We spent six days in Cambridge, England. We performed at schools and hung out with a local choir that is similar to ours. We sang at a church. We wandered the streets of Cambridge and went punting on the Cam. It was really great.
But you know that feeling you get when you’re greatly inconveniencing the people around you? That sinking feeling of, “Shoot, I’m having fun but they are not… “
Usually, this means you find an excuse to leave politely. Or you pick up their bill for the evening. Whatever, you scramble for some way to make it right.
Let me give you an example of the kind of guests we were, despite our absolute best intentions:
The very first day we were in Cambridge, our bus was driving us to the public swimming pool for showers. The drivers spoke zero English, but they were professionals and had a GPS. We were heading into the town center, which gets pretty dicey when you’re in a big bus, but double-decker British buses were everywhere, so we figured we were okay.
Wrong. The bus ahead of us pulled up to some pylons that blocked traffic. The pylons sank into the pavement, letting the bus through. We pulled up. The pylons stayed put. Apparently some miracle of technology signaled that we were a civilian bus, not to be let into the town center.
So now we were at a busy intersection on narrow streets, in a huge bus with a trailer. Nowhere to go but backwards, and try to turn around.
I’ll save you the painful details, but we were there for forty minutes. Traffic waited. Pedestrians pointed and took pictures. Other bus drivers got out and started giving suggestions.
The Czechs had arrived in England.
A couple days later, we took the kids into London for the day. We girls were excited, because, unlike every other day, there were no activities being held at the church we stayed at. We could leave our sleeping bags and clothes and drying towels draped over the whole place!
Then, as we got to London we got a call. Our leader had forgotten to leave the key in the drop-box, and the mom’s group was locked out.
Minor mistakes can sometimes equal huge consequences.
The moms called someone to let them in; they opened the door, and…
Bedding and clothing and wet swimsuits and food and make-up. From twenty girls. Everywhere.
We were in big trouble. And there was nothing we could do to make it right.
At this point, our hosts were probably regretting our presence. This was very painful to us because, of course, we wanted to bless the people we came to see. Nevertheless, things kept going wrong. More misunderstandings with the churches where we slept. The bus continually parking in the wrong places at churches and schools, sending pastors and principals into irritated frenzies as they attempted to explain the rules to our uncomprehending Czech drivers.
It was pretty painful, if I sat and thought about it. Fortunately I was far too busy juggling kids and food and scheduling. One day, though, I did send out a prayer request to our Tour pray-ers: “We want to be a blessing, but we’re being the opposite! Pray for chances to BLESS!”
Two days later there was a village festival near our hosting churches. We were scheduled to perform, and through some mystery, our sound system got volunteered to work the whole day. We set up early, a fantastic sound system, stage, and full band for this little village festival. Many groups performed on our stage, singing and playing into our mikes. We gave two performances in the afternoon, and they loved us. We were publicly thanked and invited back to the town the next year. And the sound system (and a couple key tech guys) stayed late. It was a big sacrifice for our tech guys, costing them the morning punting, part of our evening barbecue, and moderate sunburn. But by the end of the day most of the village knew us and appreciated us.
Redeemed. Thank God!