One of the joys of the Christian life is the unexpected encounters. The other week Jean and I travelled to London to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party. No, we didn’t encounter a stray royal in the spacious grounds or a recognisable celebrity in the crowds!
Our first encounter was with a man wearing a hard hat and high-viz jacket who hailed us on a London street to talk about faith matters and the vitality of our churches. He was a Pentecostal Pastor who shared the joy of the Christian life in his beaming smile as well as his conversation. At this stage his congregation could not support him full-time but, like St Paul with his tent-making, he had found work on a building site to keep body and soul together.
Our second encounter was a hotel porter - a Christian from Sierra Leone.
He had no hesitation in telling us his dramatic story. He had been a Muslim until 10 years ago when he had had a dream about Jesus, not uncommon these days. We heard what he felt Jesus had said and looked like and how this had changed his life. He told us about his family and gave us a card which explained about God’s love for us all.
The third encounter was with 15-year old Christopher Boone, who used facts, forensics and systemised data (a symptom of his-autistic-like behaviour) to launch an investigation into finding the killer of his neighbour’s dog. We ‘met’ him watching the play ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ which is based on Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel of the same name.
It was a very moving and clever adaptation staged at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.
There were some amazing insights into how the young man coped with a different routine, with a busy railway station and many of the ordinary hurdles of daily life we take for granted.
Buckingham Palace and the Garden Party were special, a real privilege and a lovely day, but somehow the ordinary human encounters along the way will live long in the memory too - life stories of people demonstrating how they are coping with new challenges and how they have got to this point on their journey.