A Collection of Thoughts

It is hard to believe that we have already been in Scotland for three weeks now.  The more I see of Scotland, the more I am in awe of the beauty here.  I have also found it is an incredible place to feed the imagination.  Ruined castles, plots and conspiracies, evil villains, secret passages behind wall panels, endless dark staircases, knights in shining armor, and princesses of a bygone age all sound like things from fairy tales or mystery novels.  Yet in Scotland these things are no fantasy.  You can no longer see the knights, kings, and queens who once lived in Linlithgow Palace or go through secret passages which once led from a stately house to a castle a mile away, yet they were at one time a reality here in Scotland.  The history and the stories of Scotland are absolutely fascinating.  It has been wonderful, not only to learn about these things in books but to see the places where so many notable people walked in past ages.

We have learned a great deal about the history of the Reformation and the Covenanters here in Scotland over the past few weeks as we were gearing up for our Reformation Tour this coming week.  I have again been so impressed by the courage and faith of the men and women who were not afraid to give their lives for Christ. It is also a sad testimony to how people can be turned against their own countrymen and commit terrible atrocities.  In our travels this week we saw the House of the Binns, which belonged to the notorious persecutor of the Covenanters, General Thomas Dalziel.  If captured, Covenanters could be taken to that house and a number were tortured and died there.  Dalziel was a hated man for his cruelty not only to Covenanters but in other quarters as well.  We were told how Dalziel had a secret passageway accessed from behind the paneling of his house, which ran underground to the nearest castle, probably a mile away.

House of the Binns2

House of the Binns

This week we also enjoyed seeing Linlithgow Palace which is beautiful even though in ruins.  Walking through room after room, it was easy to imagine its grandeur at one time.  We climbed to the top of the highest tower of the palace and could see that at one time the tower went even higher with a spiral staircase around the outside, but now that staircase leads into oblivion.  It made me think of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Kidnapped where the main character David is sent by his evil uncle to retrieve things in the dark only to find the winding staircase leads him right off the edge.  Had he not been careful he would have fallen to a certain death.  I have encountered many things this past week that have either brought my mind to stories I know, or which would certainly make for excellent story material.  Scotland is truly an amazing place.

Staircase to nowhere

Staircase to nowhere

Linlithgow5

Linlithgow Palace

This past week has also been wonderful because of the time we have had to read for our classes and meditate on God’s Word.  In our Christian Ministry class we are going through a book on the Spiritual Disciplines, and I have been greatly challenged by the need not only to read God’s Word but also to memorize and meditate on it.  While reading the Bible is never a bad thing, it does little good if it is not thought about and applied to my life.  I am so thankful for the perspective the book presents about the motivation for being disciplined in our Christian life.  It is not so that we can work our way into heaven, but rather, being saved by God’s grace these are the means God uses to make us more conformed to Christ – our main goal as Christians!  I know there is no way in my own  efforts that I could make myself conformed to Christ, but His promise is to lead all the way – “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” – Psalm 16:11 (KJV)

Rachel Mack

Adventures in Scotland

Despite the somewhat rainy weather, I have completely and utterly fallen in love with Scotland in the span of a mere two weeks.  This can be attributed to the fact that God has truly “showered us” with blessing after blessing right from the start of our adventure.  This began with opening up an extra security line in the airport and getting us through customs when we were sure we were going to miss our connecting flight from London to Edinburgh.

While I was very thankful we did not have to reschedule our flight, an even bigger blessing has been the Airdrie RP Church.  The people there have made us feel right at home, and they all seem to embody a rare form of love and authenticity.  I have come to recognize this through various ways: being invited over to someone’s home every Sunday after church for lunch, being welcomed into METs (which are small group Bible studies mid-week in people’s homes), getting invited to a Burns supper to commemorate the famous Scottish poet (where Rachel and I got to try haggis for the first time and dare I say, we found it to be surprisingly good!), and being able to tag along on weekend trips to fun places!

This past Saturday we got to go to Perthshire, which is absolutely breathtaking.  We touched the oldest living thing in Europe—a yew tree, which is between 2,000 and 5,000 years old, and located in the town that is the legendary birthplace of Pontius Pilate.  Also, I have never seen such beautiful snow-capped mountains and rolling hills with quaint little streams in my life.  Earlier in the week we got to go back to Glasgow and see the Cathedral and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  It is quite humbling to stand inside buildings that are older than your country.

