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Shepherd’s Pie anyone?

As many of you know, in January we kicked off our Sunday night services with a first century church approach.  We begin each week with a common meal, usually something simple and hearty, like a bowl of soup and a dessert.  Occasionally, I’ll switch things up and make a regional favorite like mac-n-cheese, stovies, or this week’s menu of shepherd’s pie for those who don’t love soup (aka. Sam!).  After we’ve eaten we move into the worship center and engage in about 20 minutes of video driven praise and worship, and then Sam spends about 35-50 minutes teaching from the Bible.  Our attendance has been running consistently in the low 20’s each week, which seems really tiny compared to most of our church partners in the States, but for winter time in Buckie it’s great.

This week was a bit unusual in attendance, we have a lot of people out ill with the flu and late winter colds.  To be honest, the day could have been really discouraging had the Lord not provided encouragement for us in some unexpected guests in our evening service.

shepherds pie

Last night at 5:55 p.m. Sam, myself, and two of our faithful ladies were staring at each other over a massive pan of shepherd’s pie, feeling a bit disappointed that we were the only four who had come out for church.  We knew in advance that a couple of folks would be out of town or at another church for a baptism service, but where was everyone else???  We could only assume the worst as I silently contemplated how many freezer containers I would have to come up with to ensure the 10 pounds of shepherd’s pie I’d fixed wouldn’t go in the bin later this week.  As the four of us sat in silence the door opened and an unfamiliar face popped in – “Are you having a night service?”

Suddenly the room felt like it had been jump-started.  “Yes!  We’re just getting ready to have dinner.  Please join us!”

“Oh, you’re having dinner?  What time is the service, we can come back later?”

“No need to come back, we have plenty of food, and we’d love for you to eat with us.”

“Okay, let me go get my husband…”

A few minutes later we were joined by this lovely couple who live near Inverness.  They happened to be in our area for a mini holiday and were on their way home when they passed by our building and saw our lights on.  As we ate dinner together we learned that he is an ordained minister in the Free Presbyterian church in Scotland and he is not currently assigned a church but travels and preaches in a few churches ranging from Dingwall to Oban (on the West coast); and his wife is an American expat from Illinois who came to Aberdeen with the Rotary Clubs of America in 1990 to study for two years at the University.  She met and married her husband and has been in Scotland ever since.  It was fun to hear her accent, which is definitely not Illinois any longer but certainly not Scottish either.

Even though it was just the six of us we had a great time of fellowship, worship, and teaching.  As I flopped in my chair last night at 9:00, having managed to get the remaining pan of shepherd’s pie into the fridge, exhausted and a bit despondent about the low attendance, Sam remarked that the couple told him they were blessed by our service and that they hadn’t eaten all day so the meal was an unexpected treat.  Instantly, my heart broke for them and at the same time my feelings of self-pity and discouragement evaporated.  We may never see this couple again, but I know that the Lord placed them in our path to encourage us, and us in their path to feed them.

Friends, we’ve been in Scotland for six months now, and while I would not say the honeymoon phase is over a lot of the glitz of a new ministry has worn off.  Traditionally, February and March are the most difficult months here, and this February is proving to be a bad one for our community.  Last week 5 people passed away from various illnesses.  The previous two weeks before saw nearly that same number each week.  Yes, the days are beginning to get longer by a few minutes each day but illness and seasonal affected depression are at their peak in our community just now.  Morale is very low and it’s easy to make excuses to stay home and do as little as possible.  The enemy is working overtime to keep people distracted, grief-stricken, and ill so they can’t or won’t come out and hear the Word taught.

Sam’s Sunday night teaching series is appropriately named – Game of Thrones.  There is indeed a battle raging in our world for who will be King on the throne of our heart, and currently it looks like the enemy is making his move.  What he doesn’t know is that we don’t give up that easily.  We know who wins this battle, and the Devil’s time here in Buckie, Scotland is running out!

Oh, look…it’s time to get lunch sorted…shepherd’s pie, anyone?

Sunday Night’s

Hey y’all!  Well, here we all are, 2018 is officially well underway and most of us have recovered from the Christmas and New Year festivities.  I’ll confess, Sam and I spent the week between Christmas and New Year vegging out, mentally and physically recovering from all the busyness of December.  Our first Christmas and Hogmanay in Scotland was incredible though, and we are both so grateful to be serving the Lord here.

Last week (January 7th) we launched our long anticipated and much prayed over Sunday night services, and we had a great attendance and heard lots of positive chatter this week.  Of course I wanted to find a way to exercise my gift of hospitality, so we started out the evening with a soup and sweet dinner.  We’d also invited several other pastor’s from our community who do not currently have night services at their churches and were pleased to have many of them attend as well.  I know as someone who serves in a leadership role in church how nice, and important, it is to just be a part of the congregation and get fed spiritually.

We started the service with a great time of modern praise and worship; and while we don’t currently have a band we have been able to download new Christian praise and worship songs and videos from the Internet and use those to facilitate a great time of corporate worship that is much more modern than what you’d normally see in a church service here in the UK.  I’m so grateful for technology.

As far as the teaching goes, Sam has been working really hard over the last couple of months on putting together lessons that are a good combination of his “How To Study the Bible” and “Footprints” series.  If you’ve ever been a participant in either of those studies you’ll know that he has an incredible gift for taking the Bible and setting it inside of the bigger picture of history and world events, and ties that all together with God’s plan of salvation for us found all through the pages of Scripture – from Genesis to Revelation.  This current teaching series will last this entire year, and very likely extend into the next couple of years, so he’s got his work cut out for him, that’s for sure.  But everyone loved his lesson and are looking forward to coming back next week.

