Alumni Reflections – Jasmine Martin Thompson

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Jasmine Thompson.

Jasmine Thompson – Autumn 2007
Then: Student at Allan Hancock College
Now: Studying Graphic Arts, Design, Printing, Photography at the Art Institute of Tennessee and Nashville

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Jasmine in 2007

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Jasmine and Travis Thompson and their son in 2015.

My time with Semester in Scotland was a wonderful growing experience, emotionally, and spiritually. I think it’s very important for us to learn about the roots of the reformed faith and remember those that laid down their lives for Christ’s Crown and Covenant.

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Alumni Reflections – Brenda Gladfelter McCollum

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Brenda McCollum.

Brenda McCollum – Autumn 2007
Then: Geneva College student
Now: Homemaker

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Brenda in 2007

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Stephen and Brenda McCollum and their daughter in September 2017

My time in Airdrie doing the Semester in Scotland programme was such a benefit to me. Even though I grew up in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and had some knowledge of the things we studied, such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and theology in general, studying it all in the setting of the church and being able to take so much time to read through and discuss the material helped the knowledge to really seep into my head and also into my heart. Semester in Scotland gave me a new sense of appreciation for the beliefs of the denomination I grew up in and helped me to see how those beliefs should be carried out, both personally and by the church. It was so beneficial to be able to study in the setting of the Airdrie RP Church because I could so easily see the things I was learning being applied by that congregation and apply them myself in the different church activities in which I was involved. I am so thankful to God for the opportunity I had to participate in the Semester in Scotland programme!

Alumni Reflections – Ben Gordon

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Ben Gordon.

Ben Gordon – Autumn 2006
Then: Geneva College student
Now: Graduate Student, studying data analytics at The George Washington University

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Ben in 2006

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Ben and Emily Jo Gordon and their two sons in December 2017

The SIS program was a unique opportunity for me as a ministry student to get a glimpse of what ministry and church life looks like in a different context. While Scotland is a country in many ways similar to my own, it is also different particularly in that it is a “post-Christian” nation that has fundamentally rejected its Christian heritage. I got to learn about my own Scotch-Presbyterian heritage and I felt a sense of connection to my forefathers in a way I would have never experienced had I not gone to Scotland.

I also had the chance to evangelize and be challenged to step outside my comfort zone. I can without hesitation say that this program was the highlight of my college career and a lot of growth in my walk with the Lord occurred during my short time abroad.

In fact, it was there I was challenged to really think about how brief life is and to commit myself to seek the Lord first and His kingdom because it is in serving God that one builds up a treasure which cannot be marred by the sands of time.

Alumni Reflections – Sharon Stockdale

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Sharon Stockdale.

Sharon Stockdale – Spring 2006
Then: Geneva College student
Now: Works for Johnson and Johnson in post market quality for a diabetic insulin pump.

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Sharon in 2006.

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Sharon in 2017

I am the person I am today because of the way in which the Lord used my time in Scotland. The Lord taught me so much during my time in Scotland. I am still coming to see and understand some of the seeds that were planted there. I consider my time in Scotland to be the pinnacle of my college education. Tens years later after the classes, textbooks, and information has faded, it is the life lessons that make the investment into a college education worth it. The Lord taught me so much about worldviews and service in His kingdom during that time.

Experiencing and beginning to understand another culture, through immersion, teaches you so much about your own worldview—a worldview that continually needs to be conformed to a biblical worldview. Having seen and experienced another way of thinking and relating I find that it has revealed many blind spots and cultural ‘truths’ that are accepted without question, but in reality are not biblical. It is hard to capture in words the extent that it changes the way you think and the transformational work the Lord brought about. One of the elements that makes this experience unique is you are not in a school building surrounded by other students that buffer you from the culture around you. I lived in a house with one other student and was immersed in a local body. I greatly treasure that blessing from the Lord. We did life together with a local body of believers in the kingdom of God.

Many of my current habits including independent study, resting on the Sabbath, and a love for singing the Psalms were developed during my time abroad. The local body in Airdrie modeled well, what living together as a body of believers, under the Lordship of Christ, looks like. Their model, while not perfect because we live in a fallen world, has greatly influenced my service in His kingdom. It enhanced my desire and sensitivity towards proclaiming the gospel, service towards other, biblical love of fellow believers, and doctrinal principles related to church planting. All of those things are valuable transformational pieces but more importantly I came to see the Lord more clearly and love the Lord all the more because of many of those perspectives.

