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 <><
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