Number 10591

Looks a bit impersonal doesn’t it? Not one to stand out in the crowd! But that’s my identity; that’s who I am this Sunday; number 10 591. Isn’t it great to know that we are more than just a number; that we are known personally and loved for who we are. That we are unique to our heavenly Father.

I am Number 10 591 in the virtual Great North Run on Sunday and I will wear my number with pride. But many are just numbers in a prison system or on a list carefully monitored by surveillance authorities. Their number is an identity for mistreatment. They have dared to think differently; to have and live out faith.

10 591 did their final training session today; times getting better but feet not great. I’m hoping and praying by 9:30 Sunday they will improve.

Finally, a big thank you to each and everyone who has given so far. I’ve been able to thank those who have left their names but to those who have donated anonymously, a huge THANKS! I do appreciate it. You know who you are and so does God. Persecuted Christians will be very grateful for your kindness. May you too be blessed.

Reflections…

Well, I almost feel normal again today! Not realised how much physically the walk had taken out of me-been shattered and even taken after dinner naps! I must be getting old…Feet are slowly recovering too I hope but still not great.

Yesterday I did my first run for 10 days. One of my slowest ever but at least I got out there. It’s the virtual Great North Run (half marathon) on Sunday which I intend to do if possible. It was being registered on that which started this whole mad escapade…

To date I’ve raised around £450 so many thanks to all who have donated. 7% of the way to the £6k target.

I’ve put together some thoughts that stand out reflecting back on the trip which hopefully are of broader application are:

*We are all on journeys whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual

*Don’t underestimate the journey-the additional miles to the accommodation were especially hard

*Journeying takes us to completely new places (most of the way for me) but sometimes back to the same place (e.g. for me, Denbies Vineyard at Dorking) to re-iterate earlier learning…or lack of it

*There are some lovely surprises and delights on the way

*There are unexpected conversations-be ready

*Sometimes it’s a monotonous, hard, boring grind that you just need to get through to get to your destination

*It is good to have travelling companions (like Rob on the first day) and a back up team praying

*Learn to be flexible especially when you get a little lost and don’t panic

*You need a good guidebook and map (the bible is a good one for life)

*Carrying a heavy load (in walking and in life) drags you down in every sense-keep your rucksack light!

*Physical tiredness and pain bring emotional vulnerabilities forward-I didn’t always handle these well.

*Rest is as essential as activity

*The feet are really important-if one part of the body suffers so does the rest (like our persecuted family)

*Singing and praying are good for the soul.

*We walk in the steps of those who made the journey earlier.

One of the songs I sang quite a lot was “He who would valiant be” from the “Pilgrims Progress” by John Bunyan as the words are great. Bunyan wrote the book from Bedford jail in the 1670’s where he was imprisoned for his nonconformist beliefs. Times change but persecution still exists.

Thanks for your support and interest.

I have walked 100 miles…the finish line (for now!)

Well, actually around 120 but only 85 count as the Pilgrims Way with the rest primarily extra mileage to accommodation. And that’s Phase 1 of the Pilgrims Way finished having done the stretch from Oxted to Otford (near Sevenoaks) today. Up and down the North Downs and going past a vineyard. But it was tough going physically and each mile was hard won.

Walked past Chevening, which belonged to Earls of Stanhope. The adjacent Parish Church had Jane Austen’s Uncle as Rector for nearly 40 years. Apparently his vicarage was the inspiration for that in “Pride and Prejudice”.There is no escape from Jane Austen!

One nice thing today was seeing Spitfires fly over on a number of occasions-sorry no photos-but a reminder that victory can be a hard fought thing.

Well, I’ve woffled on each day and I hope some bits have been interesting. And I will be back next year to complete it. The next big activity is on Sunday (the Great North Run). Hopefully my feet will have recovered in time…

I am hopefully just a signpost. Without them we get lost. This isn’t all about me but about pointing to the needs of persecuted Christians and how, together, we can make a difference.

I hope you have enjoyed these blogs and I will do a further review of the whole experience. But if at any point you feel inspired to donate that would be a real encouragement; just go to the justgiving link on my homepage.

And finally thanks for those who have encouraged and prayed. No man is an island; we all need each other. Without you and the Lord I wouldn’t have made it this far!

When 8 turns into 15…and Quality Street.

