A Second Journey: Freezing Fridays and Saint Andrews Saturday

Friday was our day off for the week. I got up late (like 9:30!) and spent the day exploring Airdrie a bit with some of my team mates. We went to the grocery store, and had lunch at Greggs. Greg’s is a wonderful land of beautiful breads and flakey pastries. There is this incredible British invention called the “pasty” which involves a flakey pastry outside with a meat or other savory filling. Think pigs in the blanket, but completely enclosed, much more delicious inside, and puffier pastry. It’s also incredibly cheap, which suits we college kids on the mission team just fine. They also have a variety of sweet breads, so I got myself a chocolate donut in honor of national donut day back home in the states. Greg’s is always a good choice… always.
Anyway, we then wondered about the town, stopping in on a charity shop (thrift store), music store, and pet shop. I got to play a rosewood whistle, which was gorgeous, and tried to play a low D tin whistle, but discovered my hands are much too small. I could just barely manage a low G, but I’m afraid anything lower might be beyond my whistling capabilities. I also troubled the shop owner to tune one of his violins for me, and I tried to remember how to play that instrument, as it’s been probably years now since I’v touched my viola.
My favorite part was the pet store. My intention was to pop in to see if there was something I could get to bring back to Oleta, but I found myself spending 20 minutes petting the shop owner’s giant, fluffy, and awfully sweet bernese mountain dog. He nearly pushed me over he as leaning on me so, and I definitely just wanted to stay there and hug him all day. I did explain to the owner that I was going through serious dog withdrawal, and thankfully he understood. He even offered to get me a chair so that I could sit there and pet him all day. I’m not going to lie, I was legitimately tempted to take him up on it, but I restrained myself. Eventually, I managed to pull myself away, and actually took a look at the things on the shelves. The selection wasn’t vast, but there was a collection of collars, so I purchased a red tartan collar for Oleta. I wasn’t sure of the size, but the owner gave me his address and number, and said he would send a different size for free if it turned out not to fit when I got home. I think it will fit just fine, but that was very kind of him.
In the evening, a couple from the Airdrie church drove the team and some of the CY (youth group) to the final Edinburgh mission night. Peter discussed the elder brother from the story of the prodigal son, and tied all three of the characters together. He emphasized the elder brother’s pride, his hatred toward his younger brother, and the disrespect, even disdain he shows his father. His attitude drives a rift between himself and his family members, and we do not know whether he responds to his father’s plea for him to humble himself and return to the celebration for his younger brother’s salvation. We do know that if the elder brother were to repent and return to the family, the celebration surely would increase ten fold.
The service was followed up by tea, coffee, and biscuits (as usual in Edinburgh), until the team and CY headed back to the van. On the way back, we stopped at the Firth of Fourth for a walk on the beach, though Emma L and I mostly clung to each other and shivered, as it was absolutely freezing!
Saturday was similar to Friday in the whether, though a tad bit sunnier. It was our reformation tour through Saint Andrews. At the beach there, which we visited for lunch before starting the tour, the wind was blowing so strongly that I could recline in it without falling backward. The tide was also coming in quite quickly, which is why about 53 seconds after I found the edge of the water, I realized I was actually standing in about an inch of the stuff. Surprisingly, my feet did not get wet at all. Kudos to you, my dear old leather walking shoes.
Sand was another question all together. I had to dump it out of my shoes when I got home later, and the wind kicked it all up, which meant that as we attempted to return to the bus, our mouths and ears and hair and every other part of us was graced with a film of white grit. We are still finding sand everywhere.
Anyway, it was a wonderful tour, the details of which I may recount at a later date, as I really need to get y’all caught up so that we can talk about this week!

