The Spring Semester in Scotland has started and Ethan and Kara are adjusting well to classes, reading, accommodation, church activities, and general life in Scotland. Please keep them in your prayers as they continue to settle in.
The Spring Semester in Scotland has started and Ethan and Kara are adjusting well to classes, reading, accommodation, church activities, and general life in Scotland. Please keep them in your prayers as they continue to settle in.
Spring Semester 2017 Students
First off I’m a born again Christian. I firmly believe that I have my first identity in Christ and thus it would be absurd not to begin any autobiographical note with anything other than that fact. I am twenty-one years old and live in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania with my dad, mom, and two of my three sisters. My ancestry is actually Scottish on my dad’s side so… I hope that counts for brownie points with you guys! I’ve attend church at Fairview Reformed Presbyterian church for my entire life. I’m in my third year at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania studying History and Philosophy. I enjoy hiking and exploring places I’ve never visited before so spending the spring in Scotland should be especially fun for me! I love dogs. My favourite sports are archery, volleyball, Frisbee, and baseball. I love music and, though I’m no good at playing it, music has in many ways been the catalyst through which God has shaped me into who I am today. I’ve been told I’m a pretty easygoing guy, so take that as you like. I also love dogs. This spring I hope to meet and befriend a lot of new people from the community of Airdrie, and I pray that we would mutually encourage each other to persevere in our faith. I would greatly appreciate your prayers in these last few days before I leave as I want to be sure that I spend these days with my senior friends at Geneva who I may not get to see even after my return to the states. Lastly I would like you all to pray that in all things I, and all other Christian brothers and sisters, would be content with the Lord’s will for the betterment of his kingdom.
I am in my third year at Geneva College studying Sociology and History, and I attend Fairview Reformed Presbyterian church (PCA). I grew up in Kenai, Alaska, but my parents now live in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania. I have five siblings, some of whom live with their families in Soldotna, Alaska, and some near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Spring Semester Schedule
12th January 2017
10th May 2017
Class starts at 9.15 am with worship
Mornings – They have assigned reading on their subjects
Afternoons – Seminars led by Teachers
Wednesday Afternoons – Cultural Trips
Rev. Andrew Quigley will teach – Church Ministry & The Christian 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
In full disclosure, I came very close to not participating in Semester in Scotland at all. Circumstances beyond my control seemed for a long time to spell certain doom to all my hopes and aspirations. I had my own reasons for wanting desperately to go and for many weeks I had almost resigned myself to the reality of not going and leaving all those goals unaccomplished. I had to depend solely on God to provide the means and work out the details that finally allowed me to come here to Scotland. Since He worked everything out, I assumed that God had something big for me to learn here. I even dared to presume what that might be. Now, when all is said and done, I can say that I got out of this program everything that I thought I would and then some. Some of the lessons I learned – both academic and spiritual – were not what I expected.
I came here as a newly decided Reformed Presbyterian from a Reformed Baptist upbringing. I held my convictions strongly and I came here in the hopes of crystalizing my beliefs and becoming more acquainted with my like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ. This goal was realized in every way as I read about the history of the Reformation and the Scottish Covenanters and studied the theology of the Westminster Confession. I can leave feeling a great admiration for and connection with some of our spiritual forbears of antiquity. What a special experience it is to be able to read and see the workings of God in a time such as the Reformation and be able to rejoice in how God accomplished His will.
It was another hope of mine for my faith to be strengthened through this experience, and that it certainly was. However, it was strengthened in areas that I did not expect. Through our readings in our Church ministry class – particularly in a splendid book called Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – I was convicted about the sorry state of my Scripture memorization. This experience helped me cultivate new habits that I hope will stick with me for life. Hopefully, in the future I will look back at when I began these practices and trace them to my time here in Scotland. I also got a chance to apply Scriptural teaching in current events. We all agonized and suffered through the uncertainty of an American election season from across the ocean, aided and guided by sound doctrinal teaching regarding God’s sovereignty and Christ’s kingship. The United States we will be returning to is a different country from when we left, but there is comfort in the fact that God knows all things and controls all things.
