Just a few years ago, I was doing IT work for schools. I did this for a few years for an IT service provider, and finally I ended up employed directly in a Jewish school which was a blessing as a Christian I’ve enjoyed working with the Jewish community before in Israel and here in the UK.
If you are a teacher or worked in schools, you probably know that schools never have enough space. So they bought a Portacabin which is a sort of cheap plastic office which can be put together simply and when space is needed. This was used for my team (3 of us) to maintain the school’s computer systems. The servers, disk storage, switches and routing kit sits in two different closets in different part of the school.
This one looked like this. There was me and my two colleagues in there. I got on well with these chaps as we had our own quiet place to work, but could easily get out to fix a classroom computer, set up an microphone or presentation or put a new toner in a printer.
On what particular day my boss was very stressed, with too many different projects and priorities on the go at the same time. This was taking a toll on his health.
During the late spring, it was warm so we had the windows open. I’m sat in front of my work PC, I decided to pray silently as he seemed like he was not having a great day.
Suddenly a white butterfly comes in the window, flies in a circle around our little office twice, and then goes straight out again.
I do miss this school, I left this to pursue a different aspect of IT. There were many opportunities to be an ambassador to Jewish people as a Christian there. I could go into a religious classroom and hear the staff talking about who the Moshiach (Messiah) might be, whilst I am quietly putting a new cartridge in their printer.
So I’ve found the headquarters of Chabad, a popular section of Judaism.
In some ways this group are the Jewish equivalent of the Salvation Army with well organised outreach to the poor.
Founded in 1775 by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the name “Chabad” (חב״ד) is an acronym formed from three Hebrew words—Chochmah, Binah, Da’at ( חכמה, בינה, דעת): “Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge”—which represent the intellectual underpinnings of the movement.
One of the most famous people in the Chabad was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last Rabbi of his generation (he died with no children) His house is considered the worldwide headquarters of the Chabad movement which is in Brooklyn, New York, known as “770” after the number of the building in street.
Chabad has done excellent programs for the poor and the disadvantaged in the Jewish community, but a lot of its focus is on a man from New York, not someone is from Israel. These camper vans are driven around Jewish areas with the intention to help secular and non observant Jews to get back to religious practice, particularly wrapping Tefillin (prayer straps)
This is quite honourable though to get those off track from faith back into the fold.
Chabad is a large and well organised group that bless a lot of Jewish people, but I’ll explain later why I believe there are better plans for Jewish people, despite Stamford Hill being an intriguing sort of place.
For the last 6 years I lived in London, which initially was exciting, but is an often frustrating place to be. For numerous reasons I will explain in another post, I’ve moved back to Portsmouth 100 miles south, close to family and the sea where I am originally from.
The last 2 1/2 years of my time in London, I went to a Calvary Chapel church.
Here’s why I love the Calvary Chapel movement, which is a US flavour of church which has been spread all over the world.
There are lot of Calvary churches world wide, this is not because numbers are important, but successful plants of churches in different places which has shown good fruit of the gospel being spread and people being discipled.
Great biblical teaching. Always in kind way, but doesn’t avoid the tricky and challenging bits.
Humble and approachable leaders
Evidence of good fruit. Some countries in recent times like Hungary (My visit in 2018) has had a big spread of the gospel. Interesting as the Hungarian language is meant to be really difficult. From what I learned, Hungary has 13 churches from Calvary Chapel and the main one in Budapest has 3,000 people.
They use both rented plain buildings or dedicated church buildings. My church rented a church building from another congregation, therefore having two different church congregations with distinct leadership who just share the same physical bricks and mortar. After all, we know that ‘church’ is the collective group of people rather than the stone fabric that sits around it. Having said that, the building we use has amazing stain glass windows, original teak pews and two organs which entices people just for the history.
Actual church family. My congregation was small but had folks from Jamaica, Portugal, Poland, Ireland, Australia, Nigeria and more. Smaller churches like this, do have a special more intimate feel to them, and I think one people are settled, no one has to feel hard done by because of their background or look to some latest wokeness cause, with a good church with a great mix of different backgrounds.
