This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane
|2nd January: High Pike in the Lakes|
The very last words of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ novel are a tad underwhelming considering what has gone before. Samwise Gamgee, the ever-faithful travelling companion, arrives back in the Shire after completing his quest to help Frodo deposit the magical ring in the fires of Mount Doom. He has fought off giant spiders, battled with orcs and trolls, trudged over mire and mountain, and finally arrived back at his Hobbiton home. He slumps into a chair in his cosy hobbit-hole and says to his wife in a rather understated manner, “Well, I’m back.”
Winter Wonderland: It’s now just over four months since we arrived back in the UK. We enjoyed a quarantined Christmas, staying in a cosy Cumbrian cottage in the village of Baggrow – not ‘Bag End’! Due to the fact that we couldn’t do any face-to-face deputation and that we hadn’t got a home to go to, we decided to head north to Scotland where Ruth’s sister has a holiday cottage that we could rent for a few months. We stayed in the town of Nairn, or as one resident referred to it, Nairnia! It certainly felt like Narnia during January when the snow came down and covered the frozen harbour! Here’s a strange connection: the actress who played the evil ice queen in the Narnia movie actually lives in Nairn!
Coming out of the heat of Tanzania, Ruth and I had both wanted to experience a proper cold winter, and up in Nairn we certainly got that! We were told that Nairn hadn’t seen as cold a winter for at least 10 years, so it seems we were there at the right time! With mountains on the doorstep, beaches to walk along, forests to wander through and birds to spot, these two months provided a real Rivendell experience for us; a place to rest and relax, to unwind and unravel, to chill and be chilled! We loved it! We managed to do a few online presentations and I was also able to preach a couple of times. In fact, the wonders of modern technology meant that I could be halfway up a mountainous Munro but at the same time preaching in Carlisle! Whilst preaching a pre-recorded sermon to a laptop does have some advantages, it isn’t quite the same, so I’m looking forward to getting back in a live pulpit sometime soon.
|A wintry Munro in the Highlands of Scotland|
Morogoro to Malmesbury: Following our time in Scotland we headed south and began the process of finding somewhere to rent. To cut a long story short, we’ve ended up in the small Cotswold town of Malmesbury where we have been able to rent a flat in an old workhouse! Actually, it’s an old silk mill that was built in 1793 to process raw silk from China. You’ll see from the photo that the building has numerous large windows in it, designed to let lots of natural light into the rooms, thereby avoiding having to use oil lamps and candles. This was all with safety in mind as the silk material being processed was highly flammable! We’ve been here just over a month and have settled in really well, and so far haven’t come across any ghostly silk-millers looking for their silk! We had initially wanted to rent in Corsham itself but found that there was very little on the rental market that was available for just six months, so we opted for this flat in Malmesbury, only a 20-minute drive away. The silk mill will be our home for the next few months whilst we wait for our tenants to move out of our house in Corsham.
|Sunset on the Solway Firth|
And so to the ‘what next’ question! We’ve certainly enjoyed our home assignment months, even though they’ve been a bit different due to Covid restrictions. Tanzania already seems a world away from where we are now; there are no geckos on our walls here, no ants crawling over the kitchen top, no snakes to be mindful of! We now drink water from the taps without a second thought and are still amazed by the food choices available in the supermarket! Despite what people may say, the roads here are a pleasure to drive on, and having my car serviced here only takes a day, rather than week!! And it still seems strange that it’s not getting dark at 6.30 every night! I guess that these, and a thousand other differences, add to the variety of life that we’ve experienced during the past 7 years, and it’s going to take a bit more time to fully adjust back into UK culture. We’re grateful for most of these experiences (!) and thankful to God for a good re-entry!
As for me (Steve), there are a few possibilities, but nothing definite to report on. I’ve found it hard to know exactly what I want to do in this next chapter, and I’m content to wait for the right opportunity, knowing that God will show me the right door to walk through as and when that door appears! I’d like to continue in Christian ministry through preaching and teaching but working out the right context in which to do that, at this point in time, is the hard part! Meanwhile, Oak Hall has asked me to lead and speak on a few trips during the summer and, now that travel restrictions are beginning to ease, there is a better chance of them actually happening. Israel is one country that has just been given a ‘green light’, meaning that there won’t be a requirement to quarantine on return. The Israel trips I hope to be leading will be 31st July-10th August, and 8th-18th Sept, and I also hope to be doing the Bible teaching on the Oak Hall Alpine Bible week in Austria towards the end of August. It’s always good to see a few familiar faces on these trips, so if you fancy joining me, please have a look at the Oak Hall website, or click the following links:
|Pastor Batano & Tony
at Sanga Sanga
News of Sanga Sanga: Our former team mates Tony & Cath Swanson visited Sanga Sanga in February to run a training course for pastors and reported back to us that the ministry appears to be thriving. The buildings were spick and span and visitor bookings were growing. We’re so thankful to hear this news and to know that our Tanzanian colleagues are doing a great job. Please do continue to pray for Pastor Batano, the accountant John, evangelist Francis Manungu and all the team there. You can receive occasional updates of Sanga Sanga through the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aictsangasanga.
|Bird of the month: Long-tailed Duck,
seen at Hopeman, Moray
|Steve, his niece Grace and sister
Bev at the end of the unofficial
Nairn half marathon in March!