Did you know if you put all the roads in America end to end you’d have a very long road. And here’s the thing – they’re all full of cars. There are about 63 million cars in America. That’s a car for every five people which sounds about right doesn’t it. But here’s the thing – the average family in America own 2.5 cars. Now, if the average family is say, five poeple, then that means half the population doesn’t have a car.
OK, my duff and dodgy maths (math for the American reader) aside, there is still a huge divide betweet the rich and poor in the US and indeed the west.
Goodness, how did I get onto that? I don’t know. Anyway, we were driving again, this time to Chicago to stay with an old friend of mine, Mark Jobe. Here’s a potted history for those who like church building success stories. Mark began Pastoringa church of 18 or so people in 1986. I visited in 1989 and there were a couple of hundred in the Church. Then in 1991 they were having two meetings to fit people in. In 1996 when I visited with Mrs H they had completly outgrown their church and were meeting in a school auditorium. Now there are over 5000 members of the church meeing in 19 venues across Chicago. Mark says that in the last 16 months they’ve baptised over 1000 people.
So OK, in America they do things big. Buildings, burgers, and yes, churches. I’ve been to a couple of mega churches and they really don’t do it for me. But New Life Church in Chicago isn’t your run of the mill rich and glitsy mega church. In fact it’s quite ordinary which was rather nice. I asked Mark the secret of growing a church. He said, fasting and praying specifically for the sould of the people. Descipleship. Pepole aren’t scared of throwing their lives into something bigger than themselve, that carries a cost.
They still sing the songs I taught them 20 years ago. According to Mark, what he learnt from us back here in blighty about sacrifice, commitment and community has become part of their DNA. In a pastors meeting on the Monday morning we sang one of those songs and afterwards, people started saying where they were when they first hear that song, how it had been part of their journey. It was all rather humbling. It’s funny how yoou can do something and think no more about it, but the seed it plants is life and it grows.
And so we had a few hours before the flight to check out downtown Chicago. For me, Chicago is the Blues Brothers. Names like Joliet, Wacca and the “L” make it more of a movie town than any other place I know. We took the “L” downtown. The “L ” or Loop, Or Metro is the elevated railway that travels above the streets downtown. It’s a rickety old thing. When trains stop at the stations the whole structure does a kind of boogie. The best thing has to be the announcemnets. At each stop you’re treated to a new message. “Welcome aboard this CTA train. For your safety eating is prohibitted.” or “Gambling, Soliciting and Hang-gliding are prohibited on this train. Please familiarize yourselves with the 10 part evacuation procedure located in the third carriage from the back of the train on the left hand side on the directon of travel” For shops it’s hopeless. I had heard the Apple Store was one of the best so we checked it out. It was the same as the one in Birmingham but bigger. I guess when you have a limmited range of tablets, phones and computers there is only so much you can do. They did have public rest-rooms tho, which in a city like Chicago is a welcome feature.
Heading back to the car we passed a sign saying Kiss ‘n’ Drive and I thought only in America. Ariving at the airport we passed another sign, this time saying “Kiss and Fly”. “Ha! Only in America!” said Bill. And you know, he’s right.