Saturday, 17 December 2005

Merry Christmas!

(Photos are being presented in a new venue now-- more efficient for all of us, if it works...
Give it a try and let me know if you're seeing any photos!)

Dear All,

My first Christmas season halfway around the world...

We had our Redcliffe Christmas party last night and everyone showed up, families in tow, dressed to the nines (or the sevens or even fives, depending on how festive they were feeling) to celebrate the season with a buffet and a program. Claire (England) and Adriaan (Holland) MC-ed and many people took a part. I sang a silly song with my team for duties. We're the kitchen team so we made up a spinoff of "the 12 days of Christmas" describing the rather minging details of our work : ) The student committee did a sketch where they play-acted the tutors-- Simon Steer with his high-class, "blue-blooded" accent and repeated use of the word "marvelous", Rob Cook with his philosophical arguments and much chin-massaging, it was great : ) It's customary for the staff as well to come up with some kind of humorous sketch. This year they did their own version of "The Sound of Music"-- please take this moment to picture my proper British tutors (mostly men) dressed up like nuns and speaking and singing in high, squeaky voices... : ) Jolly good fun!!!

Mostly I just liked it because it felt like Christmas. Finally. These past few weeks I have been perfectly aware that the Christmas season is fast approaching but I've been too busy with end of term pressures to really feel it. Tonight I felt it, a tangible excitement, a season of celebration. We have such A Reason to celebrate...

On wednesday this week, smack-dab in the middle of our frenzied researching and writing of all our essays, Tabitha (South Africa) and I organized a bit of an informal caroling excursion. We were American, English, African, Indonesian, Hungarian, Polish, and Brazillian united in song to make people smile-- and it was gorgeous. I've decided I adore Christmas caroling (the fact that it's not -30 degrees with snow up to my knees probably adds a bit to its appeal :)).

My new pastor and his wife, who works at the college, and two daughters had me over for a Christmas lunch last Sunday along with 4 other students who go to the Kendal Road Baptist Church these days. I love people with the gift of hospitality and I want to endeavor to be one : )

We put up a huge Christmas tree in the dining hall and decorating was a group effort one evening last week. What we've come out with looks disconcertingly like kindergartner's crafttime project gone bad but at least it's festive : ) (Do see pictures!! Follow link at top!) I was missing our home that day, missing how our home begins to glow and glitter during the Christmas season with all the revered, once-a-year decorations coming out and finding their places about the house. I was missing Mom and I traditionally putting up the tree together to celtic Christmas carols in a room made all the warmer by the thick winter's blanket of unbroken snow making the night frosty and white outside. I was missing my little brothers milling about teasing me for getting lost in the Christmas-ness of it all : ) So having the "Christmas tree night" here was incredibly precious, no matter how unorthodox : )

On December the Fifth we celebrated the traditional Dutch holiday of Sinterklaas here at Adriaan and Henk's organization. It's a brilliant way of doing things, really. They keep gifts and such entirely seperate from Christmas itself, leaving the holiday open to be celebrated for what it is really about-- Jesus. The social side of the school was shrouded in secrets the weekend before as we all prepared our gifts and poems inside the homemade surprisas made from paper and craft material to represent the person whose name we had drawn. Some were incredibly clever; a giant Hebrew letter for a Hebrew scholar, a foot-high piano for an expert piano player, a table-tennis table for a serious table-tennis player. About 40 of us gathered in a huge circle and one by one unwrapped our gifts within our surprisas and read the poem written about ourselves : ) I love experiencing life through the lens of another's culture...

Which brings me to tonight. The Tanzanian couple here, Amani and Esther, invited me over for an evening meal Tanzania-style, along with a friendly middle-aged pastor from Uganda named Michael Lobowa. I wish I could put into words how much God has spoken to me through interaction with these people in one evening. First of all, I've learned that African food is delicious. Secondly, I learned many cultural do's and don't's-- such as always take from what is offered only what the guest of honor takes (which, apparently was me, so I find) and no more, and never sit in the same style as the guest of honor or they may think you're trying to take their place : ) Thirdly... I've learned yet again how beautiful God has made each and every person. I've learned how valuable He has made them. How precious. I went into that room having lived with these people for three months but really hardly knowing them. And there we talked and laughed and ate together and prayed together. And I walked out having still pools in my soul stirred by the kindness and warmth of the three of them. Somehow, I'm aware that I will never be the same having shared an evening of my life with the three of their lives. We didn't discuss or share anything too deep. I learned about Tanzania and Uganda and the liberation and swahili. We spoke of American culture and British culture and my family and Michael's. We spoke of food and the Christmas party and lecturers and accents. But the generosity of spirit. The love. Such precious bonds formed. Michael has even planned a birthday party for me for this June-- seven months away. He says he and his wife, whom he hopes will have joined him from Africa by then, will make me their baby for the day : ) So mark your calendars, Ugandan Michael is throwing me my 20th birthday party this summer : )

I love finding myself at home here in my whole new world. At home in the very state of having no home.

At first everything was different and constantly reminded me of where I was, what I was doing, the novelty of it all. The accents were so obvious, so noticeable. Now I sometimes catch myself "catching myself" noticing them-- as if they've become so commonplace that I forget they're there. It was the way the telephone numbers were divided into fives instead of the usual 3 digits, dash, 4 digits. It was the unusual words used in everyday conversation: "trousers", "minging", "reckon"... It was the spelling of things: favourite, colour, programme... The cavalier mention of places I'd never heard of that seemed so foreign... Now it's all normal; to be expected.

I have been living in England for three months and three days. A quarter of a year of my life. And it has been so natural it was like slipping in to a favourite though not often heard song, and it's been so unnatural it's been like an onslaught of dischordant keys being struck violently all at the same time. Emerson wrote, "The years know much which the days know not of." I'm inclined to think that the days know much which the hours know not of because each one has held so much discovery mingled with distress, promise with pain, delight with disappointment. Making sense of it is like a long string of beads. One bead stands alone as a perfectly valid bead but it's not much good for anything. But strung up in a line of them all in a row there stands a necklace, complete and purposeful.

I'm realizing that these days, good and bad, have been beads in my necklace.

And I know in His hands they'll string up as diamonds and pearls...

Yesterday was our last day of term here at Redcliffe. Everyone's taking off for home, family, friends. Though I can hardly believe the words as I say them, I'll be flying to Paris tomorrow to spend Christmas with Tiphaine (do you remember her? She was a foreign exchange student who lived with my family a few years ago) and her family there. We'll be spending a few days in Paris, a few in Rouen, and then Christmas in a tiny village in Normandy with her parents and 5 brothers and sisters who speak very little, if any, English. I'm afraid I know very little, if any, French. So, it's bound to be an interesting week and a half : ) On the 29th I fly from Paris to Belfast to stay with a friend from College (Jenny) for the second week and a half, encompassing New Year's Eve. We'll be staying in Belfast, Armagh, possibly Bangor, and we hope to spend a few nights in a cottage in Donnegal on the northern coast when Leticia (Brazil) flies out to join us. Yes, Leticia and Jenny are the same two girls who make up my prayer triplet. Watch out world; there may be some powerful things happening that week : )

Christmas in Normandy, New Years in Belfast, my Home of Homes found in my King of Kings no matter where on earth I find myself... I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever (Psalm 86:12)...

May His presence in your life abound this Christmas. May you seek after Him as your greatest treasure, not counting the cost. He is so much greater...
As they say here, "Happy Christmas!"
Leah <><

p.s. New way of viewing the photos:

Saturday, 3 December 2005

Catching You Up

Dear All,

It seems that I write to you in spurts-- some weeks numerous times, some times numerous weeks in between : ) Thanks for putting up with my randomness.

At Veronica's request I'm going to try to give you a few main points at the beginning and then go into detail later on in the letter so you can know a bit of what's been going on without reading the whole long, boring explanation : )

*Thanksgiving-- the week of started off really hard and I missed everyone and everything familiar : ( But all loneliness dispersed when the day of a few friends (Claire and Adriaan) and I organized an afternoon out for cocoa just so I could celebrate this holiday and about 16 of us ended up going out-- everyone gathering around just like a big, beautiful family to celebrate for my sake a holiday they didn't understand or care about : )

*Day in London-- Dave C. (Norwich, UK), Claire (Exeter, UK), Henk (Holland), and I got the cheapest bus tickets we could find and spent last Sunday gallivanting about London in order to attend the Hillsong church service that evening where Delirious were leading worship. Long day, but good fun : )

*Relieving end of term pressure-- End of term time is stressful for everyone so we invent ways to take the pressure off-- like impromptu snowball fights in the garden : )


And now for the weightier descriptions for the diehard among you : )

Thanksgiving was unconventional in nearly every way this year. But I loved it : ) From the moment I went downstairs that morning, everyone was wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving-- some even shouting it in unison. Adriaan made up a 'Happy Thanksgiving' song : ). Dave W. wore his American t-shirt (red, white and blue, of course!). Jo W. made me a pecan pie-- completely out-of-the-blue and gorgeously thoughtful! We got together in the common room that night to devour it and soon random people were wandering in to help us partake : ) Claire, Adriaan and I planned an afternoon out for Hot Chocolate just so I might acknowledge the un-ordinary-ness of the day and we made a little announcement about it at lunch and found that our group of 3 became a group of 16 as my new 'family' rallied around me to celebrate this foreign holiday that they didn't understand or remember. I thought I was feeling quite lonesome that week but I ended up changing my mind : )

It was so beautiful. My white chocolate mocha wasn't quite a turkey feast, but the fellowship was quite like a family. And I think I like this version of Thanksgiving.