Sam capped off the night with an amazing Gospel presentation from Genesis 5.  Yep, that’s right, the first geneology found in the Bible is a presentation of the Gospel message of Jesus.  I was floored when I saw this, especially as someone who’s been in church my whole life, I’ve never before heard this but I want to share it with you because it is just one more confirmation that we’re God’s plan A!  Pull out your Bible and turn to Genesis 5…

Name                                              Meaning

Adam                                              Man

Seth                                                 Appointed

Enosh                                             Mortal

Kenan                                             Sorrow

Mahalalel                                      The Blessed God

Jared                                               Shall Come Down

Enoch                                            Teaching

Methuselah                                  His Death Shall Bring

Lamech                                         Despairing

Noah                                             Comfort

If we are to read these name meanings as a sentence it says:

Man was appointed mortal sorrow; the blessed God shall come down teaching that his death shall bring the despairing comfort. 

Praise the Lord!

He did it for us

the lords supper 1

**This was a Lord’s Supper meditation I wrote and shared with our church in October, and the words of it have stuck with me all month long. I wanted to share it with you guys in the hope that it will encourage and inspire you to be bold for HIM this Christmas season.**

I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I said, the difficulty with death is the finality of it.  Once a person is gone it’s too late to say that last goodbye, to take back angry words, to share family secrets, to impart words of wisdom, or to say, “I forgive you,” “I’m sorry,” “I love you.”  Often the words we’ve left unsaid singe our soul with a regret that is carried throughout the rest of our life.  I’ve heard many people at funerals wish for just one more hour with the deceased to make amends, say the words that were left unsaid, and purge their soul of regret.  If only they’d only known their time was up…

As I was thinking about the Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples I was wondering if he may have felt like many of us do about saying goodbye…if there was anything he wanted to tell his disciples before he would be taken from them?

So I looked through Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s accounts of the Last Supper, which are the model we use for our own Lord’s Supper time, and they all are pretty similar.  Jesus and his disciples are in the upper room, Jesus offers a blessing for the bread and a prayer of thanksgiving for the juice, and he tells his disciples to remember Him in the same way every time they’re together.  Pretty simple and straight-forward, and yeah, I’ve heard that version about two-thousand times in my life.  Surely there has to be more to that last night than just dinner and a quick demonstration?

So back to Scripture I went, turning to John’s account of the Last Supper.  I’ll admit, I was skimming through, glancing at the section titles for reference.  I flipped clear through the book of John and was a bit confused that there wasn’t a section titled “The Last Supper”, so I flipped back through again, thinking I’d missed it somehow.  But nope, nothing labeled “the Last Supper.”  How odd…the other three Gospels have it, so why not John?  I must investigate this further, so I started reading in John 12 and that’s when it hit me…there was so much more to that last night with Jesus than a few verses describing the Last Supper as we practice it, and Jesus’ final words and teachings to his disciples wasn’t just for their benefit, but also for ours.  So let’s take a quick look at it.

So the first thing that Jesus does in that final week of his life is found in John 12 – Jesus spends some time with his dear friend Lazarus and his two sisters.  Of course, he first has to raise Lazarus from the dead, but hey, he knew this would be the last time he would see his friend for a while, and his heart was breaking for his two sisters who he loved very much as well.  So he raises Lazarus from the dead, they hang out and have a meal together, Lazarus’ sister Mary anoints his head with some expensive perfume, and the next day Jesus and the Twelve head down the road toward Jerusalem.

Bethany is only about 1.5 miles from Jerusalem, and raising Lazarus from the dead wasn’t something people saw everyday.  John says that the news of that particular miracle had definitely spread up the road ahead of them.  The already crowded road into Jerusalem was especially packed that afternoon with spectators hoping for a big show as Jesus and his disciples walked into town.

We know from the rest of Chapter 12 that Jesus makes his famous “Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem” and then quickly tanks his popularity by telling these massive crowds that the cost of following Him would be much too high for them.  He goes on to tell them in that same sermon that the time of ignorance about the truth of God had passed, there was no longer any valid excuse for man to not follow God’s plan, and those who wanted to truly be His followers would have to give up their life for the sake of His message.  He states clearly to this massive crowd of people that he has been sent from God, that he is in fact the Son of God, and that judgment for the world had come because of His message.

Woah!  If Jesus had been a politician the Twitter feeds and party polls would have gone absolutely bonkers, reporting a major downward shift in his popularity because of that statement.  John says in 12:37 that in spite of all the miraculous signs Jesus had done – like raising Lazarus from the dead the day before, most of the people still didn’t believe he was the Messiah, which is exactly what Isaiah prophesied hundreds of years before.  I guess not a lot has changed in 2,000 years.

The next event John records is the night of the Passover feast, beginning in chapter 13 and this is where we start to see Jesus’ urgency in saying everything he wanted to say to his followers.

Jesus and the (120) disciples are all crammed into the upper room of house, preparing to celebrate the Passover.  Jesus feels this first last command is crucial in the life of a Christ-follower, and knowing us as he does, he understands that he can’t impress the sheer importance of it and what it looks like in practice by simply talking about what it means to serve others; but actions speak volumes over words so he straps on a towel and goes around the room washing the feet of his disciples.

The entire point of Jesus’ teaching exercise, which is that in order to be a true disciple of Christ we must always humble ourselves and follow the example of Jesus by serving others firstNo form of service is beneath us, and no anointing is so sacred or grand that it excuses us from any form of service to the Kingdom.

It’s at this point in the evening that the Passover meal would have been served.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all wrote about Jesus blessing the meal, breaking the bread and lifting up the wine, which is the same model we use in our Lord’s Supper each week.

