We’ve been back from London for 10 days already, but between reacclimating to life at home, a 14-hour-each-way drive and a couple days in Georgia for my cousin’s wedding, and another couple days of reacclimation after that road trip, we’re finally getting a chance to write up our report from London.
To all those who have been praying for us and waiting for this report, please forgive the delay. As eager as we were to get this to you sooner, we both wanted and needed to invest the past 10 days in family – both spending time and processing things with our kids and seeing Georgia relatives we rarely get to see (on top of the daily life things that needed tending to, such as routine home and business tasks). Thank you for your grace and patience. 🙂
So! Without further delay, here is our report… (If you haven’t already, please first read my thoughts on “missions” and if you’d also like our backstory leading up to this point, and ongoing updates after this report, click here.)
After two very full and productive days at a mastermind retreat for my business, we flew overnight Tuesday 9/17 from Newark (after a train ride up from Philly) and landed in London late mid-morning Wednesday 9/18. Bryan Doyle, the UK field leader for Greater Europe Mission, met us at Heathrow Airport and took us to our “home base” (mostly just a place to sleep, shower, and leave our suitcase) for the trip – a century old establishment with strong missional roots called the Highbury Centre.
We took a few minutes to freshen up, then it was off to visit Kahaila, a coffee house and a church in one. We had lunch with the pastor, Paul Unsworth, his wife Amy, and their 6 month old son Finley, and listened to their hearts as they shared successes and challenges they’ve faced during the first year of their ministry at Kahaila. They shared their vision to use profits from the coffee shop to fund projects like a safe house for vulnerable women and more. They also shared their vision for possibly launching a second location that would be more accessible for families.
After lunch we took the Tube to King’s Cross station, home of an outstanding sculpture depicting the recent history and diversity of London. From there we went to the British Library, home to such historical treasures as Codex Sinaiticus and the original manuscript for Handel’s Messiah (having played in the orchestra for this many times, I got a bit choked up seeing that). It was fun reviewing our British history with Bryan and seeing how much we could remember.
In the evening we returned to Kahaila for their weekly church gathering. This is Wednesday nights since the traditional Sunday morning is the best day to engage with the tens of thousands that come to Brick Lane for the markets each week. We saw a true community committed to growing in grace and seeking the Lord together. Simplicity and genuineness were evident as worship was led by a guitarist and singer, and the sermon was a springboard for small group discussions around tables about life applications of the Scripture.
The next day started early with a ~150 mile drive north to Stourbridge, one of the midlands towns where you’ll find Growing Shoots. Andy Hodson explained how he has sent off several leaders from his congregation to start their own churches and shared some of the personal challenges faced in continually sending leaders out instead of “keeping” them for himself and his work.
Thursday evening we had dinner with Andy Schofield and his wife Thomasin, members of a community called Matroyshka Haus, a diverse mix of folks ranging in perspectives and backgrounds, pursuing social change together in a variety of creative ways. This particular couple has opened up their home to a number of immigrants who are remodeling their very old “new” house in exchange for the opportunity to stay there.
Friday we had breakfast with Bryan before he left to return to Texas, then let Stephen (and ourselves) get a good nap not on the go – the sweet little bub had been napping on me in the mei tai on the go for days. In the early afternoon we headed over to the city center, walked through Westminster Abbey (where Fred was inspired to write in Poet’s Corner of course), then walked past No. 10 Downing Street and around Trafalgar Square. We then jumped on the Tube to go visit Oasis Church and House at The Well and had dinner at a great little hole-in-the-wall crepe place a couple doors down.
Saturday was a restful day as we joined Andy Schofield and others from Matryoshka Haus for their third Good Brunch and had some very interesting discussions about new economies. Then we stopped back at Kahaila for dinner and chatted more with a GEM intern named Sheryl about her experiences serving there before heading “home” to the Highbury Centre for a good night sleep.
Sunday we got up around 5:30 to finish packing and meet a 6:30 taxi outside which never came. So we called another one and just had him take us straight to the airport instead of King’s Cross for the train to Heathrow. After a long flight, a short train ride, and an even shorter car ride, we were welcomed back home by lots of hugs and energy from the “big 4” and were basically immediately thrown right back into the full swing of life with family, home, and business for a few days before our road trip to Georgia.
No doubt, everyone we met stole a piece of our hearts in a good way, and we definitely felt the Lord growing in us a love for the UK. So what vision did we get for our future role with GEM in the UK? Well, we’re working on putting together a presentation about that now. So, we’re going to leave you with a bit of a cliff hanger. 😉
We leave again in just 10 days for another trip – this time for the Miessence leadership getaway in Fiji – but our hope and goal is to have the presentation complete before we go so that not too long after we get back the week of the 20th we can start working on sharing it with folks.
So stand by. More news to come from the Swartz Family. We pray that everything we do on this crazy adventure of life will point people to our amazing God who loves endlessly, guides perfectly, restores completely, and provides always – even if sometimes we have to wrestle with Him to understand how. 🙂
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