A Second Journey: A Weekend Update from Two of my Team

I have been very busy working on the blog posts for the last few days, so I will allow my teammates to update you on the events of last weekend.  I took these posts (with their permission) from the Scotland RP Mission Team page on Facebook.

Saturday

We went to Sea Cliff beach with a few friends from the Airdrie RP Church, had a picnic, explored, and enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship. At this beach, we were able to look over the sea to “Scotland’s Alcatraz” – the Bass Rock – on which Covenanters were held, and some killed, for their faithfulness to Christ’s Crown and Covenant. Also, on the cliff that we were on, just north of us was Tantallon Castle – once held by Covenanters, destroyed by Cromwell. It was a great day. – Joseph Dunlap

Lord’s Day

Hello again! This Sunday the Mission team travelled to Glasgow by way of blue minibus for worship. The Rev. Kenneth Stewart exhorted on Psalm 23, reminding us that Christ is the great, good, and true Shepherd for those who are His. He was also introducing the Psalm for follow up in the evening. After tea and biscuits with the congregation, we made our way to the Gillies’ house for lunch. The afternoon was filled with delicious food (the puddings were amazing!), petting the family dogs, and Psalm singing. In the evening we headed back to the church for evening worship where Rev. Stewart preached over Psalm 23 urging us to hear and follow our Shepherd for He truly satisfies all our needs and leads us for His glory. After the service the congregation was invited to more tea and a Q. & A. with the Mission team. We were able to share what we’ve been doing over the past weeks in the community and also thank the congregation for their hospitality and prayers. We know that we have not gone on our own to share our testimonies and spread leaflets, and we are thankful.

Alissa Terpstra

A Second Journey: THe Awesome and the Unexpected, Part 2

Wednesday was more Glasgow leaflet distribution in the morning, followed immediately by a school presentation at Saint Margaret’s, a catholic secondary school in Airdrie. The team split up into three groups, and we were each assigned two combined classes to speak for 45 minutes. Having really only prepared for five minute presentations, we were a bit worried that we would have difficulty filling the time. My partner and I did run a bit early, but only by about 5 minutes. Our class was quite quiet and not too interested in conversation. I was blanking on questions to stimulate conversation, so I talked a little bit more about who we were and mentioned that I was a vocal performance major. Of course, the request for a song soon followed. I chose the same song, Amazing Grace, I sang in my presentations last year, and gave an explanation for my choice before hand. My partner joined me in harmony, it seemed appreciated by class and teacher alike. Perhaps the music spoke to our audience in a way that our stumbling words could not.
A few minutes after we said goodbye to the class and went downstairs to find our fellow teammates, the bell went off, and let me just say… this was not the kind electronic tone you heard at my high school. It was an ear-splitting, old-fashioned fire alarm style bell, and it was terrifying! As much as I tried to maintain my composure, I think I jumped about three feet each time it happened.
Our team mates, it seemed, got much chattier classes, and had some really interesting conversations about salvation, sin, and several other topics.
By Wednesday night, two of our team mates, including our fearless leader, were deathly ill, so we took Thursday morning off so that they could get some rest. Two of us wandered about Airdrie for a couple of hours, going to the library to work for a bit and browsing through charity shops. As we were walking down one street, we passed a lady outside of the Chunky Monkey cafe with a very happy puppy. Obsessed as I am about dogs at the moment, we stopped to say hi. In asking questions about her dog, the lady heard our American accents and asked what we were doing so far from home. We answered that we were on a mission team at the Airdrie Reformed Presbyterian church, fully expecting her to then further inquire as to what exactly a mission team does, and were we Christians, etc. Instead, she smiled and put out her hand.
“ Well,” She said, “Nice to meet you girls. That’s my church.”
“ What?” My friend and I gasped, completely taken aback.
“Aye.” She affirmed. “I have been going there for several months now.”
She continued, telling us that her husband, who had previously been quite indifferent to the Gospel had also started coming with her to the services. She said that she and her husband had recently begun having conversations about faith on a much deeper level than they ever had before. We shared in her excitement at this, and chatted for a while longer, getting to know her a bit. They were on holiday the Sundays we attended the services in Airdrie, which is why she didn’t recognize us. Hopefully though, she and her husband will be at church on the 28th, and I, at least, will be able to see her again.
So strange! Of all the random people we could encounter on the street, it’s one of the Airdrie congregation that we haven’t yet had the pleasure to meet! I mean, what are the chances? The Airdrie congregation is relatively small, and we only stopped to talk to her because of her dog, as awful as that sounds… I’m so glad we did though! God sure does have a way with the unexpected!
To be continued tomorrow though, as I am unexpectedly exhausted.

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.

A Second Journey: Freezing Fridays and Saint Andrews Saturday

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

A Second Journey: Reformation Tour Through Edinburgh, Part 2

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

A Second Journey: Update on Oleta

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

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

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

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

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

A Second Journey: Thrumming Thursdays

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

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

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

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

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