Getting back to John’s gospel account though, at this point in the night Judas is revealed as the betrayer and in shame and embarrassment he leaves the upper room.  After a quick discussion between the disciples regarding Judas’ behavior including some of the disciples promising they would never sell out, Jesus tells Peter not to be so pious in his devotion – that he’s going to betray the Lord three times before the night is up.

As the room settles into a stunned silence, Jesus, feeling pressed for time, takes the opportunity to impart a few more final thoughts with the disciples at large (the 120) – these are the things he absolutely wants them to grasp and remember.

  • He tells them to truly love each other, and that by doing so they will show God to a world who doesn’t know Him.
  • He tells them to trust Him, and also to trust that God sent him.
  • He gives them assurance about life after death by telling them he’s going to prepare a place where they can be together for eternity.
  • He tells them that God isn’t a mystery as some religions want you to believe – that anyone who loves Jesus and lives their life by the teachings and commands he gave, can absolutely know God because Jesus and the Father are one in the same.
  • Jesus encourages them with a promise that anyone, at any time in history, who believes in Him, loves Him, and follows His teachings will be able to obey the Lord and accomplish a life’s work for the Kingdom, just like Jesus did.
  • He promises the gift of the Holy Spirit who would continue to reveal the deeper Truths and mysteries of God to them so they (and we) would not lose faith in His message.

At this time during the evening, Jesus knows that Judas has betrayed him to the religious leaders and the Temple guard would be dispatched to arrest him forthwith.  He knew the first place they’d come was to the room where they were now, and he wasn’t quite ready to leave his Disciples just yet, there was more he wanted to tell them privately, so he says to the eleven left, “Come on, lets walk for a while.”

As they’re making their way through the dark and crowded streets of Jerusalem, heading toward the Kidron valley and the Mount of Olives where Judas and the Temple guard finally catch up to them, Jesus continues to share with them his final thoughts.

  • (maybe they passed a vineyard and he uses it as an appropriate illustration – chapter 15) He teaches them the deep truth that apart from His Gospel message and a daily relationship with Him we cannot bear any fruit that is useful to the Kingdom. He warns them that those who do not love him and remain faithful to his teachings will be removed from his protection by God and will be thrown away to wither and die.  He encourages them to remember that God carefully prunes those who are producing fruit so that they will be even more productive in the future, but not to lose heart during the pruning process – that the pain of pruning is meant to bolster the harvest, not destroy the vineyard.
  • He reminds them again that his deepest desire is for them to love each other, and that that is going to be the most effective evangelism tool they will posess.
  • He tells them plainly to get ready; the world is going to hate them. He says they’re going to be punished unfairly, they’re going to be criticized as false teachers, thrown out of the synagogues, beaten, imprisoned, starved, mocked, and even killed because of Jesus’ message, but not to lose heart because Jesus will be with them in the form of the Holy Spirit, and they will be able to testify to the truth of His message because they had been with Him from the beginning of his ministry.
  • He encourages them to remember that in a few hours-time they will feel like their world has ended, that the last 3 years was all for nothing, but not to lose heart, that joy will come in the morning!
  • And then he blesses them with his own gift – the gift of peace – and we know that’s a peace the world cannot understand, nor can it take that peace away from us. Because while His disciples will suffer in this world, and some will even be killed for his name, we can all will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus has overcome the power of this world and He is waiting for all his disciples beyond the temporary pain we endure for Him in this world today.

Now, these guys were a wreck at this point.  John 16:6 says they were “grieving over what he’d told them.”   So right there, in the middle of the road, Jesus just decides to have an impromptu prayer meeting for the benefit of the eleven men who were walking with him.  And he prays this incredible prayer of empowerment over them.

And as I read through His prayer this week it brought me to tears because I know that Jesus wasn’t just praying for the eleven men standing with him on the street, but when he was praying that prayer he was thinking of me, and you, and every other person who would follow him one day.

And in this prayer he prays for our boldness and certainty – because he’s trusted us with this amazing message of hope, and he knows that we will be able to accomplish incredible things for the Kingdom, but we don’t always believe that.

He prays for unity of heart and mind among all those who would ever follow Him – that we wouldn’t be divided by legalism, church doctrines, and cliques, but that we’d all cling tightly to the original message that he taught.

He prays for his Father to teach us his word, to make us holy, to adopt us as sons and daughters, give us His name, and cover us with the same familial protection that he covered Jesus with while he was in this world.

He prays that his Father would protect us from the evil of this world, and that when we suffer we will not lose hope, and we will not turn from our faith in Jesus’ message.

He prays that we will not keep the amazing message of love, hope, peace, and eternal life to ourselves – that it is a message for all the world and that as His followers we will be quick to share his message boldly, wherever we go and with everyone we meet in order to bring glory to God the Father, and to Jesus his Son.

As we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper today, I pray that we will hear and understand Jesus’ last words to us.  I pray that like these eleven men, we will not only remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, but we will think of these final words Jesus spoke to all of us.  Words that have the power to change hearts, restore lives, and bring healing to a lost and broken world.

Ophelia

So apparently there’s a hurricane headed our way today.  It doesn’t happen often, but Scotland has been known to experience a hurricane or two in her time.  Strangely, most of us here are at peace simply because life on the north east coast of Scotland is typically windy with a chance of rain on a daily basis.  Add in the fact that we all live in snug stone houses, many which have withstood worse storms for well over a hundred years, constructed with walls nearly 3-feet thick, double and triple glazed windows, and Ophelia is no more than a blip in our daily schedules.  I guess with all our friends, family, and partners located in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina we couldn’t escape our fair share of inclement weather this year.