Another lesson I did not anticipate to learn is this: people are worth investing in, even if it may not seem that the return will be for very long. At first I didn’t want to get too close with our new friends because I knew that we would be leaving all too soon. However, the experience is enriched by the fellowship of new friends. We were able to integrate fairly seamlessly into the life of the local church congregation, due mainly to their unparalleled hospitality and warm welcome. It is a group of people like this that makes one want to serve in the church out of love and gratitude, not out of obligation. That should be our attitude towards service regardless, but brothers and sisters like the ones we have grown to know in Airdrie make this easy. We met and got to know a variety of lovely, godly people that I will truly miss.
I will miss a lot about this country I have come to love. The ease of public transportation, the rolling green hills with fluffy sheep, the sound of bagpipes on a busy shopping street, the brisk and blustery weather that lends the landscape a certain untamed mystery. I might even miss the foggy mornings that make the sunshine such a welcome sight. But most of all I will miss the people I have grown to know and the warmth of fellowship. Through the Semester in Scotland program I have learned many valuable life lessons from expected and unexpected sources which I will carry with me for the remainder of my life.
Lauren Della Piazza
Yesterday I sat on the train as Lauren and I rode into Glasgow for the last time. It was bittersweet. The sun was setting and the clouds glowed in vibrant shades of orange and pink. My heart was saddened by the fact that I will never again come back to Scotland in the same capacity that I did this semester. While this is sad, it’s a reminder that life moves on. I can’t stay here forever. My family and friends would definitely have something to stay if I did! These past few months in MET we have been discussing Ecclesiastes, in chapter 3 Solomon writes that for everything there is a season. My season as a student here in Airdrie has come to an end, it is time for me to go back to the states and continue my season of being a student at Geneva. Our first day here Andrew told us that we would blink and it would be time to go home. It was so true. I feel like I just arrived, but I also feel like I’ve been here forever. Being a part of the community in the church here has really made this place feel like home.
I have loved the classes I was able to take while here, and all of the places I was able to travel to, but my favorite thing by far has been the people. I am so thankful for being involved in Kids Club, MET, CY, and women’s events! Getting to know everyone here has made it feel like home, and it is what makes it so difficult to say goodbye. If I were to list all of the amazing people I’ve become friends with and how much they mean to me, it would get far too sappy. So I will just say that I am so thankful for all of you, for the food, fellowship, laughter, encouragement, and prayers. I love you guys.
There are many small moments from the past few months that stick with me: seeing a castle for the first time, singing in the kitchen with Lauren while we made dinner, playing football in the church hall with the kids, singing Psalms around the campfire in Northern Ireland at the Young Adults Weekend, driving through the Highlands with Beth, seeing Lauren fall into Loch Tay, looking out the window while riding the train into Glasgow, seeing London lit up in Christmas lights, wading through marshy highlands with Jimmy, sitting on the floor in the kitchen of the cottage with all the girls (and Fraser) after Thanksgiving, Andrew forcing us to try Irn-bu, singing Psalms at Beth’s, going to the rugby game with CY, and so many more things I will treasure forever.
There are so many little things about Scotland that I am going to miss: how easy it is to hop on a train and ride to either Glasgow or Edinburgh, gluten-free biscuits that are so much better and inexpensive here, being so close to mountains, coastlands, cities, and rural areas, watching movies at Beth’s and talking until late at night, Cadbury chocolate and how much better it is than Hershey, roundabouts and how they make so much more sense, Burger 7’s garlic fries and how amazingly garlicky they taste, going on adventures to unknown places with Jimmy and Helen, coming up with crafts for Kids Club, and so many more little things that probably won’t really hit me until I get home.
