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I typed until 8:30am when Mark and Alice called me for breakfast. The England France Rugby match was on television from New Zealand and we were getting trounced. Even so, the pancakes with chocolate and golden syrup were going down a treat.
Over breakfast and chatting about churches, I told Mark I was on my way to Carlisle. He happened to mention that he had a friend up there that was helping in a church. Really! So Mark hooked me up with a young fella called Joel who was learning the ropes in a Baptist church. A very wet and rainy 1.5 hours later I arrived on Joel’s doorstep in Carlisle.
While Joel made me a cup of tea I regaled him with my story. Actually, Joel was a lodger in the house he was staying in and Ray & Rosie the owners were also going to another church.
I told them all that this was city number 28 and the book of Hosea and having recapped the Hosea story for them told them that my intention was to make a large sign which read
And then hold it above my head, walk through town and broodily ask people to come and here my story.
Rosie provided a hammer, nails, a large wooden handle and an old notice board which we covered in white wallpaper. My liquid chalk and black marker pen did the rest.
Within about half an hour we were up and running and the board looked great. Rosie checked the local paper for what was going on in Carlisle on this very wet Saturday afternoon and she saw that a farmers market was on just around the corner. So, a farmers market would be my fist spot. What better place to talk about Hosea where pieces of meat were being sold.
Joel said it was just around the corner. A Carlisle corner is quite a long way and as we didn’t take the car, we were both a little bit sodden when we arrived. Joel didn’t care.
The whole vast area was under cover with two rings for showing cattle, pens exhibition area galore and two large indoor arenas, a café and tucked on at the end a farmers market. I explained what I was doing at the farmers market and they pointed me to the operations manager, the central office called him on the phone and a very nice nut very bemused gentleman arrived to hear my story. He though that me getting 5 minutes in a pen with the auctioneers might stop the flow of farmers hyped up and ready to open a few thousand on a prize bull, so I suggested the café. He was up for it. So I made a brief announcement and we went for it. They were a tough crowd so, it was a very quick presentation of Hosea.
Rosie and her Husband had kindly invited me for lunch and so me and Joel walked back in the rain and were greeted with the smell of fresh bread, and had ham and cheese with homemade pickle, with a hot mug of hot tea to follow. It turns out that Rosie and Ray they had probably visited our first Bible College when we were in Matlock Bath in the early 1980’s visiting some fellow students of ours. What an amazingly small world.
I drove to the City Centre and parked in the Cathedral car park. I took my sign and marched into the head verger’s office. Showed him the sign, told him my story and his reply was “where do you want to do it?” Amazing.
A number of folks were in the Cathedral and so it was great to have some albeit wet listeners listening to the message. For the sure, the sign, especially in the Cathedral was getting some attention. It went well and now, despite the rain, I wanted to see just what kind of a response I would get from the hundreds of wet people in the shopping centre.
I hid the front of the sign as best as I could and then went to find me a spot and a ‘Big Issue’ salesman. Carlisle has a very large open square which would be ideal for the proclamation. On my way there I bumped into two lady Police officers, sowed them my sign and told them what I was about to do.
“As long as you don’t use any foul or offensive language you should be fine.
“Don’t be ridiculous! I said, “I’m a Vicar”.
I had found a bent over gentleman selling the Big Issue. He couldn’t really speak English as he had only been in the country for three months. I hadn’t a clue where he had come from. Somehow we managed to communicate with sign language and agreed on a £5.00 price for him filming my escapades. “OK” says I “Let’s go”. The poor guy had no idea what was on my sign.
It was raining, I was wearing my big hat and carrying my sign above my head which said,
DNA tests prove the Kids are NOT Mine!
She has CHEATED on ME!
Do you think I was getting some attention? You had better believe it. When I started shouting
“Yeah and I work for God as well. Come and here my story of how she did the dirty on me” I walked slowly to the centre of the square and with some astonished onlookers began to be Hosea.
“I am Hosea and I work for God, I have a job in the church. My child hood sweetheart went off the rails but God still asked me to marry her. So I did. I put myself out for here, got her off the game, provided for her and married her! Can you imagine the scandal? But it was OK for a while. We were happy, and you know we had a nice house and things were going great. We even had children. I asked God, what we should call ‘em and the last two he said call them “No Mercy and Not Mine!” I still didn’t get it! THEY WERE NOT MY KIDS! She was doing the dirty on em again, she was cheating on me. Other people seemed to know but I didn’t! So what happens? I tell you what, she leaves me, gets back on the game and then falls into the hands of notorious pimps. She is sued by everyone, abused by everyone; she is in a right state. I saw her worthless carcase down the market one Saturday and God told me to go and marry her again. I did! What a mug.
I am Hosea and Gods message is that no matter how fall you have fallen, no matter how far you have gone, I love you so much I will buy you back again no matter how bad your condition.” I then explained to them the everlasting Gospel.
Following this an old lady came over. She was a Christian and over the next ten minutes explained to me that her husband’s friend had been arrested for open air street preaching. After ten minutes I looked up from leaning on my sign and 8-10 teenagers were in front of me, asking me what I was protesting about. I said to them, “My names Hosea………” The sign seemed to have a life of its own. We all love a bit of outrageous scandal don’t we?
I was wet and my time in Carlisle was over. I need a couple of hours or so to drive to Stranraer for the Stenna line crossing to Belfast and my feet were freezing.
I loaded up my stuff and my sign, put the heater on full blast and headed out across the green wet hills of Dumfries and Galloway. I stopped on the way for a cold drink and some chocolate…I needed something to keep my metabolism going and my eyes open. The young chap in the shop said he thanked God for Television because there was nothing to do in the village for him and his friends. He emphasized the nothing. He said he had managed to get into the army though and was off in a few weeks time. I didn’t like imagining this young man coming back from Afghan without his legs, so I encouraged him to give the Army the slip and join the Navy. I hope he does. I don’t think he will.
I arrived in Stranraer with a couple of hours to spare, found a Tesco’s and bought some cold meat for my supper. I even tried to tidy my car. Stranraer’s visiting fun fair had all its lights on and you know despite the music and the strange Ray Von type DJ noises coming from the centre of the flashing mess all I could see were two teenagers messing about on the ‘tea cups’ which must have been full of water by now. Stranraer seemed to be a sad old place for sure.
The ferry sailed on time. The One hour free Satellite Wi Fi would have been great but I was getting a bit queasy. A hot coffee and a call to Bridget followed by an hour of the latest and last Jonny Depp Pirate film got me across the water. I was soon back in the car and the fastest unloading of a car ferry ever put me on an empty wet road in Belfast for the short drive to my hosts house and Pastor Sam.
He and his lovely wife provided me with hot tea and it being gone 10pm at night asked me if I wanted some cheese on toast. I had arrived in Northern Ireland.
I got to bed around 11:30pm and was really looking forward to the next two days. I had meetings planned in Belfast and Lisburn and so the pressure was off to find somewhere to speak. Praise God!
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