Stirling to Northern Ireland

I am so excited to be here in Scotland for my last semester of college!  I’ve been dreaming of doing the Semester in Scotland programme for 10 years, and now I have the opportunity to live that dream.  You see, my sister participated in it 10 years ago, and the summer before she came, my parents, and my little sister, and I flew to England for my cousin’s wedding.  While we were on this side of the pond, we drove up to Scotland to see where she would be staying for four months.  I fell in love with the people I met and the astonishing scenery I saw.  This year is promising to be just as exciting as my first week in Scotland was a decade ago.  It’s been three weeks since I arrived, and I’ve already learned and seen so much.

This week, we attended the Airdrie RP church on Sunday and had lunch at Stacy  and Fraser’s.  They are a lovely young couple who fed us a great meal and  provided great fellowship (and their puppy, Milo, is adorable).  In the evening, we went to church and afterwards went to Stephen and Brenda’s for tea and some friendly discussion on various topics.

Classes went well during the week, albeit not on the regular schedule due to an unforeseen event that popped up and a weekend retreat.  One of the advantages in this program is that the teachers are all flexible, so if something comes up, they can easily adjust their class.  Also, even though there’s a lot of reading to do for the classes, we have scheduled times to get some of it done, which is really nice. Wednesdays are my favorite because in the afternoon we get to go see various sites in the country.

Students at Wallace MonumentThis week, for our Wednesday trip, we went to three places.  First, we visited the  site of the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce defeated the English and took back Stirling Castle.  Then, we went to a 900 year old Abbey where we saw the grave of King James III of Scotland and his wife, Margaret the Princess of Denmark.  Finally, we went to the Wallace Monument that was put up in honor of William Wallace (aka Braveheart), who fought and died for Scottish freedom, and we climbed the 246 steps to the top of it for an amazing view of the landscape below.  We finished the day with our MET and went back to our respective homes.

David at Carrickfergus CastleFriday, we got up early to catch the ferry for Northern Ireland for the Young Adult Weekend (or YAW for short).  The trip was uneventful and we arrived safely.  We were picked up by the Loughridge family who fed us lunch and then dropped us off at the Carrickfergus Castle for a couple hours.  The view from the lookout tower was over the Irish Sea, and it was beautiful!  It was fun looking around there and seeing the different rooms too.  We found one room that used to be used for processing meat that had a mural of a butcher on one wall, and the rest of the walls were painted white.   (The weird part was that there was also a pillory set up in the room.  Not sure why it was in there).  It had a curved ceiling and great acoustics, so we stayed in there for a bit and sang some Psalms.  When it was time to go, we rode with the Loughridges to Annalong, Northern Ireland for the YAW.

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The talks at the retreat were quite good and were about God’s covenants with Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jeremiah.  Between talks, we had meals and free time and seminars.  The place we were staying was a farm/conference center called Mullartown House.  It was only a short walk away from the Irish Sea and so during the free time in the afternoon, David and I would walk to the beach.  It was glorious.  It wasn’t a sand beach like they usually are in the States, it was a rock beach with a fantastic view of the Mourne Mountains.  I took many pictures and had a fabulous weekend.  Sunday night we stayed at the Loughridge’s, and Monday we went to Belfast and got a bus tour (where I took many, many more pictures).  Then we caught the ferry again and returned to Airdrie in the evening.

 

These past three weeks have flown by.  It seems like only yesterday I was trying to figure out what to pack and how to fit it into one suitcase so that it would weigh less than 50lbs.  All of the reading material and the classes are extremely thought provoking, and I am so happy I have the opportunity to study here.  I can tell that God is working in my life here, and I’m excited to find out what the outcome will be at the end of the semester.  But for now, I’m just going to take it one day at a time and enjoy the ride!  Cheerio!

Debbie Shafer

The Beginning

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Back row left to right: David, Debbie. and Ethan  Front row left to right: Jennie and Rosie

In the bright and early morning of Tuesday, August 19, one of my fellow classmates and I arrived at the Glasgow airport and were driven to Airdrie, our new home for the next four months.  We waited for the other three of our classmates and had a wonderful dinner provided by the Quigley family!  They are so hospitable!

We all slept a lot the next day to catch up on lack of sleep and jet lag.  While the boys slept, the girls went to breakfast in a flat owned by a couple from the church.  To them it may have been a small gesture, but I know to me, it was an extremely welcoming and encouraging glimpse of the community of believers we would be joining for the next four months.  When the boys woke up, we went grocery shopping.  That evening we got to meet another couple from the church, and we were welcomed into their home for a yummy dinner.  These first two days definitely helped us to start off our time here well!

