The question mark in the title of this Post is that I never expected when I came back to the UK at the end of July 2013 that in under 6 months I'd be writing once again from Jerusalem - and this time for the longer haul.
You see when I flew back on 29th July, although I felt a great wrench at leaving Jerusalem, I truly thought that was it - a one off inspiring course, and then to normality. But I wasn't back long before I had an intense calling to return to Jerusalem; this was not a whim on my part 'oh, wouldn't it be nice to go back some time'. No, this was a calling which persistently grew stronger and stronger the more I tried to resist it. The obvious block for me was how would this happen? I had no means of going back, no reason, nothing to do there, etc. but still the calling grew. Time came towards the end of August to ask God, if this crazy notion was of Him, I would need a sign. Before the day was finished, I had an email telling me that Natalia, the Bat Kol Office Manager would be leaving to take up another appointment in Jerusalem. It was no longer a mystery what I MIGHT do, and so when I attended Maureena's workshop at Ammerdown in early September, I knew I had to share with her what God had laid on my heart. As a result I made an offer to the Bat Kol Board that I would come to Jerusalem and fill the vacancy until the end of July in a voluntary capacity in the same way as all my ministry is carried out. After due consideration, they accepted the offer, and I believe the Divine sense of humour was at work when I received a positive answer from the Board during the Bath & Wells Clergy Conference which was entitled 'Taking the Plunge Together'! I then went into to overdirve and set in motion a lot of preparation to withdraw temporarily from my lead at ChA+, the town centre chaplaincy in Weston-super-Mare and from my ministry at St Peter's, Milton. Neither of these was an easy process, either from an organisation point or from relationships with people I have known and loved for many years, but it's not a permanent split, I shall return to Weston for the whole of April and will be back at the end of July.
Sunday, 12th January, was the day to leave, and it was quite a wrench: I attended church in the morning and there were lots of farewells and more than a hint of sadness for us all .... this had been escalating as I had been having 'farewell' meals with friends in the preceding weeks. Then back home for a frenzy of packing - my diary was really very committed right up to the end of Saturday - but eventually the cases were in the car, and I was off for a lovely lunch with Ruth, Jeremy and Rebekah, and later a 'meze' style supper to get me in the mood for Israel. All this was great although I believe it made leaving harder, but a 'group hug' at Bristol bus station and I was on National Express heading for London Victoria and then onward to London Luton. The coach times were not ideal as I arrived at the airport at 1.00 a.m. which meant an all night wait as my flight was not until 9 a.m. As the coach was about to leave Victoria, a very young looking woman with a large suitcase and a small baby in a pushchair arrived just in time to board. When we reached the airport I offered space for her case on my luggage trolley so she just had the pushchair to manage. This worked well, and we spent the rest of the time together. Diane and baby Oliver were heading home to Latvia, flying out at 8 a.m. (Ruth had already said she was sure I would find someone to talk with whilst waiting - how true that was!)
Monday, 13th January, and the flight was delayed for an hour due to fog - we boarded at the normal time of 8.30 onwards so you can imagine the waiting time on the plane and not knowing why we were waiting was a bit tedious for me with my feelings about flying. However, all was well and eventually the day ended with me settling into my new abode, a room in the Ratisbonne Centre to unpack and enjoy a much needed shower!
Tuesday, 14th January, and the first day of a whole new experience - a free day with no telephone, no meetings, no anything - a day of quiet and freedom to explore Jerusalem, get my bearings, stock up my half shelf in the shared fridge, and just to be. And so, I put on the famous walking boots and walked and walked! First I wanted to be sure I could walk to the Bat Kol Office from here, once I knew I was close enough to St Charles that was enough and so I set my sights on the Old City, going to Mt Zion, the Upper Room, a snack lunch at Christ Church Coffee Shop, and then down to Jaffa Street to find a phone shop to get a charger for my mobile phone - I had to forget something didn't I and that was one thing, the other being the one for my Kobo but I'll probably ask for that to be posted as it's less urgent. There was time to take pictures, or to talk, or just to sit. At one point I was sitting on a bench near the junction of Ben Yehuda and King George Street when someone sat beside me and, as I turned to see who it was, I was surprised to be asked 'what day is it?' That was the beginning of a delightful and quite helpful time for both of us: I could tell the old man it was Tuesday, 14th, and because he was born in 1926 and spoke clear English he could tell me lots of things about Jerusalem including the fact we were sitting on top of a supermarket! Both of us got some information we needed! The reason he needed to know the day was to make sure it was Lotto day. Eventually, pleased with my day's progress, I returned to Ratisbonne to prepare for the next day's meeting with Maureena and Nathalie, update my blog, do some reading and probably some Hebrew revision before having an early night.