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A Shout From The Attic: Church Building Mission - 1

Ronnie Bray moves to Ipswich and finds himself living the dream.

Called To Serve

A Ray Curtis, then president of the South West British Mission, asked to see me. He knew that I had some problems with my
marriage to Esmé, and no doubt he had heard of my altercation with Barry Makin. We talked for some time, then he asked me if I would accept a call to serve as a Building Missionary, and I accepted the call. I was assigned to the Ipswich Branch Building project under the supervision of Don Worthen. I joined Dennis Clancy, Jon Rhodes, and Mel Lavender to make up a team of four, a young German boy called Klaus having moved on to another site.

I arrived in early May of 1963, when the snow was clearing and the winter frosts were far enough gone to let the cherry trees that line the ring road that skirts the town make their fulsome blossoming as if in greeting. Don Worthen and his wife met me at the railway station and took me to the home of Dean Caldwell and his family, who were to be my hosts. They traversed the ring road to let me enjoy the efflorescence of the brief display before the pink and white petals covered the road like confetti. They reminded me of weddings and, as I had left my bride behind in Bournemouth, caused some sadness in me that was long remembered.

On the way, Sister Worthen told me about Janet Caldwell. She described her as a rather dull person with good intentions. She was very mistaken in her estimation of Janet. Janet dressed in dark clothes, unwilling to draw attention to herself, but her mind was brilliant. She did not shout herself from the rooftops, but to those who got close to her, as I did, she was
dazzling in the scope and depth of her understanding, her wisdom was finely honed between that of the ancients, whom she understood very well, and the requirements of a modern mother steering her children through the pitfalls, snares, joys, and opportunities of life.

The Caldwells lived on Caldwell Hall Road, Ipswich, in a large house full of American paraphernalia without which, apparently, life was not possible for Americans. The washer and drier inhabited the bathroom, and that left little room for
anyone to get in, as large as it was by English standards.

The kitchen was the home of a spare room sized refrigerator full of Americana, bought from the PX at the US Air Force base at Woodbridge, a few miles out of town, where Dean was serving as an instructor. I was introduced to American bacon (nah!), American ice cream (yeah!), American pop (yeah!), American cheese (cheese is cheese, right?), American bologna (about which, more later!), American milk (okay), and American bread (nah!), and all other manner of American things that were either unknown to me or known only through the medium of American movies and comics. I was, to some extent, living the dream.

By the time I was able to understand everything they said, and they had become attuned to my Yorkshire dialect, we were the
best of friends. They were unselfish, generous, kind, thoughtful, and supportive of the stranger within their gates. They had a record player and all Beethoven’s symphonies, no television, only a big steam radio, and a Nash Rambler for which they bought cheap, very cheap, petrol from the base.

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