It’s Half-Term!

I’m really looking forward to this week – just got back from an inspiring and, dare I say it, life changing weekend in Germany and Poland with the YMCA and now it’s just me and Anya at home together for the whole of half-term!

It’s going to be a great week, I have one or two ideas for what to do but I thought I’d ask Anya what she wanted to do.  Bless her, her answer was, “You know when we go to the cash and carry….can I ride on top of the trolley!?”  I’m really proud of her that she is satisfied with such simple pleasures.

We’re off to go and get an extra ingredient for baking now and I will do my best to give her a wonderful, memorable week.  I really believe that some of the best gifts we can give our kids are shared memories together.  They can be simple, silly times together but I think they are worth so much more than expensive presents.

We’re also both looking forward to having the luxury of time so that we can do some Bible study and praying together.  Such a privilege to be a dad and I really don’t want to take it for granted.

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Some things I miss

There are 3 things that I miss at the moment:

1. Aleksa – when we were worshiping yesterday evening I had my eyes closed for a couple of minutes.  Then I opened them to check where Aleksa was.  I half expected him to be at my feet with his arms held up waiting for me to pick him up.  I really wanted to give him a cuddle.

2. Anya – I would love to just watch her here.  There is so much for her to learn from the people here and I know she’d be just going around doing her own thing, picking up information and storing it away for when it would be useful.  She’d love the big house we’re in with all it’s nooks and crannies to hide away and I know she’d go down a storm with everyone.

3. Rada – I really miss talking to her.  The internet is not great so Skyping attempts have been really frustrating.  It’s a long way from the 20p a minute phone calls we used to have to settle for just after we met but that thought doesn’t help.  I want to tell Rada all the great things that God is doing and all the details about the people here.  More than that I would love her to meet them all she would love it so much with all the languages and cultures and crazy people.

Ah well, I’m having a wonderful time.  Enjoying it immensly but missing the family.

The International YMCA

UK, Germany, Zambia, India, Peru, Colombia and Iceland.  This is the eclectic list of countries that are represented in the YMCA team that I have joined in Munich.  It is so exciting to meet people from countries that I have not had the privilege of meeting before.

Even better than discovering cultural nuances is being able to worship Jesus alongside one another, coming together from across the nations.  I love hearing people pray in their own languages.  And these are some of the most amazing languages you could hear – Icelandic makes my mind boggle!

And complementing all this is the fact that we all come from different YMCAs.  You feel a real kinship knowing that you have the YMCA in common.  The majority of the guys on the team are volunteers.  I think in the UK we take it for granted that many of us can be paid to do jobs we love at the YMCA.  Across the world most of these guys give up hours and days and weeks to help out young people.  And they are soooo passionate too.  It’s already proving an inspiring week.

Settling In

Just a quick update and some fantastic news at the end.

We’re settling in well.  Last night I went to the first church meeting since we arrived where there was discussion on Sunday’s preaches and a great time of prayer.  I am so happy to be here it feels so right!

After the meeting I went with the two Norwegian students who have started at the church – Sondre & Jonas – back to their place where they made a worthy attempt at Montenegrin stuffed peppers!  Not quite up to local standards but not bad for a first go!  They have only been here a few weeks but are throwing themselves into things with energy and enthusiasm.  They are working hard at learning Montenegrian and I am really chuffed that we’ll be sharing our time with them here.

We were joined for dinner by a young man who had fled with his mother to Germany during the conflict of the early 1990s.  He is back reunited with his father now but has built a life for himself in Germany and was really missing that.  There are no jobs for him here and very little prospects so he is looking to return to Germany,  It is tragic to see what long lasting impact the consequences of war has on families.  Nevertheless, it was great to meet him and spend time with him.

You must be wondering what the fantastic news is – well it is certainly an answer to prayer.  Jonas, the Norwegian student, is a massive Aston Villa fan!  I feel so fortunate to have found a kindred spirit 🙂

“Are we there yet?” “NO!!!”

Each country feels really different.  The French seem to avoid the north east corner of their country – everyone was driving there apart from them. The Belgians have a motorway ring road around their capital that is more scenic than the M25 but just as chocka.  The Germans truly are advanced as they have Subways at their service stations and charge you to use the toilet.  The Austrians build great tunnels that work out better value than the Dartford Tunnel.  The Slovenians….well its been dark since we got here and our host seems a cheeky chappy so I’ll reserve my supreme judgment on this nation.

It’s been good.  I must admit I suspect I’m enjoying it more than Rada but she’s always been reluctant to drive to Montenegro and has a stinking cold.  Both nights we’ve arrived exhausted at places claiming to be hotels but aren’t quite and have also had to scrape around for food.  They’ve been comfortable in their own way and, for me, add to the whole eccentricity of travelling in new places but they’ve not quite been what we needed.Are

I think three lessons have been learnt for the return journey:

  1. Spread it over as many days as possible – 13 hours a day travelling really is draining
  2. Find Motels/Hotels that are right on motorways – there’s only so many times you can drive round Bonn in the middle of the night before you are on the brink of murder
  3. Audio books are the way forward – absolute pleasure listening to Prince Caspian together

South Africa 2010 Draw?

The following is what are likely to be the seedings for the draw for the World Cup on 4th December:

Pot 1:    South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, France, Argentina

Pot 2:   Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovenia, Greece, Denmark, Serbia, Slovakia

Pot 3:   Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Algeria

Pot 4:    South Korea, Japan, Australia, North Korea, Mexico, USA, Honduras, New Zealand

What do you reckon would be good, and bad for England?  Can you spot any potentially juicy ties?  What about Spain v Portugal?

I think a fascinating, and historical, group for England would draw us with Portugal, Cameroon and Australia.  What are your thoughts?

Don’t forget the Holocaust

The racism conference I wrote about a few days back has gone off the international radar.  I did read yesterday that they all agreed a statement, including the Iranian delegation, that ‘the Holocaust must not be forgetten.’

I was reading an article by A. John Bird, the founder of The Big Issue, who was asserting the same thing and he gave some really stimulating reasons why the Holocaust must not be forgotten.  He warned that the world is in a similar state to pre-War Germany – recession, economic disasters and a rise in racial tensions.  It was the combination of these circumstances that Hitler utilised to come to power, of which the Holocaust was a dire consequence.

To transfer a similar scenario to the contemporary situation would not be so far fetched.  In these tough times the right wing political parties are quick to lay much of the economic blame on immigration.  And what is really worrying is that racist parties then begin to pick up many more votes and now even seats.  It is plausible that a number of high profile  problems caused by immigrants just before an election could see the BNPs power sky rocket.  We mustn’t let the lessons from the Holocaust be forgetten, this is already a messed up world, it wouldn’t take much to send a nation over the edge…