In about an hour we will leave our London flat, walk to Paddington Station (yes, the one where they found the bear), and board a plane to Florence, Italy.
This truly is the trip of a lifetime.
It's been almost two weeks since my last post, and since our villa in Tuscany (please, don't judge me) doesn't have wi-fi, let me briefly update you on what we've been up to.
London continues to fascinate our family. Our first floor apartment looks out onto a busy street, where even now I'm watching the myriad of humanity walk past. Smart young hipsters, making their way to cafes. Groups of German teens boarding their chartered bus to see the tourist sites. And family after family of immigrants, most of them with women in burqas or at least head coverings, going about their daily routines.
The world has come to London. And we're blessed to have contact with it.
Last Sunday we were among as international a crowd as we've ever seen. Holy Trinity Brompton, birthplace of the Alpha Program, is one of London's only "megachurches." In a given weekend 3,000 or more folks gather to worship at HTB. We were hesitant to attend, assuming that their approach to ministry would be rather different than our own. We were surprised and pleased to find a worship gathering that, as has been true of all our worship experiences thus far, felt like home. If you've seen Alpha videos, set in the beautiful old sanctuary of HTB, let me just say that they've done a good job with lighting. While the facility is lovely, it's also well-worn, even a bit ramshackle. And much smaller than you'd imagine. And though they do use projected video screens, it seems to be only to allow those sitting behind pillars to be able to see what's happening up front.
Anyway, last Sunday was the beginning of International Alpha week, which meant representatives from around the world were present to share what God is doing in their respective home countries. I believe we heard from 20 different nations in the span of 20 minutes, as person after person stood to tell briefly how the Gospel is expanding in their own context. Additionally, the front section of the sanctuary was filled with bishops from around the world, from each inhabited continent, mostly Anglican, but also Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox. A bishop from India shared a prophetic word and prayed over the congregation. Powerful stuff.
So what do we do between Sundays? Well, we've largely given up on taking Jack to see the sights of London. Though last Saturday we ventured as an entire family to Greenwich (where the world's time tables are set), Jack seemed less than interested in the many renowned tourist sites along the way. Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament (all situated on a single plaza) did not stir his heart. Neither did an hour long tour on the Thames River, cruising under the London and Tower Bridges, past the London Tower, London Eye, Globe Theater, etc., etc.
So here's what we do with Jack: take him to play. Within walking distance of our home are at least 5 children's centers that offer free, open play every morning for pre-schoolers. Jack and I have been making the circuit, playing with a variety of blocks, mini-kitchens, and pretend houses. We've used play-dough, watercolors, and glitter to express Jack's inner child. Or mine. And mostly we've been in the company of nannies, or care-givers as they're now called, who don't look anything like Mary Poppins, but are doing their best to raise the next generation of Londoners.
During our times at these play centers, Ang and the girls have been taking in London. From Harrod's to Hamley's. From the Victoria and Albert Museum to the Royal Albert Hall (everything south of Hyde Park seems to have Prince Albert's name attached to it. Which leads me to repeatedly recite the old phone prank: "Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Well, why don't you let him out?!"). Ang and the girls are getting to know this city. And the girls are becoming quite the urbanites. They are now connosseurs of tea (or hot chocolate) and cream pastries. They preferences for particular curries. And they know more about British Royalty than their father.
There's much more to share, but we need to get to our train. Photos of Tuscany will be forthcoming. Until then...