Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wengen (3)

One of the pleasures of visiting here is renewing friendships and spending time with people over meals and in cafes and hotels and homes.

Maggie is always a delight - and a meal at her house is a joy, given her husband's culinary skills. And apple schnapps. And mandarin ice cream. Everything home-made, you understand. Andy & Ulli talked trees, and the rest of us simply indulged...

I have been surfing the finer establishments of the village: Sheridan's on Friday, Paul & Sarah's on Saturday, and I have been well fed and watered. And even more importantly the company has been superb.

Also on Friday I had a lovely lunch with Jutta, and as ever we prayed and shared how the Lord has blessed us through the year. I look forwards to seeing how her move to Austria works out.

But tonight it's back to the meal rota and supper at the (better left unnamed) Hotel. Four of us were there on Wednesday. The worst meal I have ever had in a hotel. The worst. We were all appalled by it and commenting on how terrible it was - till the waiter came and asked, "Everything OK?" At which point we meekly nodded and said, "Oh yes, thank you," and then as he walked away laughed at how we had fulfilled such a British national stereotype! Tonight I (a) hope for better, and (b) if necessary promise not to do so badly on the honesty stakes...

Friday, January 08, 2010

Wengen (2)

It's been a busy week.

When Gill and Ben left, I was desperately sad - we'd had too little time, and I always love seeing them. Teaching Ben some of the basics of skiing was real fun, and any other year I would have had far more time in my first few days in the chaplaincy to take him up and around. But that's how it goes. Plus - their jinx on snow hit here: it was overcast and mild until they left, when the snow started to fall hard, and then we had beautiful white streets here in Wengen ever since...

And sunshine...

But I was delighted to have Andy and Esther staying. As friends, as colleagues. We had a great time together. On the day after Gill and Ben left, I had a lazy day - trying to finally rid myself of my cold and prepare for Sunday - whilst they reminded themselves of the resort. On Sunday, we had two lovely services, with far more people in church in the morning than I expected. Andy & Esther helped out, and then we skiied through the afternoon sunshine. Beautiful.

On Monday I took Maggie Gerber's advice and purchased the local cough mixture to put the lid on my terrible cough which has continued for weeks now. Well - it certainly works. However, it almost put the lid on me aswell... I got every side-effect in the small print and spent Tuesday writhing in bed! Esther took my place at the weekly DHO drinks party to advertise the role of the chaplaincy in the community. She went down very well.

Wednesday - much better. And we had a full day. Thursday - Andy and Esther spent some time praying for me, for my work here and at home, just for me personally. Time I valued enormously. Then off we went - and attempted some great runs, with only one slightly defeating Andy...

They've gone now. Hopefully, all flights to Bristol are on... and still will be when I need to get home on Tuesday. Having them here has been a real gift.

Evangelistic highlight of the week so far?

Well, who knows how many may have been helped through the memorial service. But I had the real pleasure of sharing supper with a family at the Belle Vue one evening, and the two splending children started to ask me about my faith: "But do you believe everything in the Bible?" "Is Jesus really the only way?" The 12 year old apparently turned to his mother (she told me later) and said: "He's a really good teacher," so I guess something went well!

I'm tired, happy, glad to be here, and getting ready to come home. Still more to come...

Saturday, January 02, 2010


So it's been a busy start to my time in Wengen this year. Come, I said to Gill, bring Ben - the first couple of days are always quiet. It will be great to show you the resort, I'll teach Ben a bit of skiing, we'll enjoy the snow - it'll be fantastic.

To Andy & Esther I said - come help me with the chaplaincy. The first few days are always quiet, so come for the weekend, and then we'll see what there is to do! We'll meet people, ski, share faith, you'll see what I do here.

And to be sure, I have taken Ben out; we did carve some time for me to get him up to the beginners bowl on Scheidegg, and he really enjoyed himself in the blizzard conditions up there. He even skied without falling over (much) on the second day! (Though I have never seen anyone take my instruction to lean forwards so much to heart that his head hit the ground... I took it for granted he'd look where he was going!)

But by the time A&E arrived, I had spent the best part of two days preparing for and then taking the memorial service for Myles Robinson, the unfortunate young man who tragically died here in Wengen just before Christmas. His family have been amazing, and with the help of good friends of theirs we put on a two-hour service, allowing people to come into church, pray, light a candle and write in a condolences book. At the end of the time, I said a few words, and also invited the local Swiss Pastor Jan Madjar to do the same. And we prayed.

It was an amazing and beautiful event. Over 300 people came through the church. It had been our intent that folk would take their candles with them as a memory of Myles, but quite quickly they started to plant them in the snow outside the church, and the unplanned thing was a thing of rare wonder and heart-rending glory.

Some kind people commented that my words were perfect for the day. But the day was perfect to itself. And now the family have left for England, and for the rest of their lives still stretching out so enormously altered.

I closed the church up, and allowed myself to break for a while. It is the nature of the job that we are required to be strong for all around, but at times that strength, given by God as it is, comes at a cost. And then I was glad to be able to walk down to the Bellevue, to Gill & Ben, to Andy & Esther, to friends and family and to a good meal and the least introspective year-turning I have allowed myself for some good time. On some occasions, reflection is overrated.