"Footprints Of An Old Friend"

"Some people come into our lives and quickly go,
but others stay awhile and leave footprints on our hearts,
and we are never the same." An old proverb

As a college student, in the mid-1960’s at the University of Virginia, I was facing some serious doubts about my faith, and some friends introduced me to the book, Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. Over these last thirty-seven years I have now bought and read almost everything that has been published under his name or about him. As I look back to that first year in college, who would have thought that that advice, given so many years ago, would have left such an indelible influence upon my life? For second only to the New Testament, Lewis’ works and life have touched my life in such a significant way that they have helped direct me to a closer walk with Jesus Christ.

Shortly after I began my first full-time pastorate in Harlan, Kentucky in 1971, several of my members and fellows ministers, after sharing with me about their own overseas trips, encouraged me to consider taking my own continuing education trip to Israel. Therefore, in the summer of 1973, when I heard that plans were being made for a "World Conference on the Holy Spirit" in Jerusalem for the next February, I made arrangements with my congregation to be gone for the ten-day period which included both the conference and a tour. Because of that trip my appreciation and understanding of the Bible has never been the same. The whole trip made a significant difference in my Christian life.

In the summer of 1982 I had to spend several weeks in the Northbrook area of Chicago on business. Having first read in the appendix to Kathryn Lindskoog’s book, C.S. Lewis: Mere Christian, that Dr. Clyde Kilby had started the Wade Collection at ‘nearby’ Wheaton, I rented a car and drove over one Saturday morning to the Wheaton College Library in the western suburbs of Chicago. With the Wade Collection closing about noon and my arriving about 11:00 a.m., I only had an hour to visit and look through the collection. No matter, my long trip across town had been well worth the time. My interest had been wetted, and I was privileged to visit there again in 1989, 1996 and 1998. As a result of the 1996 visit, I received an invitation to take, in 1997, an eleven day study tour of Oxford and Cambridge. Word also began to come to me of several other Lewis-related tours especially as the Lewis Centenary approached. But with a son in medical school and a daughter in college at the same time, I neither had the finances nor the time to go. Plus, except for the OxBridge Centenary Conference, most of the tours were taken in the fall when I had responsibilities as a parent, pastor and substitute teacher that I could not leave.

As both of these older children completed their schooling and as I begin to set aside what finances I could for a possible trip to Great Britain, I began making plans for a trip in the summer of 2000. I put aside birthday and Christmas gift money from family, fees for funerals and extra money earned from substitute teaching over a period of two and one-half years. In the fall of 1999, following a visit with my daughter in Lexington, I talked to Nancy Bogue of Avant Travel in Lexington about the possibility of taking my own self-guided tour of Great Britain that next summer. Even though I wanted to go, I was somewhat nervous about the whole thing, since I had not traveled overseas since 1974 and never on my own, and I was somewhat intimidated by the thought of going by myself. Having led several trips herself to England, she reassured me and made several suggestions about my itinerary and how she and the travel agency might be able to assist me.

My next step was to communicate with my budget committee and board at our annual planning meetings. Things had been going quite well at the church that year, and as I talked with the budget committee about putting several Sunday’s together for a possible continuing education trip to England at about the same time that my youngest son might be attending the Governor’s Scholar’s Program in June and July, an agreement was made that they would suggest that the board allow me to take my two annual weeks of continuing education together and also give me an additional third Sunday for my anticipated trip. Three Sunday’s in a row - I had prayed about such a thing, but had not expected it to happen as easily as it did.

As the Advent, Christmas, and New Year’s seasons approached, I found very little time to work on the upcoming trip, but by the end of January I had already applied for my passport and had outlined a tentative itinerary from June 26th through July 21st. I then made contact with Nancy Bogue again via e-mail and then called her on January 28th, sharing with her that I not only planned to visit the Lewis sites in Northern Ireland and England, but also wanted to visit the home of George Macdonald in Huntly, Scotland and as much of the rest of literary and historical England as I could pack into twenty-five days. A few days later, in answer to another prayer, my daughter Laura informed me that her husband and my son-in-law, Jeremy Thomas, was interested in going with me. I had shared some of my plans with him, as I had with all of my family, but had not known at the time if he would be interested in going. As it turned out, he not only was a companion for me on the trip; but our personal relationship grew so much stronger than it had ever been. Plus, he was a great help to me in ways that I had not even planned or considered.

What follows from this point is a recounting of what we did to prepare for our trip, followed by a description of the trip itself - the extraordinary people we met; the delicious food we ate; the special places we stayed; and the wonderful sites that we visited. Hopefully you will also enjoy the pictures that I have added to the text along the way.

But my ultimate hope is that as you follow with us in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis that you also will encounter afresh the C.S. Lewis who is not only a great author, a great literary critic and a great man, but someone who is even more importantly a great Christian. And in so doing, you will allow his footprints to point you in the direction of the Christ who loves us, that we each might live as the "Mere Christians" that Lewis challenged us all to become.


Richard James

Burkesville Christian Church

Burkesville, Kentucky

September, 2000

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Last Updated: Monday, September 03, 2001