Hello! Hope the heat and dry weather aren’t causing you any problems…

Here’s an update from us:

Over the past couple of months we haven’t done anywhere near as much gallivanting as we’d been doing when we last wrote! Having said that, we’ve just returned from a lovely weekend in the New Forest for a friend’s wedding, which was an opportunity to catch up with some of the people we lived with in Bolivia, as well as staying with some wonderful friends who live down that way. Most enjoyable!

We’re looking forward to some time away next month: ten days in Finland with Ben’s family, followed by five days in Estonia. We’re very excited to see the relatives in Finland and to have time to relax by the lake and in the sauna, and of course the food… Then a week or so after we get back to the UK we have a weekend away in Pembrokeshire visiting our friends in Goodwick – August is an exciting month!

You may be wondering how our car, Minty, is doing. She’s absolutely fantastic, and we love her to bits! She’s needed a little TLC in recent months. The front and rear brake pads were no longer safe or legal, so those were both replaced, and since replacing them they no longer squeak loudly whenever we use them – yay! The indicators and horn wouldn’t work unless the lights were switched on, so we replaced the Comms unit (with indicator stalks, airbag etc – the bit behind the steering wheel), and discovered that the new one no longer makes any noises: we’re getting used to the lack of indicator-ticking, and no longer relying on the car to make a ‘bong’-sound at us when there’s a problem such as the lights being left on or the door being left slightly open. The driver’s door made a loud cracking sound whenever it was opened, but our mechanic has sorted this out. Both wing-mirrors ended up falling off (!), so we bought new ones and Ben heroically fitted them himself, with a little help from YouTube. He also fitted new windscreen wiper fluid dispensers on his own (accompanied by a Youtube video with instructions) – I was impressed!

Next week, the ‘back box’ is being replaced. We had noticed that the exhaust pipe was falling off, so kept some wire in the boot to tie it back on in case it came off completely, but now the silencer at the end of the exhaust pipe has fallen off and so the engine is very loud. It makes it look a little like we’re trying to be impressive, driving a convertible with a very loud engine – it actually makes us feel a little uncomfortable knowing how disruptive and annoying it could be to those around us. So the whole back box is about to be replaced, and we’re hoping the new one will last a while! We’ll see what the next car-related drama could be… Thankfully, thus far all the changes we’ve had to make to Minty have been non-life-threatening to the car and fairly minor issues; nothing engine-related or battery-related etc, so we’re hopeful that she’s still got at least a good couple of years left in her!

Our jobs are both still going well – Ben’s has recently developed in quite a promising way… He had been considering looking into other work, since the café is now at a secure enough place for him to move on should he choose to do so, and he had been dreaming about making paninis so wanted to get as far away from café-life (and retail in general) as possible. Also he had been hoping to do something that engages more with people, in a meaningful way, rather than spending all his working hours making coffee and meals, waiting tables, operating the till, cleaning up etc – they had employed him because of his missions experience/interest, and had led him to believe that this would be a major part of his role. Until now that wasn’t really possible, since the café didn’t pay enough staff to free up any of his time to intentionally have conversations with people, or pursue the vision in any way.

However, this month he was told that he can use most of his Monday-hours intentionally pursuing the vision of the café as a sort of mission for the church, to serve the community in whatever ways they might be most useful to those in greatest need in the area. He has several ideas that are under discussion, and hopes to begin with visiting more isolated residents, and connecting them up through some form of Friendship Group that can meet at the café. They also hope to start a ‘talk to me’ table at some stage, where people can sit if they want to chat with others, and people can make connections with one another who may not otherwise feel able to do so. There are a few other concepts floating around as well, but if you have any ideas they’d be more than welcome!

Not much change with my job, though I’m conscious that it’s now only five months until the big Office Move – so wondering whether to change jobs before that point or try to figure out transport options. Watch this space!

The little art business (‘Kat Gibson Art’) has now rebranded as ‘Meaningful Art’! See This feels a lot better now, as the focus has shifted from me and my paintings being sold for the sake of making money, and is now much more about encouraging other artists in various ways – to explore and express what’s most meaningful to them. This is multi-faceted: through workshops and painting afternoons/evenings (in which, as well as looking at painting techniques and the like, we talk about what people consider to be most important in life and how to convey some of those themes and stories in their artwork); through story-sharing both using my own paintings and encouraging/supporting other artists to share their work and what it means to them; and through the DeeperCards Designers programme (in which artists can have their paintings, drawings or photographs printed onto greetings cards, with opportunity to tell a little of their story or what the painting is trying to convey on the back of each card – encouraging artists to get their artwork ‘out there’ but also their stories, testimonies and what they consider to be most important in life) – to name a few. Exciting!

In other news, I finally got around to doing something with my little stories and memories from the pre-Bolivia ‘Gap-Year’ trips: see As The Sparrow Flies on Amazon! It was great fun writing it all up, and lovely seeing it in print and hearing people’s thoughts and comments on some of the stories. Do give it a read if you haven’t yet done so!

Our new Vicar and family seem to be settling in very well, and we like them a lot. They have a real passion for prayer and discipleship, and are good at engaging with families too. They have started up a weekly prayer group and have been encouraging and teaching people in the congregation to talk to God in their own words; they have transformed the monthly family service into a very child-friendly and enjoyable experience; they have introduced ‘Experience Creation’ in the local arboretum for families to explore the nature of God through nature and wildlife once a month; they have supported Ben and I to go ahead with a Youth Alpha course from September; they are about to start some kind of women’s ministry; and so much more! They’re fab. They’ve been challenging people out of their comfort zones in a gentle and respectful way, and their humility and grace is an inspiration to us all. It’s been wonderful getting to know them, and we hope that we can be somehow useful or supportive to them as they continue their ministry here. Do pray for them!

In September Ben hopes to start a year-long counselling course with the Listening Post, a local Christian counselling organisation. The year’s course will qualify him up to Level 3, and if at that point he decides to pursue it as a profession he’ll do another year which will get him Level 4 and the possibility of working as a professional counsellor. Regardless of whether he takes the second year, the first year’s course will hopefully equip him for other areas of work – and life – and also be a useful tool on the mission field, at some point.

I’ve been considering starting an MA in Contemporary Missiology this Autumn; we’ll see if that ends up happening! If I were ever to do a Masters, now would be the ideal time: we don’t have kids; I work a 4-day week; (for this particular course especially) we live very near where the lectures take place and the Library; we’re not yet ‘away on missions’… I’d really like to get back into theological study (and don’t mind the idea of having to write the essays – at the moment!), and would love to learn more about different contemporary models of mission work in various contexts. I imagine Asset Based Community Development will come into it, too. I find the idea really exciting, but had not pursued it until now because of the cost. I recently realised that the Government now offer Student Loan for Masters – so this would solve that problem!! Again, watch this space…

That’s all for now! Keep in touch, and have a lovely Summer 🙂

Ben and Kat