We walked back in the darkness of evening with the streets alight with Christmas designs strung up between the antique buildings. His beauty abounds. But that wasn't all... to top it all off, as if my King wasn't gracious and delightful and beautiful enough... That night it unexpectedly began to snow : ) The flakes were full and airy and falling fast, just like Thanksgiving at home.

That Saturday a day student here named Wendy invited me to a Thanksgiving celebration at her church that's put on every year because they have an American family from Texas in their congregation. So, I did have a sort of Thanksgiving feast after all : )

Upon hearing that Delirious were leading worship in London, a small group of us decided to take the day (Sunday the 27th) and walk down to the bus station at 6:45 in the morning only to walk home again at 12:30am that night. We played tourists and hopped from one attraction to the next all day, managing to hit Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen herself happened to be that day (No, we didn't see her but they were flying the flag which means she's in : )), Covent Garden (It's not a garden, but a street market with busy stalls and shoppes and street performers), Tower Bridge (Tower Bridge is my favorite of the London landmarks-- so beautiful and regal spanning the River Thames-- which is pronounced "Tems", in case you're interested), Trafalgar Square (I've discovered I love Trafalgar Square. It's this massive, open, courtyard type area in an affluent area of London with huge statues of majestic things to honor the Battle of Trafalgar-- which I don't know anything about... sorry), 10 Downing Street (This is the heavily guarded residence of the Prime Minister. We happened to walk by just as a huge protest was going on outside...), and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

Sarah, my friend from Essex that I wrote about visiting a few weeks ago, came down to meet us before the service and some of Dave's friends from Norwich. We all made our way over to Tottenham Court Road to the Hillsong service. The church, a branch off of the Hillsong church in Australia, is held each week in a massive, old Theatre called The Dominion. Delirious is a world-renown Christian rock band from England and they led worship as well as giving the short sermon. Back when I was looking at coming to England was the first time that I really started listening to this group and at the time I remember thinking, "If I move to England, I have to see Delirious." I hadn't anticipated seeing a free concert in a centuries old theatre during an evening church service : ) The entire thing was being recorded for Hillsong's New Years Eve broadcast so we had to have a little countdown and everything. If you happen to see anything from Hillsong this New Years, do watch for me : )

2 and a half weeks until the end of term and suddenly everything is coming due. Funny how it all catches up on you in the end. The pressure is more or less the same for all of us here, though, and we've become suddenly quite studious, locking ourselves away in our rooms or in the various libraries to research for hours on end so that we might compose our essays. Most dinner conversations these days have something to do with compiling how much work we've gotten done that day and calculating how much is left to be done! Midst the stress, though, we manage to make our own fun. One afternoon this week it snowed heavy, thick flakes that covered the ground with a white slush. Not Minnesota snow, mind you, but it was pretty coming down. I took a long walk in it that afternoon knowing that that night would be all about the Doctrine of God essay and the Pauline epistles worksheet. At tea (supper) Adriaan and I planned a top-secret 8o'clock snowman building party to take advantage of the sticky snow but around 7 as I sat trying to produce some essay (thinkthinkthink) I heard a deep Dutch voice calling my name and then -smack- a snowball hit my window, and then -smack- another and there were Dave and Adriaan smiling impishly down below. So I had to run out and join them and what ensued was more fun than playing in the snow ever was even as a child : ) Claire and I attempted to remain neutral as Dave, Adriaan, Paul, Abbie and sometimes Marge swung large globs of wet snow across the garden : ) Then, of course, there were the rollers, the somersaulters, and the kartwheelers... Ah, jolly good fun-- do check out the pictures!

There's so much more to say. Some things I'd love to articulate seem almost too much for words... Perhaps I'll try another day... For now, "be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it...

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." (1 Thess. 5:16-24, 28)

More very soon!
Leah <><

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Beautiful Essex Adventure

Dear All,

My problem is that my weekend was too wonderful. It makes the pressures of school and all that that implies crash down all the harder as the workweek commences.

You see, I stole away on an English adventure with a great guy to befriend and a beautiful sister to visit at the end of the line. Adriaan (Holland) and I walked down to the coach station on Friday afternoon just after the rain poured down in torrents moments before to embark on a journey across the country to visit our friend Sarah who just finished at Redcliffe at the end of last term. We waited for a bus that didn't seem to be coming in a place that we weren't sure it would come to In the end, our bus pulled into London 45 minutes late and we missed our train out of London but it was a beautiful journey in that once we started talking we lost track of the time and just revelled in the adventure of the moment And I learned Dutch-- well, one or two words anyway We tackled the London underground system-- Adriaan having never been in London and I having only been a few times and in no way a seasoned Londoner but it was all part of the grand adventure and we were both too easy-going about whatever happened to care. I even talked him into wandering around the city with me all night if we got stranded because I've always thought it would be a beautiful way to spend a night of my life-- wandering around London : ) We ended up hopping on an entirely different train than our tickets allowed (we had a plan, you see. If the conductor came around to check-- as he usually does-- Adriaan would slip into Dutch and I would just look as foreign as possible and be confused) and arriving in Colchester-- Sarah's city in Essex-- an hour later than planned. Sarah whisked us away to her family's home in the tiny village of Layer-de-la-Haye in the charming Essex countryside and we played games and talked and laughed and had such a cozy time of a first evening. I slept in Sarah's room and it was just like a sleepover only I was reveling in wonderment at the fact that I was having a sleepover with a lovely British lady in England

Saturday was enchanted-- I'm convinced of it. After meandering about the city of Colchester (with poppies in our buttonholes for Rememberance Day weekend to honor the veterans) and snooping about Colchester Castle, we took a bus out into the countryside to a village called Dedham and stepped off into a pastoral scene painted by John Constable in the 18th century... The famous English painter is reknown for using the area in his paintings and frequenting the little village. Dedham was the definition of quiant and English and I was on cloud-nine. We lunched in "The Essex Rose" tea room, sauntered through the age-old village church to watch the afternoon light stream in through the stained-glass windows, described our perfect cottages to one another as we walked past the ones lining each street, frolicked in a bright red British phone box, dragged Adriaan through a decidedly girly artsy shop, climbed the formidable monument at the centre of the village, and (highlight of highlights) gallavanted about the Essex countryside, which entailed a magical visit to a pond of wild trumpeteer swans and a picturesque meander along the River Stour into the county of Suffolk and back again... It was utterly perfect.
That night we cooked together, all three. I had no idea cooking was so much fun. Or that three 'mates', as British Sarah called the three of us (American, Dutch, English, 19, 18, 32) could be so perfectly content just existing together. And the range of conversation! I think it stimulated something in my brain that had been sleeping for the last while... That night Sarah went to bed early so Adriaan and I watched a corny American movie (I'm the first American friend he's had so he had to have that experience of watching an American movie with an American girl ) and then stayed up talking until 2. He's a very tall boy and has a very deep deep voice, but soothing, and I think sometimes I ask him deep questions just to hear his long, involved reply Adriaan says I have "an American face"-- whatever that is. Do I? I always thought I had the Pearson look. Apparently I have the American look as well I think classifying ourselves the way we do is hilariously ridiculous. But it is a fun thing to be told beings that I'm here and I'm American. Hehe
Sunday was precious. Bittersweet because the weekend was suddenly here and then gone again. We went to church with Sarah-- Prettygate Baptist. Prettygate. Mmmm....-- where after the service they come around to the congregation serving tea and biscuits (little cookies) to us right in our seats We hurried home to prepare for a couple of Sarah's friends to join us for lunch. The couple had two little girls, a precocious, ginger-haired 4 year old named Lucy and a 4 month old named Freya. They were an uncharacteristically friendly couple and down-to-earth good fun. After Spaghetti Bolognaise we embarked on a walk (England has public walking trails spilled out all over the country-- through fields and meadows and forests and towns and really anywhere you go, there's a walking path for you), Sarah, Adriaan, Lucy, this couple, the baby in a pram and I. We strolled the English countryside, past stables and through fields, up hills and down. We got that baby pram over stiles and through thickets, I tell you Lucy warmed up to me and took my hand and we raced Adriaan (who's height, we're convinced, intimidated her because he's completely non-threatening in every other way) until she was "out of puff", as she so colloquially phrased it. The afternoon had the same scent of enchantment as the day before had and I found myself very much in love with it all...

Leaving was hard because the whole weekend was such a spontaneous bit of strangeness and delight. It hadn't seemed real, somehow. Like a warm and cozy dream. That's what Essex will be to me now-- a-cuddled-up-with-a-steaming-cup-of-cocoa-before-a-roaring-fire-after-a-long-fresh-walk kind of dreamworld, suspended in time.

