When I first heard about the Covenanter Theological Institute (CTI) program, I was sitting in class like normal. Then an older student came in, more or less randomly as far as I was concerned, and began talking about the CTI program. Apparently, it was an opportunity to study abroad in Scotland for a semester. Pretty strangely, I immediately felt that God strongly wanted me to go on that trip for my next semester. I prayed about it and decided that same night that I would follow it through and see where God led. Everything fell in place financially and academically. On January 10, 2009, I left New York and arrived with Christy Lear, the other student who signed up for the program this semester, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now that I am at the end of my time here, I am really glad that I listened to God.
The people in the Airdrie Reformed Presbyterian Church have all been amazing. From the first time I attended church service there they all made me feel welcome, like I was one their own college age kids. The pastor, Andrew Quigley, got us involved pretty quickly in the church’s Mutual Encouragement Times (METs), a weekly small-group style Bible study. Almost every week, members of the congregation would come to take Christy and me out to see different parts of Scotland. Some of those sites were important to the history of the Scottish Reformers. Others were just natural beauties. The main point, however, was not the sites themselves; it was that the church members were willing to take time out of their day, sometimes multiple times, to chauffeur two teens around all of Scotland. It was great of them to do so, and I am really thankful for everyone who did that for us.
The other part of the church body I enjoyed, possibly even more, was getting involved with the Church’s Covenant Youth (CY), their version of a youth group. Pretty much right off the bat, we got involved with the CY by participating with them in their various activities. The members, some of whom are my age and older, were very friendly toward us Americans and accepted us as part of the gang rather quickly. This meant a lot to me since I tend to be fairly shy when first getting to know people. I have made some good friends among these people, and I am sorry to leave them. Additionally, it was good that I was able to interact with the CY as much as I did, since I am majoring in Youth Ministry. It was especially good that I was able to assist my roommate, David Duly, in leading the young guys in a MET and seeing them interact with God’s Word.
Some of the most important things that I learned were discovered in the classroom, studying. True, one usually expects to learn things when s/he sits in a small room with little more than theology and Christian living books to occupy one’s time, but it was more than that. For me, it was not so much that I was learning things that could be filed away; it was that much of what I learned was either immediately applicable to my life or helped me to better understand what someone who claims to be a Christian should believe or do. Some of it were things that specifically Reformed Presbyterians believe, but this was a surprisingly small amount. Much of it, such as what God is like and the condition of Mankind, is pretty clearly stated in the Bible. Do I understand or agree with every last detail? No. But my time studying has caused me to think. I am really grateful to Pastor Andrew and Dick Knodel for making me think in the class they taught Christy and me in.
Really briefly, I want to take some time to specifically thank a few people. First, there is Andrew. He got me involved in starting to read my Bible regularly, besides teaching us. Next, I want to mention Beth Bogue. She does a lot for everyone around the church and has been like a big sister for me, Christy, and pretty much everyone in the CY. Finally, I want to thank my roommate and best friend here, David Duly. The two of us have shared some great times and some deep conversations. Thanks for everything, Bro.
I have benefited greatly from my time in Scotland. I believe Christy has as well, and, apparently, so have most of the students who have been on the CTI program. I would highly recommend that anyone who is interested going on this trip take the opportunity. Even if you do not agree with everything theologically, God can still cause you to grow here. Is that not what we as Christians should seek to do, anyways?