My trouble is, I leave my heart in so many places! – but I think, if push came to shove, and I had to decide where my heart’s home is, I’d have to say, without any doubt, that it’s in Cali, Colombia. It was almost painful for me to have to miss the trip planed last November, caused by the enemy’s attack on my lungs last August: the doctors deemed it ‘unwise’ to fly long-haul (blood clots are the long distance flyer’s ‘risk’), so, being the good boy that I am, I did what they told me. I only flew to Romania instead: well, that’s like an ‘afternoon outing’ compared to Colombia or Australia!!
So it’s with great excitement that I head back there, after being at another of my heart’s homes, Romania, two weeks this coming Thursday, 26th. I’m taking three great great guys, all great friends: Chris Spark – a wonderful friend EVEN though he’s Director of Maths at a big comprehensive school!!; Brian Louden, another wonderful mate, from Maidstone, and a terrific guy, Paul Goodman, from south-east London, and a new great mate.
The massive obstacles that the enemy has put up to try and stop me going suggest he’s scared witless about this trip. EVERY trip to Cali is always better than the last one, this one, the enemy has confirmed with his shenanigans, is going to be just the same.
The financial ‘strictures’ that seem to have been on my life for a few months, are just beginning to show signs of easing, which is a (big sigh) relief! The enemy’s stuck his oar in wherever he could: if I were to tell you some of the utterly bizarre things that have occurred in recent months, you wouldn’t believe they could all come at once. They did. Believe me! Letters with gifts getting lost in the mail and not discovering about them until months later: an electricity bill for my house here, for September 17-December 18 last year – I left for Romania on 12 September, returned 22 December, and in that time I was in my home for all of 3½ days, for which the electricity company billed me nearly £179! From that bill to the day I left for England – 18 February, well over £100! When I was away in England and Scotland, I read the meter when I left and instantly I got home…. two energy-saver lights on timers, and the fridge/freezer left on. £17!! No-one here. I have someone coming to check the meter this week… Before anyone tells me to change companies, that’s actually not really an option in Northern Ireland, as there is only one company… :(. So many more ‘unlikely’ things like that!
So Romania and Colombia loom large on the immediate horizon. I’m loathe to make an appeal for help with those trips: you might not believe this, after my autumn and winter letters, but I really do HATE asking for help for my own needs. Asking for Ana Beiba in Cali – no problem. More recently, for a lovely widow in Romania – no problem (though that appeal fell some way short of what was needed (3900 euros out of 5000 needed), and I hurriedly sold things and dredged every resource I could to ensure that she wasn’t evicted last Monday, from her home. Thankfully, it was reached, though that has left the pot somewhat empty, to say the least! In fact, the pot has had a hole drilled in the bottom… if they put red numbers on bank statements, I’d have a few!
But it’s worth it to know that Andreea, the widow, who didn’t know what was happening, and thinking that she’d lose her home, laughed and cried when she knew she could stay. If I make it there next week, it’ll be a joy to see her.
Can I ask you to pray, please? For both trips… some wonderful friends have ensured that the fare to Colombia is covered, from London. Of course, I have the Belfast-London return to do on top of that (these days, nearly £200, sometimes over that if you leave it late!!). Accommodation is Cali isn’t cheap, but it’s vital that we all stay together as a team: if you’ve been, you’ll know that, if you come with me, you’ll find that out!! And, of course, ahead of that, is the Romania trip – I will go straight from there, with a brief overnight stop in Addlestone, Surrey, to Cali, to save money. I’m praying that my knees are a wee bit better (understatement!!) than they are right now, but there is no way I’m giving up or giving in to them. The two trips work out around £1500 after the Cali fare is taken away: an unreachable sum for me humanly after scraping those euros together last week, but no problem to God, of course. I’d value your prayers, and look forward to returning to daily blogging whilst in Cali, as per usual, with the amazing stories!!
I’ve always said to people, everywhere, that Cali is a city ‘under an open heaven’. On the LANChile airline website, Cali is listed is an excellent tourist destination now – a miracle when you think of its recent turbulent, violent, drug-riddled history – and on that website, it states this: ‘Cali – also known as ‘the branch of heaven’….
So, me and my mates are going to become branch swingers and climbers these coming few weeks… watch this space! If you can help me, you know I’d value it enormously: if you need a reminder of how, it’s further down the page, so that the information doesn’t offend those who think I should ‘just trust God’. I do. Often, through his people…. 🙂
Thank you, and bless you… hope to write to you from Romania and Colombia soon!
Stewardship, if you’re a tax payer, and are willing to let me have the tax back on your gift: www.stewardship.org.uk – account Paul Bennison, number 20028331 – their personalised form for me is here: Stewardship Support Form, but online is quicker, to be honest!
Bank: internet (fast!) or over-the-counter at ANY Halifax or Bank of Scotland – sort code 11-08-75, account number 00256003, P A Bennison
PayPal – fast! – firstname.lastname@example.org
MoneyGram – fast! – Paul Bennison!! – make sure you state NORTHERN Ireland, or just ‘United Kingdom’ as I can’t get if it’s ‘Ireland’ as it then automatically goes to Dublin – that’d have to be before next weekend, though, as I’ll – God willing – be in Romania next Monday, 16th March, and then I could only get it if it’s sent to Romania, or 10 days later, to Colombia! Not so easy, either of those options!
Wire to my bank from outside of the UK – IBAN: GB06HLFX11087500256003 BIC/SWIFT: LOYDGB2L