The journey back was just as wonderful, lost in hours of stimulating conversation and laughter, and with about an hour's stop to meander about the cold streets of London at night for Adriaan's first time. We arrived in Gloucester after the city had gone to sleep and wandered up the few blocks to college with hearts full after a blissful weekend spent wallowing in the generosity of a precious friend.

So, trading the weight of my backpack for the weight of my schoolwork needing doing is proving to be a trying transition. I'm desperate for discipline but so frustrated when I am working at it. Tonight called for a chilly nighttime chat with my Strong Tower out under Redcliffe tree (where I'm quite certain I laughed and cried in turn and He wiped the tears and clapped my back respectively) and the entire time He delighted my heart with the chrystalline sound of cathedral bells tolling seasonal sounds through the brisk, English night air. When I got back in, after feeling I'd gathered myself around myself enough to really sit down and get some work done without tripping over all the stuff on my heart, Paul knocked on my door (which is rather strange because he's never done that before) to let me know we were getting together in the common room for chocolate and coffee Then Leticia came bounding in, immediately wanted to know what it was that was wrong (is something showing in my face??) and then proceeded to try to melt my worries away with an inpromptu Samba session in her candles-lit, windows-open, Brazillian music-boasting bedroom When I went down to the common room I told myself I would only stay for a few moments and then it was straight up to do some real work for this flagging student. But then Isabela (love this lady) started sharing and God has done some awesome things in her life and I was held transfixed. In the end, out of the twenty-some people who started in that room, Isabela and I were the last ones to leave. So... needless to say, I haven't gotten very far on that work...

But my King is moving, ever-moving, in my heart. And He is beautiful, so beautiful. And so I shall not be overcome by anything but sheer wonder and delight at all that He is to me tonight and all that He's done and all that He has yet to do. Just look at Me, Lovely. Just keep holding My eyes. I know. I know it all. And I'm carrying you...

So I rest...
Leah <><

p.s. Did I mention I adore inpromptu worship sessions with acoustic guitars and guys who can play any song put in front of them?

p.p.s. I should add the disclaimer that if this email is a tad bit too whimsical for your comfort, I've been exhausted for days and this was written way past my 'bed time" : )

**Visit for pictures of my wonderful Essex weekend!!!

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Showers of Blessings (and Fireworks!)

Dear All,

I can't believe I live here. Hehe. You'd think after, what, 9 weeks (?) that I would be used to the idea. But no : ) Continual blessings showering down.

The past two weeks, about, have been interesting ones. It was the turning over from one term to the next with all that that entails-- new classes, new pressures. I've been forced to really dig into study and research for my three major essays coming due. I find the system of study in this country involves so much more self-discipline (NOT a fabulous system for the procrastinators among us... ahem...) because we aren't given so many assignments to be doing and handing in all along. Rather, the assessed work is given one deadline at the end of the course and you're meant to be working on it all along... My private research this term ( with essays due Mid-December) involves a biblical critique of the doctrine of Mary in Roman Catholicism, the missionary methods of an influential individual in church history of which I've chosen St. Patrick in keeping with my exploration of God's laying Ireland on my heart, and the providence of God-- answering the question biblically of whether or not God really does have "a wonderful plan" for every life... It all feels heavy, but it will be so good for me to think through these things and develop a firm grasp on what I think about them according to God's word. The more intense burdens on the academic side of things are my 10 minute public speech that I have yet to decide on, and my leading (from scratch) of a bible study group on Philippians 4. In my nature, these two things seem far too much. I would be crushed under the weight of them if left on my own. Absolutely terrified. But here's where I've got to trust that God knows precisely what He's doing... I covet your prayers for those two things though because I really can be so paralyzed by fear and a feeling that I have nothing to say that hasn't been said before or couldn't be said by someone better. This is an area of my own nature that God is gently but firmly coaxing me to confront and it's... uncomfortable and mortifying. But He's bigger than all my fears...

On the community and friendship side of things, it was an up-and-down weekend! Being the end of the term, some of the short term students (called "Striders" here) finished up their course of study and struck out from Redcliffe to prepare for their respective missionfields. One of these leavers this past weekend was my dear dear darling friend Sarah who's been a part of my "prayer triplet" these past 2 months and whom I've grown closer to so far than, I think, anyone else here. But God has been so good to me, and held me so close and povided so well. The very day she left instead of leaving me to despair, He immediately worked to make some other friendships flourish in my life : ) It was a weekend of celebrations in Great Britain over a holiday known simply as "The Fifth of November"-- set aside each year to celebrate the fact that a man named Guy Folkes did NOT succeed in blowing up the royal family in 1605. It is traditionally celebrated with huge fireworks displays and massive bonfires. On Friday night we here at Redcliffe kicked it off with a bit of sparklers in the garden as a sort of Happy Leaving to Sarah and Emmanuel (another Strider) who were leaving the next day. The whole weekend is well-documented in pictures on my pictures page so do go see!: Later on that night, about 30 of us gathered together in the student common room to send Sarah and Manny off (Sarah to Peru, and Manny to Northern Africa) properly. It was such a blessing to find myself a part of this. We squeezed in arm to arm in a circle, people on the floor, couches, and beanbags, and took the Lord's Supper. Overwhelmingly beautiful. So informal and yet reverent, so much love for one another in Christ gathered in that little room. Redcliffe is such a special place. And I am so incredibly blessed.

Saturday night a group of about 10 of us walked down to the football field-- about 45 minutes walk-- to see the Gloucester City fireworks for The Fifth of November! It was like a strange twist on Independence Day, I have to say : ) They set the display to music and we oohed and awwed and laughed and talked and walked and enjoyed ourselves as a smaller group-- I love getting away into smaller groups. Friendships are always fused. This night it was a deepened friendship with a girl from Northern Ireland named Jenny. She is a star. A beautiful gem. I thought there might be something special about this girl that I could really relate to from the get go but then true, deep connection just didn't happen. But I think it is just like my Heavenly Love to beckon a heart-friend to step in the day He calls a heart-friend away : ) And now Jenny has also joined Leticia and I in our prayer partnership-- filling in the gap that Sarah left in our "triplet" in her own unique Jenny-way, and I am so blessed.

Can I just say, we have developed the best and most ridiculous form of the cardgame Uno here at this school? They call it the Dave and Adriaan Special Edition because they have simply made up the rules as we go and new rules are added by these two guys all the time and it is great fun. I'm determined to transplant it into American circles when I'm back this summer : ) Who knew Uno could be this much fun?

Sunday was brilliant. Still needing some relational security after being shaken by losing someone who I really was secure with, God brought me to a church called Kendal Road Baptist which I, for the first time, felt could really be my church home. I think I may still check out one other just to be fair but this felt so right. And almost immediately upon walking in and sitting down I was invited to lunch at the house of a dear older couple who have travelled the world and are happy to share in their experiences. The church was having this thing called "Hospitality Sunday" where everyone invites everyone over for lunch who maybe don't have families to eat with or whatever. I went with the two Dutch guys from school, Henk and Adriaan, and then another guy from Kendal Road. Jim and Joy's house was absolutely perfectly British, the decorating classy and a bit regal-- just as you'd imagine a proper British home should be : ) And the food was magnificent. I need to learn to cook : ) But even more special was their generosity of spirit. They gave us their whole day and kept me there just talking over cups of tea until 5 o'clock! I am inspired by the generosity and hospitality of so many of the people who have welcomed me into their homes here. I am convicted by how little we in America seem to look outside of ourselves to open up our doors and hearts like so many have done to me here-- even if it just means a meal and a talk. I am determined to be more giving upon returning, even if it means simply more giving of my time...

Sunday night we as a college were invited over to Redcliffe House, which is a grand, large old house across the street where most of the students with families are living for an evening of fireworks and more sparklers to celebrate the Fifth as a community! It was such a beautiful thing to just come together like that outside of school and ordinary purposes. Plus, I got to spoonfeed Grace her dinner and cuddlecuddlecuddle that chubby little baby and that in itself is precious enough : ) I am so touched by the kindness and concern we as a student body have for one another. I love these people. And I am so blessed...

This weekend (Tomorrow! Yay!) Adriaan (Holland) and I are taking off to go see Sarah who is at home in Essex (an English county just above London) until she heads off for Peru. I am so excited!! We decided it was time for just a bit of adventure and both of us, being foreigners here, want to see as much of the UK as possible and decided a few weeks ago that we would become travel partners and embark on adventures whenever we could find a place to stay : ) So, expect me to regale you with tales of our expedition to Essex in time!

Incase I haven't emphasized it enough, I am so uncommonly blessed here. My King is far far too good to me and shows His precious Love in so many ways every day-- whether it be a shy gift out of the blue from a sweet Dutch friend (The Dutch are everywhere in this school :-)), people just popping in to my room to say hello, a quiet afternoon spent out of the college in the sunny chill, Impromptu worship sessions day or night, awesome, awesome prayer times, a rollicking random game of Uno or even just a heartfelt hug now and again. He is beautiful and present His blessings are bigger than the burdens...

Cling to Him : )
Leah <><

p.s. for pictures!

Saturday, 5 November 2005

An Overdue Overview (of Midterm Break in Hastings)

Dear All,

I owe you an email about Mid-term break in Hastings!! I came back nearly a week ago already but hit the ground running with the last week of the term and all that came with it.