The Lord immensely blessed and transformed me through my time spend in Scotland. I am eternally thankful and grateful for the opportunity. I consider it such a privilege to have known, loved, and been known by that body. I carry many of the lessons learned there with me today. I only pray that I would faithfully be able to further His kingdom here better because of the growth and transformation bestowed upon me there. It is His kingdom, for His glory, and only by His grace!

Alumni Reflections – John Gardner & Jackie Ellis Gardner

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from John and Jackie Gardner.

John Gardner and Jackie Ellis Gardner – Autumn 2004
Then – Geneva College students
Now- John is the youth pastor at Chapel Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Beaver, Pennsylvania; Jackie, his wife, is a teacher at Beaver County Christian School. 

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John and Jackie in 2004

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John and Jackie in January 2018

My wife Jackie and I attended the Semester in Scotland program in the fall of 2004. Though it was over a decade ago, the memories and experiences gained through one semester abroad in the particular context of Airdrie RP had an incredible impact on our love for Christ’s church and our love for the people of Airdrie. The Semester in Scotland program is rigorous in instruction, deep in theological preparation, and absolutely unique in the way that it brings students into the community life of the church.

Even though neither of us are in the RP church, the theological insight into the Covenanter movement and the church which it has helped to create was a fine introduction to a storied past. The depth of contact with the stories and locations was top notch, and presented in such a way that regardless of one’s traditions, God is given the highest glory for the sustaining of his people.

With friends sharing stories from other study abroad programs, no other program seems to have attained the depth of Christian community as the Semester in Scotland. We were part of a small group that we loved, we served students with whom we are still Facebook friends, and we connected with people who expressed a genuine commitment to hospitality for a bunch of weird Americans who would only be around for a few months. Any institution can assemble students for study in a new place, and throw in a few interesting cultural tidbits. We know of no place that was so deeply committed to loving and serving students for a semester as the RP Church in Airdrie. This is no mere program of Andrew Quigley and a few students, but an investment by an entire church who all played a part in our education, and more importantly, our edification.

We remain deeply grateful for each day in Airdrie.

Alumni Reflections – Noah Bailey & Lydia Shafer Bailey

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Noah and Lydia Bailey.

Noah Bailey and Lydia Shafer Bailey – Autumn 2004
Then – Geneva College students
Now- Noah is the minister of First RP Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Lydia, his wife, is a homemaker and mother of six. 

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Noah and Lydia in 2004

 

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Noah and Lydia Bailey and their children in September 2017.

Our Semester in Scotland profoundly moulded our lives and ministry. We regularly discover and discuss the myriad of connections our present experiences have with our four months beyond the pond. In small and unexpected ways, we see that season still shaping our decisions. The practice of walking to stores and depending on public transit in and around Airdrie made the shift to urban life in Cambridge, MA comfortable. Tea and biscuits remain a daily routine! But, the big and intended changes, woven into the vision and habits of the program, stand out best.

When in Airdrie, we were in someone’s home each week. We also popped in for movie night, game night, and, of course, METS. Stories of legendary meals still circulate our conversations (Ian teaching John how to pour cream in cake!) and inspire our cooking. Such unstinting hospitality lives on in how we run our home. The door is open and the table is set.

When in Airdrie, the Word of God was always open. Andrew taught us from Nehemiah each morning. He preached powerfully and faithfully from Genesis 1 and Romans 1. I do not try to preach like Andrew, but I remain inspired by the intensity of his delivery, his fidelity to the text, and his unswerving desire to reach the heart. I hope these three can be found in my preaching too. Reading through Ezekiel with our MET inspired us to cultivate the same quiet, Bible centered midweek time. Ian’s teaching through Luke in the Kids’ Club persuaded us to better hone our skills in communicating to little ones. The Word was ever-present in Airdrie.

When in Airdrie, the prayers of the saints stunned us. We still get emotional when remembering our first Lord’s Day morning, sitting in a circle and hearing complete strangers beg God for blessings on us and others. We have begun pre-worship prayer meetings in every church we have been a part of and anticipate doing the same in the one we just joined. Prayer is God’s people reaching for God’s power and we experienced that in Airdrie.

When in Airdrie, the Psalms were sung with understanding and fervency. Michael LeFebvre shared rich insights into Psalm 119. Andrew introduced each Psalm with a sentence or two about its value to the singer (a practice I have shamelessly copied every Lord’s Day of my ministry). Ian sang with a smiling face, a speedy tempo, and an open mouth. After evening worship, the Psalm practices made us marvel at the saints’ commitment. We learned to love Psalm singing cheerfully and seriously.