I have seen so many amazing things since I came here. I have been able to experience so many wonderful cities! I have fallen in love with Airdrie, Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews, York, and most of all London. I have been all over the UK, all the way up to Loch Ness, over to St Andrews, across the water to Northern Ireland, and down to London, with so many places in-between! Glasgow feels like a second home here in Scotland, it has become one of my favorite cities. I stayed in Edinburgh for a week with my mom and got to see many of its amazing and historical treasures. York was Lauren and my first solo overnight trip, it was so exciting. London is by far my favorite big city in the whole world, I fell in love with it. In general I have fallen completely in love with Scotland, and I feel like there is still so much more for me to see before I leave. So I guess I will just have to come back to visit.
These past four months have been so wonderful, I am so incredibly thankful that God placed the desire on my heart to come here. I know that I have changed a lot in the past few months, I have gained confidence and maturity, grown in my faith both head and heart knowledge, and I have made the most amazing connections with fellow believers. I will never forget my time here. Lord willing I will be back in Scotland again soon. I don’t like goodbyes, so I will simply say, see you later…
Hey all, this is Louisa.
This post is one that is supposed to sum up all of your final thoughts about the past semester. I don’t believe this is possible. Through this past semester, I have met many encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ, who have loved all of us so unconditionally and with so much understanding. I have learned so much and grown so much this past semester. I say semester, but it really feels like it has been so much longer, and I will miss everyone over here so much while away. I hope to one day come back and visit, but I doubt that I will ever live over here again as I have during this time. When I say that I will miss everyone, I am telling the truth, even now I am sitting in the middle of my mostly packed up bedroom, and crying because I will miss everyone whom I have met over here.
This semester had been one crazy ride, but one that I will forever remember my lessons from. I will remember all the peaceful times and crazy times, when I was scared, and excited, and when I learned about life and other cultures. This semester was a time in which I had a chance to grow both spiritually and in information. Scotland is a place I have come to love not only for the beautiful countryside and awesome architecture, but also for the people. If I had to say it was one thing, I would say eye-opening. Eye-opening in the people, the life, the history, and the differences in this culture and my own. I love Scotland! I hope to see it again and my friends who live here! I guess my goodbye will be “Tallyho!!, see y’all again!!”
If I had to sum up this semester in only three words these are the words I would pick: energizing, enlightening, and relaxing. As I look back on these past four months, I see memories that I hope will remain with me. This is an experience that I would not give up for anything, and I am extremely glad that I took it. Sure, there were weeks of exhaustion as I got used to the time difference, and there were weeks of sadness as I missed my family and friends back home. However, now that I am packing up to leave, I am reminded by how much I deeply despise endings. And this is an ending. It is an ending of a semester, and it is an ending to one of the many chapters of my life, and, to be perfectly honest, I have mixed feelings about turning the page to the next part of the book.
Life here has been wonderful. Becoming a regular at some of the take-away restaurants in Airdrie is something that I will greatly miss. Being recognized by the owners and talking with them as I waited for them to prepare the food, having them take even a small interest in my life – though I am only here for a short amount of time – this is something that I have come to love, and something that I wish I didn’t have to give up.
Compared to many of the places that I am used to, Airdrie is quiet. There is the occasional loud honking of a car horn, the revving of an engine, the shrill cry of a siren. But these are only on rare occasions. From what I have observed, it is calm and quiet. Coming back to Airdrie from London – with its busy and loud streets filled with people and cars – reminded me of how much I appreciated the peace and quiet that this little town brings. As I return to the city, with its blared rap music and its fairly loud qualities, I know that I will miss the quiet of Airdrie and the safety that I felt as I walked along the streets to go shopping or to go to the church for classes and services.
From the beginning of this semester, we students have found ourselves steeped in the community of the church, and we have been deeply steeped. I have found myself coming to truly love each member of the congregation that I have come into contact with. As I got to see them at the Kids Club and CY and the two services on Sundays, as well as hospitality and METs every week, and adventures with Jimmy and Helen, I see the growth of these relationships and the integral part that Airdrie Reformed Presbyterian Church has played on my being here. I have learned much through conversations with various members of the congregation. I thank God for His use of this church in my life to draw me into a stronger relationship with Him and a greater understanding of what He desires.