Hastings was such a blessing. Just to go away for a week into a state of relaxation-- not to worry about assignments hanging over my head or research to be done on papers coming due or even schedules. It's not that we sat around all week. We did all kinds of things. But we did it on our own time, when we felt like it, rather than at the beckoning of a regimented schedule : )

I stayed with Marge and her parents in their century-old, hilltop house and was welcomed in with only a slight amount of the traditional British reserve. Marge's father was really precious. Very soft-spoken and kind but endowed with a fantastically brilliant sense of humor that twinkled out through his eyes even when he wasn't employing it. Her mom was gracious hospitality itself and must have baked a spectacular English dish every night just to introduce me to true, traditional, English family life. She was especially keen on "puddings"-- which is a general term for desserts of all kinds here and made things like, "Queen of Puddings", "Strawberry Povlova", and "Apple crumble with Custard"-- Doesn't that all sound just terribly English??

Hastings won my heart from the first sight stepping out of the train station to see the ancient ruins of the Hastings Castle of 1067 crumbling majestically on the highest hill overlooking the town-- In American terms, Hastings is very much a "city" rather than a "town", with over 60,000 people and well-spread out. But in England what constitutes a city is a cathedral and Hastings, though it has many beautiful, ancient churches, doesn't have a cathedral... It's built right on the seashore and the original village which was started sometime before 1066 is nestled cozily between two cliff-like hills. The modern-day town has stretched out and been built up all over hill, cliff, nook and cranny. There is an Old Town and then the more modern day part of Hastings. I was captivated, of course, by the Old Town, the bit between the two hills and right up next to the sea (English Channel).

We walked down to the town numerous times a day, sometimes, and then back up again-- to a height of 400 feet above sea level in about a mile's walk. I suppose that's how we earned our "puddin'" each night : ) In the Old Town we'd nip into quiant little shops-- art galleries, antique shoppes, chic home furnishing stores, old-fashioned seaside candy shoppes, fish markets, clothing stores, and on and on the list goes. We visited museums, took a vernicular lift to the top of East Hill overlooking the city, spent Saturday night at a music festival on the victorian pier with a friend from college who came down from London to see us, had a games night with a bunch of Marge's lovely friends from her gorgeously welcoming church, had lunch in a picturesque country pub built in 1532-- dried hop-blossoms hanging from the low beamed ceiling-- with Marge's family and neighbors, ate ice cream cones on the sea shore, explored the fishermen's net huts which are hundreds of years old and still in use and built on the shore in a style unique to Hastings only, went to "chippies" (itty bitty restaurants scattered liberally all across the country where you can get fish and chips-- big, fat french fries, basically-- wrapped up in newspaper-like packages. So very English : )), and as a "family" went to the cinema to see the new "Wallace & Gromit" film because the British love their Wallace and Gromit... We didn't get across the Channel into France, I'm afraid, but I did have my first traditional English cream tea experience and it was lovely-- in a tiny 17th century tea shoppe served with dainty, pink flower-bedecked china and Cornwall clotted cream.

It was such a blessing to be invited into a family and treated like a daughter-- even though it did tend to make me a bit homesick for the first time since I've been here...

Now I'm back to the daily grind and Monday starts a brand new term so many classes are turning over. I'm thick in the midst of a job hunt-- so far what I thought would be the best place to enquire have been dead ends and I'm wondering what exactly my God is up to in that area : ) I've just today sent away a woman who has become in two short months my very dearest friend here at college as she was only here for a short course and finished up her term. I hardly know what I'll do without her but it would seem that God is intensifying other friendships for me all throughout the school to perhaps fill the relationship gap made with Sarah's leaving... So, I am blessed and well provided for by the Greatest of Providers.

His hand is so evident in just everything...
More to come soon! Blessings on you!
Leah <><

p.s. Pictures of Hastings to be found at

Friday, 21 October 2005

Mid-term Break and Other Things

"Let all our employment be to know God; the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him."~Brother Lawrence

Dear all,

I don't have a huge amount to say this time (I think :))...

I'm learning so much it's making my head hurt-- to be very blunt and un-eloquent : ) I have my Doctrine of God class on Fridays and I feel like it's basically taking all the gray areas of the theology of my faith and blowing them up and completely out of proportion. But, it's good for me. Today I was confronted with Theistic Evolution, Divine Determinism, Synergism, and Emanationism. Don't ask me to explain them because I'm afraid it's all a bit foggy right now. Things will come into a bit sharper focus when I go to write the essay : ) Throughout the lecture, I was left with the words of Apostle Paul reverberating in my mind, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ..." I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to take these philosophical thoughts on-board because I'm here and I have the chance to learn, but in the end and even while learning, the true issue remains the same-- The cross of Jesus. I would ask for prayer that that main focus doesn't get lost in exploring all these "gray", philosophical areas.

I leave on mid-term break tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it. My friend Marge has invited me home so I'll be spending the week in Hastings with her and her parents : ) Hastings is on the south-east coast of England, in Sussex, and is famous, for you history buffs out there, for the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Marge has promised me my first "Cream Tea", which is a very traditional British way of taking tea with a scone covered in cream. Apparently there is a lovely tea shop nearby that does a good cream tea : ) We also plan a long walk through a nearby holiday park where we can climb a hill that looks over the whole city and out into the sea. We hope to possibly cross the British Channel into France for an afternoon (can you imagine that?!). Besides all that, I'll be meeting alot of British people Marge has talked about for the 6 weeks I've known her, learning to cook alot of British food, and attempting to finish Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility with my free time : ) We hope to leave thoughts of schoolwork behind and spend lazy evenings watching girly British movies : ) It ought to be lovely.

He taught me again this week of how deeply I need my quiet times with Him-- times above and beyond my daily devotions to keep my heart and mind stayed on Him. I would encourage you to take the time to just get away with Him and pray and reflect. I stole away Wednesday afternoon to trip down to the cathedral (again) and I just sat there within those thick, cold walls of stone watching the rain pour down in my little courtyard outside the cloisters. Steps echoed down the cloister's corridors as people walked past me tucked into a corner with The Word and a beloved book from the 17th century ("The Practice of the Presence of God") by a French monk called Brother Lawrence-- someone who knew the atmosphere of a cloister very well. I would entreat you to steal away such precious moments to focus your everything on seeking His face, for the sake of being with Him and for no other reason but Him. It resets my perceptions ("Let us think often that our only business is to please God, and that all besides is but folly and vanity."-- Brother Lawrence) and resets my heart on "things above". Amy Carmichael once wrote, "We are what we think about," --and I can't help but agree-- "Think about trivial things or weak things and somehow one loses fibre and becomes flabby in spirit..." Like Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- dwell on such things." Because, in the end, He's the only thing in life that matters...

Today, I love England. And I love that no matter where I go, He has me right where I ought to be.

Seek hard!
Leah <><

p.s. Picture updates at

Monday, 10 October 2005

My Weekend

Dear All,

Do you ever feel that in the span of a few days' time so much has happened that you can never be the same? And yet, you really don't know what has happened or what you've become, you just know there's been a shift and you can never be what you once were?

Dramatic introduction to a slightly less dramatic weekend-- at least on the obvious side of things.

Friday morning was my first real day of my concurrent mission placement at the hospital down the road. I was so unsure about it; so frightfully insecure. But suddenly I found myself on my ward, walking into bays full of beds of elderly. I visited patient after patient, some more coherent than others, and felt my heart going out to them again and again. It was terrifying each time, but each time was also rewarding in its own way. One dear old lady was quite out-of-it and simply greeted me again and again, "Hello, dearie. Hello, dearie. Hello, dearie." Then she asked me where she was, "please," and she was only calm and silent when I took her hand and asked to pray with her. Beautiful, dear old lady. She then began to ask again and again and again and again, "You'll come back to visit me again, dearie, won't you? Won't you, dearie?" I did assure her that I would. I met one sweet old lady from Italy with a huge smile and a sweet way of calling me a lovely girl. But the one who really stole my heart, I have to say, is a big old man named James. He had a full white beard and a twinkle, though faded by time and circumstance, in his eye. I knelt by his bedside until my legs were fast asleep and listened to him talk of the farm he once worked on, his atheist son, the time he lost his wife and his mother all in the same week (at which point his clear blue eyes filled with quick tears), and his Saviour Jesus Christ, Whom he's known through the good and through the bad all his life. We prayed together. I held his hand. He was a blessing. I know his face will be the one I'll look for next week. He called me his Angel. I walked out of that ward with my mind buzzing, my heart full, and my hands remembering the softness of all the beautiful hands they had been holding.