It’s hard to believe that we were here in Scotland just one year ago this month (October 5 – November 9, 2016) on a vision trip, seeking the Lord’s will in whether or not we should come back as missionaries.  We prayed for the Lord’s guidance and provision for nearly two years preceding that trip, and many of you joined us in those prayers.  While we were here we prayed like crazy for discernment and wisdom, and when we left we both felt strongly called back to Scotland, and Buckie in particular.

In what can only be described as a series of sovereign events over the last year the Lord has provided every means necessary in order to get us back here as quickly and painlessly as possible, and we are grateful every single day for His timing and provision.

Not a day goes by where y’all don’t cross my mind and my prayers, because without you none of this would be possible.  I am also thankful for the brilliant {and free!} technology that allows us to stay in touch with family and friends so easily.  When Sam was here before he spoke to his parents once a month for just a few precious and expensive minutes.  Letters back and forth took weeks to arrive, and his parents watched their grandchildren grow up in photos with visits back to the States happening once every few years.  Now, we speak to friends and family on a daily basis through email, messenger, and video chats, which make the distance separating us seem minuscule.

But there is a spiritual storm raging here, and it’s pressing us on every side.  Every single week one or both of us have encounters with people who are far from Jesus.  We have conversations with hard-hearted folk who have been left bitter because they have only ever had bad encounters with Churches and people who claim to be Christ-followers.  We’ve seen people failed by a broken secular system and they naturally assume the Church is just as faulty and flawed, and they are extremely leery to have any part of it.  We’ve had heartbreaking conversations with good people who are caught up in bad doctrine, misguided theology, archaic traditions, and are Scripturally illiterate.

The work around us is mentally and spiritually exhausting, but the Lord continues to provide us with rays of light and peace each week.  We’ve had 18 – 21 folks in church for the past several Sunday mornings, with a few folks out ill or on vacation.  Our ladies Bible study group is continuing to grow, and the Lord is revealing Truth as the ladies enthusiasm for His word increases.  People in the community are beginning to take notice of our wee fellowship and asking questions.  And the Holy Spirit is moving and active in our Sunday morning and Monday night prayer services.

In Luke 10:2, Jesus promised his disciples an abundant harvest if they were willing to get out in the fields and work.  So, here we are, Lord…please use us.

 

 

 

Cream(less) Asparagus Bisque

Good afternoon y’all!  I’m super excited to share with you this absolutely incredible and simple asparagus bisque, which is not only scrumptious but also low fat, low carb, packed full of vitamins and nutrients, and it’s even vegetarian, if you’re into that kind of thing.

IMG_20171011_130817
Cream(less) Asparagus Bisque

Just 6 simple ingredients, 10 minutes to prep, and about 45-50 minutes to simmer, blend, and serve.  All in all, a gorgeous easy meal in about an hour with minimal work.  Now that’s a recipe I know we can all handle.

One of the best parts of living in Scotland for me is the weather.  I know for many of my Southern friends and family who seem to be part reptile, the idea of weather consistently in the mid-50’s with a possibility of a rain shower every single day for months on end is probably horrifying, but for me it’s absolute heaven.  I noticed that it was 89-degrees in north Georgia yesterday and I thanked Jesus once again that I live here!  The idea of sweating my brains out in the middle of October just does not appeal to me, at all.

With cooler temperatures most of the year here we can easily purchase tons of what y’all in the States consider spring or winter crops, like gorgeous cabbages, Brussels sprouts (still on the stalk), dozens of different varieties of taters, all colors of carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet rutabagas, beautiful broccoli and broccoli rabe, basketball sized cauliflowers, and emerald bunches of asparagus.

This week I found myself in possession of  two bunches of asparagus with stalks as thick as Sam’s middle finger.  Now like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Gross, those are going to be really woody and tough.  Why would you want to use those?”  But let me assure you, that over here, because of the cooler weather these beauties were tender and succulent.  However, if you’re in the States, or a climate where larger stalked asparagus tends to be tough and woody once the stalk reaches anything thicker than a pencil in diameter, don’t despair,  you can use those in this recipe and it’ll all work out just fine.  Trust me.

So this recipe came together really quickly, and I know you’ll be able to adjust many aspects of the basic recipe to suit your tastes.  Since I was dining alone, I quickly blended the soup to a fairly smooth texture, but there were definitely some small pieces of asparagus, chili pepper, and leek present, as you might notice in the photo.  I don’t mind a rustic bowl of soup for myself, however, if I were going to serve this to guests or Sam I would run an immersion blender through it and get it super silky and smooth, like the texture of a bisque.

So without further ado here’s the recipe.  Enjoy!

Cream(less) Asparagus Bisque

Prep: 10 minutes        Cook: 45-50 minutes       Serves: 6 (1-cup servings)

2 bunches of fresh asparagus, roughly chopped into 1/2″ pieces (approximately 1 pound)

1/2 medium onion, finely diced

1/2  of a leek, finely diced (optional – if you don’t have a leek increase onion to 1 whole medium onion, finely chopped)

2 red hot chili peppers, thinly sliced into rings (or a tablespoon of crushed chili flakes)

4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup low fat Greek-style yogurt

Salt & Pepper, to taste

  1. Place all chopped vegetables in a medium saucepan with vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to a simmer and cover with a lid.  Allow to simmer until asparagus pieces are fork tender.
  2. Blend soup to desired consistency using an immersion blender (if you’re using a regular blender or a food processor scoop vegetables out of broth to prevent burning yourself or overfilling your blender).
  3. Remove soup from heat source and stir in Greek-style yogurt.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Where does the time go?

