December 2021

Shakespeare and his company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, built the Globe Theatre in 1599. Well established by then with a decade’s worth of successful plays, Shakespeare was the largest shareholder of the new enterprise, which for the first time enabled actors to take a share of the profits of the plays they produced.

The Globe was built on the south side of the Thames to avoid the restrictions on the north of the river imposed by the City of London. It would seat three thousand paying customers – a penny to stand, tuppence to sit, a thruppenny bit for a seat and a cushion – and was a most successful enterprise until it burned down in 1613 as a result of an actual cannon used in a production of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. It was rebuilt the following year, even more splendidly than before.

The Puritans pulled it down – along with all other theatres in England – in 1644. The present structure was built in 1997 based on the plans for the original building discovered only eight years earlier. I have longed wanted to see the rebuilt structure and on Wednesday, we did, much to my delight. On the way we strolled through the Borough Market: a veritable assault of colours, smells and tastes.

We then walked over the Thames on the new Millennial Bridge and walked through the grounds of St. Paul’s Cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London in 1666. We stopped have a look through St. Mary-le-Bow, home to the famous Bow Bells, also built by Wren, and stopped by Ye Olde Watling, a pub built by Wren to house and feed the workers on his many projects. The pub was packed so we opted to have lunch at Williamson’s Tavern down a tiny cul-de-sac instead that we had discovered on a previous trip to London.

Suitably refreshed we walked through Leadenhall Market on our way to the Tower of London and across the Tower Bridge. Everywhere we went we were impressed with how the clean the city was and how the deliberated restricted lack of traffic allowed us to walk freely among the lanes, monuments, and markets of the old city. We finished up on the south bank again, strolling through the Christmas market stalls on the embankment with their dizzying assortment of cuisines from around the world.

Looking back across the Thames we could see the new London skyline arising as striking and majestic as it has been throughout history. On the return train ride home, we once again celebrated being able to do this so easily and so cheaply from Horsham. The one-hour train ride to London was $15 Canadian and the trains are clean, fast, and frequent. The terminals at London Bridge and Victoria Station are both in the heart of the city, making exploration of the city a wonderfully joyous adventure.

I met my cousin Rosalind for the first time when I was eleven and she was just four. My parents has splurged on a transatlantic flight for me – at half price because I was under 12! – and I flew BOAC to London where I was met by my still very active grandmother. Grandma took great delight in showing me off to all the members of her vast family, including sisters in Bournemouth and the Lake District. She also took me around to my aunt and uncle’s place in London to meet them and their daughter, Rosalind. Ros was young and shy and I was never given time alone to develop any sort of relationship with her before I was whisked off to the next relative.

My mother and her sister were not what you would call close, so there wasn’t much of an effort to visit over the years. My aunt and uncle came to Canada once, with an older Ros in tow, and we visited England a couple of times, but never spent much time with family. In my late teens I went to England and tried to contact my Aunt’s family. I had just returned from France following a terrible accident that had left me both injured and virtually penniless. I called the number I had for my aunt and briefly explained my situation. She replied with, “Well I haven’t time for that now, I’m off shopping with Ros and hung up on me.” And that was that.

I made several attempts to contact my cousin over the years without success until Ros found me on Facebook and reached out to me some twelve years ago. What a delight it was to hear from her after all those years! She was teaching English at a private girl’s boarding in Benenden that looked like the setting for a Jane Austin novel. Benenden was the school home of Princess Anne, among many notable others. As wonderful as it was to talk to Ros about the joys and challenges of teaching English, it was an even greater delight to hear of her shared faith in Christ.

Ten years ago Pam and I spent three delightful weeks in England visiting all my family, from my niece Claire in the north to cousin Ros in the south. What a great joy that entire visit was! The upshot of that visit was that Ros agreed to fly to Canada to attend our daughter’s wedding. We arranged for her to stay with friends and she took part in all the pre- and post-wedding celebrations. We have remained in touch through emails and Facebook ever since.

However, because of the demands of our own jobs and families, we haven’t been able to visit England since Mom passed away. So it was with great joy that we made our first trip in our new-to-us car to Kent to see my cousin earlier this year. We have had two visits since, mostly to do a few repairs around her house. This Sunday we went down to Kent for a Sunday carvery at The Bull in Benenden. The food was great and afterwards we went back to her delightful little place in Tenterden for tea. We had a lovely visit and shared some gifts and some memories. How wonderful to reconnect to family at this time of year.

Len and Mary came to the Black Forest Academy the year we left, so we never got to meet them on that occasion. When we arrived in Horsham, they were back in Canada visiting family, so they weren’t here to greet us, although we did stay in the manse where they have been living for the last couple of years. By the time they got back, we were ready to move into our own place, so we didn’t have much time to connect then either.

We have made up for that oversight during the last five weeks. Len and Mary are wrapping up their 25 years on the mission field and returning to British Columbia. They have spent most of that time in Germany, and have accumulated the typically ponderous German furniture – including several enormous schrank – which all had to be wrapped up and moved back to Canada. Mary’s ministry is based on hospitality, at which she excels, and her collection of cookware and dinnerware would rival any catering firm. That all had to go back as well.

The manse, where they have lived for the last few years, is a large two-story, four bedroom house with plenty of closets, nooks and crannies which were all stuffed to the hilt with the clothes, books, pictures, and memorabilia of a lifetime. All of it had to be emptied out, sorted, catalogued and packed as safely as possible for the long voyage home.

To say that we packed 380 large boxes for shipping doesn’t do justice to the enormity of the task. Bookcases and schranks needed to be disassembled where possible, wrapped in protective material, placed into cardboard boxes that had to be assembled from available stock to fit and then shrink-wrapped to seal out moisture for shipment home through the elements. Solid oak sideboards weighing 80 pounds or more were wrapped as well; the strain of which threated to dislocate my back on several occasions.

For her part, Pam individually wrapped hundreds of plates, tea cups, glasses, endless decorative mugs, plaques, cuckoo clocks and kitchenware, not once, but several times each in different layers of wrap and before being packed in boxes. By the end of the day neither of us could move our hands properly, and the pain would often wake us up in the middle of the night.

Having moved through four countries in the last fourteen years, we knew as soon as we looked at the task, that the five weeks they had scheduled for the move would not be enough without a significant commitment on our part. So we have put in four to six hours a day, six days a week for the last five weeks working alongside the Len and Mary and getting to know them well as we laboured together to complete the task. It is a testament to our Lord, who schools all who love Him in how to work alongside others, that we got along so well in what was an enormous strain on all of us.

With some help from Trevor, we finished the packing the day before the movers arrived. As soon as the movers had cleared a room, we began cleaning that room, ten in all, plus hallways and closets. The movers were most efficient and were able to fill the three large trucks they brought with them in less than five hours. Those trucks will then be taken to a warehouse to load the container they will be shipped in. It will have to be a 40 footer to hold everything that is going back, and I have to say I don’t want to be the one who has to unpack it all.

Len and Mary are a dear couple, and they will be dearly missed here at TeachBeyond Global. They have offered sanctuary and extended hospitality to hundreds of missionary families over the years. Those accumulated memories of connection form the bonds to the physical items they wanted to take home with them. We totally understand their connection to these things. How could we not, after giving up so many of those very things ourselves over these past years.

We are physically exhausted and bruised from our labours. But our strength will return and those bruises will heal. And in their place will be the memory of having had the opportunity to serve a couple who have served so many others for so well for so many years. God bless you both, Len and Mary.