I got back to school just in time for the end of coffeebreak, still overwhelmed by all that had transpired in my heart that morning, when Shemil (India) pulled me aside and asked if I would like to go to London for the weekend. London? Um, YES. Hehe. It wasn't a hard decision, even though he warned me that it was for a mission conference and wouldn't be for sight-seeing and such : ) I had to run to class until 1 which left me with about 20 minutes to pack, not actually knowing where I was going in the first place. I wouldn't learn until I was waiting with Shemil and Gloria (Pakistan-- she recently finished her Master's here at Redcliffe) at the front door what I was going to and even then it was sketchy-- they'd never been to this particular weekend either. We would learn that we were attending a Fellowship of Prayer for South Asia conference put on every year by about 60 different veterans of the missionfield in South Asia. A dear, old Gloucester couple who used to work in Sri Lanka drove us. We found ourselves at a secluded lodge situated on a hill overlooking acres and acres of rolling green English hills speckled with trees of Autumn-turning leaves. We were 3 of about 4 people under thirty years old : ) This fellowship was mostly made up of seasoned missionaries-- people who had spent their lives bringing Jesus to the lives of forgotten peoples in a part of the world I hardly knew about. I felt quite awkward. I was the only one there who had no tie to South Asia-- Shemil and Gloria come from there. But... somehow, it seems important that I had this weekend there. I was the replacement to the replacement of the lady (from India) originally planning to go. The first lady got sick, the lady taking her place got a toothache, so there I was. Not understanding clearly, but sure of His perfect timing and sovereignty.

This weekend shook me up. We had session after session on obscure South Asian country after obscure South Asian country. Now, be honest, how many of you know what exactly constitutes the term 'South Asia'? I didn't. Turns out it's places like India, Bhurma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and all the 'stans' (Pakistan, Afganistan, Kajikistan, so on and so forth). There were people in off the field of each country to highlight the prayer needs of each individual country, and individual areas and missions and missionaries in each individual country, and then we would spend the rest of the session literally praying, just like that. It was incredible. I felt so... unworthy to be sitting there amongst these faithful, steadfast, experienced soldiers for Christ. I felt inadequate to pray and foolish for knowing so little. Oh, how God expanded my worldview this weekend. America is supposed to be so privelaged (and, granted, after hearing what I did about these hurting countries, we ARE very privelaged in one way) and yet I can no longer look at our blissful ignorance as any kind of privelage. The passion these dear-hearted missionaries had was so clear, so unhindered by the materialism and selfishness riddling the culture I'm familliar with like the worst kind of epidemic. It was... difficult to process. I was preoccupied with other worries and hit by the torrents of new convictions and awareness. I found myself wandering outside into the green beauty at every break just to be with God and reflect. I found a sweet little shelter in the garden and claimed it as my own. I spent alot of time drawing out the myriad of experiences in the history of the beautiful-hearted people there. I was delighted to meet Hilary Rogers, who moved to Dohnavur, India in 1955 to work as a nurse at the fellowship started by Amy Carmichael, one of my own personal heroes. Hilary worked there for 36 years. I also met two spritely old ladies who had studied at Redcliffe in the early 1950's : ) One younger family was headed out to an area of Afghanistan called Nuristan where they would have to walk for 2 days to get to the villages in the mountains they were headed for. And I thought I had hard things to face... The life experience and tried-and-true trust in God gathered in that lodge for the weekend was incredible. And the entire experience moved me and encouraged me and convicted me and stretched me and pained me and inspired me. And even now I am in awe of the circumstances of how I ended up there. I can't shake the feeling that something about it had to be terribly significant to warrant two people cancelling coincidentally in turn.

It was a lovely retreat into the English countryside as well. And I went with fellow students who were still practically strangers upon leaving but friends upon our return. After being cooped up inside all day every day throughout the weekend, Shemil and I would take long long walks at night after the stars came out slightly shrouded by the Autumn fog. It's amazing to me that the India I know from fairytales really truly exists-- only intermixed with a modern world. They have elephants alongside traffic in the streets, only these days the elephants must wear little red breaklights on their bums : ) They still must sit segregated by gender in schools. His mom still wears a Sari everyday. His father, a middle-class English professor, earns only 2 pounds a day-- the equivalent of about 4 dollars-- yet, they live in a house with 10 rooms. Marriages are still arranged by parents after a certain age and people are okay with that! Ha : ) Such a vast and intriguing and terribly different culture but fascinating. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such different experiences than I'm used to... and brothers and sisters who truly care about me, and whom I can care about, despite all differences!

Pictures of my weekend--

May He be ever expanding your horizons in ways big and small, subtle and loud. May your heart be open to His voice...
God bless, all.
Leah <><

Friday, 7 October 2005


Dear all,

I'm dashing off to London this weekend!!

About two minutes before my last class Shemil asked me to join them for a free weekend in London for a mission's conference. I really don't know what I'm doing, but I'm going along : ) We leave in 20 minutes so I'd better pack! I just wanted to let you all know (especially family and friends that I'm in touch with daily) that I won't be around this weekend!

I have much to update you on when I get back...
Leah <><

Sunday, 2 October 2005

An 'ickle bitty' to say... (Yes, 'ickle bitty' are words for Little Bit here!)

God is doing so much.

I am constantly struck by the impossibility of it all. That I'm here, in England. That this has become my life. I don't understand what He's up to but I know He's laid His hand on my life and will not lift it until I resemble His Son...

This morning I went with my friend Marge to a Church of England church called St. Catharine's. We actually went because on the day last week when all the churches in the area sent representatives to the school Marge and I spoke to a past student of Redcliffe named Skye who goes to St. Catharine's and invited Marge and I over for lunch after church today-- knowing that Redcliffe doesn't serve meals on Sunday. Skye is the coolest lady. An enigma. I love enigmas. She dresses all in black, has peircings and tattoos and dark eyeshadow, and the love of God just shining out of her beautiful smile : ) She feels called to become a vicaress in the Anglican church... Her husband is super nice, super soft-spoken, with a long, dark pony-tail and obvious tenderness for their four-year old Sophia, whom he follows about devotedly. I fell in love with their cuddly little newborn, Pheonix. Strange name, beautiful 5-week-old boy. They are living in what was once the servants' quarters of a grand old house just down the street from Redcilffe. They have two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bath and I'm sure they struggle to make ends meet just now but they still didn't hesitate to open up their home to us and fill our plates. We ate at a make-shift table in their bedroom. Such inspiring generosity... To have so little and yet share all they have...

This past Saturday Mike (England), a formidable third year student somewhere past his 50th birthday, organized a morning walk to a cafe in the city centre for a traditional "Full English Breakfast". At first I thought I couldn't be bothered to get up early on a Saturday just for breakfast : ) But they convinced me it would be a "cultural experience" (Later on in the day they got me to watch a game of Rugby on the telly for the same reason-- It would seem they can get me to do almost anything by calling it that : )). They plopped down plates as large as the seat of my chair and filled with foods of all kinds. All I could think was how much my Dad would love this Full English Breakfast tradition : ) Sausages, ham, eggs, fried toast, hash browns, baked beans, and tomatoes! ---- So, Dad, when you get here, we'll be sure to go out for the Full English : )

This weekend has been a good one for just spending time getting to know people better. We've done a movie night (Shanghai Nights-- which really played up on the whole American/English stereotypes so that was fun : )), Rugby-- which North American Football is supposed to have derived from, Full English breakfast with a couple of Englishmen and ladies and two Germans, and strolling through the city during the crazy "Harvest" celebrations. We've done "parlour games", lots of Uno with new rules added in intermidently by Dave (England) and Adriaan (Holland-- though he's taken to speaking his English with a Gloucester accent which is really quite a spectacle : )), and a worship session with Leticia (Brazil) running late into the night. I've been so blessed by new friendships (especially friendly Claire from Nothern Ireland and sweet Mavis from Zimbabwe) and the deepening of others...

I have never had the experience of being part of a prayer partnership until now-- much less a prayer "Triplet" as Leticia, Sarah, and I have taken to calling ourselves : ) We basically just decided one night to get together weekly and pray, to share struggles and be accountable to one another. I feel so... undeserving of being considered a part of this little group. These girls' hearts are so extravagantly beautiful, their faith so mature and full. Even their prayers are beautiful. Sarah is about 32, from Essex, a county in south-east England, and only here for a short course before she heads off to two years of mission-work in Peru. I felt a connection with her and was encouraged by her presence at the college from the first night on. Leticia, is about 25 (I'm guessing, though I haven't actually found out), from Brazil, and a spectacularly delightful little fireball of beauty, friendliness, exuberance, wisdom, eloquence, and love. I love her heart. She has somehow seen something in me worth pursuing, worth getting to know, worth taking time for. And I am so blessed by her presence. Last week we three got together intending to pray and ended up learning to dance the Brazillian Samba as well, amidst much uncontrollable laughter, I assure you : )

