31 July 2018 – Andy’s Blog – In the Company of Strangers

The bible has a lot of parts which deal with welcoming strangers. It is a constant theme throughout. An example is Leviticus which states:

 “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

 Now I don’t know how many reading this have been to Newcastle but I certainly feel both alien and also welcome. The true local accent is slightly difficult for me to follow but on the whole the majority of folk I have met have been both welcoming and friendly. That is not to say it hasn’t been challenging. As we walked through the Gate shopping centre over the weekend to visit the cinema it seemed like the apocalypse had started. The noise was unbelievable, rowdy and drunken. I have never seen so many tattooed ladies upper thighs. Indeed I wasn’t expecting to see so many upper thighs! Feeling like I was turning into Mary Whitehouse as I aged I didn’t attempt to discuss this until my atheist (now rationalist) brother-in-law said it was like Sodom and Gomorrah. I think I’d struggle to describe it differently. I suddenly felt quite alien, as this aspect of our culture isn’t something we see much of in the south west.

 In trying to locate the chandlers I ended up walking through a pretty rough area. It was quite easy to see the drug dealing that was occurring and most of the folk around me seemed to be either on  drugs or drinking and drunk. That is where being on a boat comes in really handy. My dishevelled, slightly dirty oil stained look with scruffy clothes didn’t seem much at of place. Thus I wandered about without any problem other than one attempt to sell me some sort of tablet and several attempts to get me to join in drinking from some cans of beer. Like the widows coin, those with the least often are the most generous with what they do have. I just kept thinking, ‘all these people running away from life’. If faith has anything to offer at all it must be that is offers the possibility of somewhere to run to.

The picture above is of Tim, another stranger who is a long term friend of Jim who just left our crew. Friends talk and soon Tim was arranging to meet up, check I was ok and sadly I had to turn down the offer of an evening meal. The fact it was his wife birthday made this an exceptional and unselfish thing to be doing for a man he had never met. Tim is going south also, just not yet, where he will be leading a new church. It was a real pleasure to present him with a signed bible from us with the never ending invitation to come and join our walk to York in 2019. I’ve spent the stay in the company of strangers and very interesting it has been as well.