I started packing my “Adventure” (that is the name the manufacturer gave it) suitcase this morning, as I am going south for a couple of months. I haven’t used this suitcase for a while; I don’t usually use it for my trips abroad anymore, as I am learning to travel light (since my Adventure suitcase went off on an adventure without me in 2005).
I didn’t get further than opening the suitcase this morning, because I felt I should BLOG something about “Adventure”.
I will start this story in October 2002, as that is the time I went on a Master Sun Christian Holiday to Rhodes on my own to celebrate my 50th birthday. As I had no one to organise a party for me, I had felt that I should book to go on the holiday to The Hotel Flora on Rhodes (Rhodes being the Greek Island where I had first felt very close to God in 1985) and that God would organise some Christians to celebrate my Jubilee Birthday with me.
I remember being sat at the Gate at Gatwick Airport in October 2002 ready to board my flight, and seeing a woman sitting under a sign that said something about The Canaries. It has bothered me whenever I see the word Canaries, since 1998 when God highlighted to me Matthew 10:16-31 in The Message translation of the Bible.
I wondered if the woman was going on the same holiday as me – and she was. Her name was Jenny Hall and she was from Walthamstow in East London (the place where my grandfather, Young John Neighbour, had lived in his latter years).
Jenny and I were around the same age and I soon got talking to her and another woman and we became a threesome for the holiday.
When we returned to England I visited Jenny in Walthamstow and that is where I bought my “Adventure” suitcase.
Adventure is a word God gave me when I first became a Christian. I did the Alpha Course with Pioneer People at the Methodist Church in Cobham in 1995 and we had our “Holy Spirit Weekend” at a former nunnery in Bramley near Guildford. The leader of our small group suggested that we might each give a little talk on the Sunday morning and I was a little petrified about this. When I awoke on the Sunday morning I “worried” God about what I should say and He pointed me to the NIV Adventure Bible for Children that I had with me (that year the cover featured a jungle scene with toucans). What God told me was that my life would be an Adventure. As with all adventures there are good times and not so good times, excitement, hazards, risks, but the adventure is with the sure knowledge that God is with me every step of the way. He says in his word “Never will I leave you” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
God highlighted to me that the Adventure Bible I had with me was first published in the USA and it was for children. He spoke of the idea that people of the Young Country (America) and Children seem to believe that “All Things Are Possible”, whereas Adults and the English can have the tendency to be a bit cynical. However, God told me that young and old should work together; that the excitement of the young could encourage a belief in the not so young and that the steadiness of the old could temper the over-exuberance of the young. He spoke of being able to speak through children much more easily, as they do not tend to think before they speak but merely speak what they believe God is saying, without worrying what the consequences might be. In some way we can learn from this in children.
But, now back to the Adventure suitcase. In February 2005 I took a trip to South Africa. I had met a South African girl called Wendy Christmas in Lincoln at Easter in 2003 and on Battle of Britain Day in 2003 I received a prophecy that I would be connected with Africa and may even go there. On the day that I received the prophecy, 15 September 2003, I was in Leatherhead and, unknown to the lady who gave me the prophecy, I had a couple (Harry and Jean) staying in my home in Lincoln as they were visiting their daughter. About three weeks later I received a card from Harry and Jean (who were not aware of the prophecy I had received in Leatherhead) inviting me to stay with them in South Africa. This seemed to confirm that I was to go to South Africa, but it was not until the sale of my home in Lincoln that I had the finance to be able to make this trip. I started with a visit with the Christmas family at Rosetta (near the mountains) and finished with a visit to Harry & Jean at Scottburgh on the seaside.
I had to change planes at Johannesburg, as the Christmas family and Harry & Jean lived near Durban. It was a bit of a quick change and, as I queued nervously to go through Customs I watched my suitcase going round and round on the carousel. At last I was through and raced to pick up my case, but when I got there I saw that it had stickers all over it saying things like “Priority – British Airways” (I had travelled with Air France). Having a bit of a fuzzy head from the travelling, I unzipped the suitcase a little to peek inside, just to make sure it wasn’t my suitcase! However, I noticed straight away some Nurofen tablets. I haven’t had a headache since becoming a Christian in 1994 and don’t carry “drugs”, so that immediately confirmed it was not my case! It was an Adventure suitcase, but not my Adventure suitcase.
I took the suitcase to the Air France desk and advised them that my suitcase must have been taken by the owner of that suitcase and ran to the terminal to get my flight to Durban. However, the check-in had closed and (even though I had no luggage to check-in) they at first refused to check me in. A few tears later (in front of a man who was a bit more “in charge” than the check-in people) and I was checked-in and escorted to the plane.
Sitting in my seat on the plane (before the “turn off your mobiles” message came on) my phone rang. A very “English gentleman” voice advised that he had found my phone number in the suitcase that he had indeed mistaken for his own and was wanting to return to me in exchange for his. I advised him where to find his suitcase and that I was on a plane to Durban and he advised that he was staying in Johannesburg. Oops!
I next got a call from him when I arrived in Durban and he told me that he had got his own suitcase and arranged for mine to be driven overland from Johannesburg to Rosetta (about five hours journey). I also had my address in my suitcase and he remarked that he lived in Horsley – a few miles from where I was living in Leatherhead – and that perhaps we had bought our Adventure suitcases in the same (probably posh) shop in Horsley. (I didn’t like to disillusion him by telling him that I had got mine in Walthamstow market!!)
My Adventure suitcase finally arrived a day or two later in the darkness of night. I would not have wanted to do that drive, but I guess the man who did was grateful for the wage he earned in bringing Adventure suitcase and Adventurer back together.
A few weeks later (on my return to Leatherhead) I received a very nice crate of red wine from the gentleman who had gone adventuring with my suitcase.
And, to round this off, the reason I am travelling to Surrey now is to start a temporary assignment with Compassion UK on Wednesday, 22 June (Jenny Hall’s birthday) and here is a photo of her doing an impression of “Let Everything that Has Breath Praise the Lord” (Psalm 150) that she caught from me.
It is also the anniversary of Banga and Gunn (later Banga and Bacon) joining Compassion UK