On Friday I had my first day of my concurrent mission placement. It's a position on the chaplaincy team of the local Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. I came away so utterly overwhelmed. I really don’t know clearly what I felt, only overly-so. My first day at the hospital I was paired up with a lovely older lady named Dorothy who took me around with her on her neurology ward and just let me observe her interactions with the patients—sort of ‘showing me the ropes’. I’ve come away powerfully touched. It’s as if I was feeling so much that I was numb… First off, there’s the basic foundation of fear and a feeling of inadequacy for the job. But I feel God really whispered peace over that aspect of it for me and gave me a calm going into it. Then there’s the social interaction of it—the out-going approach one must have to walk into those bays filled with beds divided by drawn-back curtains. At first, the responsive patients seem interested to see who exactly we are and what we’re up to in their room but more often than not once we introduced ourselves as related to the chaplaincy, people closed off. No one wanted prayer. Some people forbid Dorothy even to talk of God to them. All were struggling to understand why they were finding themselves in this place in their lives. I felt so awkward standing there, healthy and whole, beside a friendly, bold Dorothy, witnessing people grappling with such personal pain—especially when they wanted nothing to do with God’s help besides. One lady lying dreadfully ill in bed couldn’t speak any English but she looked miserable. Dorothy with beautiful compassion knelt down on the floor beside her bed and took her hand and just told her she was loved and that everything was going to be okay, whether or not she could understand her. She knelt like that, holding her hand and looking into her face, for minutes that stretched on awkwardly, but in the discomfort my heart was moved to feel just a bit of her depths of pain. We had to suit up in rubber gloves and aprons to enter a private room off the main corridor to sing Happy Birthday to a severely ill and quite disabled 22 year old man. Dorothy knew him quite well because he had been there for awhile and she had a Psalm to read to him all about God’s protection and healing. I stood there looking into the one opened eye of this young man, noticing the glistening brown and wondering what he was thinking, what he was feeling, and listened to her words from the Psalm and just felt so extremely helpless and out of place. Whatever struggles I’ve had in this life are nothing! Whatever woebegone days I’ve endured are nothing! Here was a 22 year old man in the prime of his life lying crumpled up and crippled in a hospital bed while we sang him songs to celebrate his life and promised him that God is with him and has an excellent plan for him and will heal him. It was all just too much. And I went away on complete overload. I know my God is faithful, even unto such as these, but my heart aches for them and I’m frustrated by the awkwardness in interaction caused not by lack of empathy—my heart burns with empathy—but a lack of complete understanding. So, I bring it before my Lord, knowing His ways are higher than mine, His thoughts beyond my comprehension, His love for the people I met that day deeper than I can possibly begin to describe.

But I ask for your prayers. This placement is asking something of me that I didn't realize I had, and so stretching me in ways I didn't think I could be. I just want to shine His love but so often I'm afraid my own selfish timidity gets in the way. Even as a write this, though, a scribbled down Isaiah 8:13 stares up at me from a notepad-- "If you fear God, you need fear nothing else." And so I have nothing to fear...

Once again, sorry about the length! And it's only the tip of the iceberg really : )
May He keep you close,
Leah <><

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Visuals of England

Hi All!

I've finally got internet on my laptop which means I can show you pictures!! Rather than sending huge digital pictures (and sometimes large amounts of them :)) in the emails, I've created a site where the interested can go just to look at what I've been up to in photos. They start out rather small, but you can click on them and they will come up larger in another window. Please visit if you'd like to see where I am! It's:
(P.S. If any of you get a chance, please show this site to Grandma sometime as well otherwise she won't ever get to see the pictures : ( You can also share these emails with her!)

School has truly begun now and most of my days are filled with various lectures both fascinating and challenging. I spent last week attending every lecture offered for my year and then all weekend deciding which of them I would take. I went in to the weekend thinking I knew exactly what I would do, then prayed about it for a few days, and came out of the weekend with an entirely different view : ) Nine courses are offered my year this term. I must choose six of them to be assessed in and then I may audit as many of the rest as I would like. So, the verdict for my term will be (drum roll, please)...

Introduction to Acts and the Pauline Epistles, which is two intense hours with Richard Johnson (who likes to make sure we're all quite awake by now-and-again jumping about the room energetically, his unruly, graying hair flopping against his forehead and his long, limp sweaters bouncing about his skinny shoulders :)) every Monday morning looking indepth at not only the books about and written by Paul, but all circumstances surrounding the writing of those books. Very interesting.

Then I have Bible Study Methods and Leadership, 2 more hours on Monday with Richard Johnson, in which we learn to truly study the Word-- analyze each aspect from each perspective. I have never looked at the Word this way or learned so much about the 'read-between-the-lines' aspect of it all. On top of that we must demonstrate our understanding of what we're learning by then leading a bible study with a group in the class. This, I will need huge amounts of prayer for as public-speaking in any venue terrifies me. Praise Him that it's not up to my power to share His wisdom, but His!

Tuesdays will be my longest day this term. I have The Growth of World Christianity with Collin Bulley for two hours in the morning, a class both extremely interesting and long : ) Mr. Bulley seems enduring British, if the entire nation can be generalized, and one might dismiss him as being the rather old, intellectual, boring type if it weren't for one small diamond stud in his left ear, as if he'd forgotten when he was dressing in his nondescript professor-ish sweater and trousers (never say 'pants' here. 'Pants' are strictly a pair of panties in English english!) to hide away the hint that there is a life beyond the teaching, endless knowledge, and classroom : )

Then comes the dreaded Developing Public-Communication Skills with Simon Steer, our school's president. His wife is American, by the way, and he studied at seminary in New York : ) Anyway, this is the course I was dead-set against taking. I figured I'd been subjected to enough fright and humiliation in my high school speech-making class and then again last year at Concordia whenever the courses called for it. This year, I knew I would have no need for a class such as this one. Apparently, God has other ideas because I couldn't find peace over not taking it and therefore, I find I'm enrolled. The course culminates in each student giving a 10 minute talk so I'm praying about a good subject and confidence to deliver it!! I will be begging for prayers as that day approaches, I assure you!

So, then it's World Religions with Rob Cook. Something about the tutor completely intimidated me at first. He has a way of purposely disturbing things in you-- of forcing you to step back and look at everything you once thought was solid as being slightly shifty. I was so uncomfortable with that at first and not looking forward to taking his lecture. But right now we're learning about Roman Catholicism and that's a religion I need to have a grasp of if God does someday/somehow lead me to Ireland. Then that night I went on to discover that he also teaches another of my classes as well as being my pastoral tutor AND my acadmenic tutor!! Of ALL the tutors here, he was both of those... So, it pushed me to really sit down with God and look at this as His Will and question what He might be trying to tell me through this particular person, through his particular style of raising faith questions and my immediate reaction to those questions. What I've decided is that God has huge plans that I cannot understand and He doesn't ask me to understand. He asks me to trust. So... here I am.

The Doctrine of God and the church, led by Rob Cook, is my 6th class and will be fascinating even if it is slightly over my head and intimidatingly philosophical.

Then I'm auditing a seventh, Old Testiment Survery, simply because it's such foundational information-- plus Derek Foster is a riot act who says things quite reminiscent of Monty Python and looks unmistakably like Mr. Bean : )

Coincidentally, in line with school officially starting and all, the weather has also turned this week to what I'm told is a bit more customary for an English autumn : ) It's quite chilly, windy and drizzly-- never real rain, just drizzle-- and quite gray. But the sun comes out off and on as well and none of this keeps me from walking everywhere I need to go and also plenty of places I don't need to simply for the experience of it : )

Aunt Melissa, you will be very pleased to know that I'm singing on a worship team here : ) My neighbor in the room next to mine heard me singing along to my BarlowGirl cd randomly one night and, without my knowledge, went to the powers-that-be to request that I be put on her worship team!! So, due to the mysterious nature of it all, I'm taking that to mean that God wants me there : )

With this being a Theology course and all, I find my classes are deeply intellectual, analytical, and academic and a part of me is grieved that we're picking God apart like this-- even as I realize how vital it is to really dig in and look at Him and all that He embodies in this way. Nonetheless, my heart was more blessed than I can say tonight when I went to the first of a series of student meetings called 'Resonate'. It's a night of praise, worship, and prayer done by students for students and it's just where some of us basically get together after lots of deep study to regroup and refocus our minds and hearts on simply loving God-- the motivation for taking this course in the first place. I love the new worship songs I'm learning here but some are still so unfamilliar that I would find myself standing there eyes closed just listening. I am so struck as I stand there hearing voices from all over the world raised to bless his name all around me. And again I stand in awe of His unfathomable purpose in bringing me here and placing me among them. Me?? I am struck by the divine appointment of it. You have Kalun (originally from China but raised in England), who must be one of the most talented and gifted people God has made, strumming the guitar and singing in a gorgeous, God-glorifying voice, Emmanuel (originally from Nigeria but has been living in England for a number of years now) mastering the guitar, Paul (British, but grew up in the Reunion Islands where his parents were missionaries) leading worship, Claire (Northern Ireland) giving her testimony of God's faithfulness so personably and personally, Leticia (Brazil)-- amazing, amazing girl-- praying God's Word over all of us, and then all these awesome worshippers of The King from places like Holland, Korea, Zimbabwe and everywhere in between, and then there's me, the one and only American... I really don't know why I'm here. I don't know what He has in store. But I'm thankful that He has not lifted/will not lift His hand from me until He's led me to the very streets of gold...

There is forever more to say!! But... too much is just too much so I'll have to save it for another letter another day. Thank you so much for all of you who pray for me. I can tell He's been hearing those prayers...

May you be so very richly blessed as you seek Him!
Leah <><

Thursday, 22 September 2005

These Days...

Ahh, to be in England in the autumn... : )

It's lovely here these days. I find myself sprawled out on the grass in the afternoons and evenings just soaking up the sun and studying The Word. Little children run by and shout hello in sweet little accents : ) Or new friends pass by and invite me to this and that. Last night it was shopping so I went along and deepened friendships on the walk to Asda-- a store owned by Wal-mart!-- and back.