A Second Journey: Reformation Tour Through Edinburgh, Part 2

Just outside of the courthouse is a parking lot, with a small plaque on one spot marking the grave of… can you believe it, John Knox. The burial place of one of Scotland’s most prominent character’s of its history, most notably church history, is now a parking space. There wasn’t even a plaque to mark the spot until quite recently! His original burial marker does survive in Saint Gile’s Cathedral, just around the corner. First established in the 12th century, Saint Giles was once a Catholic place of worship, but became a Presbyterian church during the Scottish reformation in the 1500s, and was under the pastoral care of John Knox.
Greyfriars Kirk Yard was our next destination. It is most famous for its ghost stories and Greyfriars Bobbie, a small dog who sat on his owners grave for years after his owner died and was buried there. It is highly significant for covenanter history. It was the location of the first signing of the National Covenant; we sat on the very grave where it was laid to be signed and took a picture together there. It was also the make-shift prison for 1200 protestant prisoners after the battle of Bothwell Bridge in 16 something. With no prison that could accommodate such a large number, the authorities placed the 1200 in a gated area within Greyfriars Kirk Yard. The prisoners stayed there, behind that gate, with no shelter and very little food for four months. By the time those months had passed, three quarters of them had died off due to exposure and starvation. The remaining quarter was sold to a merchant as slaves.
One of the more notable graves at Greyfriars Kirk is that of Alexander Henderson, who was another giant of the Scottish faith. Henderson was a protestant preacher who died of natural causes, before a king, who very much disliked him, was able to finish him off. Frustrated, said king ordered that soldiers go to his grave and destroy it as best they could. Evidently, the soldiers thought the task rather silly and gave only a half-hearted attempt at demolishing it, as it still stands, granted with quite a few scars from sword slashes and musket balls.
Lastly, we went to the Grass market, a center of trade in Edinburgh as well as the place of execution for many criminals, which included over a hundred covenanters. For some, their only crime was attending a church field meeting, or carrying a Bible. Their bodies are buried along with the other criminals of the time in a mass grave at Greyfriars.
It was heart wrenching and stunning to think of the trust these people had in God. The price of THEIR faith was something more than a few strange looks from coworkers or snide comments about one’s belief in traditional marriage. These covenanters were prepared to sacrifice their farms, family, physical comfort/well-being, and their very lives to glorify God by clinging to His promises. Merely possessing a Bible risked torture, imprisonment, and execution, and yet, they continued to carry and proclaim God’s word, considering it of much greater value even than the breath in their bodies. Now, their testimony stands firm and bright as a lighthouse, beaming through centuries and circumstance to shed light on Scotland’s spiritual situation today, and encourage saints all over the world to remain steadfast and stalwart in God’s word, no matter where or when.
I am certainly encouraged, and I hope you are too.

A Second Journey: Reformation Tour Through Edinburgh, Part 1

Note: This was meant to be posted last night, but I just got on my computer and realized that I fell asleep before I could hit the publish button, so here it is now.

Thursday afternoon, we took a bus into Edinburgh City Center and met Jimmy, our reformation tour guide, on the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a collection of streets and buildings in the very heart of Edinburgh, from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (which is where the queen stays when in Edinburgh).
We stopped first at the once home of John Knox. John Knox was a major figure in the Scottish reformation of the 1500s. He assisted in composing the Scottish Confession of Faith, and was part of the first general assembly that met in Edinburgh in December of 1560. He was also a champion of public education in Scotland. The corrupt Scottish branch of the Catholic church did not allow their congregations to read the Bible during this time; if the population knew what the Bible really said, they would be much less inclined to offer 50% of their income to priests and bishops who were deliberately distorting and defying God’s Word. Even if the church required each member to own a Bible though, it would have been of little use for those who could not read, or in some cases still, understand Latin. Education was essential, then, to enable the Scottish people to explore God’s written word on their own time. So John Knox, an important guy.
We passed through what would have been Edinburgh’s city gates. Two hundred years ago, these would have led into a completely separate area known as Canongate, with its own rules and tax system. We visited the tollbooth that existed to maintain these taxes and served as a courthouse and prison for the area. The 1591 building is imposing. Rough stone, with iron bars still across the windows. There was no escaping there, and it would certainly have encouraged one to pay one’s taxes on time.
From there we ventured into the church of England where Britain’s current queen still worships when in Edinburgh. From the comments of my friends, the interior was blue and red, and designed in such a way to draw the eye to the cross at the front. I thought that quite significant. It is a statement. No matter who or where we are, our eyes should always be on the cross. The queen’s seat was in one of the front pews, with a rope across it, preventing anyone from disturbing it. I did ignore the rope to touch the plush cushions placed at the queen’s seat, and the small statue of a crown that marked the back of the pew there.
Our next stop was one of my favorites both this and last year. It is a copy of Scotland’s National Covenant, a document drafted in the latter half of 1637, and originally signed by thousands in early 1638. Its aim was to reaffirm Scotland’s commitment to God, His Word, their confession of faith, and emphasized that while they were happy to accept the King as head of their country, and be loyal subjects to him, they refused to recognize him as head of the church, as only Christ could assume that role. Hundreds of copies of this document circulated throughout Scotland, and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people put their names to them. There is no real way to be sure, as the King later had most of them destroyed, but 7 or 8 still remain, and the copy we saw Thursday has over 3000 signatures if I remember correctly.
After seeing the document itself, we visited the place where it was composed, a building which now serves as Scotland’s highest court. We were quite honored to go in, as it is not normally available for entry to tourists. We did have to turn our personal belongings over to a guard for inspection, and pass through a metal detector before coming in. Thankfully, all went smoothly.
It is a grand building with high ceilings and a roof constructed purely of timber, no nails or screws involved. It hosts an extensive library (which most of my team were druling over, home schoolers and book worms that they are), and an echoey main hall, lined with 17th century wooden benches. It is tradition that lawyers pace the length of the hall discussing the cases they are working on with one another. We saw two of them doing that very thing as we listened to Jimmy recount the history. There was also a man, dressed in similar smart fashion, talking on a mobile phone and scribbling furiously all the while. Such a strange mixture of ancient and modern.
Well, I’m afraid you’ll be spending the night in the courthouse, as I’m decidedly sleepy. Tomorrow, we shall start with the parking lot outside of the courthouse.