The classes also gave me great knowledge and understanding. They were well spaced throughout the week. The texts that we had to read helped to shape me and helped to remind me and reaffirm what I believe. Those who took the time out of their busy schedules to teach these classes put a lot of effort into teaching us, especially on those days when we simply could not focus.
Through all of these things, I have been grown and shaped. I came to Scotland expecting an adventure that would change me. I did not expect to be changed nearly as much as I actually was. This semester in Scotland has given me a new energy and has helped my faith to deepen and expand. This semester has enlightened my mind to greater understanding of the Scriptures and of what God desires in worship and from His children in general. This semester has relaxed me and given me the rest that my mind needed to take on whatever comes my way in the next semesters to come.
As much as I do not want my time in Scotland to come to an end, I know that it must. It is the time to leave this to my memories and return home to my family. It is the time to turn the page and see what the next chapter holds. Though it is a hard experience, to end something so wonderful, the Semester in Scotland program is something that I would not trade for anything. It is an experience that I would recommend that everyone take while they have the chance. Despite the bittersweet feelings that come with saying goodbye to the friends that I have made here, I am extremely glad that I came to study in Scotland for just one semester.
Day One: Monday
This was the day that we flew into London, but that doesn’t mean that it was all just flying and packing. We visited the Museum of London, and walked around the city near the Thames. It was gorgeous!! We walked around the city and saw the lights, and the Globe theater, we went through the Museum, which had an adorable little town set up in it, as well as a pretty good exhibition on the Great Fire of London. It was there that we also learned about an old Roman style iron.
Tuesday was a very exciting day! As our first full day in London we were all pretty excited! After getting all of our belongings together and eating breakfast in the hostel we set out! We made it to the underground right in the middle of the morning rush while the line we needed to take was also experiencing major delays. After three completely packed trains and the fear that we would miss our tour time, we mustered up the courage to wedge our way onto the train. For me it was very reminiscent of my time on the subway in Italy, I could tell that the other girls were not amused by being in such a tightly packed space. Finally we made it to our stop, we steeped out of the station and were greeted by Big Ben. It was breathtaking! As the bells of Big Ben chimed we made our way through security and into Parliament. Heather had written to her MP and was able to get us a tour! Our tour was wonderful! It was so fascinating to see the places where so much history and important political things have taken place. After our tour our guide informed us that the House of Commons was meeting soon, and we had the chance to sit in and watch. So of course we took advantage of the opportunity! It was so fascinating to watch, even though it was just them going over proposals.
From Parliament we moved to Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is a lovely building, I loved being able to wonder though it, reading the graves, listening to the audio guide and of course picturing the royal weddings and coronations that have taken place there. From there we found lunch, before making our way to the National Gallery. The National Gallery is huge! Personally I do not normally care to spend a lot of time in art museums, but I could have spent all day inside exploring! I was amazed by the collection of amazing paintings, I saw so many paintings that I had only ever seen in art textbooks before: Van Eyck , Botticelli, Michelangelo, Monet, Van Gogh and many others! After our whirlwind of art we made our way next-door to the National Portrait Gallery. By the time we made it there our feet were quite sore from all of the walking, but it was worth it to see all the paintings of England’s kings and queens, and political figures.
Since it was only early evening we decided to walk around the city; we explored several large stores, the highlight of which was the new Lego store. It claims to be the largest in the world, I however have been in Lego stores in both New York City and Florida which seemed much bigger… The store was filled with the important landmarks of London, made out of Lego. From the underground, Big Ben, a light up underground map, city map, and phone booth that are in the store it is evident that someone had a lot of time, and hopefully fun, putting it all together! We walked along many streets covered in twinkle lights and the festive spirit was very much in the air!
