After a really full week and a half, things slowed down tremendously for Mary and me. We flew down to Cambridge, had supper with our friends, Sue and Paul Butler, and then all four of us got up very early the next morning to board a plane for Limoges, France. The Butlers own a small cottage near the village of Beaulieu and the four of us were going on a retreat there. Both Paul and Sue are ordained ministers in the Church of England having come from charismatic church backgrounds. You could say they’ve got both the theology and the spirituality to be dynamos for the Kingdom of God. We spent time praying together each day and even reading Scripture from the Church of England’s daily office (these are Scripture readings and meditations for each day).
The French countryside was beautiful – rolling hills, deciduous forests, farmland, and villages that date back hundreds of years – in addition, we were just a couple of hundred yards away from the Dordogne River. Very different than our surroundings in Colorado! In a span of four days, we also got to tour churches, have a couple dinners out, and sample French pastry each day at teatime.
We have known the Butlers for years and they were our primary tour guides when we were on sabbatical back at the beginning of 2014. They hosted our Scum of the Earth mission team last year for a full week and ministered to each member in significant ways. It’s especially good to be prayed for – and have your future prayed for – by people who know you over a length of time. It is especially significant when those people know the highs and lows, the heartaches and joys, of ministry on a daily basis just like you do. All I can say is that Mary and I are very grateful for their care.
We flew back to Cambridge, England a few days ago and were dropped off on the doorstep of Heather and Dave Male’s home. We have known them even longer. It was Dave Male, on sabbatical in the USA during 2007, who just happened to be visiting a friend in Denver one weekend. While looking for an out-of-the-box kind of church to attend on Sunday he spotted Scum of the Earth on the Internet and thought to himself, Well, with a name like that, I have to check it out. He contacted me and we agreed to spend time after the service. It was then, over a couple of beers at Bennigan’s, that he asked me if it was okay for him to bring students from his theological classes at Ridley Hall in Cambridge to visit every couple of years. I assented, figuring it probably would never happen; but that’s not David Male. He never says something unless he means it. The next year he showed up with about five students. Two years later he showed up with a larger group and he brought his wife, Heather, along. A couple years later, more came. Then in 2012, Dave asked me if I would go on a small speaking tour with him to six cities in England; and of course, I agreed. I had never been to the UK before. We spoke to people in London at the headquarters of the Methodist Church, to students at St. John’s College in Nottingham, to a group of pastors in Tunbridge Wells, to Fresh Expressions folks in Hereford and then in Oxford, plus students and pastors in Cambridge. While we were in the UK, Dave and Heather invited us to live in their home come 2014 while they were on sabbatical in Australia for four months – and that is how Mary and I ended up in their home in Cambridge for four months. In between, we’ve had three different interns come to Scum of the Earth from here in Cambridge, one of them being Dave and Heather’s son, Callum Male.
Jesus works through his people, and sometimes the most seemingly “random” meetings turn out to be major events in our lives. I have been contemplating the impact of the relationship with Dave upon my ministry while here. It really is remarkable. Not only has everything I’ve already mentioned transpired, but I’ve taught classes at Ridley Hall in Cambridge. Never saw myself doing that in my wildest dreams. And so, yesterday, Dave and I met together to talk about my future after I step down from Scum of the Earth staff in a couple of years. (Mary and I will not be leaving the church we helped start, but I do feel it’s time to pass the torch of leadership completely to the next generation.) I have no intention of retiring, and we couldn’t afford it anyway. I look at it as a job description change – and my conversation with Dave was about what that may look like. I’ve got about a page of notes and a lot of work ahead of me. I think I will leave writing about that for another time.