Last night Suzanne (Scotland) had a couple of us [me, Tabitha (Zimbabwe), Leticia (Brazil), Hot-Lin (Indonesia), and then Shemil (India) just sort of showed up and hung around : )] over to her room for tea so we brought our own mugs and sat about on the floor with warm, milky tea and interesting conversation. Some accents I can understand better than others, but everyone is so interesting! I've decided with certainty that I love having tea on the dormroom floor : )

Leticia (Brazil) is one of the greatest people I have met so far. We're becoming fast friends. Her heart for the Lord is so beautiful and she's wise beyond her years. We've decided to be prayer partners and hold one another accountable. I need to be in her room in 16 minutes for our first prayer time so I'd better hurry!!

We had a sort of church fair here yesterday, when representative from at least 30 of the area churches came here and set up tables and we got to go around and visit with them about their churches and get reading material and directions. One sweet lady named Skye even invited my friend Marge (Hasting, Sussex, England) and I over for dinner after church since Redcliffe doesn't serve meals on Sunday : ) She has a newborn baby, besides : ) So, next week I'm going with Leticia to Brunswick Baptist and then the Sunday after I'll try Skye's church which is a beautiful old cathedral called St. Catharine's. It's a Church of England (Anglican) church so that will be an experience in itself-- but one that I'm excited to have : )

Sunny (S. korea) has asked me to sing on the worship team for Wednesday devotions...

This afternoon one of my favorite (it's not nice to choose favorites, but I'm afraid I can't help it in this case!) people, Claire from Northern Ireland, ran up and down my hall calling us out to play volleyball and we struck up an informal game : ) I haven't played since Mrs. Goeden's gym class Snicker championships : ) But it was fun. The guys on my team were gracious and taught me all that I'd forgotten and jokingly voted me Most Valuable Player because I am so incredibly un-talented : )

Today is my baby brother's birthday so I miss him dreadfully...

This weekend I must think and pray about what classes to sign up for next week. By tomorrow afternoon I will have sampled them all...

My Abba reminded me of His love and care as I sought Him in the shade of massive Redcliffe Tree yesterday evening. Out of the middle of nowhere in Deuteronomy He brought me across a precious verse that I had completely forgotten about and told me it was for me : ) It was:
"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He sheilds him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rest between His shoulders." --Deuteronomy 33:12

And I so I quiet the anxious voices within asking me where I'm going with this, what I'm here for, and just rest in being His beloved and being nestled between His shoulders as He carries me...

May you seek after Him with all your heart,
Leah <><

Saturday, 17 September 2005

I Love the King of England

Hello all : ) Just a little update for the interested:

For the past few days I have been waking up to the reverberations of guitar playing filling my room like angel's song. At first I just sort of smile and praise Him for it because only He could know how much I truly adore hearing the guitar and how frustrating it has been not to have music playing whenever I'm in my room because I love to have my music on in the background of anything. Then it happened again the next morning and again the next and slowly it dawned on me what a beautiful Lover I have and how He has been serenading me with this song... How beautiful is our God?? Just a little reminder at the start of my everyday that He is there and that He loves me and that He is with me and not to fear...

Then this morning I was out in the 'garden' (the lawn) with Claire and we were discussing which windows are ours, you know, and I asked who it was that was right below me and right above me (because from within my room I really can't tell where the music is coming from, it just fills it) and I told her about the guitar-playing and she told me that it was Emmanuel something-or-other (someone I haven't met yet) who was playing... It took me a few moments to have the thought register... but, do you realize what Emmanuel means?

'God with us'

I stand in awe, Perfect One...

Today, I love England. And its (and mine and yours) King. And all the people that I know within it.

We took a trip to the Forest of Dean this afternoon, a lovely, old, expansive forest with large trails through the dim wood and nature and fresh air and beauty. Those of us who don't have cars had to depend on the extra room in the cars of others and I was invited to ride along with the sweetest young family with a baby only a month older than my Abby : ) I am smitten. Grace is all chubs and smiles and soft, little hands, and fluffy, whisps of hair and angel-looks. Her parents, a young couple from Manchester, just took me in and made me feel so at home-- so gracious. I love them already.

We walked about the forest as a large group and just talked with alot of different people and got to know each other better. It was lovely.

After 'tea' (supper), Bethan, Marge, Claire, Christian, Silka, Adriaan, Hank and I went off to a supermart called Asda, owned by Walmart : ) We're having a picnic tomorrow and must have some kind of snack to share. So, Marge and I fumbled about in the student kitchen (well, I fumbled. Marge knew precisely what she was doing, bless her : )) and whipped up some 'crispy cakes'-- little chocolate rice crispy cupcake type thingies-- for the picnic tea, all the while Shemil mosied in and out, causing trouble, making me laugh, and helping me fill out a billion and one medical forms. Afterwards we all crowded into the Television room for Bollywood (hollywood, only, in India) night and saw 'Bride and Prejudice' and laughed and talked and basically snuggled, as we were all crowded in. Friendships are strengthened day by day and new ones are made as well. I am so blessed...

Some toppers on my lists of loves so far are, of course, the accents : ) They are so varied, as well, as you speak to different people from different parts of the country. And I love how at mealtimes, everyone serves eachother. It's just automatic. Where I'm from we sort of take care of ourselves. Here, if one person pours himself a glass of water, he pours everyone one as well. If one person goes for 'pudding' (dessert), he gets one for everyone else as well. If one person wants coffee or tea, he takes everyone else's order and basically serves us all. I'm shocked by it again and again and I'm afraid I'll thoughtlessly get up and get myself something and forget to ask everyone else : ) I love Michael Spencer's (English) storytelling, Isabella's (Romanian) sense of humor, Gracie's (Baby from Manchester) laugh, John Choi's (Korean) sweet, friendly nature, Ruth's (English-- Isle of White) smile, Adriaan Verkerk's (Netherlands) constant wearing of his nametag, Shemil Mathews (Indian) goofiness and friendliness, and David Kinghorn's (English-- Gloucester) accent no matter what the guy says : )

Today I just love it here. Thank you, Sweet Lord. For being with me...
And I can't wait until I can show you some pictures : )
Seek hard after Him...
Leah Pearson <><

Thursday, 15 September 2005

Where to Begin...

Dear All,

I now make my home in Gloucester, England at a small, but lovely green campus. I had my first spot of English rain this morning, but could only watch it falling from the large, 19th century windows of the main lecture hall.

So much to say...

When I left my mom at the airport, I really wasn't sure why I was doing it. I sat down at my seat in the airplane, turned my face to the window, and cried and prayed and wallowed in my sadness-- all the while hating that I could feel sad over something as wonderful as the chance to study abroad in England!! Jesus cheered me up. I could feel His comfort literally and truly-- as I would go on to feel it again and again over the first few days.

The flight was long and very very uncomfortable, as I was quite sick when I left MN and would remain quite sick until... today really. I flew into New Jersey and changed planes and then flew into London early Tuesday morning-- the middle of the night our time-- and walking into Gatwick I was overcome by the horrible feeling of making the hugest mistake of my life. I believe the phrase, 'Look what you've done...' was playing through my mind over and over as I tried to gather my tremendously heavy luggage all by myself and manuever it through the airport all by myself. Then, my calling card wouldn't work and I wanted to sit down and cry. Finally I got through using money but they charge an arm and a leg for about 30 seconds... Anyway, some airport worker came up to me and asked, 'Can I help you, Love' and that made me smile. I love to be called Love and only God knows that. What a beautiful gift from Him.

I did find my way to my train into the city and a kind gentleman helped me get my luggage on as I honestly couldn't lift it myself-- that's how heavy it was. Once I arrived at Victoria in London, I had to find my way down the street and across to Victoria Coach station-- all the while hauling three suitcases, and the streets were busy and crowded and warm but the people were friendly and many greeted me with 'Cheers!' and smiles : ) I sat at the Coach (bus) station for three hours awaiting my bus, simply because I could hardly move with all that luggage. Plus, I hadn't slept much on the plane and I was sick so my energy level was nil...

My bus was pleasant. I'm afraid, despite all willpower, I fell asleep off and on throughout it and missed some of the lovely English countryside... When we pulled into Cheltenham, I knew we were getting close and grew so nervous... I was dropped off at Gloucester Bus Station and asked a sweet old lady the ins and outs of the taxi cab : ) Then a friendly, chatty, Muslim driver gave me a lift to the school, lamenting to me about the Katrina victims in America and assuring me of the safety of Gloucester (which, by the way, is pronounced 'Glosster', really, just so you know).

Shemil, Claire, and Beth met me at the door of my beautiful new school, and I was whisked away into winding corridors and brought to a lovely little square room with a long, tall window and antique oak dressers and closets. After calling my parents, I went back there to sit down and have a good long cry, wondering what in the world I was doing here. I unpacked, tried to make it as homey as possible, and fell asleep for 14 and a half hours : )

Admittedly rather silly, I was afraid to really leave my room the next morning in case of getting lost and because I knew no one but Shemil and Claire, really. But whatever it was that kept me in my room was good really. I needed that morning just to cling to my Savior and the promises of His Word and to look hard again at all that He had done to get me here and to teach myself, yet again, to trust passed what I can see. He placed Romans 8:28 in my reading : ) Very sly of Him : )

He also sent Claire and Shemil and they whisked me out of my room and through the rest of the college. Then other new students began to show up and I got to meet alot of people and have lots of interesting talks. We had a barbeque that night and I met the President's wife, who is American : ) The President's brother, actually, is a pastor in Rochester, Minnesota!