Rosie and Jennie on walk with KarenOn Friday, Rosie and I took our classmates out to explore Airdrie a little bit (since she and I had done a little exploring before).  We invited Karen, a member of the church, over for tacos for dinner and we had a mini photo session!  After dinner, Karen graciously took Rosie and I out on a walk on some gorgeous walking paths.  The beauty in Scotland is everywhere! I could not believe the mixture of gorgeous sunset, green trees, and picturesque hill scenes!

Airdrie2On Saturday, Rosie and I explored Airdrie a little bit more and found a super fun playground!  Then some of the crew and I watched the Doctor Who Premiere, IN SCOTLAND!!!!

On Sunday we all went to church at Airdrie Reformed Presbyterian Church.  It started off with a Bible class in which we discussed what we believe.  Then we had an all church prayer time.  It is amazing to witness the presence of the Heavenly Father when a body of believers come together to lift up His name and converse with Him.  Not coming from a Reformed Presbyterian background, I was unsure what to expect in the worship service.   However, the service was great!  Here are some of the notes I took during morning worship: “When God is silent, we must persist and continue to declare that God is great!”  “Jesus Christ seeks us!”  After
morning worship, we were invited to Karen’s home for a hospitality lunch.  She is a great cook!  After a great lunch and some great time together, the boys went back to their flat, and the girls went back to ours.  We had a quick nap before heading back to church for evening service.  Here are some of the notes I took from the great sermon we heard that evening: “When Jesus comes in, He causes a great stir.”  “No one can reach into our hearts like Jesus Christ can.”  “He’s called me and there’s a life and forgiveness in Him, because He has sought me!”

Studying3Monday we began our class work, by reading for the two lectures we would take on Tuesday.  Tuesday we had our Church Ministry seminar and our Paul seminar. Wednesday, we were unfortunately not able to have our Systematic Theology class, but were greatly looking forward to having it next week.  Then in the afternoon Jimmy and Helen, a couple from the church, took us to Loch Lomond.  It was so beautiful!  Wednesday evening, the girls attended a MET (Mutual Encouragement Time) – we are studying the book of Nehemiah.  On Thursday, we had some more study time and then we had our first Reformed Evangelism seminar.  Next week we will start our Scottish Covenanter History and Theology course.  On Friday, we had another study day.

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On Saturday, we all slept in again.  Then we worked on some studying and we spent some time together before the group that watched Doctor Who last Saturday huddled onto a couch in the girl’s flat and watched the newest episode.

So far my time in Scotland has been amazing!  Not only am I experiencing a completely different country, I am also growing spiritually and being stretched.  I know that this coming semester will be one to never forget!

~Jennie Smith

Meet Ethan Mathews

My name is Ethan Mathews, and I am in my third year studying Student Ministry. When I am not studying at Geneva or having a blast in Scotland, I live at home with my family in Columbus, Indiana. During the summers I work at a Christ-centered children’s ministry called New Song Mission as the supervising summer intern. I do not have much pinned down for what I will be doing after college. My dreams so far is to teach Bible or Humanities at a Christian school near home, at my Church’s co-op, or maybe even become a professor at Geneva!  I have two churches I attend regularly. I am a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Columbus, which I attend at home. I attend Tusca RPC while at Geneva with some of my RP friends.   Some interesting details about me: I love to make people laugh. I wouldn’t say I am a comedian (I’m not that talented), but I do love seeing people smile and laugh; I believe it’s one of God’s greatest gifts to us. I love to read, mostly fiction, though I am a happy man with a Biblical commentary in front of me. I enjoy discussing theology, though I hope to grow in experience in defending my viewpoints. I’m starting to get into film making and photography, so you might see me running around with a camera when not studying. If I am not busy talking to people, or reading, and playing with my camera, you’ll most definitely see me playing a video game on my handheld device. Lastly, I love food.

