15 Nov 2019 | Featured News
To read Rev. Stephen Steele's latest newspaper article, click here.
This past week the Team was working with the North Edinburgh congregation as well as doing some practical work in Airdrie before heading down to spend the week with the Stranraer congregation. Paul and Emeline have written about this portion of the trip.
Saturday morning (3rd June) started like most of the others, an early rise for breakfast, followed by personal devotion time and team worship, the latter focusing on Hebrews. With the help of some local Airdrie RPC members, we travelled to Edinburgh to meet up with members of the North Edinburgh RPC. Together the plan was to distribute an invitation to a special evening sermon series, centred on “Who Needs Jesus?”. The mission team joined what seemed to be a small army of volunteers. We were divided up into teams so that the team members were paired off with at least one local (or at least Scottish) guide for the area. This year it appears the team was particularly successful in distributing invitations in many areas that had proven futile the previous years. With the weather holding out and the sunshine shining (We’re told this doesn’t happen much) it was hard to call it a labour with the amount of laughs being had among the teams. All involved considered it a great start to the project.
On the Lord’s Day, and again with the help of the Ridleys from Airdrie RPC, we travelled from Airdrie back to Edinburgh for the morning service in Craigroyston Community High School (CCHS), where the North Edinburgh RPC meets. For half the team (myself included) this was just the second time practicing worship in the RPC fashion, meaning our Psalm singing was probably a little squeakier than intended but still full of enthusiasm. This growing congregation is under the care of Peter Loughridge. He has a true gift for taking big truths from the gospel and catering them to the congregation before him in a careful and concise way, losing nothing in translation. The whole group praised Peter on his ministry on both the morning and evening services. The time in between was spent in fellowship with members of the local (North Edinburgh) congregation, some teams going for walks to the park or to the pier, with both enjoying the view of the Firth of the Forth (where the Forth river meets the North Sea). The team
was able to use this time to better familiarize themselves with the neighbourhoods and people the church not only services but is centred upon.
Monday was another day designated for the distribution of pamphlets in the CCHS/North Edinburgh area. This time with the help from a Glasgow RPC parishioner, we traveled to North Edinburgh to meet up with church members there. People really have been coming in from all over to help this team not only get around, but distribute leaflets, cook meals, and really just look out for us in many ways we probably haven’t even realized yet. Though forecasted at 90-100% chance throughout the whole day where we were, the rain held off for the most part, only really coming down hard for an hour or so at best after lunch. It wasn’t until we had safely packed back into the cars and started the drive home that the torrential downpour began. Seeing how bad it could have been made us extra thankful to have been spared getting caught out in it distributing.
With Tuesday morning spent in transport, we arrived at CCHS to begin our testimony and Biblical truths work in the school. It would be a lie to say that we were not nervous, but from introductions by Miss Dresser, the Religious and Moral Education (RME) teacher, from the first group onward, our presentations were honed and catered to the groups before us. The students were by and large attentive, with some engaging us back with questions. Practicing together back in Airdrie the week prior really served me well when I was asked a question about a previous group’s presentation at the end of my own. Though at first caught off guard, it felt good to be able to answer the question with the time I had, it raised my confidence in what we were doing; to see and hear that the student had been thinking through all the information that we had laid out before them. The true Scottish weather had now shown itself with full cloud cover and no end to the rain in sight as we left the school. Bunkered down in the Loughridge home Peter, Emma, and Demi did an amazing job as hosts for us. Our team was still able to spend time reading and then discussing elements of our ongoing study into spiritual disciplines. Between the team devotional in the morning, the spiritual disciplines in the afternoon, or team worship in the evening there is at least one active discussion in the day. After tea (supper) saw the team divided up for some competitive board game action. The highlight was the revelation of competitive spirit hidden until this point in some team members, with many moments of laughter. Tuesday night ended with members of the team being paired off into the homes of the local NERPC members. They had generously opened their doors to us to spend the night as the start time for the next morning’s class left no time for travel in from Airdrie. Leigh and I were fortunate in that we were staying with Ben and Rachel Dodds. A young and recently married couple, they stayed up with us for hours answering our questions for all things Scottish; watching a sheep herding competition being shown with Gaelic commentary, to catching rugby match highlights. The full day soon shut down the late night and it was off to bed in our respective homes.
