Alfred Place Baptist Church

USA 2006

August 7th

USA 2006

 At the beginning of July, the day before we flew to America, we took the train to London and while Iola went with Barbara to Kew Gardens I took the underground to the Elephant and Castle and attended the last three sessions of the School of Theology at the Metropolitan Tabernacle (for which I was happy to pay two pounds registration). There were 500 present, but in the evenings the place is full – I guess 800 people. I heard Chris Hand speaking on “The Merging Church” movement; then Peter Masters spoke once again on his familiar theme that regeneration by the Holy Spirit does not mean that we have to stop pleading with men to believe the gospel, and that regeneration is not to be understood as causing an instantaneous change at every aspect of life. That is a bit of an Aunt Sally. Who believes that? I don’t believe that Peter Masters is fairly representing John Murray, though I appreciate his concern that we plead with men to come to Christ. There is an old Hyper viper living in every preacher’s heart. Finally Joel Beeke spoke for the second time at that School of Theology on meditation, and I enjoyed that the most. The material is in his booklet on the subject. As usual I didn’t find enough of the sessions preachy or inspirational enough though all the speakers’ concerns were also my own and there is little to disagree with (apart from Peter Masters’ mishandling of John Murray, but I can take that for all the effusive praise he gives Mr. Murray’s writings in order to justify criticising him). The Banner of Truth gathering at Leicester is my most favourite conference, though there are many worthy conferences in Britain scattered through the year. If I had a complete free hand in planning a conference I wonder what a mess of it I’d make.

 Personal encouragement from the School of Theology came from meeting a number of friends there. The messages are a bonus. This year I met Martin Holdt from South Africa, and learned that he had accepted a call to become a minister in Germany. I talked with Joel Beeke, Jack Seaton and his wife from Inverness (he said what a happy succession there had been in his church with Nick Needham following him into the pastorate). I also talked with Peter Masters at length, and then with a series of individuals whom I have known for too many years to ask them their names. Embarrassment prevents it, and I know that I would quickly forget their names after being told. Sweet conversations took place with all of them, and a number asked, “Do you agree with Peter Masters’ analysis of John Murray’s views of regeneration?” Two of our former Aberystwyth students were there, Tom from near Dudley, and also Serena. I had the opportunity to sympathise with Jill Masters concerning the death of her sister Susan Harding – another Aberystwyth graduate with her husband John Harding – who was buried on Tuesday. While I was there at the Tabernacle Iola and Barbara were having a grand time in Kew Gardens, the weather perfect for the occasion. I guess they saw but a tenth of what is on display.

 GEORGIA

 The taxi came at 5.30 on Friday morning; the driver was a Roman Catholic Nigerian who talked about that country all the way to Heathrow . . . Ah well. We were there in 25 minutes and checking in was done by a machine. That’s OK; all over in a couple of minutes, but you cannot put your pleas to a machine for a seat with some leg-room, and so we discovered ourselves sitting before the wall at the front of a cabin with less room than usual.

 The journey was sweetened by reading Byron Rogers’ life of the Rev. R.S. Thomas, The Man Who Went Into the West. The most famous ministerial Thomas in the UK is the late R.S.Thomas. He died in the year 2000 and is justly renowned for his 1500 poems. He is generally considered one of the finest 20th century poets in the world. Byron Rogers is an exceptional writer whose books and journalism I’ve read with pleasure for years. I’d much rather read him than R.S.Thomas. He is at least a nonconformist, and he might understand a little more of the gospel. R.S. Thomas’s character, as uncovered by Rogers is deeply disturbing, a morose actor playing a role with no thought for anyone, neither God nor man, other than himself. It is a fascinating and hilarious account of this austere man who happened to be able to write poetry. Iola has now also read it, gasping her astonishment at Thomas’ persona. The biography has certainly lowered the stature of ‘the poet’ in our eyes.