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

Falls of Dochart

Falls of Dochart, Killin

This weekend I also had the privilege of giving the Bible lesson at Kids Club which takes place every Friday night.  I am continually blown away by how much Bible knowledge these young kids have (when I can understand their accents).  That is a huge testimony to the importance of Scripture being the focal point at the RP church, along with pursuing Godliness.

Recently, God has been teaching me about freedom in the dawn of new beginnings.  Once we can recognize that we are already loved perfectly, and can find complete satisfaction in Jesus, then new experiences and new relationships can develop in the freedom of knowing that nothing can be added to or taken away from the love that God already has for us.  This has helped eliminate many of my fears related to what people will think of me (a weird American) and with having the confidence to try new things.

Love Jesus. Experience freedom. Travel to Scotland ASAP.

-Nicki Losh

Perthshire

Perthshire

Perthshire farm

Perthshire Farm

Fortingal yew

Rachel touching the Fortingall yew tree.

First Week

Our first week in Scotland both commenced and concluded in a winter wonderland of crisp white snow.  Our landing into Edinburgh was shrouded in fog, giving a sense of intriguing mystery to the first few moments here.  The fog lifting, we were welcomed by the Scottish landscape dusted with fresh white snow.  Now on the following Saturday, we have again been enchanted by the beauty of freshly falling snow.  Our travels today took us to the lovely town of Luss on Loch Lomond.  While obscuring a greater view of the Loch itself, the big flakes of silent falling snow only enhanced the beauty of the scenery as we walked through the quaint village.

Luss

Luss, Loch Lomond

But it has not been the welcoming of the snowy landscape which has ultimately made this week, rather the welcome of the people here which has made this first week wonderful.  Everyone from the Aidrie RP Church has extended such gracious hospitality and warm words of encouragement even though we are virtual strangers.  That is something for which I am extremely thankful.

I have also been blessed already by our classes.  Each class offers an excellent opportunity to ponder the things of Christ and grapple with the most important things in life.  As one of my professors put it, this semester “offers a time to think about the things which really matter.”  And that certainly rings true.  In one week alone through the coursework, it has been a meaningful time to reflect, read about, and study the things which do really matter – the knowledge of God and growing in conformity to Christ.

I am also amazed at all the adventures which we have had in just one week, – some of them difficulties, but most of them wonderful experiences and travels.  From just barely making our connecting flight to Edinburgh in time and having delayed luggage, to visiting Bannockburn, Stirling Castle, and Loch Lomond, you could say the week has been all over the map.  On our Wednesday trip to Stirling Castle we were blessed to have Jimmy and Helen Fisher as our tour guides.  They have already showed us not only very beautiful places but places saturated with history and meaning.  Just one example was seeing the chapel where John Knox preached in Stirling Castle.  Overall, the adventures of this first week only make me look forward all the more to the rest of the semester.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Driving back from Loch Lomond to our flat in the beautiful snow, I was thinking back on this week and what we have been studying.  Because we are studying a number of theology related subjects, much of the course material we covered this week started by considering the black backdrop of sin.  It is against this background that the gospel gleams so bright.  The recurring theme of sin coupled with the beauty of the clean white snow brought to mind the gospel foretelling promise in Isaiah: “ Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they will be like wool” (Is. 1:18).  Considering how bad sin truly is, this is an absolutely amazing promise!

Rachel Mack

Spring Semester About to Start

There are two students coming on the Semester in Scotland programme this spring: Nicki Losh and Rachel Mack.  The girls arrive the 9th January to begin their studies on the 11th January.  The semester runs until the 29th April.

Daily Schedule
Mornings
– 9.15 am – worship
– assigned reading
Afternoons
– seminars led by Teachers
Wednesday Afternoons
– cultural trips

Teachers
Rev. Andrew Quigley will teach –  Church Ministry
Dr. Tim Donachie will teach – Humanities in England and Scotland
Rev. Kenneth Stewart will teach – Systematic Theology
Mr. Stephen McCollum will teach – Life and Work of Paul
Mr. Jimmy Fisher will teach –  Scottish Christian History: 1st and 2nd Scottish Reformations
Miss Beth Bogue will teach – Women’s Ministry to Women

You can read more about the programme here: http://www.geneva.edu/semester-in-scotland/

Read about Rachel and Nicki here:

RachelRachel Mack
I live in West Haven, Connecticut.  I am a member of Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church. At college, I attend College Hill RP Church. I am in my second year and studying Middle School Education. I love reading, spending time with family, and being with children.  I also enjoy playing volleyball and doing crafts for fun. I am very interested in British church history as well as theology, and I am greatly looking forward to my classes in Scotland.  I am so thankful for this opportunity!

