The plane had been above the dense clouds for an hour, but as we began our descent, patches of green broke through the thick gray. I sat perfectly still. The rough turbulence, like the rest of the world around me, was barely a reality – more like a dream. My mind struggled to grasp the fact that my eyes were now roaming over the land of Knox. For years, I had dreamt of this kingdom – had scaled Highland giants, had run through lowland moors, had gazed upon martyr graves, but only in my imagination. Here, now, on that plane, reality broke through.
Some may find it strange that some American kid would be so infatuated with a foreign country. Especially to the degree that I was. The explanation, however, is simple. Here, the world saw a special work of God, in the lives of His peculiar people, a work that no other land had the privilege to know. That’s what drew me here. The history was blended so seamlessly with the cause of Christ that I could not but love to gaze upon the monuments erected to the same. But now that the semester has drawn to a close, I think that I can add more to this reason for my love for this place.
The semester itself, with its curriculum, structure, and facilitators was an unexpected, but nonetheless, good, surprise. The format of each class is built upon the old British system, which is done by reading the course material and then corporately discussing the same topic under the prevue of an educated instructor. This allows for the student to engage in each class as the theoretical and the practical are discussed in tandem. How then shall we live is something that can be discussed with freedom, that, in another class structure, would likely be inhibited. But that’s not all. Each class day has a built in time block for worship, and then Bible reading. On top of one’s normal Bible reading plan, this allows for one to intentionally dig deeper into Scripture.
The semester is also closely connected to the congregation. The student is given the opportunity to get to know the Bride of Christ in a deeper way than what I could have imagined. This is a peculiar element to the program that only this semester abroad provides. You may have exotic countries, exotic cultures, and harrowing adventures, but none that I know of allows the student to so closely interact with those for whom the Lord of Glory suffered and died to redeem unto Himself.
The benefits of this program can be easily inferred based upon what is described above, but allow me to elaborate further. The teachers of each class are especially concerned with the personal growth of each student. Under the guidance of Jimmy Fisher, one is brought to consider the history and the piety of the reformation in Scotland. Under Stephen McCollum the student receives experiential theology with force. And under Rev. Quigley, one is brought to consider the Christian ministry by one who has labored in those fields for decades and who loves the congregation – which love is as easily discernable as physical features of the classroom. In the congregation, friends exist in plenty. And not the transient, shallow kind, but friends that are seriously concerned with Christ, and thus, with living the life of obedience, and encouraging others in the same. I’ve made friends here that I could not have ever expected/hoped to make.
The takeaway lies in the edification that flows from all of those benefits. I walked the Highlands, ran across the lowlands, and repaired martyr graves, but the lasting benefit has been what this program has done, by the grace of God, toward my sanctification.