 Eleri, Gary, the boys and Catrin’s husband Ian met us as we were checking in at Heathrow and we spent the rest of the day together on the plane to Atlanta. The boys had their books and there were little screens on the backs of the seats in front of them and so they slept, watched some cartoons, and read all the way across the Atlantic. Our only mishap was in Washington airport when the combination of the seven Bradys at the end of the line through immigration and one of our party leaving a case in the immigration hall resulted in our missing our connection to Atlanta, and so we sat in that airport for four hours more, and we didn’t have that happy period getting to meet the people in Atlanta from the Fayetteville church. After an hour of fruitless telephoning Ian did reach them in Atlanta before they set out for that airport to meet us, but what was a long enough journey from London had become a very long one. We arrived there a half an hour after midnight British time having left Heathrow sixteen and a half hours earlier, but the children were wonderfully patient, and there were compensations in the airport shops selling Dunkin Donuts and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. On the next plane to Atlanta 7 year old Gwion entertained a lady for the hour and a half’s journey. We sat behind them transfixed by the long conversation they had together. What could they be talking about? What a kind woman.

 We spent our first night in the USA in the homes of our friends, the Martins, the Underwoods (where all seven Bradys are staying) and the Rasts. We all got together Saturday evening for a visit to Turner Field baseball stadium where the Atlantic Braves were playing the Cincinnati Reds. We were amongst 44,000 other people, many families, no gangs of young people, no excess drinking, and much audience anticipation. The old winning pitcher for the Braves is a Presbyterian Christian whose life has been changed since the new birth. None of the boys slept; we stood and sang “Take me out to the ball game” half way through the seventh inning, ate boiled peanuts and cold chicken, and enjoyed all the between-innings entertainments from various parts of the stadium projected onto the enormous screen.

 Sunday was spent at the Fayetteville Reformed Baptist Church one of my favourite congregations. Gary Brady spoke to the adult Sunday School class about the book of Proverbs pitching it perfectly for the occasion and I preached at the morning and evening services on imitating God. We had lunch with John and JoAnne, a couple who are home-schooling five great kids. He had been a successful businessman in New York whose life had become meaningless. He began to read the Bible and call upon the name of the Lord, was transformed by God and within a few months so was his wife. They moved down to this church and have grown under Steve’s ministry. There are many other young families like this in the church.

 Monday we drove 350 miles to Epworth by Sea on the Georgian coast staying at the Methodist centre. I was to speak for the week to the Fayetteville Family Conference. This was the third time I’ve had this honour. This year the theme was the Christian in Complete Armour. We got back to our room the first night and I began to write my diary when Iola went out on the balcony; “Come out and see the lights,” she called. So out I went to admire them with her. She closed the door behind us to keep the cool air in the bedroom but soon discovered she had locked us out on the second floor balcony overlooking the marshes and distant river. There was a lonely path beneath us, but no one was walking it. It was warm, and the door was unyielding and there we stayed. Many schemes fly through your minds at times like that, all to be instantly discarded. Lights were out in the adjoining balconies. There was no sound of voices, and so hope began to fade. Then, finally, along the path came Bill Rogers and his wife taking a late evening stroll. Never was a sight more joyous. “Bill,” I called plaintively, “Bill . . .” He looked up at my timid wave. “We have locked ourselves onto the balcony and we can’t get back into our room . . .” Were we kidding him? I pressed on . . . “I have the key to our room in my hand. If I throw it downstairs can you come up to room 2355 and let yourself in and ourselves out?” By this time our brother could hear the genuiness of my plea, that below the Englishman’s stiff upper lip a trembling lower lip could be observed. I threw the credit-card-type key down from the veranda and it fell at their feet. His wife came running upstairs and within a few minutes she slid the door open and in a burst of giggles we were released from our brief imprisonment. Free at last, free at last . . . This incident soon spread throughout the conference and I was often asked whether I had been on a balcony the previous night.

