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13 June 2020

Far from home and locked down

Biddy Taylor (2013) Biddy Taylor Internationals
Zoom Meeting

What must it feel like to be thousands of miles from home and then find yourself confined to your own flat/room/digs for months? That of course is the reality for so many of our International friends who are in some way connected with Above Bar Church.

Not quite what these visitors had planned!

Vee* and her daughter arrived in Southampton in February intending to stay for around two months to continue some research and enable the daughter to go to school here in the UK. They came from a country where it is quite difficult to learn about Jesus and the Christian faith but it was not the first time they had been to Southampton and they already knew about, and had attended, Above Bar Church. Three-and-a-half months later they are still here with a ticket to return home in June – perhaps! Daughter enrolled in school, bought the uniform and looked so smart and proud to be wearing it but only managed to attend school for 2 weeks before lockdown!
Oh dear, what a shame! - Or is it?

Nancy* had also arrived from the same country a few weeks earlier. She is a psychiatrist and had come on a 6 month exchange visit to get experience of mental health work in this country but again after only a few weeks she too was confined to the house and has had no further face to face contact with patients or colleagues here in Southampton.
What a waste! – Or is it?

Because these people are now lodging in my home we have had the joy of gathering together around the TV on Sunday mornings and joining in the worship from Above Bar Church – albeit online. And then because of the growing interest of Nancy in the Bible and in getting to know Jesus we stared to spend an hour on Sunday afternoons studying John’s gospel together. “Were you studying the Bible?” asked Vee after our first week, “Can I join too?” What a joy to see faces light up as God reveals some truth to one or other of them or they begin to understand better who Jesus is and what he is like. And then there are all those brief chats in the kitchen answering a variety of questions that arise day by day.

A shame? A waste? I think not. It may not have been their plan but our Father God knows what he is doing!

Still keeping in touch – Zooming ahead!

Again it might have seemed like a disaster when our English Language Café and Global Gathering Groups could no longer meet face to face. Thanks though to the wonder of Zoom, we have also been able to keep in regular contact with many of our International friends. Our twice weekly English Language Café sessions led by Kat and Alison have been a joy for us as a team to participate in and have been so appreciated by many of our friends.

One friend wrote:

I really appreciate ELC especially during lockdown. It is helpful for me to have Zoom meetings twice a week which gives me an opportunity to socialise with people. Thank you very much.

Another wrote:

{We are so grateful} that ELC teachers have tried to continue to teach something during lockdown, however we have realized that we have many friends that would like to know how we are feeling. Also we are not alone as well. You encourage us to stand strong and safe week by week at this time. Thank you ELC and Above Bar Church that, you care for us.

It has even enabled us to meet up with some friends who are back in their home countries and under normal circumstances would have been unable to join with us! O the joy of modern technology!

God is at work! There are many opportunities as well as challenges.

Serving one Another

And it’s not all one way.
It has been wonderful to hear how our International friends have been involved in serving during this time. Many of our Philippino friends are nurses in our hospital, other friends are working in Care Homes and Pharmacies. Still others are volunteering with food banks and similar projects while still others are finding ways of being kind and generous to neighbours by making tasty biscuits or similar goodies. It really is exciting to be part of such an active and exuberant community even in lockdown.

*Names have been changed

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