Meet Rosie Perkins

Rosie PerkinsHi! My name is Rosie Perkins and I am from Prescott Presbyterian Church.  I live in the deserts of Arizona with my parents & sister & two brothers, as well as three dogs, a cat and a goldfish.  My dad has been the pastor of our little church for the last 16 years and –small world– Beth Bogue’s father often preaches for our congregation when my dad is out of town.  I am a Biblical Studies major entering my final year at Geneva. I had the pleasure of meeting Pastor Quigley when he visited campus last Fall and spoke at a Bible study about the reality of Hell.  My friends who have done the Semester in Scotland program speak well of you all, and my friend Matthew Sexton also has high praise for you. I am looking forward to meeting you, learning from you, and serving in your church!  We SO appreciate your prayers for us. :) Please let us know how we can be praying for you as well!

Meet Jennie Smith

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I’m Jennie Smith.  I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and have lived half of my life on the North Side of the city. When I was entering middle school I moved 30 minutes north to the suburb, Cranberry Township and that’s where I live today. I am involved in my community and work for Cranberry Township’s Parks and Recreation Summer camp as a coordinator for the counselor in training program. I also work part-time as a habilitation aide to a family with a child with special needs. For the past two years I have worked as a BIble Teaching Assistant for the BIble Department at Geneva.  I attend Dutilh United Methodist Church in Cranberry Township and am active in my church. I have taught Sunday School for years, worked in the nursery, helped with Vacation Bible School, ran a disability ministry training, gone on mission trips and sang in the choir.  At Geneva I have a dual major in Missions and Human Services with a minor in Psychology. This coming year I will be a senior. Upon graduation, my plan is to attend graduate school and study Clinical Counseling with a concentration in behavior analysis. I eventually will work in diagnosing and creating treatment plans for individuals with autism and behavioral disorders. God has called me to work with individuals in the disability community and currently this is the path He has me going down. I cannot wait to come to Scotland and join your community there! Until then, God bless!

Meet David Beer

David BeerI’m David Beer, and I’m from a small town known as Sarver.  I have two churches I attend, one at school and one at home.  At home, my church is Evangel Heights Assembly of God, about 4-5 minutes from my house, while at school, I attend Beaver Falls First Assembly of God, which is 5-8 minutes from Geneva.  This semester, I will be starting my Senior year (final year) of university and I am studying Applied Mathematics.  Random facts about me: I am sometimes a bit of a techy.  I love to play soccer, sorry, wrong country, football, and I love playing my electric bass, which I usually play at church.  I also play acoustic guitar, but I’m not as good with that.  I tend to be quiet at first, but get to know me, and I sometimes have a hard time shutting up.
Looking forward to this semester!
Sincerely,
David Beer

Meet Debbie Shafer

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I’m from Walden, New York. I grew up in the Coldenham-Newburgh RPC but while at Geneva, attended First RPC of Beaver Falls.  I am a second semester senior, so this Fall semester will be my last.  When I graduate, I will have a major in Biblical Studies with a minor in Chemistry.

Debbie Shafer

Final Reflections – Tim Wolff

Tim

Four months ago, I had never left the country, I had never been away from home for more than a week’s time, and I had certainly never swam with the Loch Ness monster.  Over the course of this semester, I’ve been to five different countries, been blown around at the Fairy Pools by hurricane force winds, and even have been swimming in Loch Ness…in December.  I have walked through numerous castles, I have eaten award winning fish and chips, and I have seen more sheep than people.  Needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here; however, it isn’t the sight seeing that I’m going to miss about Scotland, but rather my new family.

While I have been here, I have seen what the church of God is supposed to look like.  On Sunday mornings, we should not feel as though we are going to a service and sitting next to stranger.  Rather, there should be that feeling you get when you come together with you extended family, if you like them of course.  That is what the church in Airdrie is like and over this semester I had the chance to become part of that family.  It truly was a blessing, not only to be able to come and worship here but also to be able to form relationships with its people outside of a Sunday morning.  It’s hard to believe that, as close as we are, I’ve only known my friends here since August.   It will certainly be difficult to leave this beautiful country, but it will be much more difficult to say goodbye to a number of my friends here.

Final Reflections: Closing Thoughts – Christopher Little

Christopher

God has been gracious to me these past four months.  He has provided me with a good community in Airdrie RP, friends to spend time with, great teachers to learn from, and wonderful traveling experiences.

Although I have made many memories from traveling around Scotland and Europe, I know more than anything else that the things I have learned will continue to affect me the most.  The Semester in Scotland program is a very unique opportunity that I wish more ministry majors could take advantage of.  We were able to spend a lot of time with Andrew.  Not only did we get to learn from him in the classroom, but also through seeing him work in the church.  Because he welcomed us into his life for the past four months, we were able to greatly benefit from getting a little bit more of an understanding in how ministry works.