 The next evening after the ministry we set off in our cars to a nearby island over a high bridge (to allow the liners to go underneath) to look for sea turtles laying their eggs. We arrived at the same time as a long fireworks display which ended in a magnificent crescendo of colourful explosions. We oohed and aahed appropriately. Seven of the little girls from our party sat together on the bonnet of a van watching it all gravely from their high perch. They made as pretty a sight as the coruscating lights above. Then we drove along to the long beach lit only by a full moon. Down it we strolled, some little boys pelting through the surf, one torch between us all, but a path of light following us across the sea to the moon. It was an unforgettable evening with the warm breeze blowing on us, even though we had no sight of a single turtle. When we walked back to our cars we met a convoy of professional turtle watchers approaching, stepping forth silently in couples along the ocean edge. They were all wearing tubes of light around their necks, waists and wrists, and these thirty people from a distance in the moonlight looked like a platoon of aliens. They marched nearer and nearer, no one speaking, eyes ahead, casting not a glance at us, so different from our cheerful rag tag and bobtail throng.

 Wednesday we drove 50 miles to the Midway Presbyterian church whose photograph is on the front of the Banner of Truth biography of its most famous minister, Daniel Baker. In his day the gallery of this white wooden building held the slaves, and every seat was taken upstairs and down. The church has sent scores of men into the mission field; some signers of the American Constitution were numbered amongst its members. For years no congregation has gathered there; it may be used for a wedding, but it has no electricity and so no air conditioning, and this day it was very hot and sultry with the mosquitoes whining around our ears. Everyone was first sprayed with anti-mosquito spray before entering; I sweated profusely as I preached. The temperature seemed 90 degrees. The singing was magnificent, unaccompanied renditions of Rock of Ages and O Sacred Head Sore Wounded and There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.

 The next day we went to Savannah. We had a guided tour by Ronald Parish of the magnificent Independent Presbyterian Church when Terry Johnson is the pastor. Over 500 people are now gathering there for its unadorned worship services and Terry is becoming an accomplished writer; our study group in Aberystwyth read his When Grace Comes Home this past winter. David Calhoun, the author of the two volumes history of the Princeton Seminary, has written the 250th Anniversary of the church for last year’s anniversary. As a family we took a two-horse carriage ride around the town with a woman driver as our chirpy commentator. Dewi Brady found it underwhelming and this 12 year-old went to sleep leaning against his father. The day ended back in Epworth with an energetic basketball competition, Ian and Rhodri both highly involved.

 The conference finished at noon after a message on the Sword of the Spirit. People were helped and one 16 year old girl wrote me this sweet letter;

 “Dear Pastor and Mrs. Thomas, I just wanted to thank you so much for coming to Family Camp this year. Pastor Thomas, your messages were wonderful and really helped me. I go to a High School that I don’t really like at all because of the people, and this week the Lord showed me how I

(1) wasn’t trusting in him, and
(2) wasn’t being prepared for battle.

The message that you preached about the shield of faith was especially wonderful. Now I understand what it means, trusting and believing in God that his will be done.

That day I had been particularly ‘down in the dumps’ and the Lord showed me that the best was to trust in him and his will. I had never thought much about the armour of God, and I didn’t know that so much could be gleaned from it. So thank you so so so much. It was good to see you guys,

Love in Christ, B.A.”

 That was a sweet encouragement. So the busy first week with its nine messages came to an end.

 We drove fifty miles north to a small town called Jesup, Georgia, and I preached there on Sunday at the request of its minister Thomas Waters. This was my first encounter with the group of Baptists in the USA called ‘Primitive Baptists’; actually this church belongs to the ‘Progressive Primitive Baptists’ to distinguish them from the ‘Hardshell Primitive Baptists’ who are pretty reactionary against many of the comforts of ordinary places of worship and unevangelistic. They are an elderly dying type of churches who resist any kind of association life. The Jesup church was very different; the congregation was the same size as our own in Aberystwyth. There was a splendid building with many rooms for Sunday school work and church offices. Their hymn book is solid and the earnest singing was accompanied by a piano and organ. I spoke about the work of God in Wales at the 9.45 Sunday School hour and then preached on the raising of Jairus’ daughter. That choice was a much appreciated providence as the pastor is going through Mark’s gospel and the previous week he had preached on the earlier passage on the healing of the woman with the issue of blood.

