I feel like most of my blogs, journal entries, and phone conversations often begin with the phrase, “It’s been a while.” I am not so great at keeping to structured habits, but I do at least try to fight against the opposing pulls of busy-ness and laziness that often keep me from my goals. It’s certainly a challenge.
One of the things that has been challenging me lately has been a new, regularly-scheduled task that certainly has required my time, attention, and even willingness to be uncomfortable. Since coming to Cambridge, I have been volunteering with a charity organization called Christian Heritage, who operate out of The Round Church. When I began helping out, I simply came a few times a week to the Round Church, which houses a visitor’s center, and volunteered as a “doorkeeper” – taking entrance fees, answering questions, and explaining the purpose of Christian Heritage and the exhibits. I also informed guests about the guided walks of Cambridge offered by several tour guides who volunteered at the Round Church.
Then the fateful day came when I was asked to consider becoming a tour guide myself! I gave my fourth and final walk this week. It’s been a giant step outside of my comfort zone, but great fun as well! The walks tend to take groups around the Round Church, down by the River Cam and into several of the colleges before ending up in the city center. The tours tend to take around two hours, with the main theme being the tracing of Christianity’s influence in Western culture, particularly as it relates to Cambridge through its emphases on education, humanitarian work, scientific discovery, and law and politics. There’s also a lot of talk about the Protestant Reformation, and discussion on the part Cambridge played as the birthplace of the Reformation in England.
Learning the material well enough to give the tour has been a fascinating and enjoyable experience for me, as I hope it was for the individuals who came with me on the tours. There were certainly moments when I felt completely inadequate, particularly when trying to talk about English history as an American. On the first official tour I gave, I met a gentleman and his daughter who were so kind – but the father was the British version of my dad, which meant he knew TONS of information about EVERYTHING I mentioned. I left that first walk feeling fairly defeated after being asked what felt like a million questions to which I couldn’t even begin to find an answer.
However, things have really picked up since then, and now I find great joy in giving the tours, telling people fun facts about the history of Cambridge and England, but even more importantly, pointing out the blessings we enjoy today because of ordinary (and some extraordinary) individuals realizing that their Christian faith could and should affect the world around them in tangible ways. I’ve also been reminded again and again that God uses us in spite of ourselves, and have found such peace in knowing that His strength and Spirit sustain me when I tell others about Him and His people. He has also shown me through these trying experiences that I have an incredible support system in my husband, family, friends, and fellow believers who are constantly there, lifting me up in prayer and willing to give me a pep talk over the phone when needed (I’m looking at you, Mom!).
These beautiful lessons have been reinforced in other areas of my life recently as well, including struggling to finish up schoolwork when the online class meetings, being on Eastern Standard Time, require waking up in the middle of the night. We also have some huge decisions ahead of us about where we’ll be spending the next three years for Zach’s PhD, and we won’t have solid answers on exactly what our options will be until after we’ve returned to the States for the summer. It’s difficult to think that when I come home this summer, it might mean not returning to Cambridge in the Fall. But even in these stressful, uncertain times, God has reminded me of the rest that can be found in Him and the fellowship I can have among His people. The sweet fruits of Christianity that I share with tourists on my guided walk weren’t produced solely in times of antiquity – I’m seeing the abundantly good gifts all around me, even today.