When in Airdrie, the Covenanters lived on in their proper place. They were not worshipped and they were not forgotten. Seen as the sinful people they were, we nevertheless saw their courageous commitment to God’s glory and His Church’s purity. Andrew’s words still ring in me and in my words, “It’s not about how they died, but how they lived. They lived for Christ and so, when the time came, they were ready to die for Christ.” Profound and poignant.

When in Airdrie, the reality of the Global Church came into view. Like too many Americans, we went to Scotland unbelievably ignorant of Jesus’ work around the world. That autumn we learned to stay aware of the bigger world and the church’s labors all over. We prayed and now still pray for a church that reaches far beyond America’s borders. The privileges and responsibilities of a worldwide fellowship of saints first came to our attention there.

The imprint of our Semester in Scotland remains on us personally. Again, there are little things like Covenanter portraits and artwork all over our house. Then, there are big things like naming our sons Michael Renwick, Andrew Knox, and Allen Argyll. Our Semester in Scotland is even found in the story of our marriage. I got down on one knee and presented a diamond to Lydia and she said yes – Airdrie, Scotland. The impact of our Semester in Scotland is hard to state succinctly. It is too big and too powerful, too alive and too emotional. Indeed, we are still discovering and discussing Airdrie’s impact on us.

Alumni Reflections – Natalie Weir Faris

The Semester in Scotland programme has been around since 2003.  In the autumn of 2017 we contacted past students asking them to send us a reflection on the impact Semester in Scotland made on their lives.  For the next several months, we will be featuring one of these reflections a week. 

Natalie Weir Faris – Autumn 2003
Then – Geneva Student
Now – Reformed Presbyterian missionary in South Sudan

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Natalie in 2003

Natalie now

Daniel and Natalie Faris and their 3 sons in Colorado in June 2017.

“I grew up in a healthy church with solid biblical teaching, and yet the Semester in Scotland program helped me see that there is no substitute for the basic elements of Christian discipleship and church life: the Word and prayer. As we mixed hands-on involvement in the local church with tours of martyrs’ graves, I came to realize that the glory of dying for Christ is always preceded by the glory of living for Christ.”

Final Reflections

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When reflecting upon my time in Scotland, the old adage comes to mind: “time flies when you’re having fun.” Yes, yes, I know, that’s a cheesy line, but it’s true! As I look back on the past four months, all I can really think about is how thankful I am. It feels like I just arrived at Scotland, but also feels as if I’ve been here for forever. These four months in Scotland will not be forgotten. I don’t know how to begin to convey everything I’m grateful for, but here’s a few things:

Our classes: the readings, the instructors, and the lectures.

People: well, a whole ton of people. But special mention to the Airdrie RP Church for welcoming us with loving and open arms! (Special mention goes to Beth, who was basically my replacement mom, friend, chauffer, tour guide, etc.)

Time set aside in the program itself for spending time in the Word and prayer every single day.

Our week-long Reformation tour and Wednesday trips with Jimmy and Helen.

The opportunity to serve in Kids Club and CY every Friday—I’ve learned so much about God, the kids, and myself through this!

The prayers of so many here in Scotland, and also of friends and family at home.

The beautiful, fairytale land of Scotland.

Whether it be traipsing through the Highlands, listening to lectures, or enjoying Sunday fellowship, I firmly believe that every aspect of this program has been beneficial to my sanctification. This has really been a time for me to reflect on who God is, and who He is to me. Although I am so sad to be leaving Scotland, I am looking forward to finishing off my college career and beginning a new phase in my life! So long Scotland. You and your people have been good to me, and God has been steadfast throughout. Until we meet again!

Julia Lodder

Goodbye for Now

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Four months have come and gone in a blink of an eye. It is hard to believe that as I sit here writing this, it is already mid-December and in four days I will be on a plane back home. The people here have been so welcoming, and with the right attitude, Scotland can easily become a second home, like it has been for me. I just want to give a special thank you to everyone who I had an opportunity to know and interact with while here. Everyone made an impact in my life since my arrival. These last few days have been busy in finishing all my work for the courses but also from trying to spend the most time possible with my friends here in Scotland. The opportunity to travel to Scotland and learn about the things of God have made an everlasting impact on my life, and I could not be happier to see my spiritual growth since my arrival. This program has done an excellent job in helping me grow spiritually and as an adult. Being in a foreign area requires an amount of independence that you quickly develop from being in a different environment. There has not been a single moment that I have regretted on my journey. I am torn to have to leave my new family but excited to see my friends and family back home. I am optimistic that I will return one day to Scotland. This program has changed the course of my character for the better. I would recommend this program to anyone! Once again, I am so grateful for the opportunity to come and be impacted by this program and the wonderful people that have come across my life in the past four months. Just as everyone has impacted my life, I hope that I left the same impact in their lives. So, this is goodbye for now, Scotland, until the day comes when I can come back.