 The women of the church had prepared a meal which was mouth-watering. I counted 63 different dishes of food and th
ere were another 15 plates of desert. What a feast! I had happy fellowship with many of the people and returned to preach at 6 p.m. We met at the Manse at the end of the day for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, the usual end to Sundays in Aberystwyth. The church has done something which no Primitive Baptist Church has ever done in living memory. It has accepted the 1689 London Confession of Faith as the statement of what it believes. It is increasingly seeking fellowship with those of us all over the world who hold to historic Christianity and has its own discerning contribution to make to our gatherings. I think my going there helped the leadership in their work of godly reformation.

 MISSISSIPPI

 On Monday we drove back to Atlanta and the Fayetteville congregation. That was a 250 mile journey. Driving through America is often a dreary experience. The land is forested everywhere and the roads are hedged by trees forty feet high with nothing else to look at for hundreds of miles. Our daughter Catrin Alsop had arrived on Saturday, her school near Bath having ended on Friday. The four of us then drove all day to Mississippi across Alabama for 450 miles arriving at the end of the afternoon in the home of some of our closest friends Tommy and Linda Peaster in their new abode in Flora. We first met in Pensacola at the Institute in 1979. Our girls and their two were about the same age and we all struck up a friendship which, though living 6,000 miles apart from one another, has grown over the years and as soon as we meet up we pick up the pieces as though it were days and not months since we had last seen one another. We bless God for the tie that binds us in Christ.

 Tommy took us on some explorations of Mississippi – it was Ian’s first visit there. We went west for an hour to Vicksburg on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. Tugboats push container barges the size of four football pitches upstream. Vicksburg was the site of a Civil War siege where enormous heroism and also ruthlessness were displayed. There were those who defied the bombardment hidden away in deep caves. Only 45 citizens were killed. A museum captures this incident, one of many tragedies in the grief of “the war of northern aggression,” as the South has referred to it. Tommy took us on a tour of the battlefield and showed us where the various Unionist companies attacked and were driven back by the Confederates.

 On another day we went to Port Gibson where the Presbyterian Church has a striking spire capped by a hand pointing upwards. No one knows the circumstances of its construction, but when it was brought down for repairs twenty years ago Tommy and his daughter stood next to it and the hand with its pointing finger dwarfed them. The pastor, Michael Herrin, took us on a tour of the town, its ancient buildings and churches. Then further afield to the battlefields and the old churches of the countryside we drove none of the churches being used today. The most striking ruin was of a large mansion called Windsor which a young landowner had built 150 years ago. It was spared by the Unionist soldiers when they pillaged their way across the South, the house being only a few months old, but the owner died not many weeks after his magnificent building was completed. Then fifty years later a fire gutted the whole building, the farming dwindled and the forest swiftly asserted its right to the plantation land. You would never guess that there had ever been cotton, soya, tobacco, corn and peanuts growing here on acres of land. Today you drive along a dirt road and turning a corner of the track see this remarkable sight of twenty Corinthian columns a hundred feet high mapping out the edges of the whole of the old mansion. I was powerfully moved by this sight, walking all around the circumference gazing at these pillars with their massive wrought-iron capitols. The forest had imposed itself upon it, some of the trees were as high as the pillars; the impermanence of every creature.

 On the outskirts of the town of Port Gibson is the Chamberlain Hunt Academy, an old military school for teenagers. In recent years it had closed down but a group of Christians who oversee the French Camp, a fine home for disturbed teenagers in Mississippi, were asked if they would take on the Academy. After much uncertainty and hours of discussion they agreed to do so. The buildings have been pervasively modernised and restored and now the School is thriving. We walked around groups of carpenters, painters and glaziers at work for the new term. Some of the new staff are graduates of Reformed Seminary, Jackson. A military discipline and uniform is taken up by these teenagers, many of whom come from troubled backgrounds. Shane Blanton, the young president of the Academy, was an impressive figure, an ex-army officer, likeable and strong. What potential is there and much good work now being done.

