A kind-hearted couple in the Toronto church took us in, opening their hearts and their basement suite to our family of four. The next three weeks were a blur of unsuccessful attempts to legally change our “entrance denied” status, and then to come up with a Plan B. We asked friends in Norfolk to settle with our landlord, return school and library books, find new homes for our pets, and pack our household belongings in storage. Bank accounts needed to be closed, our kids officially withdrawn from school. There were many tears, tears of loss and helplessness. We’d moved eleven times (not counting within-city moves) since beginning our ministry training in Boston – moves that took us from Canada to India, then England, Nigeria, South Africa, and back to six different cities in America. Moving to Norfolk had been a return to great friends, warm fellowship, and a place where we hoped to put down roots. We’d been there only six months, but it felt like home. Now we had to turn our sights elsewhere, to pray for a new home in another country. No doors opened for us in Canada, but the church in London, England, graciously offered to bring us over and put us on staff.
Another city, another chapter in our unpredictable life story: by February, 2002, we were drinking PG Tips (that’s tea as it’s meant to be), riding the Tube, and learning to navigate the labyrinthine London school system (it took about ten weeks to find a school with an opening for our daughter). But adjusting to daily life in London was just the beginning.
“What is the city but the people?” asked Shakespeare. Between us, Henry and I have lived in 20 cities, some of them more than once – many more cities than Shakespeare knew! We agree that every city has its own personality, some flashier than others. For us, Toronto was a delightful international smorgasbord, as well as the auspicious location that brought us together. Many amazing people passing through our lives in Toronto became disciples and lifelong friends. Dorchester, a suburb of Boston, was our full immersion into the world of racial segregation –and into seeing firsthand how the Gospel smashes those barriers. Bombay was like waking up on another planet, totally ‘other’, yet exotically irresistible, and God blessed us with us the most wonderful gift before we left Bombay: our favorite (and only) son, Daniel. Lagos was a swarming mass of heat, energy and rhythm – a place that still feels like “home” in my dreams. We tell people that we had to be dragged out of Lagos, kicking and screaming (inwardly!), Nigerian dirt under our fingernails. Nelson Mandela became the first black president when we lived in Pretoria, South Africa – a city of epic struggle and hard-won victory, and we loved the heroic disciples who stood as one kingdom in that divided country.
In Washington, DC, we lived two blocks from the Watergate Hotel and running distance from the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. This was a city of power, ego and ambition. Much of Washington’s historical significance was probably lost on us Canadians, and our neighborhood, Foggy Bottom, felt as gloomy as it sounded. But a short move across the Potomac River to stately Arlington, and suddenly life got much better! We had the Best-Bible-Talk-Ever in Arlington: ask anyone who was there.
Virginia Beach was flat-as-a-pancake and pretty much the opposite of DC – friendly and beachy. This was a place where you wanted to raise a family and grow old with all your friends. Indianapolis was Midwestern to the core: quite the cultural adjustment for me, after life abroad, but the corn country was great for cycling, and the Hoosier disciples were pure gold. Henry loved the Indy sports culture and the brothers’ camaraderie. (And he’s still a Colts fan, big time.) And London? London was like stepping into a place you already ‘knew’ from the movies: a megalopolis both quaint and futuristic — with real castles! — steeped in history and brined in atmospheric rain. We‘d lived in London before, and knew it was never dull; London has all you could ask for in a city, if you exclude the climate. But we had yet to see how the move to London would irrevocably change the course of our lives – and multitudes of other lives, too.