It’s been raining here. Almost every afternoon since I arrived, the bumbling clouds collect themselves into a semblance of order and begin to toss down rain. Apparently, the Jefferys live at the lowest point on the street, since the rainwater always congregates on the sidewalk just in front of their house and stays there long after the rain has abated. It’s always a bit of an adventure leaving the house on foot.
Driving (or rather riding as a passenger where the driver’s seat should be) is even more adventurous. We whip up and down Chase Side and High Street, side mirrors flashing in the feeble sunlight. The mirrors, Steve tells me, are helpful to gauge how close you are to the cars parked by the side of the road. If your mirrors scrape one of them, well, then you’re probably too close. Apparently, there are no rules about parking your car in a certain direction, or at a certain distance from the sidewalk, so vehicles are crawling over the edges of the street like termites. This, combined with the curbs and lampposts that are sprinkled down the middle of the road and the double-decker buses that hurtle past at 45 mph, make any drive a… delightful experience.
At the moment, I am sitting at a small wooden table in Steve’s office. Occasionally, he will get up from his desk in the corner and come over, adjusting his glasses.
“Right then. Tea?”
“Yes, please,” I say. I have been cultivating an addiction to the stuff, and the chances of success look very hopeful.
As he leaves, I do a quick mental examination of my speech. Most of my words these days, whether spoken or written, go through the linguistic equivalent of a TSA patdown before I let them appear in public. In my head, you see, everything has started to sound very British. “Nearly” has nearly replaced “almost.” I haven’t quite accepted “gherkin” (pickle) or “loo” (bathroom? toilet? who knows?), but “tea” is the new name for dinner and “garden” for back yard. Certain questions have started to grow “thens” like tails. “I’ll sit here, then?” “Should I come then?” “It looks like it’s raining, then?” Next thing you know, I’ll be saying “wot wot” and “pip pip” and all that. If the situation gets too serious, I may have to revert to my fail-safe: the Alabama accent. I don’t think any of these English “shalls” and “sort ofs” will last long under a barrage of good, old-fashioned “all y’alls”.
For the last few days, Steve and I have been driving and walking around London, visiting various members of his church, Emmanuel Evangelical Fellowship. Sometimes we visit people that Steve met on the sidewalk with a clipboard in his hand. Although they emphatically announce that they are not interested in church or God or any religious thing, they agree to sit down in a coffee shop and discuss the Bible, week after week after week. It often feels like a lack of progress, but at least it’s consistent lack of progress.
On Monday, I sat in the living room of a single mother and her teenage son as Steve talked to them about suffering in the Christian life. I drank their tea and listened to their prayers and wondered at the greatness of God. Yesterday I studied the Bible with a middle-aged businessmen who owns a Greek restaurant in Southgate. In the middle of discussing the connections between Ezekiel and John’s gospel, he had to call his chef and check on the status of the deep fryer. On Sunday, I will worship with Nepalese and Greek and Polish and Ugandan saints from nice and nasty parts of London, who have nothing in common except their love for Christ. It might be that I’m viewing all this from the perspective of a pastor, but I am extremely optimistic about the future of this church. Those who seek God in everything will not remain unblessed. For that reason, I am looking forward to the two and a half weeks that I have with this minister and his church. I’m excited to see what God will do.
That, and the tea.