Having completed our itinerant ministry trip Pamela began to think about how wonderful it would be, for the folk we had visited, to be able to have the opportunity to meet each other and have fellowship together. The only way this could be done would be through a conference. I did not know who I could ask to organise a conference, and yes, you’ve guessed it, Pamela suggested that I would be the ideal person to do it. Me! I had never come near to organising a conference in my life. Needless to say, the following Easter we had a conference with 75 people attending, 21 of them coming over from the U.S.A. This was to become an annual event along with another venue in the North of England each Autumn. These events would include more itinerant trips and hosting overseas guests in my home either side of the conference.
Not long after our first conference Alan was out playing golf one afternoon and I was up a ladder painting window frames at the back of my house when I received a phone call. It was from my only brother livening in England, to say that his 19 year old son, my nephew, had just jumped to his death from a 15 storey block of flats. I was sobbing my heart out when Alan returned and he initially thought that I was peeved because he had been playing golf while I had been painting. It took me a while before I could bear to enlighten him. My deepest regret was that Geoff was not a Christian. He was a very artistic person and had left brilliant drawings and poems that not even his parents had known about. They were all about darkness and death. It became obvious from studying these that he had felt that he did not fit anywhere in this world and felt he had no place in it. It was a very sad time and my extended family did not understand my continuing to travel, but God clearly showed me that I was to continue following His calling.
A magazine was being published in the U.S.A. and we would initially have one copy over here which we then copied and collated and sent out to a growing mailing list in the U.K. and Europe. It was in contributing articles for this magazine that I realised I enjoyed writing, particularly if the end product helped build faith in others. We photo copied the magazine at the premises of a friend’s printing business and I remember one particular time quite late on Saturday that the copier ran out of ink when we still had about 100 copies left to print. We stood at that machine and prayed over it while it continued to print with an empty cartridge. I have never seen anything like that happen since, but it did that day. However as the mailing list grew it became necessary to have the magazine sent over from the States in bulk and then mailed out from here.
The year came to an end and the following January I received a call from America asking me if I could go over and attend a business meeting and conference that month. Panic would seem to mild a word to use in this instance. I had not flown for nineteen years since our unpleasant flight over Switzerland. Added to that, to be flying on my own and changing planes in Atlanta, impossible. There were also practical reasons, including scheduled surgery to make it obvious that I could not go. My passport had expired and I did not have a current visa. None of those things could be sorted out in 10 days. Well certainly not if looking to myself but we have a God that can move mountains and he was about to prove that to me.
I wrote a long letter to the States (before the days of E-mail) listing all the reasons why it would be impossible for me to do this. I posted the letter thinking this would be the end of the story. Not so, I had no peace and began a wrestling inside myself. Strangely on the practical level I started to make the kind of plans one would if intending to be away from home. I began cooking and filling the freezer with prepared meals while stocking up the larder and making sure all the laundry was up to date. Why was I doing this? It felt like something inside me was steering me on in spite of the outer turmoil.
I later came to see what a good example this was of the difference between soul and spirit. My emotions were pulling me in one direction while my spirit was quietly motivating me in the other. I got to the point where standing at my kitchen sink I asked myself if I wanted to be standing there next Saturday or did I want to be in the U.S.A. taking part in a business meeting that maybe God was asking me to go to. I decided to put God to the test and told Him that if He wanted me to go then He would have to break down all these barriers and get me there.
It was now Saturday and the date suggested for flying out was to be the following Wednesday, four days hence. I have never known such wrestling in my spirit. Alan too was wrestling, he wanted what was best for me and above all he wanted God’s will. He too was involved and committed in this new venture that God had brought to us, but he still had five years to go before retirement so it was not possible for him to accompany me this trip. For a moment he let his emotional concern for me take over and said, “You are not the sort of person who can go travelling all over the place on your own, stop torturing yourself” Now I know he was thinking of me, particularly with my past struggles, but it hit me like a thunder boat. In that moment I recognised the voice of God saying “Go”, and the voice of the enemy saying “Impossible”. I began to see how responding to God takes us forward and listening to the enemy does not just stop us moving forward, but it moves us back. We can’t stand still in this life of faith, it’s either forward or back.
Well I had my answers but how on earth was God going to do this. I had surgery scheduled; I did not have a current passport, visa or travel insurance. I was terrified of flying, I did not want to be away from my family and there were just four days to this proposed flight to the U.S.A.