After occasional and much enjoyed holidays on narrowboats, the dream of owning one ourselves was realised in 2010 when we bought Mistol. At first, it was a respite after caring for elderly parents. A welcome retreat from a busy work life in health care and a convenient hub for grandparenting during the simultaneous arrival of a flurry of grandchildren. Retirement meant we could stay out on the canal for prolonged periods and our berth in the marina became a rather expensive patch of water, so we became continuous cruisers. By then, we had found the Boaters’ Christian Fellowship and we were pleased to be welcomed on the mission to Droitwich, where we met with most of the Canal Ministries team. Having lived for many years in remote Amerindian villages in South America, being welcomed into Canal Ministries meant we could once again enjoy the special fellowship of a small team seeking to serve Jesus in a simple and interdependent life style.
It took us a little while to put up the Canal Ministries logo on the boat, for the strap line ‘sharing God’s love on the waterways’ was not always in evidence between a couple long married but new to boating. While our colleagues were busy engaging with boaters’ pastoral and social needs, we wondered what our function would be in the team. Then we met Jack. Jack and his class from a special school happened down the towpath and, seeing the side hatch of Mistol open, abandoned various walking aids and wheel chairs and tumbled aboard. We were used to schools visiting the boat, but these young people were so enthusiastic, especially Jack, who really fell for the boat and did not want to leave. The school gave special permission for him and his Mum to come with us while we took the boat to turn it around a few days later. He instantly got the hang of the helm and within a short time was managing the boat with little guidance. And so was born the vision of a special boat for special people, to teach boating to people with additional needs.
Jumping through the various hoops to buy and equip a boat, along with the necessary paperwork, took some time. But we now have a second boat, Litania, which we use for teaching boating (see entry about Litania). For three seasons a year, we are able to welcome groups from all ages to enjoy and work the boat and to learn boating and canal skills.
We spend much of our time at the western end of the Kennet and Avon Canal, where Litania is moored, and have been pleased to become part of the live-aboard boating community there. Jesus spent a good portion of his time on earth travelling by boat on lake Galilee, bringing His touch to the storms of life and providing for people’s physical and spiritual needs. As we share the joys and trials of boating life with other boaters, we pray that Jesus will bring His touch to all of our lives.
Rob and Trish Munday