I'm being educated on the English words that aren't in my American vocabulary. It's so funny how two countries can have one common language and yet be so entirely different even in that commonality : ) My new British friends tell me they will send me back to America as a Brit : )

Today was orientation and more orientation... But it was in a lovely 18th century lecture hall done in lovely British accents! During our break, Adriaan, very very tall 'bloke' from Holland, another one of the younger students (younger being under twenty, of which there are only three of us), and I decided we ought to do something this afternoon and we planned a trek into the city of Gloucester. At lunch we got a whole group of others to come along and we all went 'marketing' in Britain : )

Tonight we spent hours just hanging out in the common room because we don't know what else to do. I'm holding out for the time when I feel so comfortable around these people-- praying it will come. I hate the lonliness of having friends but not friendships, conversing but not conversations. God's asking me to trust Him. So I'm hanging on. Sometimes by a thread.

So much to say... I'm still waiting on the right cords for my computer so I can have my laptop in my room. I also need a wireless internet card. I also need to spend as little money as possible. Ha! It is all a challenge, every last bit of it.

Oh... this makes me miss home and all the familiar people so much... May the Comforter of hurts and Dryer of all tears and Lover of our Souls be with you and reveal Himself to you ever deeper every day. Please continue to pray. It's a very tough adjustment. I'm not necessarily homesick, but lonesome. And of course there's always that feeling of not having what you expected to have. I've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't have expectations at all. God will only go on to exceed them if we're patient with Him : )

Love to all,
Leah <><

Saturday, 3 September 2005

I'm Moving to England!

Dear Basically Everyone in my address book : ),

After an agonizing year of back and forths, hesitation, dodging, careful consideration, and tons and tons of drenching it all in prayer, I was accepted to Redcliffe College in Gloucestershire, England in May. But even after I was accepted I just wasn't sure and I was praying and considering other options for this fall-- because I pretty much knew since September that I wouldn't be called back to Concordia (there is some sorrow in that admission as I really began to find my niche there by second semester...) He began to burden my heart with the eternal as opposed to the temporal. The track to a level of success in the world's eyes began to fade in its merit. My Savior's face began to rise ever more boldly. He laid two things on my heart enduringly. Ministry-- a school that was all about that-- and Europe. So... I bulked. I was (am) frightened and overwhelmed. Unbelieving. And thrilled and excited. And scared and unsure. And... torn. Ha. Clearly.

I prayed and prayed that He would show me where He wanted me. I researched and researched bible schools, starting in Ireland and England because for some reason those countries are laid on my heart the heaviest. I prayed and prayed. I passed by the site for Redcliffe over Christmas Break at home-- at the same time having my first real sit-down with my parents to let them know how I felt God was moving in my heart. Dad was less than thrilled. I was less than convincing. It's hard to be, when I wasn't even convinced in my own heart yet. Mom seemed excited. She had wanted to go to bible school at Oak Hills when she graduated but hadn't been encouraged in it. I'm so thankful for Mom's encouragement, especially since dad's discouragement was, by all means, loving and in my best interest as well as being exactly what I myself considered sound logic.

So, as I was contemplating not only the idea of being called into some kind of ministry but also where to place my next "life step", all year I struggled with the thought of leaving behind all the ones I love. My family has been my most dreadful enemies and horrible foes (ooh, they'll love that line : )) as well as my most fostering environment and dearest loves. To leave them, especially with my first niece on the way, for such a far off uncertainty, was a torturous thought. Torturous.

And I'm such a faithless, untrusting thing as it is.

But He did not leave me be. Praise God, He will not leave me be.

I was in a week of intense prayer when the prospectus for Redcliffe arrived in my mailbox, but it was the state of being so prayerful that really mattered. That morning I had woken up to His face and had prayed specifically that THAT day might be the day He told me about my fall destination. Then I got the prospectus : ) So... I began to slowly, tentatively, fill out the application. And then I dragged my feet in sending it. So frightened. Of everything. Of obedience. Of His wild but good nature. Of my own not-good-enough-ness.


Then began proceedings with the school and every time we'd hit a snag I would pray that He would either take it all away and show me I wasn't meant to be there that way or make it proceed and show me my next step.

And then I was offered a place at the school. Redcliffe College. In England. It still rather seems like a dream...

But, still, I held back in fear. I prayed that He would show me whether or not that's where He wanted me by making financial aid come through if He meant for me to go. There's a lengthy, drawn-out financial aid process with the US right now as they're trying to establish it with their school. So, it was very iffy. But I told Him I would go if He made the money come through.... shaking in my boots.

At this point, I was also looking at a few schools in the Seattle or Portland areas and loving that idea. But Redcliffe endured foremost on my heart. Strangely.

Then, mid-summer, dad seemed to... have a change of heart. Suddenly he decided that if this school in England was where I felt God wanted me, he would help me out. Take out a loan and let me pay him back later. He'd get me there.

So... basically, finances came through.

And I move to England in about a week's time.

Shock and awe.

Now my next huge life decision lies in what exactly I'm doing this for. Initially it was a year off of my English degree to get a firm foundation in bible and ministry and just soaking up the truest of all educations. But perhaps it's no coincidence that Redcliffe College is a centre for missions training... I can't say much on this yet because I don't feel God's revealed it all in full. All I can do is step out in faith on what I do know, and trust Him to reveal the rest when He says it's time. In the meantime, I believe to the core of me that all of those who know Him are embedded in missionfields whether or not we're aware of it and that I cannot go wrong with giving a year of my life to learning how better to serve Him for all the rest of it.

I can't say I know what He's up to. But I know unless He changes things awfully swiftly, I'm headed to mission school in England for at least a year. In a year I'll acquire a Certificate in Applied Theology. In three, should He choose to keep me there, a BA.

Naturally, it's always on my mind these days.

On a drive down to the Cities one weekend, it was the strangest thing. I felt a sudden command on my heart to turn off the music and shut down the thoughts and just listen. So, I sort of curled my lip in an "okay, weird, but okay" kind of manner and shut off the music. Thoughts aren't quite so easily shut down. But, slowly, everything seemed to quiet and there His words came. Gave me chills. I felt, "It will be costly."

It will be costly.

As if warning. As if saying, "Look, Love, here's the deal. I'm asking you to do this because I know what's best for you. I know My perfect Will and see it all spread out before Me. But, I'm just going to let you know right now, should you choose to follow Me on this, I'm not promising all rainbows and roses. Sometimes it's going to hurt. It's going to be difficult. It's going to be costly. What do you think?"


What I think is, I'm scared! I'm small, insignificant, incapable. I'm frightened. This is so much more than some girl choosing what to do about school for the fall. This is the unfolding of the greatest adventure I'll ever know-- following Him. This is a huge step up that mountain of Myrrh and my pathway to forever. Here I am standing at a great abyss. There He is reaching out and asking me to jump. I could turn around. I know what my perception of steady ground is. But turning around means distancing myself from Life Itself (What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul?) Or I could abandon myself completely (Whoever would save his life must lose it), jump into His arms and know throughout whatever costs (I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord) the deep intimate beauty of His embrace catching me (Trust in God, trust also in Me).
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or feilds for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and feilds-- and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." ~Mark 10:29-30

There's a cathedral in Milan, according to an Amy Carmichael biography called "A Chance to Die", with three doors. Over the first door is written simply, "All that pleases is but for a moment." Over the second, "All that grieves is but for a moment." And over the main doors, "Nothing is important but that which is eternal."

I want to live like nothing is important aside from what is eternal.

Please don't let this serious side of my heart deceive you into thinking I'm not absolutely thrilled by the fact that I WILL BE LIVING IN EUROPE! It is truly something I have dreamed of. I hope to travel on breaks and visit Tiphaine (my foreign exchange sister) and places I've only heard of and read about in books : ) I hope to forge deep friendships with people from all over the world, as Redcliffe is a very international school, and be stretched and challenged and given outpourings of grace to get me through my weakest spots. I can't wait to dwell among the accents : ) And every single person I've been in contact with at Redcliffe is just absolutely wonderful... The beauty of it all can far outweigh the sorrows in it as long as my gaze is fixed on my Author and Perfector!

But, He has made me aware of what I needed to be. It will be costly. My heart wonders how much more costly it would be not to seek to do His Will but simply to settle for the safety of what I've always known. Somehow, that lessens the impending costs...

"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." ~Luke 14:33

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." ~Matthew 13:45-46

"Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." ~Mark 10:49

"God is greater than our hearts." ~1 John 3:20

And so, I write to all of you to share with you this tremendous bend in my life's road and beg for your prayers and also ask for any ways that I can be praying for you and yours. Orientation begins September 14th. I'm desperate for His courage and confidence, as well as His providence in letting my student visa arrive in time : ) I'm sorry I write such monstrously long emails : ) And, please have no qualms about asking me to remove you from this mailing list at ANY time!

I will most definitely be in touch...

Be blessed,
Leah <><
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