By the time I am eighty
(My exercise in verb tenses in a class of English for Students of Other Languages)
As a child I never wanted to leave the U.K. or eat foreign food. But at 34 years of age I started to travel and very soon learned to enjoy a wide variety of meals. They ranged from my first extremely hot curry in Pakistan to dried fish in Norway that looked and felt like a piece of rope.
By the time I was 70 I had taught Bible seminars all over Britain and in twenty-two other countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and Oceania.
Some of my earliest journeys were taken by road and were full of adventurous surprises. A wheel nut sprang off a lorry travelling ahead of our Land Rover in Iraq. It smashed through our windscreen, flew between my colleague and me the driver, missing the young doctor and his wife asleep behind us, ending up embedded in boxes of tablets they were taking to a hospital in Nepal. Dark clouds were gathering as a headwind grew stronger but the rain did not start until we pulled into a garage in Tehran, which just happened to have one Land Rover windscreen in stock.
The next Sunday evening, while attending the American church in Kabul, Afghanistan, we heard of two young Americans, brothers, who had been shot that day in the Khyber Pass. They had been pushing a handcart around the world on behalf of UNICEF (the United Nations’ Children’s Fund) – one was dead and the other was in hospital seriously wounded. We broke out in a cold sweat, remembering that we had slept under the stars by the roadside only a few days earlier! We thanked God for his protection, and for our friends back in the U.K. who were praying for us in our precarious work. Precarious (unsafe) literally means ‘dependent on prayer’ (from Latin prex/precarius).
I did not earn a university degree until after my fiftieth birthday. While I was working for a Master’s degree in Peace Studies the Berlin Wall came down. A German graduate of the university sent an actual piece of the wall to the faculty. Although it was a mere lump of tired concrete, we passed it to one another in silent awe, as if it were the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London! And I recalled my adventures smuggling Bibles into Communist countries in Europe, now being liberated from the severe control of atheism.
After I retired on my 70th birthday, a good friend suggested that I write down my wide-ranging insights into the practical lessons of the Bible. “Just keep writing,” he advised; “and one day someone else will publish it.” Since then I have done just that, typing up one or two short blogs each week. Many of them have now been posted on websites in the U.K., also in Poland and China with a parallel translation.
By the time I am 80 I hope to live peacefully, enjoying great-grandparenthood and still walking my dog along the beach and in the park. I shall be very contented never travelling abroad but regularly eating my wife’s cooked meals, made from her many international recipes.