Photo Tales: First Week, Settling In

Pictures do express a thousand words, and I do believe in their myriad forms they do bring colour and life to otherwise wordy descriptions. I am one who could go on at length if so given the opportunity. And so, photo tales provide overview glimpses into life here in Durham.

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It was great to see dear Renee again, whose journey to Christ had been one which had been incredibly humbling. To witness God work in this amazing manner, to see Him bring His children home to Him. We savoured ba-zhangs (rice-dumplings) Popo had lovingly prepared before I was due to fly the week before, and over a good long catchup in ‘Golden Pearl’, a Thai restaurant with great purse-friendly Asian dishes, it was encouraging to see how she had grown in her faith here in dear Durham. She has been inviting many others, her housemates and coursemates, to come along to iClub to find out more about the great Treasure she had found, ‘Golden Pearl’ that it is indeed, the Gospel, the Good News! In contemplating the pearl I think to a dear mentor’s analogy of the oyster and the pearl, that the growth of a pearl begins with a foreign particle being plunged into the oyster, which at first, irritates and I would imagine, confuses the pearl as it suffers. The oyster then morphs in a way that shapes and moulds the foreign particle in it, which then evolves to eventually for a pearl. So also, through various circumstances and events in our lives, God moulds pearls in us. Each experience always works for our eternal good and for His glory. Pearls. Pearls are beautiful aye =)

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Renee shall be in Durham until January next year, and that would mean us looking forward to celebrating her second Christmas, as a Christian, together. It is now 97 days to Christmas! When in Britain, count as the British do. Already, old grandpas have been buying stacks of Christmas cards. It is impossible to not anticipate with great eagerness, the celebration of the birth of Christ across the world. Looking forward! =)

Residing in the other end of the Framwellgate Bridge now means that I do cross it daily to arrive into the marketplace for groceries and errands. Dorina comes to sell the Big Issue on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays now, and it was lovely to be able to meet with her regularly on the bridge where she is usually stationed in the afternoons. Whilst I had pondered about how to better serve her in this final year here in Durham, the answers had come in good time and I am thankful that through this primary experience, God had taught me so much about what it means to give out of a generous heart, and how exactly to help, with wisdom, those He has placed in our midst. God is a God with a heart for the poor (I refer here, a chapter from Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice), and as excellently expounded in Rob Fikkert and Steve Cobbert’s book “How to help the poor without hurting yourself”, indeed, we are to discard any conceptions or mindset that we, who are a material sense ‘better off’, are in any position of ‘giving’ at all – God here is the Real Giver, and we are all spiritually poor, equal before His eyes, and needing the Love of Christ which He graciously gives. Dorina is one lovely, lovely lady indeed, and in this year ahead, may we grow together in Him.

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A picture of Dorina, published with permission (Lovely is this photo of her, that a copy has been requested by Dorina herself too! =) 

I am once again thankful to God, for all that He has opened my eyes to see as I grow in Him. In these, and in all, God alone is Glorified, for His deeds among His peoples.

On the Monday before Tim had arrived, I had the chance to visit The Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition hosted in the Palace Green Library. The exhibition was a marvellous one; to gaze on at historical pieces of beautifully-drawn/carved handwritings, relics and artefacts of the time of Saint Cuthbert and Roman-Irish Christianity was eye-opening. Cuthbert was one who did believe in that the unity of the church was much more important than the clinging of divisive practices, a point very applicable to Christian churches today all over the world. Strange that each Apostle (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were associated with particular animals – Saint John’s symbol, for example, was the eagle (pictured below) and these animals would appear alongside any portrait of them in these times. Beautiful beasts and winged creatures I would expect in the New Creation, as revealed in Revelation, it would be interesting to see Saint John soaring on an eagle’s back as it swoops down to the circle of fellowship in which we would gather (I have vivid imaginations).

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Hey! You totally epitomize Isaiah 40, John! You shall run and not grow weary, you shall walk and not be faint… Indeed! Indeed! ” We would yell! =D What a cool dude, and what a great day that shalt be. Hehehe.

That very same evening, it was lovely to have our friends from church come to visit, Antonia and Keith, whom I have realized reside less than 50 metres away! The other side of the railway station is now “The” place to live indeed. Houses rumble at the moving heavy train freights, and it is always exciting to see cups of tea place on the table tremble and surface whirlpools. I do not hear any train whistles nor any other sounds, but simply gentle rumbling, one which both Georgina and I have taken a fond liking for. We joke that when earthquakes do come we might not be able to sense any difference; but to this end I worry not. It is awesome to live below the railway tracks!

