A Second Journey: Last Sunday-Tuesday, The Awesome and the Unexpected

We spent Sunday with the Edinburgh congregation. It was fabulous fellowship, and I was so pleased to spend some more time with many of the people I had met in Edinburgh last year. I especially treasured the conversation/crash catch up session I was abled to have with Emma L after our evening service.
We went to bed as early as we could that night, as the next morning we were due to wake at 5 Am. We needed to be on our way to the train station by 7 Am so that we could arrive in Glasgow and start leaflet distributing by 8. I’m not sure if the giggling started that night or the next, but for about three nights in a row this week we in the girls room have been helpless with laughter. That may have had something to do with our new wake up time, but it’s an indicator, too, of how close we five have grown over the last couple of weeks. I am delighted to call them my sisters in Christ, and I am glad we can laugh so easily together.
It was a busy week, but a good one, with quite a few lessons to be learned. Monday, we distributed leaflets for the upcoming Q and A session at the Glasgow church Thursday night. Idid have one direct encounter with a man called Joseph, who seemed rather antagonistic toward Christianity. There were a few suggested questions on the leaflet — “What is the Bible?” “Who is Jesus?” — and he went down the list of questions, putting them to my team mate and I in a rather mocking tone. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so much a conversation as a monologue on his part, as he interrupted our explanations with his own apparent wisdom on the matter.
We walked away from that exchange feeling rather discouraged. Although the conversation remained perfectly cordial, it was clear the man had some issues and had not heard a word we had said. Before continuing our distribution, we stopped to pray together, asking God to use our conversation for change in Joseph’s life, and for guidance in future similar situations.
On our way back to Airdrie around lunch time, we stopped at the Glasgow Cathedral for a few minutes. My friend and I found some fun things in the gift shop, then we re-boarded the train and soon arrived back in Airdrie. We devoted that afternoon to studying our team book, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life”, and blog post writing for me.
Tuesday began with the usual private and team devotion time, followed by transportation to Caldervale Secondary School. Unlike our other school visits, we were neither giving testimonies nor performing a skit or psalm singing. We took part in three different religious education classes, sitting amongst the pupils and participating in the discussions they had.
The first class was focussed on Buddhism. The seven of us each joined different tables and assisted the students with their work, while also discussing the topics at hand. In my group, we explored the subject of salvation, whether it is something that can be attained through one’s own efforts, or something that must come from an external source, and the positives and negatives of each viewpoint. We also broached the subjects of the true meaning of self-acceptance and the human spirit. In all of these things, I attempted to include the Christian perspective. It was difficult, because the students were meant to be working on a specific task for the class, so we on the team had to find creative ways to bring Christianity into the conversation, without straying too much from the parameters of the assignment.
I think we all found the exercise pretty disheartening. It wasn’t exactly the kind of ministry opportunity we had been expecting. All attempts to discuss Christianity in a way that might actually have some spiritual value just deteriorated into academic comparisons between religions in general. Not that Christianity cannot be discussed academically (a faith with a book as long as the Bible and a longer history lends itself to academia), but I felt rather like I was trivializing it by lumping it together with a bunch of other man-made belief systems. Christianity and Buddhism are worlds apart when it comes to their teachings and world view, but God willing, the exchange got them thinking at least.
The second two classes, we discussed euthanasia. Here, it was slightly easier to include our faith in the conversation, and we were able to speak to the sanctity of life and God’s sovereignty, even in situations of great pain and suffering. When we got home, we reenergized with ice-cream and a delicious meal, and returned to Glasgow for an evening fellowship. It was a lovely time of food (pizza!) and catching up with friends.
We will finish up with the last few days (Wednesday-Saturday) in the next post.

Scotland Trip: The Little Things: Testemony, Tablet, and Tigers

Continuing The Saga

June 8, 2014

The second week’s events began on Monday, as we beat the streets of Edinburgh to finish distributing leaflets for the mission nights approaching on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Incredibly, the five of us, Peter, Patrick, Emma, Mairi, and I, did manage to complete most of the leafletting that afternoon.  God’s hand was certainly at work that day.  For dinner that evening, Emma blessed us with her famous mango chicken, and we discussed the plans for the week.

