Duma adinc, adinc

Mai adinc in tine…..

It was the early 1980’s. Romania was still under the despotic dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu. Folks from Medias Baptist Church had been reading my colleague Don’s books and listening to my music and, through their links with Gary Cox of Christian Charity TEN** (then Eurovangelism), had asked if we would visit and spend some time of ministry with them.

We lasted for just three days, before we were summoned to the local government building, where it was made clear to us in no uncertain terms that we were not welcome and were to be expelled from the country. On taking the next available flight home, I was detained at the airport and questioned extensively about my trip, although thankfully was not put in a position where I would “incriminate” any local nationals 🙂

Prior to these escapades though, we had had such a good time with the church and their leaders. The song story comes in at the point where, with the help of Ben, one of the leaders, we had translated the song into Romanian.  The previous couple of days I had sung some of my songs in English after explaining the content through an interpreter.  On this occasion though, after singing Take Me Deep in English, I went straight into the Romanian version, not having said beforehand that I was going to do this.  I think it’s fair to say that there was hardly a dry eye in the place!

Now it should be explained that, although the leaders were looking to explore new things, this had been quite a traditional Romanian church, (ladies sat on one side of the aisle, men to the other, etc.). They had a custom of singing a particular song as their benediction at the end of each service: on this occasion the organist began playing Take Me Deep at the close of the service and people began spontaneously to sing along.  This was the day before we were “asked” to leave and the last time we would see folks; (we were blacklisted by the authorities and unable to obtain visas for some years afterwards).

However, the song was to remain in their hearts and I was to learn later that they had now adopted Take Me Deep as their regular benediction song. And so it was that a song I’d written earlier in the year for a festival called “Deeper Life Camp”, would for me become forever associated with my time in Medias.

**TEN – Transform Europe Now – www.transformeuropenow.org,  an excellent charity with whom I am privileged to be associated to this day.

Listen to and/or download Take Me Deep at … http://www.robnewey.bandcamp.com/track/take-me-deep

medias

A few of my songs have stories that relate to them. It occurred to me that those stories may be of interest to readers, so here’s the first of a handful that I plan to add here over coming weeks/months…

It was mid 90s in the former Yugoslavia. Various regions, predominately Croatia and Bosnia, were seeking independence. The “nation” was at war.

I had made previous trips to the area, but this time was different. To the comparative safety of Backi Petrovac and Novi Sad, refugees were pouring in from war zones such as Sarajevo. Local churches were working hard to respond to the crisis.

It was my privilege to be working alongside the charity Transform Europe Now, who were resourcing the churches and enabling them to provide refugees with essential items such as food and clothing. In the circumstances, I felt I was doing very little, as I was invited to minister in song through concerts to groups of refugees, but the statement of one lady after a concert was powerful – “Thank you – it’s not just our stomachs that are hungry”

In the basement of someone else’s home, the father of a refugee family had come to faith through their contact with the church. Referring to the loss of his possessions, home and family members, he said “I lost everything, but through it all found faith in Jesus – it was worth it!”

Swetlana, living in difficult circumstances while her parents remained in the war zone, when asked by my colleague, “What is life like for you now?”, responded, “It’s wonderful!” Her new found faith had given her peace inside when all around it seemed there was none.

A few years later, as Serbia went to war with Kosova, I watched the TV screen at home, as NATO planes dropped bombs on the neighbourhoods where I knew some of my friends to be living. The emotions were strong as I recalled other war torn situations and I began to put pen to paper. This song was to be very different from anything I’d previously written and in a comparatively short while, Peace In Our Time was completed.

Along with a retelling of Swetlana’s story, I subsequently performed the song in school assemblies, churches and concert halls, and the song continued to be pertinent with the onset of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

A more recent visit to Serbia found me once again performing Peace In Our Time. “That’s my story”, responded concert goers. The song had come home.