Hello, friends!

Thanks for stopping by and witnessing the resurrection of our website and blog.  I’m absolutely embarrassed that I haven’t taken the time to write a blog post in months!  I’ve been so focused on everything else that I’ve completely disregarded my writing schedule and y’all have suffered for that.  I’m so sorry.

First, I want to say a huge “thank you!” to each of you for your prayers, emails, and words of support and love over the past couple of weeks.  Sam is doing really well and is recovering each day.  He was released from the hospital on Wednesday evening and has been very good about taking care of himself and doing what his doctor told him to do.  According to his doctor every one of his test came back with good results and minimal residual damage.  His official diagnosis is angina and high blood pressure, but there are medicines for both and with proper diet and exercise they saw no reason why he shouldn’t live many more years in health and happiness.  He has a follow-up appointment with his GP tomorrow morning, and we’ll find out what we need to do to go forward and get him back to full health as quickly as we can.

We are daily amazed at how much God takes care of us.  If we’d been in the States when his heart attack happened and the two subsequent TIAs (mild strokes) we would not have been able to afford to have him treated at a hospital, as we didn’t have health insurance.  In coming to the UK we had to pay our National Health insurance up front as a part of our visa fees, so every test, scan, blood draw, x-ray, CT, prescription medications, and the hospital stay was covered by National Health.  He received exceptional care, and he even said the food wasn’t too bad.  God certainly held the timing of this event in his hands and allowed it to happen once we arrived here and not before, and I for one am so grateful that we serve a God who cares that much about his children.

Okay, moving onto the news that you really want to hear!

Sam and I have decided that we’re going to use this blog format as a replacement for a newsletter, at least for a while anyway.  We have several reasons for this decision, but mostly it’s simply a time issue right now.  We’ve been so busy trying to get settled and sorted that sitting down for long periods of time to do any real writing has just taken a back seat to other, more pressing matters.   And to be honest with you, life happens every day, not just once a month.  There have been so many funny encounters, awesome stories, and incredible ways in which the Lord is working here and if we wait to share all those things in one newsletter they just lose their potency, for us and for you.  This format will allow us to share things with you as they happen – as if you’re right here serving along side us, rather than as a blip in our month.

I can’t believe we’ve been in Buckie over two months now, the time has just flown by and so much has happened.  We’ve had an incredible first couple of months getting to know the church and the community around us.  Sam has preached every week except for the Sunday he was in hospital, and his sermons have been really good.  He’s decided to do a study through the book of Luke, and each of his sermons have been on point and well received among the congregation.  We have seen a few folks who had fallen away from the church over the past couple of years without a minister have started to trickle in, and many in the town are talking about us, just waiting to see how things go before coming back.

In addition to our study through Luke, Sam has started a study in the book of Hebrews for our adult Bible study which happens on Sunday morning at 9:30.  This group runs between 7-9 people currently, and they have all been really active participants as we’ve really dug into the book of Hebrews and the superiority of Jesus over the Old Testament system of worship, and some of the current trends in Christianity of the resurrection of Israel, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the observation of Jewish feasts/festivals/and laws among Christians.

I (Brittan) have recently gotten involved in a food ministry at a church here in Buckie called Soup & Sweet.  This is a weekly luncheon for the community which raises funds for an addiction and crisis ministry in town, run by our friend, John Coppard at Riverside Church.  I’ve been allowed to get in the kitchen and make soups and desserts and I’ve had the chance to get to know a ton of folks in the community though this event.  The majority of people who attend on the Tuesday lunch are older, some are physically or mentally disabled, and many have been life-long residents of Buckie, Findochty, Cullen, and the surrounding areas.  Several of these folks attend other local churches, but some have never attended church, or are casualties of the Church.  This outreach ministry is strictly food based and open to everyone, but each week I see opportunities arise where I can meet hurting, lonely folks, pray with people who are ill or distressed, and offer a smile and a kind word to people who are very much the fringes of this wee community.  Monday’s (the day we cook) and Tuesday’s (the day we serve) are my favorite days of the week now!

I’ve also had the privilege of hosting our ladies Bible study group at the manse now for the past month and have really enjoyed getting to know these women better.  We’ve been looking at God’s Sovereignty through the book of Ruth.  Its been a fun journey looking beyond the love story at how God is always in control and His plan will always be accomplished.  We’ll finish up Ruth this coming Wednesday and then move right into a ten-week study on Psalm 119, which will take us to Christmas.  I can’t wait to see what the Holy Spirit reveals to each of us as we sift through the words of David.

Like many of you, we’re getting geared up for the Christmas season here, although in Scotland Christmas is a much more low-key event than in the States.  Our first planning meeting for our Christmas service will be held on Tuesday.  I’m super excited to see what ideas the congregation has for this year, and we’ll start brainstorming ideas for next  year as well, especially since we hope to have a year of diligent groundwork in the community done and may attract a larger crowd for next year’s event.

We will be announcing the dates, cost, and rough itinerary for our summer 2018 short term mission trips by Thanksgiving, so stay tuned for more information to come if you’re interested in coming to Scotland next summer!  We’re currently planning two work based trips, a ladies only trip, and we’ll offer a couple of spots for summer internships for college students as well.  We’re really excited to see who God is going to prompt to come and join us in Scotland next summer, and we’re already praying that the Lord will work in your hearts now.

We are extremely grateful to each of you for your continued partnership with our ministry.  We can feel the Spirit of the Lord beginning to stir in this community already.  We’re going to be doing some intentional prayer walking around town over the next couple of weeks, praying specifically for each of the churches in town, and against the strongholds the Enemy has here.  We believe with our whole heart that the Lord has a great revival planned for northern Scotland in the next couple of years, and we know that the best facilitator to revival is prayer.  We have discovered that our wee congregation has some mighty prayer warriors in it already and we’re trying to figure out a way to maximize that in our community.