Wednesday was a busy day and we hit the ground running, we started delivering our testimonies for the 1st period RME class. It was remarkable how much easier it was to settle into a rhythm and feel out where to expand or contract portions of the presentations for each group. Again the students proved attentive and even more engaging than on Tuesday, asking questions that went well beyond superficial thinking of the subject matter. Time seamed to fly, for me at least, during this RME class. With the damp Scottish weather once again showing us favour, we took advantage of the sun and finished off delivering the few remaining leaflets. After a quick lunch in the Loughridge home, we were off to visit with Jimmy Fisher on the Royal Mile in old-town Edinburgh. Surrounded by ancient buildings built over 400 years ago (some well more than this), Jimmy took us on a guided tour of sites from the Reformation movement. Through parking lots with grave-markers, an ancient cathedral and museum loaded with plaques, marble, carvings and sculptures, to the graveyard markers and still-standing prison walls that once held over 1,000 captive Reformers; Jimmy had an uncanny ability to take you back to the time in which he was talking, describing the people gathered for the signing of the National Covenant, or crowded prison conditions faced by those same men and women years later less than 100 meters away. Having so much history packed into a relatively small space seems to be a recurring theme with many of the Reformation sites we’ve visited. With the tour wrapped up it was time to head back to the Loughridge home again, this time for tea (supper). A delicious meal and many engaging conversations with our hosts later, we travelled back to the high school, only this time to be treated to the first of the three special worship services/sermons series presented by Peter. The first message in this series was about how “Bad people need Jesus” walking through Romans, Peter was able to navigate the crowd through his points with a clarity that makes it impossible to get lost. With many hugs and farewells the team departed back to Airdrie to end off the night at the Airdrie RPC.
The past four days have been a whirlwind for me! And I assume the same has been true for the rest of the group. A few of us have fallen ill over the week, but thankfully we are on the mend! We started out at the RP Church in Airdrie painting the entrance way, bathrooms, and hallway. The process was a little messy, but all in all we completed the task! The painting was our morning task and for Friday afternoon we were each able to spend a few hours exploring Edinburgh. We finished off the day by going to the mission held in the Edinburgh RP church plant. I truly enjoyed each of the sermons Pastor Peter Loughridge gave. He has a very welcoming manner about him and thoroughly explains himself making it easy for all to grasp the message he is giving. Saturday we finished our painting projects in the morning and spent the afternoon/evening traveling to Stranraer. Sunday was then spent with the Stranraer RP congregation. The morning service was very intriguing as Pastor Stephen Steele spoke on how God changes communities, using the story of Jonah as a reference. In the evening, a thanksgiving service was held to celebrate God’s provisions in repairing the church hall, during which Pastor Steele preached on the tabernacle as the original means for God to dwell among his people. After both services we were able to mingle with the congregation and newcomers over tea, which was a very pleasant experience. Monday was spent distributing leaflets for the upcoming mission nights to be held at the Stranraer RP Church which will expound upon why each and every life has a purpose.
I have encountered many impactful moments over the past few days, but one that has been especially meaningful for me has been getting to know the family that is hosting Susanna and me here in Stranraer. We are staying with the Halls, and it has been such a blessing. They have been so generous and inviting. I have enjoyed learning about Stranraer and the surround area through their stories. Both Lydia and Norman have such unique life stories, and it has been a true blessing to get to know them and their two children Hannah and Daniel.
Overall, this trip so far has been a great learning experience for me. I have been able to experience a new culture, grow in my faith, read a book on Spiritual Disciplines, and work with various congregations to spread the Gospel to the surrounding areas of Scotland. One task in particular that I have enjoyed is passing out the leaflets. It gives me a chance to see firsthand the communities we are trying to reach and also gives me time alone for personal reflection on the trip and the tasks we have been asked to do so far.