The guide book says it should be 8 miles from Merstham to the edge of Oxted. But it turned into 15. So very tired but lots of good things. It was a much prettier route along the ridge of the North Downs. Felt in the countryside though really close to the M25 and you could see the centre of London in places.

The walk started at a street in Merstham called Quality Street. JM Barrie wrote a play about it and then Mackintosh made a sweet selection. So here is where it started! These blogs are nothing if not educational!

Another fascinating thing was a diversion to visit a church at Chaldon which has a wall painting dating from around 1200 about heaven and hell. With limited literacy it was a way of telling stories from scripture with a stairway to heaven central but seemed a bit gory and not sure how biblical. It includes a drunk pilgrim…I may have had an odd half but not got that far! There is also a T a pilgrim carved into one of the pillars.

A highlight of today was to meet people along the way and chat. John-thanks for stopping on your bike on the long ride to Brighton, for being so enthusiastic and praying for me. And Adam, biking the North Downs Way may you have a great time and know Jesus has a great adventure for you.

Tomorrow is another 15 miles or so then it’s the end of this phase of walking. I just need the last spurt of energy. As won’t be back home until late next blog could be Monday. Thanks for all your interest and don’t forget those whose daily Pilgrimage is a huge challenge…

http://www.opendoorsuk.org

Walking in the woods..

I expected today to be relatively easy but it was hard. Whether I was tired after yesterday or because so much of it was walking up and down woodland tracks with limited views. Or simply poor attitude. But sadly reaching the destination became the aim rather than really engaging in the journey and it was a bit of a drag. Even supposedly enjoyable things can become a trudge sometimes.

This definitely ranks as one of the hardest things I have done. With a marathon the training is really hard, as is the race. But you’re done in a few hours. But hats off to long distance walkers who keep going day in, day out; this is quite an endurance exercise.

It reminds me that to follow Jesus in many countries is an incredible endurance exercise. In many places like Pakistan they are often the poorest of the poor. In places like Somalia it can be a death sentence if others hear of your faith. This is true endurance; of really counting the cost. That’s why coming alongside to bear their burden is so important.

These are the steps across the river at Box Hill with the other view about a mile further on. Box Hill was where Emma embarrassed Miss Bates in the novel of that name.

I have also added a some other photos; a nice shot in the woods; a view of the North Downs and a shot above Reigate. From Reigate you could also momentarily see the London skyline in the distance. I’ve also included one of a massive limekiln-the only way to get the lime is to heat it. A bit like life’s heat refining us.

Hope you have a good weekend and thanks for reading.

Walking to Dorking…!

After yesterday being a tough one emotionally, physically and spiritually today was much better. 18 miles but though very tired it was actually mostly very enjoyable. I know a lot of people prayed and that made a real difference. My feet have survived if not very fragrantly: I have a new respect for Jesus washing the disciples feet after a days walking.

This is St Martha’s on the Hill, a few miles from Guildford. Apparently you can see 11 counties from here, though probably not today. Quite a climb and very sandy. There aren’t many churches dedicated to Martha though she was very loved by Jesus.

I stopped for lunch at Shere in a 15th century pub. Great grub. Pretty village. For you allotment holders out there (you know who you are) they had nice allotments too. And the church yard had a little statue to Wesley quoting him “Do all the good you can; to whoever you can; whenever you can…etc”

I have climbed over more Stiles than I care to remember-sometimes really hard to raise the energy. And kissing gates that you can’t get packs through. But when you get to the top of a climb you sometimes get a great view.

Being a pilgrim is a funny thing. I ended the walk near Denbie’s vineyard outside Dorking. 3 and a half years ago I came there for a training run in preparation for doing a marathon in Lebanon. I could never have imagined that I would be retracing parts of the exact same route. Sometimes things come round again in a slightly different way for us to learn from them.

Ps After escaping Jane Austen yesterday there is a connection to Dorking. More tomorrow…!

Pps If the gentleman I met on the way reads this (I also chatted with a priest)-Jesus was more than just a good man; he didn’t really leave that as an option in the gospels. I owe him my life, my soul, my all.

Getting to Guildford-day 4

Another 14.9 miles under my feet. No mention of Jane Austen anywhere today! Went through some lovely villages like Puttenham; first time I remember seeing Hop fields (used to brew beer).

Both Farnham where I started and Guildford where I am now are lovely places and worth a visit.

