As we write this, we are moored on the River Severn in Stourport, having come down off the Staffs and Worcs Canal today. After boating for an hour and a half, we are just ten minutes walk from where we started this morning! In that time we have filled our water tank, and gone down through five locks, where we have chatted to other boaters and some waterways volunteers. Live afloat cannot be hurried.
Cruising around the canal system, it would be easy to disappear out of touch, and no-one would know where we are. Thankfully, with modern technology, it is easier to keep in contact, and this weekend we have been blessed by a visit from our son Greg and his wife Jessy, and their daughters Jasmin and Claudia. The two girls are both about to start university: Claudia at Kent University, and Jasmin in Birmingham, where she has been settling in to her accommodation. We are praying that they will make both some true friends during this important time in their lives.
Also this weekend we have visited an elderly Christian man who used to be a keen boater. Even after he gave up his own boat, he spent a lot of time crewing for other people. Sadly, now he is beginning to lose his memory. We are very pleased that we made the time to visit him. How easy it would have been to go past without calling on him.
In the church we went to this last weekend, there was a prophetic word about the church being like a boat that was cutting though ice. We thought that the ice might represent the hardness of people’s hearts, and their unwillingness to accept the wonderful life-changing good news of the Christian message, that Jesus has taken their place, and received their punishment for their self-sufficient and selfish attitudes. Instead, sadly, many turn their back on the only person who has died for them so that they might live. We pray that we will have opportunities to break up and melt some of that ice as we meet people and chat to them.
This year, we have been involved in a Canal Ministries mission in Ellesmere. We had an ideal location, where we could moor the boats where a lot of people like to go walking. There was a wide grassy area alongside the towpath, and we could put out chairs, tables and gazebos, and offer teas and coffees to people as they passed by. Many people stopped to chat, and we gave out a lot of Christian literature including Bibles. We made good use of our musical skills and, as well as leading some worship songs for two public services, we had a gig in a local pub, where we sang a mix of boating songs, folk songs, and songs with a gospel message. The pub was full and many conversations were going on between team members and the audience.
In the last newsletter, we mentioned about our cat Hugo and his broken leg. We are pleased to report that his leg has mended well, and he is running around as though it never happened. Many people ask, “Does he always come back?”. I feel a leaflet coming on to answer this question, with a focus on the faithfulness of God.
We are planning to spend the winter once again in Aylesbury, where we are part of an exciting church, reaching out to residents of a new housing project with several thousand homes being built in three new villages. Our route will take us down the Severn to Droitwich, where we had a mission five years ago. Then we will take the Worcester and Birmingham Canal up the very long flight of locks at Tardebigge, just out of sight from the M42 south of Birmingham. Then we return to Aylesbury via Warwick, Leamington Spa, Braunston, and the Grand Union Canal going south through Milton Keynes. We will be back at the end of October.
In His Name
James and Hazel Bell
Canal Ministries - sharing God's Love on the Inland Waterways.