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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.

 

Vision Trip success!

This post is so late in coming, but it’s never too late to share what God does and how He

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‘Lobsta’ traps, Buckie harbor.

works, right?!

Sam and I traveled to Scotland for six weeks in October – November 2016.  We went with the intention of visiting several villages along the Moray coast.  Our plan was to meet with local pastors and access the need for new church plants in those villages.  We also intended to travel to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Birmingham to talk with pastors and church planters in those areas.  We had our schedule made, our speaking notes written, our bags were packed, and we were determined to fit as much into the six weeks as possible.

The first destination was Buckie.  Sam spent the first seven years of his Scottish ministry in this quaint little fishing village located on the north shore of the Moray Firth.  Buckie is the place that holds Sam’s heart, so naturally it had to be our first stop.

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Buckie Church of Christ

When Sam first went to Buckie in 1980 the church consisted of a dilapidated building and 12 members, the youngest was 50 years old and the oldest was in her 90’s.  The first Sunday service Sam preached, the roof fell in, literally.  The building should have been condemned.  The membership tried to give the building to the local city council, but they refused it because it needed too much work.  Three days after the roof collapse the oldest member passed away from pneumonia.  It looked like a downhill slide was inevitable, but in spite of overwhelming obstacles, Sam spent the next seven years loving that church into health.  By the time he moved to the metro Glasgow area to plant another church, the Buckie church had turned around.  They had renovated the building and were running about 85 in attendance on Sunday mornings.  They’d begun a Gospel service on Sunday night’s for unbelievers, and they had a successful Saturday club for grade school aged children, and a wildly popular family camp that ran for a week in the summer.  They had also planted a daughter congregation in the nearby town of Forres, which was running about 45 in attendance.  By American standards this doesn’t seem overwhelmingly amazing, but by Scottish it’s fantastic!

When we arrived in Buckie we were immediately aware of how unhealthy the church had become.  Over the past twenty-five years they’ve had a string of short-term American missionaries who have stayed between 18 months and seven years.  The majority of these pastors did not have a plan for continued outreach and growth, and the ones that did went about it in a very forceful and off-putting way.  These men were decent preachers who loved the congregation, however, loving the congregation doesn’t facilitate growth.  We were saddened to learn that the church had regressed back to about 12 people.  Our heart’s broke for these dear old saints, and we felt God was telling us to spend some time with these people, ministering to their needs, and praying with and for them instead of rushing

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Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin

off to other villages looking for easier opportunities.

 

I love when God throws a monkey wrench in my plans.  I am a planner by nature so I hate surprises, but when God moves us to change our plans in favor of His I sit up and listen.  And boy, am I ever glad we did listen.  As the days pushed into weeks we were able to build trust with these people, and others within the community who are not a part of the Buckie church.  We were invited into people’s homes, into their lives, and what we saw was a need for a fresh perspective on who Jesus is and what He wants us to do.  Our hearts were moved in compassion and love for this community, and before we knew it, we were “home.”

After our return from Scotland in November we received an official invitation from the Buckie church to return as their pastor.  We are honored that they would place this level of trust in us after so many years, and we are happy to accept the challenge that comes with this role.  We have updated our ministry plan based on the needs we saw first-hand as we became involved in the lives of people in the church and the community, and it can be summed up in two words: missional engagement.

We will be writing  more about the individual points of our ministry plan as we flesh out the details of each of the areas of ministry, but God continues to lead and direct us in this, so we know we’re on the right track.  Currently we’re looking for individuals to partner with us as we prepare to move to Scotland.  Our target date to be in the country is by the end of August 2017, and we have to raise approximately $28,350 in pledges for our annual support, as well as $25,000 in moving and immigration expenses.    If you feel God is leading you to join with us as we minister to the people of northern Scotland please use the Contact page to let us know, or you can donate to us directly through our Giving page.

Thank you for your support!