Day Three: Wednesday
We went to Oxford this day and had such a blast, we went around the town a couple of times, as well as making a stop at Christ Church College, and taking a walk in the park. There was sooooo much that happened that day, we visited several museums and libraries, as well as seeing the monument for the martyrs, but I think my favorite part of the day was when we stopped at the Eagle and Child for tea. It was the place the Inklings used to hang out in, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The tea warmed us up so well, and it had a friendly atmosphere as well. When we got back we had a quick stop in front of the one place it is obvious you need to visit…221B Baker St.!!
London Trip: Day 4 (Thursday)
On Thursday, we visited Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Buckingham Palace was a wonderful place to see. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to witness the changing of the guard, but we did still get to witness the beauty of the architecture, and we managed to catch some glimpses of different rankings of soldiers as they marched by.
The tour of the Tower of London was a very informational and entertaining tour. Our guide did a great job of keeping his audience engaged as well as informed as to the history surrounding the Tower of London.
St Paul’s Cathedral has some more mixed feelings given to it. I, for one, am not a huge fan of spiral staircases. Climbing up a lot of them, then, was not my favorite part. The fact that a majority of these stairs were not actually attached to the wall and seemed to be thrown into the middle of the cathedral did nothing for my fear of heights. This does not lessen the great beauty that I was able to glimpse once I got to the top. The views were absolutely gorgeous, and the climb was worth it.
The Cure for Antiquated Doubt
Our fifth and final day in London was almost entirely devoted to antiquities. We began the day in the British Library and ended it in the endless soaring galleries of the British Museum. The British Library itself is a massive institution with millions of books. We only explored their Treasures Room where they display rare books and manuscripts that they have collected over the years from around the world. From an original manuscript of Handel’s Messiah to one of precious few original 1215 AD copies of the Magna Carta, it is a collection that is nothing short of the story of Western Civilization on paper.
There was a special section solely devoted to the display of “Sacred Texts.” Huge and ornate volumes and scrolls from around the world are displayed behind a quarter inch of glass. What caught my eye were a few scraps of worn and faded parchment, written in dark characters of black ink. They were portions from one of the earliest known manuscripts of John’s Gospel, written in the third century AD. Looking at those delicate pieces, I couldn’t help but think for a moment how fragile our faith is. Surely, to the world, Christians must seem ridiculous, placing our entire confidence in the reliability of a few scraps of papyrus and parchment. How could these fragments – which could turn to dust at the slightest touch – amount to anything? The prospect was frightening.
But, looking around the rest of the room I had my answer. On the opposite wall was the Codex Sinaiticus (or the Sinai Codex). It is a copy of the Greek Bible written over 1600 years ago. It is nothing short of one of the earliest complete Bible manuscripts we have found. In a glass case to my left were countless illuminated manuscripts, painstakingly copied by medieval monks in the Middle Ages and decorated with stunning colors. Finally, on the wall behind me was an original Gutenberg Bible, the first moveable –type book printed for wide reading by members of the public. The message was clear: God’s Word endures! Despite the onward march of time, God is sovereign, especially in the preservation of His Word. If HE orders world events and the transmission of His Revelation, He most certainly preserves it through all.
Also included in our last day of London was the British Museum. It houses a seemingly endless collection of artifacts from countless locations and spanning thousands of years. The artifacts are all amazing in their own right, but are even more so when they are examined in context. One display I enjoyed was the collection from Assyrian civilization. These intricate stone carvings of pagan spirits and deities decorated the halls of Sennacherib in Nineveh. Evidence for the same king mentioned in the book of II Kings and II Chronicles is there for all to see. In the same vein, a mosaic of a lion that dates back to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon is on display. Statues from the Parthenon in Athens that pre-date the birth of Christ would have been there when the apostle Paul visited the city. They could have even been the same ones that he saw and “his spirit was grieved within him when he saw that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). Of course all of these connections are made under the assumption that the Bible is true. But God’s Word is historical, not just doctrinal. In fact, if it could not be true in its historical as well as doctrinal affirmations, we could not trust its doctrinal assertions either, since it claims to be wholly infallible. Archaeology and science confirms Scripture. We don’t have all evidence or the whole picture yet, and we may never have it all. But God’s Word can be trusted.