A Second Journey: Update on Oleta

Many of you have asked where Oleta will be staying and what she will be doing during my absence.  I was hoping to get something directly from her and post it here, but I’m afraid she does not have access to a computer or phone and so I will have to do the updating I’m afraid. 🙂

For the first few days, Oleta stayed with my Dad.  She was actually able to go into work with him, and made quite a few new acquaintances during her time in the office.  Over the weekend, she visited with her friend Dozer, a family friend’s chocolate lab, though Dad did say that even that get together didn’t cheer her up, she’s been missing me so much.  That makes me so sad, because I can’t phone her and tell her that I will be back soon, and that she doesn’t have to worry, but then again, I can’t even seem to convince myself of that so I guess it’s a lost cause anyway.  It’s also comforting in a way, to know that she is missing me as much as I am missing her.  I’m not really alone in this, even though it feels like it sometimes.

Monday, my Mom took her for a walk and then met up with a puppy raiser from Guiding Eyes, who was driving one of her puppies up to New York.  With a little coaxing from Mom, Oleta jumped into the crate in the back of the puppy raisers van, next to her travel buddy Hendrix, a five month old German Shepherd pup.  Later, Mom got a call from Guiding Eyes, assuring her that Oleta will be spoiled rotten at the GEB kennels.  She has a roommate, goes out to play with the other dogs multiple times a day, will get a thorough check up from the vet there, and will be worked several times a week by the trainers.

I hate to think of her there, worrying that I abandoned her, but I am glad that Guiding Eyes is so willing to go above and beyond to care for my sweet guide and dearest companion.  I’m sure the work with the trainers will do her good; getting into harness is something she wouldn’t be able to do if she were staying with my family, so I’m very pleased that she will have that opportunity.  Work is always a great distraction, and this way Oleta and I will both have plenty to keep us occupied.

I am still aching for her, but I am glad that she is safe and in good hands and paws.  I hope that this can somehow prove to be a regenerative period for both Oleta and I, and that our bond can only grow stronger during our separation.  I love you Oleta.

A Second Journey: Thrumming Thursdays

Thursdays are always busy days.  I’m not sure why that is, but they have always been my craziest days in university, and the last two Thursdays here in Scotland have been no exception to this rule.

Yesterday’s mission night went well enough.  I think we had a few visitors from the community,and Peter’s first talk on the rebel son in Luke 15 was quite powerful.  We slept in Edinburgh last night, blessed with the hospitality from three households in the Edinburgh congregation.  I was so excited to get to know the couple we stayed with better than I was able to last year.  Plus, their daughter has grown so much since the last time I saw her and, at nearly two,  is talking up a storm!  She is so cute!  She was quite shy of us when she found us in her house this morning, but she did learn all of our names, and in the car on the way back to Emma and Peter’s house, she and I had a rousing game of hand tag which she found very entertaining!  Hahaha, so adorable!