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Above: Smooth chicken porridge, recipe adjusted to taste – of rice, water, ginger, sesame oil, chicken pieces, and chicken stock cubes, and lots of stirring. The secret to the dish’s success, indeed, key to a good meal is praying before you cook it, and as you cook it. We had prayed even as we added ingredients to taste! Hehe.

I am thankful, for a lovely fellowship evening, and look forward to a good year ahead! =)

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A sight which greets me everytime I return home. It does look like a fountain doesn’t it? =D One great reminder indeed:

“They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the Fountain of Life; in Your Light we see Light.” (Psalms 36: 8-9)

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Ba zhangs for breakfast, Great start to a Wednesday morning =) I had decided to orientate Tim with the fine hills God has blessed Durham with. We had hiked up a different route through the Durham School, the roundabout and onto the hill colleges, and ended with Paradise Hill, a sight one must not miss if in Durham. Stunningly beautiful, God’s creations are.

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We then followed with an afternoon stroll in Durham City, where light rain mixed with rays of sunlight had presented a beautiful rainbow in the direction of Gala Durham. Alongst the way we had met cheery old Mr Raymond, who always walks around with a tweed cap and a good walking stick. He too had lived in Oswald Court as I did in the two years before I had moved; it is a lovely little area with a cemetery playground right outside, crossing into a shade of trees lining the River Wear, less than a minute away. Old Mr Raymond loves stopping by to chat, and it will be good to see him here and there around Durham again, in this little town =)

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As the evening came, Tim and I headed to Sanctuary 21 by the Bailey along Saddler Street to help out at FoodCycle Durham; (for friends studying here in England, Foodcycle also available to volunteer throughout various locations in the country too), it was this evening that I had the chance to meet with lovely old Ms Sheila, who had come in from the Sunderland countryside this day. Over a chat with dinner, I found that she had grown up in Sunderland all her life, and she is a firm believer of the cold wind being good for the body for it “blows all the germs outta you”. Great perspective and one which certainly differs from the one I had been raised up all my life to believe – the Cold is good for the Soul. She had shared excitedly about her caravan adventures and tells stories of St Mary’s Lighthouse near Sunderland, which apparently offers beautiful views of the coast. Upon hearing the meaning of my name as I shared, I found that Sheila is too a Lover of God, and it was a blessing to be able to meet a Saint as her this day =)

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Pam had come over for tea this final afternoon, and I am thankful to God for this last opportunity to meet with her as she returns to China tomorrow. Over good French toast and good cups of PG tips, there had been a good chance to share of God’s Love and how He had been working in this life of mine, and gracious God had been indeed! We had the opportunity to close in prayer, and for Pam to be able to find a good church to continue seeking God and Who He is, as she returns to her hometown in Xi’ An. Pam has been a dear to meet with in this year in Durham, and I look forward to attending her graduate convocation when the winter comes in January. Our friendship continues even as we are apart.

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Thank God, for one blessed afternoon together =)

The first week in Durham thus draws to a close; I am thankful, God has been very Gracious indeed. Alongside these times, were also good chances for moments of solitude and rest in Him. ‘By Searching’ by Isobel Kuhn, missionary to the peoples of Lisuland, was a humbling read. In many senses I felt as though I had journeyed with her in the ups and downs, her search for God “for the High Ways in seeking to depart from the Misty Flats below”, as God made His will for her increasingly known, even as she had struggled hard to give up a life of comfort and material wants. How indeed, that God be so gracious to groom her a woman of deep prayer, that being her lifeline to God above, and how God had miraculously paved and provided for her as she sought hard after Him, challenged and bruised in ways but yet remaining a reed which never broke, steadfast in Him. She finishes:

“As reader and author part, I can find no better words to use than just these same, ‘Let us go on’. Go on searching and exploring the greatness and the dearness of our God. He has no favourites. He has said, ‘Ye shall find me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 19: 13). Notice the last phrase, for it is the only condition. There must be inner honesty and undivided loyalty – that is the only stipulation. ‘The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn’. (James 1: 6-8). But, ‘He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11: 6).

Said Susanna Wesley, “He is so infinitely blessed, that every perception of His blissful presence imparts a gladness to the heart. Every degree of approach to Him is, in the same proportion, a degree of happiness.”

So, let us go on, Searching.”

Dear brethren, God honours a true and faithful heart – that is He desire for us as we thirst after Him. May He be so gracious to sustain us in His Love, til the Day of His Great Coming.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Heaven as it is on Earth.

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