 In Jackson is the Belhaven College where Guy Waters, the author of the best of the books on the new perspective on Paul, teaches the Bible. He is a member in the church co-pastored by Derek Thomas – the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson. I would like to have seen him, saddened by the reviews his book have had in the Westminster Theological Journal. I wanted to encourage him, but he was absent. One of my oldest friends, Larry Mills, who spend three years with me in Philadelphia 45 years ago, is a senior administrator in the College and he took us round the campus. Very impressive buildings and facilities, the College is one of the oldest in the South. There is a large theatre, new arts, ballet and sculpture block. There is, for example, a room with a dozen pianos where a dozen pianists can all play at the same time listening to themselves on headpieces; the teacher can tune in and listen to any one of them and comment on their playing. There are science blocks and running tracks and football fields. Belhaven is expanding taking over buildings round them. My friend’s vocation is to deal with mega-legacies. Fascinating. 

On Friday night Derek and Rosemary Thomas, another professor and his wife and the session of the Second Presbyterian Church in Yazoo City with their wives came to Tommy and Linda’s home for a barbecue. Derek looked well, having completed two books on the Song of Songs and Mark’s gospel. He is now up to Acts chapter five in a fat book of sermons on the Acts of the Apostles. His first grandchild is due any day in Northern Ireland, and Rosemary has flown home to Belfast to spend a month there, Derek joining her for August and also going to the Albert Hall for a promenade concert. He sweetly gave me a CD of Mahler’s song cycles. Rosemary flies home four times a year to visit her father who is in his mid-eighties who still lives in his home assisted by home helps who visit him four times a day with meals, and helping him in and out of bed. She calls Dad without fail twice a day.

 The influence of the New Perspective on Paul made our discussions buzz. Derek was asking a student how he defined the gospel. “Jesus Christ is Lord,” he said, which is Archbishop Tom Wright’s definition. What is specifically gospel – good news – about that? If that same Lord declares that he is going to say to many in that Day, “Depart from me you cursed ones into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” where is there of good news in the exclusive person of Christ? Surely you have to go to I Corinthians 15 and its opening verses for the gospel . . . Christ died for our sins and rose again. If you don’t fix your eyes on Christ’s work of salvation then his Lordship is terrifying. We men crucified him and we are facing his holy Fa
ther who has placed him on the throne of judgment. Derek asked another student applying for the Seminary, “Is the Christian obliged to keep the Moral Law?” The student paused for what seemed an interminable few seconds before answering. Then guardedly he said that the Christian was obliged to . . . BUT that salvation was all from Christ, and we could make no contribution to our salvation by our law keeping, and there were dangers of a legalistic mentality taking over etc., etc. at length. “Come on,” Derek was thinking, “this is not the question I asked you. Do you and I have an obligation to keep the moral law of God?”

 The New Perspective on the apostle Paul is the biggest issue to have hit the evangelical church in America for years. It is beginning to divide associations and denominations and seminaries. The issue is central to the gospel. The NP denies the imputed righteousness of Christ in an act of justification. It stresses that children sprinkled with water in the name of the Trinity are to be considered as regenerate children of God. Many of its adherents champion these infants being given bread and wine in the communion. Its emphasis is on the congregation as the body of Christ, a corporately saved people of God, and it loathes searching preaching and self-examination as destructive of the divine status of church members who regularly receive the ordinances in the public means of grace. The new perspective claims and promises so much, just like Karl Barth’s neo-orthodoxy claimed to be the ‘theology of the word.’ Yet did that dialectical theology produce one single evangelist? Did one minister go to the slums and fill a building with future missionaries and godly people by preaching Barthianism? Not one. The same judgment will be passed on the new perspective. Its supporters will take the already evangelised and taught Christian and muddle him up and abandon him proud of his superior insights.