If there is one thing that I learned from this entire semester in Scotland, it is that God preserves His Word and He preserves His people. Through destruction, famine, fire, plague, war and judgment, His Word endures and His Church perseveres.
Lauren Della Piazza
Thanksgiving has never fallen on a Saturday before – until now. On the surface it sounds so contrary to a traditional American Thanksgiving. Twenty-five or so people – some of whom I had only met once before – all crammed around borrowed tables and chairs in the front room of our little cottage. Scottish people and American transplants or itinerant students celebrating a traditional American holiday two days belated. Unorthodox as it sounds, I have say that it was one of the most heart-warming Thanksgivings I have ever spent. It was a beautiful picture of fellowship within the Body of Christ and what a blessing it can be.
Thanksgiving is – in the spirit of full disclosure – mostly about eating A LOT of really good food. There are traditional elements that would never be absent from a Thanksgiving table: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and the like. All were present in abundance, along with choice favorites from everybody’s recipe books. That is what I found remarkable. While not totally constrained by cultural expectation, everyone brought forth their best. The result was colorful as well as abundantly delicious. This struck me as a unique illustration of the body of Christ. We all have a responsibility to serve one another, to work for the building of the Church and the kingdom of God. But not all of us are properly equipped to perform all tasks. But that is how God had created us. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 6:4-6). We all complement and supplement each other’s strengths. Some of us are deep thinkers with heads for doctrinal teaching and understanding; the “meat” if you will. Others have the gift of discernment and honesty; we may not always like what they have to say, but they are healthy for the growth of the church. Let’s call them the dark greens. Others are compassionate and sweet: the “puddings” of the bunch. All distinct elements that come together to form the complete meal. The analogy may be a rough one, but the parallel is there.
I do not really get homesick, but I will admit that on Thanksgiving Day proper I was acutely aware of what was going on back home and how far away I was from it all. I was even tempted to feel a bit sorry for myself, in a strange place far from family on a national holiday. But then I realized just how UN-thankful that would be. Here I am, in an amazing place, with a group of like-minded believers in Christ that have welcomed me into their midst and showered me with hospitality and brotherly love. This Thanksgiving I am profoundly thankful for the bonds of fellowship, and how encouraging it is to join together with other Christians from the other side of the world. While we each strive to serve each other with our best, we try to help one another grow and continue in the Christian life. Let us all rejoice in the blessing of fellowship, which God did not intend for any of us to be without.
Lauren Della Piazza
Last week in class we were discussing time management, and how we use the time that God has given us. Everyday we have roughly 3-6 hours of “free time” that is not taken up by work, sleeping, eating, traveling, and daily life stuff. How we use that time is very important, once it is gone we can never get it back again. We can use that time to glorify God, or we can waste it. The use of social media was brought up, and how we can choose to use it to glorify God, or we can waste our time by simply scrolling endlessly through post after post. This started me thinking about social media and how I use it.
In reflecting on my use of social media I realized that I work very hard at projecting a certain image, one of excitement and adventure. Since I am currently in Scotland, with the opportunity to travel, this has been a very easy thing to do. If you know me only through my social media you would assume that my past three months in Scotland have been filled with non-stop traveling! I have posted so many photos of castles, mountains, seasides, manor houses, cities, and gardens. While I am getting the chance to travel much more than I normally do, it is not the entirety of my life here in Scotland. So I thought I would share what my life here in Scotland is actually like, it is not all traveling and adventure, we are actually studying.