Much love to each of you, and our prayers and thoughts are with you and your families.

Love and hugs,

Brittan & Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

So many Santa’s, but no Jesus

For the past several weeks we’ve been preparing our house for our move to Scotland.  There are half packed suitcases and boxes everywhere, and we’re not even planning on shipping many things.  Some things are much easier to let go of than others, that’s for sure.  I’m finding myself packing boxes, weighing them, and then unpacking them once I discover how much it’s going to cost in shipping.  It might sound shallow, but I’ve found the shipping cost really does affect how valuable the contents are, and just how easy it is for me to live without so much stuff.

By far the largest box I’ve packed, and unpacked, and re-packed, contains hand-painted ceramic Santa’s that I’ve had for over twenty years.  I have carefully moved these Santa’s with me from house to house and state to state.  They came to me as a part of an estate for a beloved family member and they were very dear to the deceased, as many of them were hand-painted by her.  She loved Christmas.  She died in early December, and when we arrived at her house to begin making funeral arrangements her entire home was decorated in Christmas. It was so typical of her.

Santa’s were her absolute favorite Christmas decoration.  She especially loved the Old World looking ones, who had plenty of character and charm, with different colored robes and assorted goodie sacks.  She spent many hours scouring through flea markets and antique shops looking for just the right face, and she painted several of her own as well.  There were about thirty unique pieces in her collection when she passed away and I still have most of them.

Nearly every year at Christmas I drag out the boxes and carefully unwrap each figure, ensuring the piece is intact and free from chips or damage.  I then arrange them neatly along my fireplace mantle or the dining room buffet, and every time I look at them it reminds me of my loved one and how much she loved Christmas time.

Today as I was thinking about the things that we just have to ship over – things that can’t be replaced easily because they have come from our own world travels, and represent places we’ve been and things we’ve done, I found myself lingering over the large box of Santa figurines.  I’m told that Christmas in Scotland is far less grandiose an affair than it is in America.  It’s usually a quiet day, spent with immediate family.  Gifts are exchanged, family dinner is shared, and some folks will even attend a candlelight communion service if they’re so inclined to the tradition.  But people don’t saturate every room of their home and yard with Christmas trees, lights, and colorful decorations.

As I was pondering over the box of Santa’s I thought about what Christmas means to me, and the answer was easy and obvious.  It means freedom, peace, love, grace, hope, and salvation.  It means a night of miracles and wonders that has never been topped.  It means a virgin and a carpenter spending the night in a cave, surrounded by shepherds and sweet, gentle farm animals, all marveling at their Creator in the form of a newborn baby.  It means a night sky filled with the ethereal songs of the hosts of Heaven, and the light of a billion magnificent stars dancing across the sky, announcing to the world that a Savior has been born.  It means love, so pure and holy, come in the most humble of ways, to restore a hurting and broken world to Himself. Just the thought of what Christmas means to me brings tears to my eyes; and a sense of awe and wonder that the God of the Universe looked down on us and said, “Yep, they’re worth it!”

I hope you caught what I left out.  There’s not one version of Santa anywhere to be found in what I think Christmas means.  I’m not opposed to Santa in any way, but it’s not what Christmas is really about to me.  So I know that while I’ve enjoyed these trinkets for years, I don’t have to have them with me in Scotland.  I can let them go without regret, knowing that when December rolls around I won’t be missing out on the reminder of what the season is really all about.

A quick update

Hello friends, family, and partners!  Thanks for stopping by our blog.  We don’t have a lot of new information to report today but I wanted to give everyone a quick update on where we are right now with fundraising and timing.

First, we are very close to being done with our monthly pledges!  We only have about $700 left to raise to meet the minimum monthly income requirement for visa approval.  This is a huge praise for us!  I know a few of you have received partnership letters in the last couple of weeks and are still praying over those.  We understand how tight monthly budgets are, but we are so appreciative of your prayerful consideration of our partnership request.  We know that it will only take about twenty more people to partner with us to close this gap, so we’re praying and trusting the Lord for y’all.

For those of you who have not yet received a hot pink partnership letter from us please consider this our official request to you!  We want you on our team and we would love to talk with you about the work we are planning to do in northern Scotland and how YOU can be a part of making that happen.  Don’t be shy – just send me an email, text message, or give me a call and I will be happy to get you whatever information you need to help you make that decision and get you set up on our secure online giving page.  Every single dollar helps us get to Scotland. 

If you’re one of those people who have already said “yes” to monthly partnership and you have not yet signed up on our online giving page, please, please, please do that as soon as possible.  The online giving platform is our way of verifying our monthly income to our UK sponsors.  They have to see that we have our minimum monthly income covered by pledges and/or monthly gifts before they will agree to sponsor us.  Without a sponsor we cannot apply for visas.  If you have said “yes” to monthly partnership but aren’t able to begin your giving today, please set up your online giving profile and designate a future giving date so we, and our sponsors, can see that you are in fact a part of our monthly support team even if your gifts won’t begin until later in May, June, or even July.  The website address to do this is: www.risegroup.us

We still have not settled on an exact travel date yet, but we have committed to the Buckie church to be back in Scotland by the middle of July, baring any unforeseen difficulties or delays with the visa process.  Currently we are awaiting the return of our FBI background checks and the wheels of Government move like sap in February.  We are anticipating these documents to return around the middle of June, although our prayer is they return much sooner.  As soon as we have those documents in hand we will begin the visa application process, which takes about 3 – 4 weeks for approval.  I’ve been watching airfare prices like a cat on a mouse and the sooner we can travel the better it will be for us financially.  July is the absolute most expensive month to fly to the United Kingdom.  We know God is in control of it all and He knows what we need and what we can afford.

