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