(For info on other songs, visit my website – http://www.robneweymusic.com  –  another retelling of this story with other stories from the area can be found in the book “Tenacious” available from http://www.transformeuropenow.org)

Peace in our time

30.09.14

Posted: October 1, 2014 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , , ,

Goodbye old friend
This world will never be the same
But still this was no game
A touch of colour
To that corner of my screen
But placed there not because I chose
For it was mere compulsion

But now you’ve gone
And left that empty space
No trace of what it was that held you there
And yet compulsion still remains
Still leaves a stain
That robs and captures in its net
The payment that’s required

Nostalgia? Maybe
But there’s no great loss
A Mutual badge will fill the slot
And breakdown will be covered there
Not wear, not tear
And still I will be recognised
Through electronic stealth

tax disc RIP

.

The Lives of Others

Posted: September 29, 2014 in Life

Last night I watched the film The Lives of Others, (in German with English subs), set in 1980s East Germany and centred around writer Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), his girlfriend Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck) and Stasi officer Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) who is assigned to listen in on conversations held in Dreyman’s bugged apartment.

I found the ending of the film surprisingly moving on the back of the tension and element of trauma created earlier. But also, I think, for other reasons.

Firstly, it took me back to the days when my vocation as a singer working with churches in Eastern Europe necessitated careful conversations, an awareness that hotel rooms could be bugged, and highlighted the extreme pressures that my friends there had to face day by day. On a trip to Romania in the early 80s, my colleagues and I were expelled from the country, I was interrogated intensely prior to departure at the airport, and we were “blacklisted” for several years.

Curiously, the seeds of my interest in the “persecuted church” in Communist Europe were arguably sown when I was taken as a youngster to see another film, Question 7, also set in Eastern Germany (pre Berlin Wall).

I think perhaps I was also stirred by the questions raised about human nature; how we may behave in given situations; how peer pressure, fear, etc. can drive or divide, permeate a whole society. It got me thinking, with longing, that the true deep love that is the message of Christ is yet, it seems, still to permeate our world.  And yet in the opening sentences of his account of the gospel story, John says “We have beheld his glory”.  Is he referring to his following comment that Jesus was “…full of grace and truth”?  Or maybe it was Christ’s suffering that ironically, but truly, revealed his glory?

More than anything I think my wandering thoughts reminded me of what still burns within me – this desire to use my creativity to encourage faith – to express to others what lies deep within – to reach out to the potentially unreached, whether in a school assembly, my local pub, or spending time with a host family who are not currently believers.

Maybe I feel this more deeply because, due to illness, (my doctor has speculated Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), I am currently feeling so restricted in what I can achieve. Amongst other things, having to cancel a week’s worth of schools presentations does not sit well with all the above.  Still, I’m aware that I must learn to allow this time to be one where I CAN rethink… refresh… reappraise… recharge.  Maybe the outworking of my creativity may need to change a little – who knows?  My heart tells me that I still have much to offer and I pray that I use this period of time wisely to discover what that small contribution may look like.

Phew!

Posted: August 3, 2013 in Life, Music

guitar 003   Was about to practice for tomorrow’s gig this afternoon, when I realised that I’d left my guitar in the car boot.

Now you may think that this was a simple matter of going out to the car in my driveway and retrieving said item from it.  However, things weren’t quite that simple: you see the car currently in my driveway is the garage courtesy car 🙂 and my own vehicle was at the Saab dealer’s (on the other side of town) along with my guitar, songbook, tomorrow’s set list and notes, and various other items.  I’d actually booked the car in yesterday for a quick mid-summer check and air-con service, expecting to collect it again a few hours later, but had received a call advising me that it had a much more serious (and expensive!) issue which required the car being kept in for a few days.