Here is a general idea of what a week in my life in Scotland normally looks like-
Monday – We go to the church for study time from 9:15am to 1pm. Normally Mondays are generally quite productive because we are rested from the Sabbath. After studying Lauren and I generally go to ALDI to get our groceries for the week. Groceries for us are normally apples, potatoes, spinach, chicken breasts, bratwursts, eggs, butter, milk, lunch meat, chips, salsa, and whatever other things we are in need of; it varies week to week depending on if we have made a menu plan in advance. We go home, unload the groceries, study for awhile, and make dinner when one of us gets hungry. Lauren and I live together and share evenly in the cooking. Generally I handle raw meats, and Lauren cooks the starch and veggies. If I do say so myself we have become pretty good at cooking, so far we have yet to mess up a meal! We listen to music, discuss what we’ve been learning or what is going on back home, and generally we end up sitting and talking for an hour or so.
Tuesday – We have study time from 9:15am to 1pm, then we go home and eat lunch. We go back to the church at 2pm and we have our women’s ministry class. We talk about topics that are relevant for helping counsel women though difficult situations and how to point them back to God. That class is taught by Beth, who is the church administrator and is involved with basically everything in the church! Then we have our church ministry class, which is taught by Rev. Andrew Quigley who is the pastor at the Airdrie church. In that class we discuss spiritual disciplines, every week we talk about a different one and how we can incorporate it into our lives. We also talk about youth ministry and how to build a good relationship with the youth in our churches and communities. When we are done with classes we go back home and work on stuff until dinner. Lauren leaves for MET (a Bible study, it stands for Mutual Encouragement Time), and while she’s gone I generally do a load of laundry, clean up from dinner, and do other house things.
Wednesday – Study time from 9:15am to 10:30am. At 10:30am we have our systematic theology class. It is taught by Rev. Kenneth Stewart who is the pastor of the RP church in Glasgow. Systematic theology is one of our favorite classes; Kenneth is a wonderful teacher, and we learn a lot about theology, he is very good at explaining and Biblically backing up concepts that can be very difficult to understand. After that class we eat a quick lunch at the church. Then Jimmy and Helen pick us up, and we go off on an adventure somewhere in Scotland! It varies week to week, generally we don’t know ahead of time where we are going! This is when I get to gallivant all over Scotland and generally when the majority of my pictures are taken. After a few hours of adventuring we come back, Lauren and I make dinner before I go to my MET. In MET we just finished working through the book of Ecclesiastes. I really love MET because it’s a chance to discuss the Bible in depth with people from church.
Thursday – Study time from 9:15am to 1pm. Normally on Thursday afternoons Lauren and I run errands like going to the post office to send letters, or Tesco to buy more specific things like gluten-free food. It kinda depends on the week, and what we are in need of. We make a quick dinner, and then at 7pm we have night class. Our night class is Life of Paul, which is taught by Stephen McCollum. Life of Paul is probably my favorite class; we go in depth on Paul’s life and what made him one of the most important people in the Bible. In that class we go through and read the portions of the Bible where it talks about what is happening, so it really gets in depth about Paul, and the social and historical context of the chapters we are reading. A common phrase used in that class is “Well, what does that word actually mean in Greek?”
Friday – We have study time from 9:15am to 1pm. Before we leave Beth hands out the information about Kids Club for that evening. Then she and I look at craft options to go with the story. Once we’ve picked something, I get to make the example craft! That’s one of my favorite parts of Friday afternoons because I get to do something fun and artsy! We go home, eat a quick dinner, and then at 6pm we go back to the church for Kids Club. Kids Club is kinda like a VBS that is once a week: we play a game, have snack, sing a psalm, work on the memory verse, read a Bible story, and do a craft. I enjoy it a lot because I get to help lead little kids in learning about God while also having a lot of fun! After Kids Club we clean up and depending on the night we have an activity with the youth, which is called Covenanter Youth or “CY”. The activity for CY depends on the week, they try to do something different and fun each week.
Saturday – What we do on Saturdays really depends; generally Lauren and I like to take the morning slow so that we can catch up on sleep, then we go somewhere for the midmorning and afternoon; with the ease of the trains it is very simple to get into Glasgow in about half an hour. Our Saturday adventures have ranged from going to Glasgow, Edinburgh, York for the weekend, and seeing the lesser traveled areas of Scotland when someone offers us a ride. The ease of travel here is really wonderful, this is where a lot of my photos also come from.