In other news, we have been super busy around the farm getting things cleaned up and cleaned out.  We have been sorting through books, journals, study materials, and personal memorabilia, deciding what to pack, what to ship, what to store.  We do not intend to ship many things to Scotland as the shipping costs are outrageously high, but there are just some things that we cannot get in our suitcases and we don’t feel we can live without.  It’s much harder than I thought it would be to sort though all the trappings of life and decide what’s genuinely worth keeping, and what’s just stuff.  In all of the goodbyes the Lord is continuing to grow me and teach me about trust, faith, and what really matters.

I was blessed to have my parents, Mike & Connie, come up for about two weeks at the end of April and they got so much accomplished around the farm in the way of spring cleaning.  Mom spent hours and hours in the garden, weeding beds, cleaning out containers, and getting old grass and weeds off the fenceline.  Dad mowed all the pastures, repaired damage the pigs had done to the pastures, and ran the weed-eater all around the yard and house.  We also managed to get a fence taken down and a ton of miscellaneous farm debris that had piled up in the last year taken to the dump.  There’s still more work to do (it’s a farm, the work is never really done!) but it looks so much better already.

As our time begins to run down we are looking to plan a trip to the Omaha area in June to visit our friends and partners at East Side Christian Church in Council Bluffs, and Sam’s children in Lincoln.  We’ll also be in North Carolina for a few days later this month visiting some dear friends and partners there.  We hope to get back to Florida one more time for a visit with all our family before we hop on the plane and fly away as well.  The list of goodbyes we want to say is rapidly growing, but that is another powerful reminder to us that we have been incredibly blessed with amazing friends, family, and a network of supporters that we are going to miss like crazy.  July will be here before we know it!  The next ten weeks or so are going to be super busy!

Thank you to each of you for your prayer support, your words of encouragement, and your financial partnership with us.  We love you!

 

 

Closing a Chapter…

Sam and I both enjoy reading.  Sam tends to be the kind of reader who is able to read multiple books on various subjects, and usually has several books going at one time.  He can read a few pages in each of his books every day and keep up with the content.

I, on the other hand, prefer to read voraciously in spurts.  I favor espionage and crime novels mostly and will cabbage onto an author I love and read everything they’ve written before moving on to the next author.  I especially love it when an author writes a series of books based around a main character or story line, like Brad Thor’s Scott Harveth, or Tim Downs Bug Man, or Patricia Cornwell’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta.  Currently I’m reading a British author, Peter Robinson, who writes the DCI Banks series.

Regardless of which character I’m reading about I always find myself a little bit sad when I finish a series because I feel like I’ve really gotten to know and love these characters, and I hate to see their stories come to an end, even though I’m about to discover a new story line and set of characters that I’m going to love just as much.

Right now, our life is a bit like the ending of a great series of stories.  One beloved chapter is coming to an immediate end, while another, equally exciting one is about to begin.  Our time in Georgia is drawing to a close, and in approximately 10 weeks we’ll be loading what’s left of our worldly possessions into a couple of suitcases and boarding a plane for Scotland where we’ll begin the next amazing chapter in our story.  Our emotions are all over the board, and most days we would sum them up to one word: bitter-sweet.

We are super excited about how God is working in our lives right now, both personally and through our partners.  We have re-discovered just what a big God we serve as we’ve seen him remove barriers, obstacles, and distractions in ways we thought weren’t possible.  We have been blessed daily by unexpected words of encouragement, the faithfulness of our partners, and watching people enthusiastically embrace us and this ministry.  We have felt new life breathed into old and tired bones as discouragement is replaced by vision, purpose, and determination.  And we have been able to rest in the peace of knowing that we’re walking right in the center of the Lord’s will for our life as the pieces begin to fall into place for our move.  Just in case you didn’t already know, we serve an awesome God, y’all!

One of the biggest changes that has happened for us in the past couple of weeks has to do with our farm.  Many of you know we purchased a little farm about four years ago.  At the time, we felt it was our dream property, and an avenue for us to stay in Georgia permanently and live a more self-sufficient lifestyle.  For the past two years as we’ve prayed over and wrestled with this opportunity to return to Scotland we had not felt comfortable with selling our little piece of heaven.  It’s paid for, and it seemed like a good security net should we have to return to the States for whatever reason.  Sam and I have talked at length about renting it out, using it as a short-term home for families in transition, leaving it empty, moving Sam’s children from Nebraska or my parents from Florida into it, and a variety of other options that cropped up.  As we explored the possibilities both Sam and I felt uncomfortable and burdened by each option.  In the last month or so our prayers have seemed to morph from, “Lord, please open the door for us to keep our farm by…” to “Lord, please give us peace about our future, whatever that might be.”

Oh how I love the way our gracious God works when we truly surrender our will to His!!

A few weeks back we were meeting with a friend from church about partnering with us financially.  At the end of the meeting he asked us what we had decided to do with our farm.  We told him we just weren’t sure, and shared some of the options we’d been tossing around.  He listened intently and when we’d finished running through the list of possibilities he just asked us if we’d pray about selling it to him.  WHAT?!?!  In that moment we were totally blown away because he was one of the options we’d thrown around in the early days and then dismissed because we didn’t think he would be interested.

Friends, I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you that one of the most important lessons I’m learning right now about true surrender and trust is to not say “no” for people when God has been preparing them to say “yes”.