The classes we took and books we read were spiritually challenging and caused me to grow.  I look forward to getting back home and looking through them again.

We did end our stay in Scotland with a bang however.  Last Saturday Nate, Tim, Kelly, Beth, Karen, two Australians, and I went on a trip to the Isle of Skye.  It was really everything you could ever hope for in a trip.  The drive there was long, yet enjoyable.  We stayed the night in Fort William on Friday and then continued on to Skye the next morning.  It was a wet day – I have never felt so wet in my life.  There were also winds blowing at 70 miles per hour.  Regardless, we carried on and saw several places in Skye.  We went to the Fairy Pools, Portree, an inn with no electricity (which was very cool looking), and stopped at Loch Ness on the way back.

I think regardless of where we went (within reason) it would have been just as enjoyable.  Being able to spend time with both old and new friends one last time was really the joy in the trip.  It’s a funny thing how close people can become in a short period of time.  The people I have met in Scotland over the past four months will certainly be missed.

All memories aside, I look forward to getting home.  Living in the UK has been a great experience, but I feel like a giddy child on Christmas morning with the thought of being back in Pennsylvania.  I am excited to see my family again, no doubt.  People keep asking me what’s the first thing I am going to do when I get home, so I figure I will answer the same question now: play with my two golden retrievers Rylie and Charlotte.

Thank you to all who have made my stay here in Scotland an enjoyable experience.  It continues to blow my mind how large and loving God’s church is.  So many people have sacrificed their time to take us out on day trips to see parts of Scotland, made us meals, drove us to and from airports, and welcomed us into their homes.  I can truly say you have made my stay in Scotland feel like another home.

Final Reflections: Homeward I Journey – Nathanael Miller

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It’s my final day here in Scotland and oddly enough I am not asking the question, “Where has the time gone?”  That’s usually how it goes for people at this point in the trip.  You’ve been away from home for months, and you lost track of time because of all the things you were doing, and now you’re wondering where it all went.  I thought that’s exactly how I would feel by now, but it isn’t so.  I think it is a small sign that I am ready to return home.  And though this is true, I cannot neglect to recount all the great adventures I have had, all the interesting people I have met, and all the distant places I have had the pleasure experiencing.  It’s a strange thought that this time of travel and learning is over.  In these 4 months I have had the privilege of visiting Frankfurt, Rome, Florence, Geneva, Paris, Northern Ireland, and almost all of Scotland.  And if the Lord has taught me one thing through my time away from home, it’s that no matter where I am, and how unfamiliar the land is, He will always be the same.  He is the same even in my doubt and uncertainty.  That truth is most reassuring.  I trust that I will forever remember the things I have learned through this time.

Scotland really has become a second home for me.  I can recall on multiple occasions actually calling this cottage “home”.  It’s where we always returned to at the end of the day.  Away for the entire day, driving into the wee hours of the night, and returning back home to this cottage exhausted was at times the most satisfying feeling.  I’ll miss it, and I’ll think about it often I am certain, but I am ready to say goodbye.  I have grown to love this place.  I have grown to love it for the way it reminds me of God’s handiwork, for the way it brings me to a state of humility, and for the way it urges me to want to travel more.  There are places here that I never thought I would see outside of a photo.  It’s amazing really; when you begin to travel you just don’t want to stop.  I remember my time in mainland Europe, I just wanted to keep going, and I wanted to see more.  There is so much out there to experience, and I never thought I would want to see so much of it.  Unique places to visit, and unfamiliar people to meet, I just wanted to be a part of that.  And now, at the end of my time here, I am realizing that it is time to return home and I am content with that.  I don’t want to go to another country right now, or a distant land.  I truly want to return home and see my brothers, sister, parents, nieces and nephews.  I want to just sit down on my couch and talk to my siblings about life and what God has taught me.  I am ready for that.  God has taught me (as stubborn as I have been about it) to be content these past four months.  He taught me to be content whether I was in Italy, Germany, a different church, my cottage, or a stranger’s house.  It has taken time for me to come into that, but I am finally getting it.  And now, I am most content to return home.  As I said, I will miss this place, and I will fondly remember it as the days pass by.  I hope one day to travel again; to see new lands and far off places, but for now, it is homeward that I journey.  I am thankful for the Lord’s steadfastness in my life.

 

 

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