Once upon a time I used to get around rather a lot! Now I catch the bus up and down the road into the centre of Luton! I see as much of the world and the diversity of the people God made for it there as I ever did in my travels! I love the work I have found myself doing these past three years, and especially since early 2009. This town has won my heart!
However I have to confess that there is another place in my life. For many years now I have had a deep sense of call to the great nation of China. For some years I was working there regularly, in particular taking groups for cultural exchange. I have visited many places around the nation, have many friends there, and love it. Maybe more on all that another time - maybe! In 2008 my wife and I enjoyed the Olympic summer in China based in Nanjing - and while we went with no real intention to attend the games, or even to get to Beijing, we did in fact get to one of the top nights of Athletics in the Birds Nest!
The focus of my work here in Luton and there in China is the same - peacemaking and reconciliation. Working in China I am deeply aware of the lasting legacy of the history of the relationship of Britain, and the west, with China. As British people we did some pretty awful stuff. Its true of other nations as well. I am also very aware of the impact of China's own internal history, during the Empire, under the nationalist government of Chiang Kai Shek, and through the Civil War and the terrible years of Mao's Cultural Revolution, and even more recently. As a Christian I am also deeply aware of the issues surrounding the church in China, and the deep challenges in relationship between the Registered Church (often called the Three Self patriotic Movement) and the unregistered church. We have spent many hours talking over these things, and on several occasions I have been able to take groups to visit and become aquainted themselves with all that has taken place. And in recent years I have been building relationship with a Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Nanjing University.
As I have found myself getting more and more involved in Luton, I have often wondered where China fits. For various family and personal reasons it was not the time to take forward any plans there, but there has always been a sense of "What now?!" So now I am going back for 10 days to see one or two people in particular, renew several friendships, talk to a few people and to see what if there is anything more for me there just now.I don't expect we will be leavign Luton -m at least not any time soon! But it will be interesting to see what can or might be.
I'll be posting some pieces on here on China these next days. Or to be true, probably cross posting with my dedicated - but rather neglected - China site www.ChinaEncounters.co.uk . There maybe some stuff on regaular fare as well - Muslim Christian relations, Luton, etc. as that is never very far from my mind.