NickiNicki Losh
I am from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and I am in my third year at Geneva College where I am studying psychology and business and human services.  I love Jesus, adventures, learning, sports, and the beach.  I am so excited to meet new people and get to know Scotland.

Final Reflections – Juliana Miller

Juliana

I do not know how to express my sadness in leaving Scotland.  This semester has been the best, and I am so blessed to have had such an amazing time here in Scotland.  I wish it would never end,  and I wouldn’t have to leave, but tomorrow I fly home.  I am excited to see my family and friends back home, but the Airdrie church has become like a second family to me, and I will miss everyone so much.  I have so many memories of my time here that I will always cherish.  Some of my best memories involve spending time with the young people.  I have loved being involved in Kid’s Club and getting to know the kids.  They are so much fun and I’ve enjoyed singing with them, playing games with them, and teaching them.  I was so encouraged to see their eagerness to learn about God, hear them pray, and witness their kindness and friendliness.  I will miss them all and the serious as well as the fun times at Kid’s Club.  The CY events have been such an amazing time for me and I have really enjoyed spending time with the young people.  Everyone seems to accept and get along with everyone else and treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is so encouraging to see Calvin and Jess and others in the CY having such an enjoyable time and to see the many ways in which the church is investing in their lives.  Everyone at the church was so kind, friendly, and hospitable and showed they really cared and wanted to get to know us, and I will miss them.  One of my favorite parts of being here was going to people’s homes on Sunday afternoons for lunch and spending time hearing their stories and getting to know them.

I have really loved the classes as well and have learned so much through this semester.  I have looked forward to studying in Scotland ever since I started going to Geneva four years ago, and it has exceeded my expectations in the ways in which it has transformed my life and convicted me of my sin and lack of devotion to God.  I have been encouraged to strive for holiness and to desire to know God more and more.  Throughout the semester, I have appreciated the many opportunities to reflect on what we are learning and apply it to my life.  I have had times of such great growth in my prayer life, Scripture reading, and meditation, and my personal devotions have been transformed by a renewed desire for God.  I pray that God will continue to give me a desire to know Him and seek after Him through reading His Word, meditating, and praying.

Traveling around Scotland with Jimmy and Helen Fisher to see many different sites involving the Covenanters was eye-opening and was very convicting.  I have always loved learning about the Covenanters and their amazing faith and determination to obey God no matter the cost. They suffered terrible things for Christ, and I was moved by their constant trust in God and devotion to Him.  Standing  by the grave of those who had been brutally killed for just reading their Bibles helped me to understand that they were just like us and did things that we do such as meeting their fiancé for lunch, teaching little children about God, or going to a worship service.  Jimmy and Helen were great and it was a lot of fun traveling with them to Covenanter sites as well as other historical sites.  Some of my favorites were visiting Wigtown where the two Margarets were executed, exploring abandoned castles, visiting St. Andrews, seeing ancient Cairns, and traveling up into the Highlands.  I will really miss their teasing, the joy they take in life, and their willingness to answer all our questions.

I loved getting to know Tim Donachie through our British Humanities class with him.  It was very sad when he was unable to travel to London with us, but I loved having Carla and Stephen Steele take us to London.  I had such an enjoyable time with them taking buses and subways and seeing the historical sites of London as well as our chats in the evening around the dinner table.  I loved getting to know them in that time and have many great memories from that trip.  Our Systematic Theology class with Kenneth Stewart was really helpful and thought provoking, and I learned so much through it.  I enjoyed getting to  know Kenneth Stewart through that and loved meeting his family and visiting the Glasgow RP church where he is the minister.  I loved my evangelism class with Stephen McCollum and have a lot to think about as a result of our classes.  Stephen and Brenda were very kind to us and I loved spending Thanksgiving at their flat and enjoying their hospitality on other occasions.

I really enjoyed getting to know the Quigleys through my time here.  Andrew’s classes and sermons were very convicting and encouraging, and I have grown so much in my Christian life through them.  The Quigleys were so good to us, and I loved spending time with them, chatting and having fun.  I will miss them and the fun times at their home, going to the play park, and hanging out at the church.

I have loved getting to know Beth Bogue, the church’s secretary.  She has blessed me in so many ways, and I have loved the times in which we have laughed together, discussed deep issues, and received advice from her.  There are many others who have invested so much in us students, and I am so grateful for the ways in which they have blessed me and will miss them.