They support Israel. Often, in other churches in London, I would hear messages like “God is done with Israel and the Jewish people.” Seeing as I have worked with Jewish people for 14 years, and I’m often reminded by passages in the NT like Romans 11 “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means…..” I know that pastors I respect the most (including all the leaders I know in Calvary Chapel) know the importance of Israel in the bible is still relevant today.
I’ve been part of Assemblies of God church, the Anglican Church and Messianic Judaism (from when I lived in Jerusalem, Israel) there’s been parts of all of those I’ve liked, and there are many splinters of different styles of each of them.
Whilst living in London, this is been one of the place I’ve been most proud to want to bring my Christian and secular friends along alike.
This is a big mix of religious groups here – different from what you think, and it gets more interesting later on.
Got to love Vegans eh? some of these (but not all – erm, phew!) folks are on such an extreme obsessed, focused mission, they are practically a religion, this person has it as business on their car, maybe the two others (one is a Toyota IQ, the others are a Smart) are part of the same effort.
This is a Catholic church now used as a Mosque. This might make a number of people including myself sad, except on the left, they missed something! – Or, maybe its a listed building and they are prohibited from removing the original decorative pieces. Islam usually has a habit of trying to make its structures and symbols the largest and tallest. But here the cross is higher!!
This is another Catholic church, this one active on the outskirts of the main road of Stamford Hill. I like the look of this place as the message of the scripture here of Isaiah 2:4 “They will hammer their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles.” Underneath is a message to stop youth carrying knives. They also do a service in Polish and Spanish.
The centre of Stamford Hill also has a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall. This group might appear to be Christian, but they follow an earn your way to salvation, rather than the finished works of the cross, as their members are very busy knocking on doors of the public to spread a well intentioned but not genuine gospel message.
This is a little hard to see, but there is a message of “Jesus is Lord” on this building’s front. I like the sound of this place the most.
A bit further on, I will visit the strict Hassidic Jewish community, a bit later.
So, if you know me, I am a Christian who has worked a lot with the Jewish community. After living in Israel for 4 years, I also got to work in a really nice Jewish school doing their IT support, and also accidently find Israelis when I go and visit places like Munich Germany, Budapest Hungary, Dublin Ireland, and even the Great Wall of China. I think this is because of Israelis have a keen sense of adventure. I’ve also visited Morocco and Tunisia, which have had Jewish people who have almost completely left, mostly to Israel.
So at the beginning (April 2020) of the first part of lockdown, I decided to go exploring this special part of London, called Stamford Hill, which is home to a group of ultra Orthodox Jewish community.
I thought I’d show you around this place and how it compares with religious Jewish places in Israel and elsewhere.
So this was over an hour of walking from the place I was renting last year.
I worked in the election. I wanted to help my country, but also I was between jobs, so it was a good way to earn some casual extra money. I wrote the council, filled in a form, and attended a training event. You just have to be polite, customer facing and impartial.
Running the Polling station is fairly simple. It does take two people to run each table. One has to look up voters in a book put a line through them. They don’t need a voting card, just need to give their address.
If you work at the polling station, in this case was a church, you need to be there at 0615 and have the ballot boxes, envelopes, pencils are sharpened, then open up the building at 0700, and close the doors at 2200, and once cleared up we go home at 2230. Its a long day and my list of people covered streets A-K probably about 1100-1200 people, and the other table run by the other team covered L-Z, you need to make sure people put their vote in the right ballot box.
There are some posters put up with stern legal notices about voting on behalf of someone else without proper authorisation is a criminal offence.
We had lots of people come together as neighbours, who are from different backgrounds. Indians, Spanish, French, Turkish, Muslims (Arabic speaking and also some from Pakistan or Bangladesh) Greeks, Chinese and Jewish. When you look them up in the book you can gather a lot of details of the demographics. Folks also smile and say hello to their neighbours without actually divisiveness of when what people’s favourite or least favourite leader is put online.