So…. what to do?  I call the garage – no reply, so I come to the conclusion that it’s not open on a Saturday afternoon.  Thoughts now racing around in my head about borrowing guitar, capo, (will someone have the right plectrums that I use?!), and settling down to re-prepare set list, notes, print off some of the lyrics/chord charts that I’ve not committed to memory……

Then… a brainwave (or was it inspiration on the back of my lovely wife’s faith filled praying?).   No reply from the garage, but what if I could track down one of the personnel from an old invoice?  Sure enough, the old invoices carry the names of the people who prepared them.  I pick one out, punch the name into 192.com, select one of the names and associated telephone numbers.  “Excuse me, but is this the right number for ****?”  “Yes; who is calling?” “Well this is a bit of a long shot , but…”

Guitar and odds ‘n ends safely retrieved, my rehearsal was sweeter than ever and now I’m as ready as I can be for the gig.

Oh, and by the way, despite the unexpected expense, I’m so grateful that I decided to book my car in for this “little” check, only for this rather major problem to be discovered, thereby  possibly avoiding being stranded in the South of France in a few weeks time with a car that needs a new engine!

mechanic 001

Justyna

Posted: April 28, 2013 in Music
Tags: , ,

Justyna Steczkowska

Nothing heavy or philosophical about this post – just a little Rob Newey Music story…

I was privileged to spend much of the 1990s touring student clubs around the university towns of Poland. It’s possibly some of the most fruitful and enjoyable work I’ve done.

On one of the earlier tours in 1992, after performing at one of the clubs, (I think it was in Bydgoszcz), the manager of the club invited my travelling companion and I to another gig.  With the difficulties of language translation, we didn’t quite know where we were going or what was expected of me.  Was he looking for me to set up all my gear and start again at another venue?

It turned out we’d been invited to a private house concert that was being given by an artist to her friends.  An intimate concert with no more than thirty-five to forty people present, it was a great experience and once the main performance had finished the mic was opened to the floor and subsequently I was invited to sing a couple of my songs.  You could tell it was musos present by the way they took out my cassette sleeves to pour over the credits!  One of the musicians I met was a drummer called Josef (pronounced Yosef) who 12 months later turned up at my gig at the same club to hear me sing.

With the music having run it’s course, a select few were invited to another room to continue to party.  We were invited but, to our embarrassment, the guy who’d brought us was not: (he was clearly not one of the chosen few, but probably we only made it in because we were English guests and it was only polite to ask us!).  However, our manager friend was very good about it and insisted, “No, you go, you go”

And so it was we found ourselves eating and drinking with an interesting group of musicians, writers, artists…    …by around 12pm, (the vodka was flowing freely by now), we excused ourselves, explaining that we had to be on the road early to travel to another town for my next gig

It was only later that I discovered that the singer was apparently a rising star by the name of Justyna Steczkowska (I have one of her cds at home now) – she certainly fitted the description, unless of course there’s another Polish singer who looks and sounds the same!

Fast forward to April 2013 and yesterday I came across this image of said singer – clearly now one of the judges on the Polish version of The Voice

Of course if that wasn’t Justyna Steczkowska at the original house concert then this story is arguably spurious, although the name would be the only inaccuracy!

note to self…

Posted: March 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

checkout

Note to self…  I must learn to talk less about myself and to listen to others more.  The very friendly checkout girl today asked me If I had anything nice planned for tomorrrow – no, I don’t think she was trying to chat me up (I’m easily old enough to be her Dad) – rather she was referring to the fact that it’s Easter Sunday tomorrow and, of course, she will have a day off work, as the supermarket will be closed.

I answered her question as thoroughly as possible, but totally failed to respond to her with the same question.  With the exception that I’m looking forward to Easter Sunday morning church, it wasn’t as if anything I had to say about my plans for tomorrow was even vaguley interesting.  Maybe she had something on her mind that she was just dying to share and yet I didn’t give her that opportunity.  Maybe my own day would’ve been enriched by hearing what she would have shared and she would perhaps have had the joy of sharing something she was excited about.

Lord, please help me to be a better listener