Didn’t have a great sleep because of foot problems and am so stiff. Struggled with my attitude at times, which came to a head when I couldn’t get my cape over the rucksack. Sorted in the end but many frustrations were voiced. I so like things to be …well, not too hard going and get frustrated when they aren’t. So it really struck me both how much I need grace but also how amazing it is that persecuted Christians are often so positive about living out their faith even in extremely hard circumstances. Think Hea Woo in yesterday’s video.

The above bridge was built by famous architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, to carry a road over the Pilgrim Way in the 1930’s. The way of the cross was immensely hard for Jesus but he went to Calvary because he thought you and I were worth saving.

Tomorrow I walk to Dorking-technically the longest day in the book plus travel to accommodation at each end. It feels like I need to do it one step at a time. For those who pray, support especially appreciated for physical capacity and right attitude.

And finally a very small reminder of the justgiving page on the main site page: every donation helps support those who really need it. Thank you.

To Surrey and beyond..

Today I was reading about North Korea; where 50-70 000 people are kept in concentration camps simply because of their faith. My “Bishop’s Cross” was made by someone who managed to escape North Korea. It is a physical connection for me to fellow believers who have a horrendous life but who have tremendous faith. When I hobble into my bedroom for the night I know I won’t have to precede bed with indoctrination classes and criticism session having had virtually nothing to eat. If you have time to watch the video above, please do. I have had the privilege of meeting Hea Woo, the subject of the story, and she is an incredible woman.

I’m writing this from a Premier Inn in Farnham but last night I stayed in the former Gardeners House for Chawton Manor (above). What an amazing place to sit for a short while to pray and meditate! One of the privileges of the trip. Also seeing beautiful cottages and the church at Bentley with 350 year old yew trees where Jane Austen’s brother was curate.

So now I am in Surrey after nearly 16 miles of walking today following the sign of the Pilgrims Way (and my guidebook). When I stop it’s hard to get the legs going again. But like running I’ve concluded that long distance walking with a big pack (I will make it lighter next time!) is as much mental as physical. You have to get through the moments you want to give up. I did more singing today. Thanks for all those who prayed for my feet-still pretty mangled but stood up to it better than I thought. Onwards and upwards-to Guildford tomorrow. Thanks for your interest and support.

Jane Austen, steam trains and hobbling…

Today has been much shorter in comparison to yesterday-only around 10 miles. Tonight I’m staying in Chawton where Jane Austen lived from 1809 onward. The village is also full of lovely thatched cottages she would have known.

This afternoon it was a walk into Alton and back to have a steam train trip on the Mid Hants Railway back to Alresford and return. Another one ticked off my 60@60 list. My carriage was even built in 1960!

Despite these good things and some lovely places and moments (like Rob whom I walked with yesterday collecting my walking sticks from where I left them) it has been hard going at times to keep positive as my feet have sore and challenging to walk on. It’s harder on your own. Made me think of so many in our persecuted family who are isolated and need our support as they battle on in very hard circumstances as well as what it means to walk with them.

http://www.opendoorsuk.org

Day 1-The good, the bad and the ugly!

Well, day 1 done. It started with an 8 o clock communion at the High altar of Winchester cathedral and ended at 7:30 with a worn out Adrian doing a John Wayne impression as he walked into a Travel Lodge in Four Mark’s. 21.5 miles; 1000+ foot elevation gain and a big new blister. But the longest day by far is done.

The good…Rob, who was instrumental in me becoming a Christian 41 years ago accompanied on the first half of the walk to New Alresford. He even bought me lunch! And there was some lovely scenery, especially on the first part.

It was also good on the second part of the walk especially to remember those who suffer every day. I wore a cross around my neck made by a North Korean defector. Daily survival there for Christians is so hard…

The bad-I got lost twice, ironically at the end of each section which probably added about 3 miles.

I was prayed for at Winchester Cathedral by Saint Swithuns tomb. Sadly the photograph of the event went wrong. Ah well.

At the church with the 10 commandments on the wall I took a picture. I put my new walking sticks to one side as I did. They are still there!

And the phone keeps freezing-I need it to last (or you won’t get these)

The ugly-I have flat feet and arthritis in one big toe (not that it really bothers me). A couple of blisters complete the look!

Well, they say adaptability and resilience are important for Pilgrims so this has been a chance to put it into practice. I’m glad tomorrow is only a relatively short walk though.

Thanks for your support and interest. I need it and Christians around the world need it.