We had plenty of time to catch up with the personal news. Gregory confirmed that he's officially been consecrated as a bishop in Kenya (on 4th May). That puts an end to the private joke by which I address all the African guys with, "Hello bishop", when on the phone. He told me he was relieved that the recent national elections hadn't produced the violence of the previous round. Once we were underway, Huw gave an update on Multiply's progress through the eyes of the UK team. The slow progress of the intern sponsorship scheme has been a drag. He stressed that we want to see increasing partnership in developing the future vision.
Colney led in an inspiration taken from the Exodus account of crossing the Red Sea. He related how one of his missionaries in Odisha had come across an unbelieving family distraught over their son. The young man had taken up with a girl whose family had declared him to be an unsuitable choice. He'd swallowed as much poison as he could lay his hands on. When discovered vomiting and in a bad way, he'd been declared beyond remedy by the medics. Two hours later he'd died; whereupon the family had call in the missionary. "You have your own faith", he'd challenged. He offered a simple prayer that God would return his life, as the family surrounded, wailing that they'd become believers if their son revived. He did, and they did!
Then Desmond shared about the false gospels he's discerned that are pervading the four continents where he's spoken. One famous preacher and miracle worker (in Ghana) was betrayed to be being supported by witchdoctors. When he protested, one of the accusers challenged him to admit it, else he would turn him into a snake. The preacher fell silent. "The real gospel", Desmond told us, "Has the power to change lives into Christlikeness." (He also corrected me about minibuses: it's not mutatu, but poda poda.)
The Jesus Centre Cafe did us proud with chicken and vegetable curry lunch. For the first time I heard one of our delegates pronounce the food "too hot". We can start to bland down again now. Somebody must have heard my stage whisper that there was no bottled water or fruit juice for those who aren't addicted to gallons of tea, because some appeared by the end of the meal.
During the afternoon the guys gave individual reports on the the last year in each of their responsible countries. Stephen is looking forward to a conference in Malawi next Spring, and the Lusaka group is doing well. His Workaid carpentry, welding and tailoring project has been running for six month and has produced the first crop of "graduates". Gregory gave a similar report about the new Uganda group. His carpentry, IT and sewing project is looking for commercial opportunities, and they aim to launch a microfinance scheme. He rounded off with a challenge that our own senior leadership are over-loaded, and having given training to our rising generation, should now give them real work.
Iain and Emmaline updated us on the last year in Multiply UK, where we've managed to make a visit to partners nearly every month. Rukundo described his Kigali radio ministry as "shelling" the region, followed up by visits to new groups as his "ground assaults". His description of the tensions under which his group in Goma (DRC) operates, and the challenge to overcome tribal violence by the peace of the new creation held us all in awe. Finally Daniel spoke of the "Candles in the Desert" prayer initiative in UAE, and his successful October conferences in Bangalore and Kerala.
"A rich day", Piet commented as he drove home. We'd just heard that the marquee had been damaged by the day's high winds, and the customary Friday evening BHWE Festival meeting cancelled. Back at Kings, Steve had put the heating on. After last night's windchill in his bedroom I may need my fleeces tonight, too.