 FLORIDA

 On Saturday the four of us drove to Pensacola and found the house we had rented near the beach for a week. Eleri and the Brady family had arrived there shortly before us. They had had a happy time in Disneyworld and Seaworld and stayed in inexpensive hotels with their swimming pools. In one of them five year-old Owain had been swimming with arm bands, but then jumped in without them, and down he went and stayed under. So Gary hastily jumped in, shoes, watch, wallet, money and all, and lifted him out. The ungrateful shrimp was not appreciative of his lifesaving father getting sodden for his sake; “YOU ARE HURTING ME!” he protested. Gary bought a new watch on Monday.

 Meanwhile at 3 a.m. across the other side of the Atlantic in Cardiff that same morning a taxi brought Glyn and Fflur and the children from bed to the airport. There they suffered a tense delay waiting for the plane to arrive which was taking them on to Amsterdam, but they did make the KLM connection in the Netherlands to Atlanta. They arrived there on time and Steve Martin was there to greet them and bring them to a car hire and point them off on their 300 miles’ drive to Pensacola. We waited for them, during the later hours especially with a growing longing to see them arrive safely. At 11 p.m. they still had not appeared and on their body clocks it was over 24 hours since the taxi had called at their home. Then we saw the lights of a car driving down a neighbouring street and stopping and reversing. The Brady boys and Ian ran down to the corner after the car and to greet the five Ellises. What a wonderful reunion, chatting away for ninety minutes, Ian leading us in prayer thanking God for the safe arrival of all 16 of us together. On the next day Iola and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. What hath God wrought for us and in us! This vacation scheme, thought up by Eleri, of us going on holiday to the USA had finally been achieved.

 We drove 14 miles across Pensacola to worship at Mt. Zion Bible Church on Sunday morning. It is a hardworking and righteous congregation, its fame having navigated the globe. L.R.Shelton became its pastor when it was founded in 1979 and remained there until his death three years ago, but its current pastor is Jeff Pollard whom I have met in a Founders’ Conference in Alabama. L.R.Shelton loved the writings of the Puritans, Edwards, Spurgeon, Pink and Lloyd-Jones. He longed that their messages could be sent out all over the world, and this concern was realised as money and land were given for the church and its growing number of buildings. There is a warehouse, printing room with some sophisticated and some ancient German machinery, a post and packing room, a bookroom – these are the Lord’s provision and are larger buildings than the auditorium where 100 people meet for worship.

 This book printing and distribution agency is called the Chapel Library and there are now seven full-time employees and two full-time. L.R.Shelton was influenced by George Muller’s approach to living by faith, bringing one’s needs to God and moving men by addressing their God. So Chapel Library flourishes. It has hundreds of titles, of course many of them are tracts and little booklets, but they also have produced larger works like Ryle’s Holiness (in two volumes), and also Pink’s Elijah and his Attributes of God in single volumes. It has a vast tape library but like all cassette libraries it is becoming redundant, a resource, and it is wrestling with the challenge of putting all these onto CDs. My morning sermon and the whole service was put on DVD and we four families were all given copies. The quality was excellent. Chapel Library’s outreach to prisons is excellent and growing; it has a course called an Institute of Theology, and there are anonymous pastors who mark and grade the prisoners who are going through the course. Four times a year it brings out a substantial journal of extracts from the Puritans and their successors on a select subject. These are sent in over 15 thousand copies all over the world. It also provides tract racks for churches and some of its work is in Spanish and other languages. It is a formidable enterprise coming out of one church. I enjoyed preaching there and we were all given a guided tour of Chapel Library after the service was over.

 In the evening we worshipped in the McIlwaine Memorial Presbyterian Church which had been the host church of the Summer Institute for many years. This July Conference was a staple feature of the growing conservative Presbyterian churches of the South on their journey from wishy-washy liberalism into evangelicalism and then into confessional Christianity. I have spoken there twice, the last being twenty-five years ago. With the growth of the Reformed Theological Seminary and the spread of Bible pulpits the need for the Institute weakened (there are 160 Presbyterian Church in America congregations in Mississippi and 120 of these are pastored by graduates of the Reformed Seminary in Jackson – what has God wrought!). Numbers dropped off at the Summer Institute and finally it closed, but the McIlwaine church looks favourably at the years it hosted this grand occasion and did it with true professionalism. They are talking about beginning again a mini-Institute this fall but now the costs have spiralled. Renting apartments and houses in Pensacola for a week has become exorbitant. The McIlwaine service was quite different from this morning’s with a Bible Study on Hebrews 13 (we were all given outlines with gaps to fill in) and though we missed preaching the minister was competent and prepared. Churches must cry to the Lord for strength to their ministers to exalt Christ an
d to manifest the ugliness of sin.

