In 1990, I decided to go back to London to work with the
church. Actually, I decided sometime in early 1989, but it took over a year to work out the
support, and get everything ready. Why did I do this? I wanted to do something different with
my life, and to serve God in a way that my talents could be used. "Why not be different?" I
thought. There was no doubt that I loved my experience in London the
first time, so why not go back and see what kind of challenges the
Lord might have in store for me to do?
So, I quit my job at the Tennessee State Library in August
1990, gave all my furniture to charity, and gave my car to my Dad. I was not going to look
back, and I didn't. My Mom, Dad, sister, and an old friend named Philip went to see me off
at the airport in Indianapolis, where my emotional state was a little somber, but optimistic.
I was looking forward to going back, but naturally, a few self-doubts were involved.
I flew to London in late September 1990, to continue the
work that I had done before, but this time I was on my own without Gene and Randall. The only
person there to pick me up was Ronald Coleman, a middle-aged, American minister at the
church. "Welcome to the land of close," Ronald intoned, as we drove to south London from
Heathrow Airport in his car. It was a little bit scary, but I had plenty of confidence that
I would enjoy being back in London, and that I would be able to integrate myself into the
life of the church. This proved to be true; I got back into it as though I had never been
gone for two years. It was a tremendous joy to be back in London, and among people that I
I moved into a modest room in a flat, in the Southeast London community of Brockley,
where I lived for about a year and a half. The flat belonged to sister Cherrie, who was
very generous to let me stay initially, and the two of us sort of clicked and got along
well. Cherrie, originally from Jamaica, was retired after working 25 years for London
Transport as a bus conductor, and was not in the best of health. She had no other physical
family living in England, so I endeavored to pull my weight and be as useful around the house
as possible. You can visit the Brockley website to find
out more about this section of London. My only major purchase at this time was a used car. I
decided to buy a 1977 Austin Mini, which, for some reason, tickled my
fancy at the time. It was a very small, but fun car. I also drove one of the church vans for
church activities; a large, blue, Ford van, with standard shift transmission. The van had
trouble starting, and after about a year it totally gave out. The church bought a newer van to
replace it, but for some reason the insurance company decided to amend their policies, making
it much more expensive for foreign drivers to be insured, so I was taken off the insurance and
did not drive the vans anymore. Thereafter, I just used my car to pick people up for church and
things worked out fine.
A whole lot happened in the first year of my return to
- The church moved from its location of 11 years in South Bermondsey,
to its new location in New Cross. There had been talk of merging with a Free Evangelical
church in Hatcham, New Cross, but that did not materialize.
- I participated in a regular weekly food distribution to the homeless in the Waterloo
Station area of south London.
- The winter of 1991 brought a fairly good snow, for London, which covered everything in
several inches of snow for a few days.
- The Gulf War was quite a big stir to people in the UK, and everyone hoped for a speedy
end to it.
- Just after the conflict was over, I made a memorable trip to Malta
in March, with a young American missionary I'd met in Northampton named Robert Black.
- Five college students from Nashville came to work with us for the summer of 1991.
- In early August, I traveled to Prague, Czechoslovakia for a big,
European-wide, fellowship that only happens every four years. Prague was an absolute jewel of
a city. I'll never forget it.
- And, late that summer, I began to date my future wife, Linda
Ghouralal, who was a nursing student from Trinidad...
This is just a brief summary of the first year of my second big adventure living in
London. Time and space do not permit me to go into much more detail, but I lived in London
this time for 3.5 years (in Brockley and South Norwood). Linda and I married in London in
April 1992, without any physical family members present. We were content to be with a large
gathering of friends and church family that were there to encourage us on our wedding day.
We spent our honeymoon in Devon, and then settled into a flat in South Norwood for two
years, while Linda finished-out her nursing degree and I worked for the church in New Cross.
a lot happened in those two years--a whole lot of experiences, travels, visitors, etc.--and my
reflections are overwhelmingly positive, despite some difficulties and hardships. For instance,
my Austin Mini was stolen, and a thief (that I suspect lived in the house) stole a number of
items in our flat, notably my Canon AE-1 camera that I had owned for nine years; from which, I
had taken many of the photos that are featured on my home page. But on the whole, I had a
wonderful experience, and would have gladly stayed longer, much longer perhaps, but
life has a way of changing with every milestone. Linda's degree completed, I philosophically
accepted the idea that we should make a move to the states; do the "adult thing," and
try to settle down. Nobody ever promised that life was fair, and we do what we have to do. I
believe people can benefit immeasurably from travel and living in another culture from their
natural one. Try it! You'll be one of the many who affirm what I am saying.
"I can never understand why Londoners fail to see that they live in the most wonderful city
in the world. It is far more beautiful and interesting than Paris, if you ask me, and more
lively than anywhere but New York--and even New York can't touch it in lots of important ways.
It has more history, finer parks, a livelier and more varied press, better theatres, more
numerous orchestras and museums, leafier squares, safer streets, and more courteous
inhabitants than any other large city in the world." --Bill Bryson, Notes From a Small
"(London) Is the biggest aggregation of human life--the most complete compendium of the
world." --Henry James
"I know not how many times I have walked to Nowhere in London, but this I do know, that every
time I have done so some new revelation of the great city-county has come to me." --Holbrook
"The great city spreads her dusky mantle over innumerable races and creeds...London is indeed an
epitome of the round world, and just as it is a commonplace to say that there is nothing one
can't 'get' there, so it is equally true that there is nothing one may not study at first hand"
"Come, we will walk. I pray you, let us satisfy our eyes with the memorials and things of fame
that do renown this city." --Shakespeare
Brockley.com - Click on "Brockley Views" for photos of Brockley
The Cutty Sark
Greenwood's Map of London 1827
London Voices - Local area websites
London Place Names - A site with place name meanings and dates
Lordship Lane - East Dulwich website
Streetmap - A comprehensive map of London
Virtual Norwood - Photos of shops in Norwood, London
Click here for South Norwood map I | map II