Once reunited at Emma and Peter’s house, the team had group devotions, then gathered bundles of fliers to finish our last bout of leafletting.  In two hours, my group managed to finish our designated area, and Peter picked us all up to head toward lunch.  With strict instructions from Peter for “no faffing” (which urban dictionary defines as “The excessive use of time for nonsense activities”), all eight of us trooped into the Morisons (grocery store) to snag something for lunch.  We took it back to Emma and Peter’s to eat, and there was a distinct lack of faffing, especially once we started eating.

We had to hurry because we had to make the bus around 1 to get to our 1:30 Pm reformation tour through Edinburgh with Jimmy (from the Airdrie congregation).  Skilled as we clearly were at anti-faffing (which Peter says is the opposite of Faffing), we made it in time to get on our bus, and even had extra time to wait and pet a passing poodle, Brambles.  That made me very happy, as you might imagine.  She was very sweet, and her owner was adorable, letting us all pet Brambles for about 5 minutes straight, answering all our questions, and cheerfully chatting away about her and her other dogs.

I have a great deal more to recount, so I shall continue tomorrow, as I will have a free morning to write!  Hurray!  I shall detail the Edinburgh tour at that time.

A Second Journey: Our Daily Routine

Last year, with a team of only two, our schedule was quite fluid.  Every day, Patrick and I would discuss the layout for the following one, and decided then when to wake up, do devotions, etc.  We essentially had no set lunch time, dinner time, and no curfew, though Beth did tell me to go to bed a lot… that’s not to say I always did what she told me to though haha.

This year though, with seven people, our schedule has to be a bit more consistent.  Here’s a general idea of what the average day looks like.

6:30-7:30 Am: Wake up and showers

7:30-9:00 Am: Breakfast, personal devotion time

9:00 Am: Team devotions

This includes psalm singing, prayer, a study of a particular section of the Bible, and is closed again with prayer and song.

9:30-12:00 Pm (this varies, but something similar): Ministry/team activities

Things like leaflet distribution, school presentations, church cleaning, planning and practice time for upcoming events, etc.

12:00-12:30/1:00 Pm: Lunch

1:00-6:00 Pm: Ministry/team activities

6:00-6:30/7:00 Pm: Dinner

7:00-9:00 Pm: Ministry/team activities/book study

The evening team activities tend to be youth group events, evening worship or open house services, bible studies with the Airdrie congregation, and time for our team to discuss Spiritual Disciplines, the book we are reading together.

9:00-9:30 Pm: Evening team devotions

This is very similar to our morning Bible study, but slightly less formal.

11:00 Pm: Curfew

Supposedly, haha, but we’ve gotten back too late and broken this rule several times.  Speaking of which, that pesky bed time has come around again.  Farewell for now.

A Second Journey: Edinburgh Distribution

Later this week, the Edinburgh church will be holding three evening services that very simply discuss some of the basic teachings of the Bible.  Last year, the services focussed on identity.  This year, they will center around the story of the Prodigal Son.

Today, we continued distributing leaflets to spread the word about these meetings in the area surrounding the school where the church gathers.  Peter, the wonderful pastor of the Edinburgh church, picked the team up at about 9:30 this morning, and we were out on the streets, leaflets in hand an hour or so later.

It has been a quite chilly late May and June so far, even for Scotland, and there was a buffeting wind all day that legitimately nearly knocked me over a couple of times.  Still, I did eventually have to take off my outer jacket, hot from walking and climbing sets of stairs in flats.  We did manage to get through quite a few leaflets, and it was a blessing to speak to several people personally who seemed to be interested in the meetings, and even said they may attend!  I know, exciting, and surprising, considering one of them I had just frightened half to death when she opened her door to find me stooping to slip a flier through it.  I had also been rather frightened when she opened the door, and we laughed for about a minute as we both recovered from the shock.  Funny moment… I hope to see her again at one of the meetings!

At 1:00 Pm, we took a lunch break, then continued our distribution until about 6:00 Pm.  We were pretty exhausted by then, and had a lovely dinner at an Edinburgh buffet.  Four different types of meat to choose from and unlimited sides.  Pretty tasty!

I fell asleep in the van on the way home, lulled by the food, conversation, and sunshine through the window.  I am beyond tired now and we have another day of distribution tomorrow, so I’d best get some rest.  Cheers!