Incidents at the polling station were a rarity. I only had one person sort of hostile, when he was told he couldn’t use his phone the building swore at us. People see you as a cold authority, not aware none of us work for the council and only employed as a one-off day. I see it as making sure the public can to have a say democratically where some places like China or North Korea don’t.
Ok, so 2020 was a challenging year for the UK. Now I’ve moved back to my home town of Portsmouth, after needing to leave London, I think I’m going to help out with the elections down here again in May, and can use some of the cash to buy a few things for my forthcoming new house or do another trip to Europe later this year.
I was trying out a church a couple of years ago, wanting to maybe find a secondary source fellowship as I was dealing with the rough emotional turmoil of yet again seeing close friends leave London where I was living.
I had a dream of seeing two people, one was from Holland and one from Canada. Neither of them seem to be based on anyone I know, and these days I’m doing IT work in a secular workplace.
So for the second time, some people from this church asked me to come along to a bible study, just before I set off to leave work to get the tube (London Underground) I got a WhatsApp message that the bible study was to be at a different person’s house.
So I got to this person’s house I never met. I actually got there early, and the man’s wife let me in and chatted to the 3 or 4 folks there. The man who owned the house come in after shopping. He was Dutch. When I asked some of the folks what their stance was on Gifts of the Spirit, they told me that they were Cessationists and they believe the gifts are no longer applicable today. I told them about what I saw in a dream.
This particular church has some really good qualities, they have a genuine love and need to reach out with gospel and grown in numbers and planted smaller satellite places. As the Lord seems to show me certain things from dreams and visions, and I haven’t been back there again, as I like to go to some specialist Christian teaching events on prophecy.
I didn’t feel a need to tell the folks from the church they were wrong, but as this was a year ago, I am still amazed how the Holy Spirit can provide insights of situations in unusual settings.
Meanwhile at my work, I found out one of our remote colleagues was based in Vancouver, as he was a Canadian who moved back to his home town.
I’m cautiously Charismatic, but I also believe the gifts of the Spirit are still applicable today, although I recognise there can be excesses in Charismatic churches.
These days I try to write down what I get in dreams, many of these don’t make sense, once in a while, some definitely have meaning.
This is the front of the factory. You are not supposed to take pictures. (oops) I know all car markers have big problems with secrets of up and coming cars being leaked to rivals.
You can see what looks like a dealership which is actually a fancy merchandise place, and some hotels. Spin around here and there is a digital sign to warn you about speeding, just so you don’t get carried away.
This is the rear of the factory. I did see several flatbed trucks with a car bodyshell with a tarp over it going out of this place.
There are several different specialist retail stores down the road with car history books and used pieces of Formula 1 cars.
There are nearby places where you can drive a Ferrari around the town for a 100 Euros. Was very tempted!!
Ordinarily, there would be bus loads of tourists here, if it wasn’t for Covid. This whole town is built around visitors who love these famous exotic motorcars.
I ended up spending more time than I planned by the factory as getting back to the main town of Modena was tricky, as some of the buses were not running because of a strike and I waited a long time at the bus stop. In the end some kind people showed me a different street where to get back.
I noticed something interesting. Maybe every 10 minutes or so, I heard the roar of an engine. I think I was close enough to the final bit of the production line, where someone has put petrol in a newly finished car, and fires up the ignition to proclaim the car is alive!!
This is just a cheap flatpack book case. The back wood plywood piece is missing, done deliberately. I need to eventually make a piece of metal to reinforce the thing vertically.
This has my two HP Proliant Microserver G8 cube-shaped server computers. Top one has i3 processor, 16Gb of RAM, with Server 2019 and Hyper-V, and 6.5Tb (500, 3Tb and 3Tb) disk space. I use it as a file server and have virtual machines with it. I can stream video to my Samsung smart TV.