Lastly, I will miss Bethany, Jessica, and Castine whom I have come to know so well through spending the semester with them.  I have loved getting to know them, traveling with them, and studying with them.  I have fond memories of the crazy times when we have laughed hysterically and the serious times when we have discussed deep issues and spiritual matters both in class and outside of class.  Each of them has encouraged and blessed me in many ways, and I love them all deeply.

Through my time here, I have really come to love Scotland with its gorgeous scenery, majestic hills, and misty Highlands.  But more than the scenery, I have come to love the people I have met and have developed lasting friendships with many.  God has used this experience in amazing ways in my life to give me opportunities to serve Him, grow in my holiness, and draw closer to Him each and every day, and I will never forget my time here in Scotland.  Saying goodbye to so many that I have come to know and love has reminded me that a day will come when we will no longer have to say goodbye but will spend eternity together in God’s presence, and I look forward with great joy to that day.

Final Reflections – Bethany Cerbus

Bethany in Highlands2

Coming to Scotland is definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am very much a homebody, and I don’t like being away from family.  I am also fairly independent in that I like to do everything myself.  Asking people for help is not something that I am used to doing.  So coming to Scotland was a huge challenge for me as I was separated from my family and friends, but also because I had to humble myself and ask people for help.  Thankfully God taught me once again just how valuable His church is.

There have been a couple of times in my life where I have come to appreciate just what it means to be a part of the family of Christ, and my time in Scotland has been one of them.  While the people in the church at Airdrie may not be my biological family, we are all adopted sons and daughters of our Lord.  And being a part of the family of God is a privilege that we need to appreciate more – I know that I certainly need to be reminded of it.  Whenever I travel to a new place and worship with the people there I am always struck by just how much we have in common despite language, cultural, and geographical barriers.  There have been several days since I have been in Airdrie where I was especially homesick, and it has been either the girls studying with me or members of the church that have encouraged me.

God also humbled me during this time and taught me how to lean on people and ask for help when I otherwise wouldn’t.  I have always preferred to take care of myself and take myself where I need to go, or buy whatever I needed myself instead of borrowing.  But being in another country where I don’t have a car and not a lot of the stuff I own around, has forced me to ask people for help.  This has been a good experience because it has helped me to see how generous God’s people are.  And it has spurred me to think about how I can be more generous to the people around me.  I have been so blessed to worship in a church where people offer their time, cars, and cooking supplies sometimes without your asking them.
I will be sad to leave Airdrie, and I will be sad to leave all of the people that I have come to know and love.  But I know that I will see them someday soon and will hopefully have the opportunity to repay their kindness to me if they ever come visit America!

Final Reflections – Jessica McCarrier

JessicaAs the semester winds down, and we prepare to head home it is time to reflect on the time I have spent here.  I cannot believe how fast almost 4 months has gone by.  When we first arrived in Scotland I was so overwhelmed and scared that I would be desperately homesick.  But as we adjusted into life here, it became so much easier, and it felt like home!  We have become pros at navigating public transportation, and the streets of the big cities, and even the money.  I cannot even explain how strange and amazing it is to feel so comfortable with a whole new culture other than the one I was raised in.

Another aspect that made it so easy to adjust to life here was the congregation at the Airdrie RP church.  They are such incredible people that welcomed us with open arms into their lives and homes.  It was incredible to be able to meet people and their families and get to know their stories.  Being able to get to know the kids through Kids Club was amazing!  I loved asking them if anything exciting happened during their week at school.  I usually got the typical 9 year-old answers that nothing happened, and they didn’t learn a thing.  I cannot wait to come back some day and see what incredible adults those kids grow up to be.

Every Sunday we were invited over for lunch after church.  Other than the fact that meals were delicious, these lunches honestly made me feel so welcome and loved!  It is hard to be away from your family and friends for a long time, and when people invested their time into us it felt like a second family.  On Tuesdays I had my MET where I went to George’s house for a time of devotions with other members of the church.  During these times we were discussing the book of Judges verse by verse.  This allowed me to understand more in depth the struggles the Judges and Israelites went through.

My classes I took part in this semester also helped me a great deal in understanding my faith and what I believe.  There were many times when I had to question the doctrine of my own church and see why I believed what I believed.  It was an incredible opportunity to be able to have class with Rev. Kenneth Stewart and learn more about the tricky aspects of theology that we often question.  I also really enjoyed the class with Pastor Quigley when we read through Spiritual Disciplines.  It was a very good book that went through the different disciplines that we are to partake in throughout our Christian walk.  It was a very valuable tool that I plan to go back to as I live life and meet new struggles.

