particular to celebrate with Alasdair and Deborah the dedication of our first grandson, Zachary, at Linton Free Church.
Then we jumped into our car for a quick return trip to All Saints, Woodford Wells to meet the family Mhairi is living with for her time there as an intern, and to see her in action as she led the contemporary worship in the evening service.
Then it was up to Leeds, to stay with Andrew and Catherine, and attend meetings with ZM’s Executive and Staff before we escaped for a few days to the Westwood Christian Centre in North Yorkshire. What an amazing place to just get away from it all in the comfort of this converted church. And, despite the cold, we found Yorkshire’s unique geography of ‘satanic mills’, canals and steep glens to be ideal for an active rest in the spring sun.
On Saturday we drove further north, finally entering Scotland, to stay at Bridge of Weir with Graeme and Margaret, two lovely friends from our Youth Fellowship days in Glasgow. It was as if we were picking up our conversation from a week ago rather than 30 or so years ago! It was then only a short hop to Bothwell Evangelical Church where we were privileged to participate in both the morning and evening services, and the opportunity of getting to know ZM’s representative for Scotland, Ralph and Jean Gunn.
Finally, today, 20th March, we managed to venture into the highlands by travelling the long way to Crieff via Loch Lomond side and the village of Luss. Loch Lomond was breathtaking as the cold wind blew snow clouds, sun and rainbows across the barren brown bracken hills. With even Ben Lomond’s sugar dusted summit put in a brief appearance!
As we reach the snowy most northerly part of our trip for a few days in Perthshire and Fife, we want to thank you all for your ongoing prayers and interest. It has been a marvellous and encouraging time so far, as we have met so many old and new friends, in so many different fellowships and churches, united in their love for Christ and their love for the people of Malawi.
What more does God have in store over the coming couple of weeks we wonder! 🙂