The bottom one is similar with 8Gb of RAM, 2Tb of disk space (4x 500gb) and Server 2019, and runs Microsoft SQL server 2019 on it. I use this to learn database work. The days of oversized huge tin box tower computers are gone. These are small, neat and expandable. A few years ago, a basic model one of these was about £150 new, you have to supply your hard drives. In the past I ran VMware ESXi 7.5 which runs great. Now HP’s current iteration of the G10 plus Microserver is more like £500 sadly.
There is a small HP Laserjet printer up the top, its just black and white and costs <1p per page to run, there is an 8 port switch and a TP-Link AC 300 class wireless router.
This provides an extra wireless connection which the BT/Virgin routers may not cover a whole house. A network connection comes in through a Powerline adapter from the ground floor. The network switch, (thing with the blinky lights) provides 8 network cables to be connected, to run all the servers and printer.
My laptop computers connect to these using RDP, therefore they don’t need a keyboard, mouse or screen.
1952 wireless radio
This radio I bought from ebay, had been relisted at least 4 times as no one wanted it. It was collect only so I had to drive to the other side of London to get it. I then removed most of the innards (it was broken) and fitted inside some Altec Lansing speakers which are held in with screws and cable ties. The power switch and volume potentiometers were rerouted to the front the unit. the front fascia was scratched and had the wooden veneer broken, so this was removed off and painted. I added the four large black knobs. The the two left ones are power switch and volume, the two right ones are purely a façade and are not connected. The channel meter thing had the needle broken, but it does light up with a white LED, as I soldered this onto where a green LED was on the computer speakers. This requires two generic USB phone adapters to operate.
This reborn 1952 radio uses a Google Chromecast audio for me to listen to music and podcasts while I’m working from home. There is a non functioning record deck under lid. I’ve put a 7″ record on it, but all the circuitry to run the turntable has removed so its just for decoration now. Sadly Google have discontinued CCA which means they can only be bought used on eBay for higher than the were new.
Table top retro arcade game system
I bought this iCade games dock in 2014 and then abandoned it, only to finish it off this year. Its a small arcade game system specifically to be used with an iPad which would sit where you would expect the screen to be. Most people who bought these grew tired of it, as the bluetooth connection for the joystick and buttons was laggy making the game experience below par.
Instead, I dismantled an old Acer Aspire One netbook (actually three as I accidently fried the motherboard on one, and they were all a bit broken to start with) The screen of the laptop was detached, and I binned the keyboard, battery, palm rest, web cam, hinges and other pieces. This means the screen and base have about 30-40cm of cable in between. The 10.1″ screen is neatly fastened to the front and the laptop chassis sits behind with a 64Gb SSD drive and 2gb of RAM it runs Windows 7 Starter, AdvanceMAME arcade emulator and AttractMode front-end system. Joysticks and now wired via USB. I have most of Atari’s back catalogue of games, and although the PC has a weedy Intel Atom 1.6Ghz processor games older than 1994 all work very nicely on it.
The speaker ‘shelf’ section, was made from some pieces of balsa wood (crate of cherries from fruit and veg market) with some USB speakers dismantled and fastened on with some bolts. Front is covered with grey fabric (from a free t-shirt I got from an IT convention)
It needs finishing off aesthetically still, but its great fun to play. I need to fabricate a plastic sign of the top above the speakers. There is a LED light to illuminate this. I wanted to show this to my nieces are Christmas the games Daddy and Uncle Jonny played, but not this season sadly.
Home built table lamp
I like old lamps especially Middle east, Chinese or Victorian. Mainly as I found an amazing shop in Morocco with dozens of exotic ones, these were too large and fragile to take home, so I later bought a smaller one when I went to Turkey.
I also wanted to experiment with these modern replicas of these beautiful Edison bulbs I’ve seen recently and I used this wooden jewellery box I bought from the popular UK retailer “The Works” this was covered with oak coloured varnish, a suitable socket and electrical cord with gold coloured fabric was sourced from eBay.
Spending the whole time dwelling on the news, Brexit, US election, vaccines and conspiracy theories gets tiresome so instead I find making and repairing things satisfying. I particularly like mixing up old an new technology together.
I’ve got some more ideas for 2021, with another creation on the go already.