I will honestly never forget my time here.  I have made life long friends and have gained so many skills during the semester.  When I signed up for this experience last year, Dr. Watt told me it would push me out of my comfort zone, and it did and then some.  I cannot thank the people involved with this semester enough.  I hope dearly to come back some day and revisit the wonderful people and the amazing sights Scotland has to offer.  God is good, and He has reveled that to me more than I could have ever expected.

Final Reflections – Castine

Castine sliderThis semester has gone by so fast.  We have been blessed with great travels, great teachings, but more importantly great friendships.  The four of us girls came here as strangers and now leave as friends.  Not only have we become good friends with one another, but also the people of the Airdrie church, as well as the larger church of Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The saddest part of leaving is saying goodbye to the friends we made here.  Some of whom we will never see again, and others not for a long time.  I take hope in the fact that eventually we will see one another again in Christ.  These bonds we have made here have been a great influence in my walk of faith.  This congregation has invested so much time and care into each of us, whether it is through people being hospitable or simply asking us about our week.  I realize they do this not only out of love for us, but more importantly out of love for God. “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from your heart” from I Peter 1:22 comes to mind when I think of the Airdrie hospitality.  Faith and love of Christ is the heart of the congregation here, and it shows to the fullest extent.  We were always amazed and grateful at how people were willing to go out of their way to take care of us and make us comfortable.  I just want to thank all of you who invested in us while we were staying with you.  You all have been a light for Christ in my life and have been a joy to get to know.  Continue strong in your walks of faith, and know I will be praying for you and thanking God for you.

When I first arrived in Scotland, I had felt that I had plateaued in my faith.  I knew I had more to learn, and I always will, but I felt stuck in how to grow.  The first few weeks of class were reviving and exciting.  I was hearing things I had heard and known since a child, but in a new and tangible way.  We were reminded that our goal in life is to pursue holiness, and to obtain that is to become more Christ-like.  This program builds you up that you may have the Word written and stored in your heart and an understanding of how to approach and learn all you can from His Word.  This semester gave me an arsenal of books that I had lacked to assist me in my walk of faith, as well as new tools and insight in how to read my Bible.  We have read book after book of ways to do this and why we should be transforming ourselves to His image daily.  God used my time here to breathe new life into my faith and to strengthen and push me in my personal walk.  This semester has reminded me to be constantly reorienting my life to Christ and what is in His Word.  For our last group devotion, we discussed 1 Peter 1: 13-25.  This was just another example of what we had been learning all semester.  To be holy, not conforming to the world, but instead to the Word of God and into His likeness.  We are called to “Be holy, for I am holy”.  And this will be what I take with me from this experience, to be an imitator of Christ, and show His love to everyone around me.  To be diligent in my seeking Him, and to never be satisfied with my desire to understand His Word, but always want more.

 

Thanksgiving

P1090761This was my first American Thanksgiving celebrated outside of the States for as long as I can remember.  This may sound surprising coming from someone who lived in Canada for most of her life, but my family always went to the States each year to celebrate with my Dad’s side of the family.  Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays because I am very close with my cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.  Every year for Thanksgiving we get together and play games, chat, tease, laugh, eat together, and I love every moment.  So, missing out on that was sort of hard for me while I am in Scotland, but the Thanksgiving we had with the young adults here felt like celebrating with family.  I had such an enjoyable time!

There were around twenty people who came, each one bearing some part of the Thanksgiving feast.  We all fit quite comfortably into Stephen and Brenda’s flat without feeling too crowded.  Stephen read Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation before we prayed which I had never heard before.  The food was delicious and there were all the typical Thanksgiving dishes including turkey, gravy, stuffing, cornbread, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin cheesecake, and apple pies.  It was great fun chatting around the tables.  Afterwards, we chatted for hours, everyone feeling too full to move or unwilling to go out into the pouring rain and cold.  I really enjoyed how everyone made the new people feel welcome.  There were a few girls I didn’t know, who were visiting from Northern Ireland, the States, or studying in Glasgow.  I had a friend from Geneva who came to visit me since she is studying abroad in Ireland for the semester.  She knew no one, yet everyone made an effort to make her feel welcome by chatting with her.  I enjoyed meeting new people and spending time with those I already knew, some I might not see again in my time here in Scotland.  I wished the evening would never end as we sat in a circle chatting, teasing, and laughing.  I was so blessed to experience such a wonderful taste of the fellowship we will experience in Heaven.

Juliana Miller

ThanksgivingBethany and Castine with cakeBethany and Jessica at Thanksgiving

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.