Road notes: Brits, ‘Bama, Monty, McCartney and a requiem for a camera
You’ll also find an online gallery with many photos not published in our print edition.
I was excited to spend a bit of time in the United Kingdom. I had visited London for a few hours in 2006, en route to Zimbabwe to report on Nhowe Mission, but I had never attended a church service in the U.K.
I spent countless hours during my teen years watching Monty Python episodes. This explains why I can quote the “Constitutional Peasant” skit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” by memory — and why I went on a total of two dates in high school.
With my three-day layover, I had hoped to stay out of London — in the midst of the 2012 Olympics. I had contacted Bob Eckman about visiting the congregation in Nottingham, where he serves as a missionary. I envisioned some sort of Robin Hood-themed story.
I also wanted to visit the Sheffield Church of Christ, which was preparing for an evangelistic campaign. Or perhaps I could visit the British Bible School in Corby, or meet the legendary Graham Fisher, editor of the British church publication Christian Worker.
But the Olympics repeatedly thwarted my efforts to get outside of London. Then I got a phone call from Jeff Abrams, minister for the Tuscumbia Church of Christ in Alabama. He and a group from his congregation were stopping in London on their way back from conducting a Christian camp in Ukraine. The church sponsors Stephen Eusell, evangelists for the New Cross Church of Christ in London, and the Tuscumbia Christians would be participating in a special Sunday service there and conducting a Vacation Bible School. Would we be interested in covering it?
“Cover it? I’ll attend it!” I said. “Just find me a place to stay, and I could use a ride there from the airport.”
I got both. Philip Adu-Bobie, a member of the New Cross church, picked me up at the Heathrow airport, where I found little to worry about with regard to the baggage retrieval system. (Five pounds to you if you caught that Python reference.) My host was Jude Abloso, another New Cross member who works long hours as a security guard. He insisted that I stay in his room while he slept on the sofa at his “flat” (British for “apartment” — something I already knew from Monty Python).
I was informed by Derick, the gentleman who chauffeured us around London, that, had I stayed at his flat, I would have been on the couch. Good to know. (Derick, by the way, became one of my all-time favorite Brits. His conversations with one of the Alabamians, May Beth Martin, were Python-esque.)
Abloso, like many church members in Britain, is a native of Ghana, and he showed me the self-sacrificing hospitality for which his countrymen are known. I am in his debt, and I struggled mightily to resist the urge to yell out “Hey Jude!” every time I saw him. (Sir Paul McCartney had performed it just a few days earlier at the opening ceremonies of the London games.)
I had a great time with the Tuscumbia folks, though they unilaterally were fans of the University of Alabama. Two teens in the group, Grant Wright and Will Harrison, were due to start at ‘Bama as freshman in the fall. (For details of my own SEC leanings, see this post.) I even got to teach one of the teen classes during the VBS.
One casualty of the trip was my longtime traveling companion — my Canon Digital Rebel XSI. On my second day in London, the thin shutter that exposes the image sensor broke beyond repair. We had a lot of good years together — Honduras, Brazil, Japan, Sudan, Nepal — but the camera had lived far past it warranty.
With Zambia still ahead of me, I knew I needed a replacement. Derrick took me to Currys PC World, where I found a new Canon and was back in business. (Set me back a few quid, it did!) Currys is a British department store that dates back decades. I remembered the name immediately from this Python skit.
No, I didn’t find any electronic brains during my trip to Currys — only iPhones.
My thanks to Derrick and Currys for helping me take a sad song and make it better.