Tuesday morning Patrick and I left early to go with Emma, Peter, and Mairi to the food bank, run by a Baptist church in Edinburgh.  It wasn’t too busy that morning, but we did get the opportunity to talk to the people that were there, both clients and volunteers,  about their faith.

It was my first experience speaking so openly about Christianity to random members of the public, and it was rather awkward at first.  I wasn’t quite sure how to bring faith into the conversation, but it proved a bit easier, at least, than I had imagined, if not less awkward.  For example, in a conversation about therapeutic riding, I made a comment about how incredible it is that God has given us the ability to form such special bonds with animals… a valid thought, but not one that I would necessarily have voiced in front of a non-Christian.  In choosing to capture that thought and speak it out, voila, God is introduced into the conversation, and you have a free pass to discuss matters of faith.  So, what do we learn from this?  If I can do it, it clearly does not require special expertice… so you have no excuse.  Go tell someone about Jesus… 3, 2, 1, go!

But actually… go!

Okay, you can finish this blog post first if you want.

After lunch and some preparation for the school presentation to take place the following day, Patrick and I returned to Airdrie to take part in the MET (mutual encouragement time) that evening.  We continued our discussion of Esther, and God’s providence in even the tiniest of things.  For me, it served as a reminder that even the little things that we do, like passing out pamphlets for a mission night, or mentioning Christ in a conversation, God can use to change someone’s life.

Wednesday was our first presentation day.  We were prepared, with our five minute testimonies, questions to stimulate discussion afterward, and an idea of how the afternoon would run logistically.  Still, I was nervous.  Would my testimony make sense to these kids, most of whom had little to no working knowledge of the Bible, and likely had known few, if any, Christians.  I commended my words to God, and prayed that He would speak through all of us, so that even one of these children might hear, and one day find hope in Christ.

The students, 12 and 13 year olds, separated into four groups, and rotated around the room between Patrick, Emma, Peter, and I.  Patrick and I gave our testimonies in our groups, while Emma and Peter discussed some of the more nitty gritty theological concepts like sin and the nature of God.

The kids seemed engaged, which was exciting to see, and asked some good questions afterword, including:

“What is it like to live in America?”

“When did you get your guide dog?”

“Do you have a boyfriend?” (clearly the most relevant question, and unfortunately the easiest to answer.

and “Was it easy to commit your life to God?”

which wasn’t so simple to answer, but a wonderful question to hear.  I settled with essentially saying no, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

That night was the first mission night.  Peter talked about our identity as precious creations of God, and how our identity can only be found in Him.

We spent Thursday on a battle field/grave yard tour, learning more about the conflicts that took place during Scotland’s reformation in the 1600’s, and the surrounding history.  We also got to try Strathavan Toffee, or tablet, which was possibly the most frightening experience of the trip so far.  It is like concentrated cotton candy, or shortbread maybe, in crumbly cookyish toffeeish fudgeish form.  I believe Patrick described it as tasting a bit of diabetes.  I think he may be right.  It tasted nice, I guess, but terrifying… like petting a tiger.  You love the feel of the silky fur beneath your fingers, you are mesmerized by the iridescent orange and black of their coat, but there is that underlying, horrifying knowledge that the tiger in question might turn at any minute and eat you.  So yes, tablet is like a tameish tiger.

We returned to Edinburgh that night to hear about Christ’s identity, as both ruler and rescuer.

Friday was our second presentation, which went much the same as the first, although this time we had Mairi along with us to stimulate discussion.  After lunch, team worship, a wee kip (little nap) in the Loughridge living room, and dinner, it was back to the school for our final mission night, which was a stirring talk on our identity in Jesus.

Leaving that night was hard, knowing I might not see Emma, Peter, Mairi, or anyone from the Edinburgh congregation again, but I suppose Emma was right in saying, “See ya in Heaven.” We do have that to look forward to after all.

It was a fulfilling week, and I am so thankful for everything God has done in the last six days: guiding hands, giving words, strengthening friendships, and softening hearts.  I cannot wait to see what he has planned for the coming week.