As this part of our story begins to come to a close, we admit to having mixed feelings.  We are sad and dreading the emotional roller-coaster of saying farewell to friends, family, our church, and things we have grown to love and cherish; but we are also anxious and excited to move into the next part of our story where we will write a whole new chapter full of new friends, family, and memories.

Thank you friends for being a part of this journey!

 

Ministry Plan for 2017 – 2018

Before I launch into the meat of this blog I wanted to say a huge “thank you” to all of you who have prayerfully committed to financial partnership with us for the next three years.  We are honored to have you as a part of our team.  Your faith in us is more encouraging than you can ever know.  We look forward to sharing this journey with you, because without your generosity and faithfulness this mission would not exist, but together I believe we can accomplish many eternal Kingdom works.

For those of you who are still praying over and considering our request for financial and prayer partnership we wanted to share with you the highlights of our current ministry plan for 2017 and 2018.  Sam and I have spent much time in prayer regarding what we feel the Lord is laying on our hearts for work in Scotland, and we have had numerous conversations with our Board of Directors regarding this initial plan.  We feel we have a good foundation to work from.  Because we are not in the country yet some of these ideas are more fleshed out than others but we believe that all these ideas can be implemented within the first two years we’re in the country.  As always, we are happy to address any questions you may have regarding the plan for ministry work in Scotland; so if something comes to mind please ask us and we will do our best to answer any questions you have.

For those of you who know us personally, you will know that our vision trip in the autumn of 2016 was a great success.  It turned out very differently than what we initially expected, but we believe that the Lord’s hand was in every aspect of the trip.  While much of everyday life in Buckie and the surrounding villages is the same as it was when Sam was there before many of the actual needs of the community have changed.

First, our target date to be in the country is still just a time frame – anytime between May and the end of August, but we will travel as soon as our fundraising is completed.  We’re praying for all our partners to be on-board and giving by the end of April.  If that happens we will be in a position to apply for our visas in early May, which means we could potentially be in Scotland as early as the first part of June.    Regardless of when we actually arrive in the country, the first couple of months will be spent reacquainting ourselves with village life, although we both fell into it rather quickly and comfortably during our vision trip, which was another clear confirmation that Scotland is the place the Lord has in our hearts.

Once the newness wears off we are planning to focus our efforts for the first couple of years in two major categories: community transformation and discipleship & church pioneering.

We believe that Jesus performed so many miracles during his time on Earth because he understood that people would not be able to hear Truth over the rumble of their stomachs or the ache of their bodies.  Our needs are not so different today, and our prayer is that we will be able to address some of the practical needs of the community in such a way as to allow us to build meaningful and sincere relationships with these non-Believers, which will open doors for us to share the Gospel with them.

The short and sweet version of our ministry plan is this: People need Jesus.  This is a universal truth for all of us who are Christ followers.  But the practical truth is, people can’t even consider Jesus if their children are going hungry on a regular basis.  Or if their utilities have been cut off in the middle of winter because they have lost their job.  Or if they are so far in debt they are in danger of losing their home.  Or if one of a hundred other scenarios, which is why we want to engage in some simple, yet valuable community transformation projects, such as:

  • Start a breakfast club for school aged kids who aren’t getting fed breakfast, and in many cases they don’t get much, if any, dinner the night before.
  • We want to host a feeding program for the elderly, something similar to Meals on Wheels for people who are no longer able to leave their homes.
  • We want to plant community gardens and teach people how they can supplement their family’s food budget with fruits and vegetables they can grow themselves.
  • We want to work with other churches, local businesses, and the town council to organize a community food bank.
  • We want to teach people who have lived a life of easy credit and instant gratification that living on a budget and being debt-free is not only possible but attainable.

We believe that by engaging with the community in these ways we will be able to build relationships with people and families in a non-threatening way.  But we don’t just want to be another aide organization, which is where discipleship and church pioneering come in.

We will be working primarily with the Buckie Church of Christ, which is the congregation that Sam served for the first seven years he was in Scotland before.  This is an established body of saints who are welcoming us back with open arms.  They are currently without a minister so Sam will happily fill that role.  As is traditional for most Scottish churches, they currently have church services only on Sunday mornings, but they also have a Monday night prayer meeting and a community men’s Bible study group, and a Wednesday night women’s Bible study group; all of which are well attended by the church members.

In addition to maintaining these existing activities we want to establish several other small groups that will primarily cater to non-Christians or brand new Christians.  Sam’s Re-Discovering the Bible curriculum will be a very useful resource for teaching these groups of non-Believers and new Believers.  We want to encourage people to abandon their preconceived ideas of Jesus and His church and dig into the Scripture to see who Jesus really is.  Our prayer is that a new church (or churches) will be strategically planted in Buckie and/or the surrounding villages from these groups.

We are also excited to work with the Buckie Youth Club, which meets on Tuesday nights and caters to local grade school and middle school aged children.  We had a blast hanging out with these kids during our vision trip and we feel this is a major missed opportunity for the local churches as these kids primarily come from secular homes and do not attend church anywhere in town.  We saw a deep hunger for affirmation and love in the eyes of these children, and we were moved to tears on our last night as the children all clustered around Sam, hugging him and asking for him to take ‘selfies’ with them, and begging for us to come back.

And last but not least, we hope to welcome our first short-term mission trips in the summer of 2018.  These trips will be a combination of community transformation activities, outreach and evangelism efforts of various sorts, as well as include day trips to a few castles, lochs, and cathedrals.

So that’s it, in a nutshell.  There is a lot of work to be accomplished, but we know that with your partnership in prayer and finances we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.