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!

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.