 There were heavy showers early on in the week, but they did not last much longer than an hour, and soon it would be in the high 80s again. The sea is blue and then there are bands of green. Someone told us he had seen dolphins jumping in the bay on Saturday, early in the morning, but we saw none. There were early mornings when Iola and I walked the beach for thirty minutes before breakfast, returning wet with perspiration. The beach is the whitest sand in the world. The sea is perfect for swimming and we have the whole place to ourselves, but after two hours one seeks for air-conditioned recovery. It is hot. There is one of the largest naval bases in the USA in Pensacola and their vast museum of planes and space stations and spacemen’s outlooks is fascinating. You can photograph everything with the kids sitting in the cockpits of many planes. There was an IMax cinema with the highest widest screen imaginable and when we all settled into the darkness we found ourselves hurtling with the pilots along valley bottoms and skimmed over the tops of the hills. What views of Nevada’s desert we had.

 The week sped by and on Friday and Saturday morning I spent my hours preparing my sermon for Sunday in Aberystwyth on Cain and Abel. How I love preparing the word of God. Later on Saturday we broke into two groups. Eleri and Fflur and their families drove in two cars back to Atlanta while Catrin, Ian and ourselves drove back to Yazoo City. On Monday the three Thomas girls and their families were all flying in different directions, Eleri’s back home to London, Catrin’s to her cousin Gwennan Turner in Las Vegas and Fflur’s to Seattle. I preached in Yazoo City and met many old friends, and on Monday I drove to the Book Shop of Reformed Theological Seminary. It is a magnificent shop and I got some fine stuff including a new book on Noah and the flood which will be invaluable this fall.

 I spoke to Derek before he flew to the Midwest and also to John Currid who is completing the last of his commentaries on the five books of Moses – what an achievement. Dr Currid is leaving the Jackson campus of RTS for the Charlotte campus where Douglas Kelly is the most well-known man completing the second volume of his systematic theology. What extraordinary gifts God has showered upon our American brethren these years. There are eight conservative Presbyterian seminaries with a few more fledgling satellite campuses all of whom would claim to be the heirs of Princeton Seminary from Alexander to Machen. This cluster now produces more graduates each year than all the Roman Catholic seminaries put together. How many seminaries have the liberals built during these years? Not one. As Spurgeon said, the modernists couldn’t build a mousetrap. They are experts in stealing the buildings and libraries and inheritances of seminaries which were erected to prepare gospel preachers to take the message of an infallible Bible to the world.

 I had some gumbo as the guest of Prof. David Jussely, the professor of practical theology, an old friend and former pastor of Yazoo and a buddy of Derek’s. He has a sabbatical next year and is coming to the UK. I am hoping to get him to Aberystwyth. What a happy Monday morning I had at the Seminary and its bookshop. It was typical of the whole three and a half weeks we have had here.

 The last days in Yazoo were splendid and then we drove the 400 miles to Atlanta and spent our last night with Steve Martin arriving just in time for the Prayer Meeting. Our journey home was the usual tense series of chapters asking such questions as, “do we have the necessary documents, are our cases too full, will we make the connection in Chicago, will we get any sleep on the plane, will our luggage be waiting for us on the carousel in London, will we get a good train ride to Aberystwyth, will the house be in a good condition? etc.” To all such queries there was a positive response and we are easing back into our familiar routine, thankful to God for giving us such an encouraging and refreshing time in the USA.

 GEOFF THOMAS