Jordan King

urqhuart castle

ice skating

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Trip to London (Part Two)

Prior to our week in London, I had a very romanticized view of what the city would be like. I often have done this before I visit cities: I read about them, watch movies or TV shows about them, and see Instagram posts about them. These pictures never live up to reality. Much to my delight, so much of what I had pictured and imagined London to be was real. It is a city rich with history and it really is a bookworm’s delight!

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The history of London as an established city goes back to the Roman occupation of their client-kingdom, Brittania. Small tribes dwelt on the Thames for millennia before this period, but London wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for the Romans. Around 43 AD, London became a central port for the Romans. It was strategically located on the River Thames (pictured above) and at the center of several Roman roads. London has grown into a city of 8.8 million people and its significance has only grown over the last two thousand years.

Although Jordan’s blog post was about our first two days in London and our day of Oxford, I thought I’d include a few of my favorite pictures from these days.

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Westminster Abbey

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One of the Horse Guards

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The British Museum

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The West End at night

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The Radcliffe Camera at Oxford

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Oxford

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The dining hall at Christ Church College, Oxford

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Christ Church College, Oxford

On Thursday, we braved the Underground and made our way to the Tower of London. It was a brisk and sunny day. We began the day with a Yeoman Warder (Royal Bodyguards) tour, which proved to be highly entertaining.

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In 1066 William the Conqueror, a Norman, became King William I of England. He built a royal palace and fortress in the east of the city, now known as the White Tower, on top of an old Roman fortress. For the subsequent 500 years, this building was expanded upon and dwelt in by the kings and queens.

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The White Tower

In 1220, 13 towers with inner defensive walls were built around the white tower. Then, in 1280 an outer defensive wall was built with 6 more towers. A 120-foot-wide moat was built all the way around, using the tidal flow of the Thames, by an expert from Holland.

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The Tower of London is fascinating because it’s been a royal mint, a royal armory, and a royal zoo, among other things.

This palace complex became a well-known prison complex, and between the 12th and 18th centuries there were a lot of executions.

Thomas More was held in the strongest tower because he didn’t acknowledge the king as the head of the church. He was subsequently executed, in 1535.

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The Yeoman Warders and their families live in the tower complex and are locked in at 10pm daily. The Crown Jewels of England are held in the Tower to this day.

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Tower Bridge

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Caitlin and I exploring the Tower

After a wonderful time at the Tower of London, we made our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Taxis are realllyyyyyy long in England

Pictures were not allowed inside, so this is the only picture you’ll see from me of St. Paul’s. Pictures wouldn’t even begin to display the majesty of this structure, so I was okay with not taking any.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is Christopher Wren’s masterpiece of church architecture, built after the Great Fire. It was designed as an Anglican cathedral in the shape of a cross. The dome, as you can see above, is the natural heart of the building and the center of worship today. This is actually the only dome on an English cathedral. The quire, where the clergy and choir are seated, is where worship through music is centered and is positioned in front of the high altar, which faces the rising sun. The mosaics on the ceiling above the quire portray God’s creation and the fall and redemption of humankind. They were done in the Byzantine style, and have a glorious shimmering effect when hit by light. We got to sit in the quire when we went to an Evensong service, and it was a really incredible experience and something I’ll cherish for a long time.

One of the things I found interesting about the cathedral was a video illustration called “Martyrs.” This is the first video illustration in any cathedral, done by contemporary American artist Bill Viola. Fascinating, as it uses art as a shared language and slows down video to deepen our perception of who we’ve become. Here’s a link to the video if you’re interested in seeing what I’m writing about: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/video/2014/may/21/bill-viola-martyrs-video-st-pauls-cathedral

On Friday, we began our day at the National Gallery.

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Here, we saw the art of medieval, renaissance, and baroque masters. The collection was extensive. We were there for two hours, and I felt like we barely scratched the surface! My favorite pieces I got to see were by Klimt, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Monet.

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We then made our way in the cold to Covent Garden, which was all decorated for Christmas.

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We made it back to Scotland safely on Friday night, and the next morning it seemed as though winter suddenly appeared!

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We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with friends on Saturday, and indeed have so much to be thankful for!

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Julia Lodder