Sunday – We go to the church at 10am. The first half hour is Bible class, we talk about different topics in the Bible. Recently we’ve been talking about Heaven. The second half of that hour is congregational prayer, they have a list of prayer points, and they open the floor for anyone to pray. It’s really neat because everyone has the chance to join, so you have elders, adults, young adults, and children all praying together for the church and church family. Then we go into worship together. We sing psalms, read the Word, have a children’s message, and the sermon. After that people chit chat for a wee while before they leave for lunch. Every week they have someone on hospitality, and that person invites us and any other people who are in need of a place for lunch over to their house. I love Sunday afternoons because it’s a lovely homemade meal with wonderful fellowship time. We stick around people’s houses and chat for a while before going home to rest. In the afternoons I sometimes watch my home church’s service on live stream because it starts at 4pm here, I like to hear what’s going on back home and listen to my pastors preach, so I can talk about it with my family. Then at 6pm we have evening service, it’s very similar to morning worship but normally a little bit shorter. After the service they have tea, coffee, and cookies, and everyone talks for a while. Then Beth invites the young adults over to her house for fellowship. We chat and laugh and sometimes sing psalms together! It’s really fun, and I really enjoy the fellowship with young adults. I generally spend Sunday night catching up on the phone with people back home. Then I get ready to start another week!
The social media mystery has been lifted! You now know what a week in my life looks like here in Scotland! Yes, I am actually doing school work, cooking, and keeping up with housework, but I do also get to explore this amazing country while learning about God with some spectacular people! I would not trade this semester for anything. Even when it is hard to be away from home, and the people I love, it is definitely worth it! I love Scotland and I would strongly recommend this program, or simply a missions team trip to anyone who asks me about my time here!
This past week has been one of great decisions in the United States of America. Being across the ocean during this time does not change the amount that it affects me. If anything, it is increased. Though I am blessed to not have to be in America while the events of the week have been happening, I still have the opportunity to watch it. I get onto social media to check in with friends, and I am bombarded with posts about the political state in the nation that I call home. To be completely honest, I am disappointed in many of the reactions that I have seen. However, that is not the point of this post. The point is to explain what it is like to watch the presidential election from across the sea.
It is sort of like being in a bubble where you can’t quite be touched by the events. And yet, the bubble is not all that protective. People from across the sea can still reach in and drag you into the situations through conversation. Though you are able to decline these Internet conversations, you still feel involved, because this is the place that you call home. And while you live in the bubble of your Scotland adventures, you see how those across that great sea view the people of your nation.
Being in this foreign land during these difficult times of American politics has been both relaxing and distressing. I have found that I cannot escape the election, no matter how hard I try. The people with whom I am acquainted in Scotland continually ask about the election and my views on it. And yet, I am extremely thankful that I don’t have to be around the American people during this time. I can fill social media with pictures from my adventures, and I can enjoy the bubble of Scotland adventures for as long as I have left.
Despite my homesickness, I am glad for the opportunity that I have to escape the election in even a limited way. I am glad to be in Scotland with my studies in theological matters and the strengthening of my faith. I am glad to be here to witness the prayers of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for another nation in desperate need of prayer. I am thankful that God has brought me to this wonderful land of history, and has shown me a vivid reminder that His Kingdom is not limited by oceans and national borders.
As the title of this post suggests, I am an American in Scotland, observing my nation from afar. However, as I bring this to a close, I would like to pose another thought. Perhaps I am not just an American in Scotland, but I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God traveling to have fellowship and community with fellow citizens of that same Kingdom. And when one puts it that way, any feelings of distress or international animosity that one could potentially feel melts away and brings a greater hope for the future of the world – for God has control over all that occurs, and His Sovereign plan cannot be halted, no matter how hard humanity tries.