Barby and I are in transit in Hong Kong on the way home after a month away (for me) from New Zealand. Time was spent in Oxford, in Dale (SW Wales), and in Budapest.
In Oxford I had the joy of helping coordinate a Consultation for teachers of homiletics from the majority world. This had been brewing for 12 months and took some organising from the distant Antipodes. About twenty of us gathered from 15 countries.
We started each day being inspired by some great preaching and closed the day with praying for each other as each one told their story - and then in between we worked our way through ten issues of substance for those who teach preaching. Community was built and significant discussions were held. Now comes the task of writing up our conclusions and looking for strategic ways of progressing the cause...
In Dale the senior staff team of Langham Partnership International, together with their spouses, gathered for a week at The Hookses - the little place which John Stott purchased decades ago and which is now developed into a venue for retreats.
It is more than two years since the conversation with Langham commenced and this was Barby's first opportunity to meet the majority of my new colleagues. It was so worthwhile! A bit of holiday was mixed with a bit of business during a week of the most glorious weather imaginable. We visited nearby Skomer Island - home to thousands of puffins - and St David's, the smallest city in the UK (it is a city because it has its own cathedral!). We visited three different Welsh pubs in 24hrs to watch three different World Cup games - but I had the same lemonade each time! [NB - for the NZ game we had to ask for the TV to be turned on, such was the level of interest!]
In Budapest we attended the four-yearly gathering of an organisation called M*E*C*O. I'll keep things vague, if you don't mind. I was invited to give the Bible readings to start each day and developed the "being distinctive with distinction" theme which has so burdened me recently. In the rush to be relevant, incarnational and salty, the people of God are forgetting the call to endure, to be attractional and lighty. We were impressed by the quality and level of commitment of these people.
Not for the first time the numbers of single women who respond to God's call to these difficult places (particularly for them) is staggering. Four Kiwis among them, including Reti - a Kiwi-Samoan Carey graduate. It was so cool to see her in action.
They say that Budapest is a beautiful city - and they were right! We made just the two sorties into the city but were enthralled by the way the Danube splits the city into Buda and Pest ... and hundreds and hundreds of lovely old buildings. Here is the Parliament:
And here is St Stephen's Basilica with "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" plastered across the front: