London 2011 – A Week at the Crossroads

The Cundall family crossing Abbey Road in London, 2011.

On Friday, August 26th 2011, my family and I set out for a Vision Casting mission trip to London, England. Specifically to serve with the World Harvest team in Southall, or Little India, in southwest London. The reason for the trip was to ascertain the realities and possibilities of our family signing on for a long-term, 5 year assignment with World Harvest in that area. We learned a lot, made many new friends and had a wonderful time in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

My wife, Temple, and I spent much of our summer working to raise support for this trip. We are musicians and worship leaders and we used that gift in many ways to seek support at different churches, including Christ Community Church,  our home church in Franklin. These efforts turned out to be as much of a blessing for us as the trip itself. We played as a duo, with me on guitar and Temple singing. Our set usually included spiritual songs, hymns and a time of sharing and testimony about our calling to service. We shared our hearts and our gifts at each place and we were rewarded, not only in the fact that the cost of the trip was raised, but by the connections that we made with people all along the way. We are extremely grateful to each person that listened to our music and our hearts, and to everyone that contributed to the effort, both financially and in prayer support.

We have been seeking affirmations all summer as to whether we were supposed to go on this trip. The affirmations came in many forms. First, we were affirmed in the way that the financial support came to pay for the trip. We were able to raise over $5000 in two months, which to us is very close to miraculous. Another way we were affirmed was in the way that the spiritual leaders of our church, including pastors and elders, got behind our efforts and supported us spiritually, prayerfully and financially. The final affirmation for us came in the form of a last-minute struggle that we had concerning the health of our daughter Aria and her ability to join us on the trip.

A week before we were scheduled to leave, Aria was suffering from an ear infection that would have prevented her ability to fly for fear of damaging her eardrum. This caused us great concern, because we really felt that she needed to be with us on this trip. The idea of leaving her behind really put the whole trip into question. We sought the help of an ENT specialist and had some of the elders in our church anoint her with oil and pray over her for healing. We also had folks from all over the world praying about this right up until the day before we were to leave. On the Monday before we left, things did not look good. By Thursday evening, however, her ear had healed just enough to allow her to travel. This was a tremendous blessing for her and us and provided a final affirmation of the calling to make this trip. We are eternally grateful to all of those prayer warriors who prayed for Aria.

We left on Friday afternoon and arrived in London on Saturday, around lunch time. We were met at the airport by our host, Barry Schutter from World Harvest. He would be our guide, driver, spiritual leader and friend for the rest of the week. He helped us settle in to a lovely house that was being lent to us by another missionary family from the team while they were away on vacation. This house was a huge blessing for us, as it was located in the Southall neighborhood and gave us a clear view into the realities of everyday life in this new world. We are extremely grateful to the Kidner family for so graciously opening their home to us for the week.

The neighborhood of Southall is a cultural melting pot. It is populated predominately by Indian folks, but also includes people from Africa and the Middle East. The religious make up of the community is very diverse, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. There is a Sikh temple, or Gudwara in the area, which is one of the largest in the world outside of India. This melting pot leads to a very unique and powerful ministry opportunity for World Harvest. The WHM church there, New Life Masih Ghar, is acting as a light of Christian hope in a diverse community of people from many religious backgrounds and cultures, with strong connections back to their home countries of India, Pakistan and other places.

The ministry of Masih Ghar is evangelistic in a very relational way. They love on the people of the community in many different ways. One interesting ministry is through their church-sponsored Asha charity shops. These shops are much like Goodwill stores in the U.S., providing a place for people to bring clothes and other items to be donated and then sold to folks at a discount. They also offer a way for people from the church to connect with individuals in a relational way and share the message of Jesus Christ. We visited one of the shops and Temple and Aria bought some beautiful, traditional Indian clothes.

On Sunday, our family slept very late, recovering from the jet lag of the trip. We then spent the evening at Masih Ghar, serving on the worship team. I played bass on the team and Temple sang. We played English-spoken songs, including “Now Is The Time To Worship” and a Hindi-spoken song called “Mukti Delaye”. Temple and I performed as a duo for the offertory, playing “Psalm 23″. It was a very special time for us, that was followed be a covered dish dinner of wonderful vegetarian Indian food. During the meal we were able to meet and fellowship with many people from the church family. We felt very welcomed and enjoyed making several new friends.

The next day, Monday, we joined a group of these new friends for a Bank Holiday picnic at Osterly Park, just minutes from the church. The kids made new friends, playing “footie” and cricket in a lovely park located on the grounds of an old English manor house. The day was spent eating, playing and sharing with our new Southall friends. That night we continued fellowship over pizza, which included a “kabob pizza” featuring toppings that we would recognized as gyro meat in the States. Very tasty!

On Tuesday our family walked up the Gudwara and spent some time exploring this amazing Sikh temple. We were guided around the temple by a gregarious, grandfatherly Sikh gentleman who took it upon himself to welcome these American strangers and show them around. We learned about the temple, the Sikh customs and shared a small lunch of free Indian food that is always available at the Gudwara. It was an enlightening time and we really enjoyed the warmth shared with us from our new Sikh friend. By the end of our time together he was trying to fix his grandson up with or daughter Aja. We told him that we would have to think about it and get back to him…

That afternoon was spent with another World Harvest guide, Chris Hatch, as he showed us around Shepherds Bush, another culturally diverse area of London. This bustling area was fascinating and slightly overwhelming as we walked through markets and along crowded streets, populated with people from all over the world. WHM is trying to start a church there and it was obvious that the effort could be important and fruitful in this diverse and busy area. Later that evening we dined with the Schutters in a real English Pub called The Plough. Fish and chips, of course, were the evening’s fare and we had a wonderful time there.

On Wednesday we set out as a family to explore and sightsee around London proper. We walked to the bus station, caught a double-decker bus which took us to a “Tube” stop in Henslow and we were on our way. We started at King’s Cross station, where some of the Harry Potter films were shot and worked our way back to the center of London where we caught a Big Bus double-decker tour bus. This bus took us by all of the famous London landmarks, such as Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, London Bridge and the Tower of London. The camera was busy the whole time. We finished our day in London at the Abbey Road studioes, where most of the Beatles’ music was recorded. We took some pictures of our family crossing the famous Abbey Road pedestrian crossing, where the “Abbey Road” album cover was shot. An exciting and memorable day for all of us!

Thursday, our last day there, was spent in some final meetings with folks from Masih Ghar, including our good friend Nikhil George who has worked with the World Music Mission in the past. We talked over the realities of our involvement with the ministry of Masih Ghar and what that would look like. This was one of many discussions that we had over the week about our involvement there. Barry and his wife Amy gave us invaluable insight into the realities of missionary life in Southall. The blessings, the need and the sacrifice involved. We prayed with them often and asked for discernment in our calling to serve there in Southall.

It is a very big decision on our parts that will affect many people, beyond our family. The need is there for our gifts, and the team has invited us to join, which is a huge, yet humbling affirmation. We now have to seek guidance and discernment about whether we have what it takes to pay the emotional and spiritual toll to make a 5 year commitment to serve the Lord and His Kingdom in this way.

We ask all who have supported us in this venture so far to join us in prayer for a clear calling and a means by which to assume this great responsibility. There will be a huge financial support goal to be met, which could take us up to two years to raise. There is a great deal of fear and loss involved for our families for us to be that far away for that amount of time. There will be hardships that come with this calling. We take none of this lightly. That is why we have much to pray about at this point.

Are we the people God has called to do this? Will we be able to answer that call? Will we have enough support to even make it over there? Can we handle the sacrifice and hardship?

Only the Lord can truly answer those questions for us, and we are actively, prayerfully seeking his will in this, now and in the future.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us make it this far in the journey. We are grateful for the opportunity to take our family on the trip of a lifetime. We now ask for your continued support as we try to discern our next steps in the journey.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

Blessings to you all!   Brent Cundall