Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Autumn Update

On September 4, 2005, Angela and I arrived in Edinburgh filled with a mixture of awe, anxiety, and anticipation. The prospect of three years in wee bonnie Scotland seemed like an endless array of possibility in an ancient world packed with opportunity for our future. We were living in a ‘world heritage’ city steeped in the Protestant reformation, worshiping in a psalm-singing kirk, ministering the gospel in an increasingly post-Christian culture, working in the Royal Infirmary, studying at a first class university, meeting new friends from around the globe, and trying tasty ‘sweets and savouries.’ There was so much to do and (seemingly) so much time.

Now, with two years behind us, three years does not seem like that much time after all. Nevertheless, to look back upon what we have learned together is not to meet disappointment for unmet expectations but gratitude for unparalleled experiences. As we enter our third year, I want to express our deep appreciation for your prayers and support without which our Edinburgh expedition would not be possible. Below is a brief review of our life and ministry from the past six months as well as prayer requests for the year ahead.

In August I served a four week placement at Point Free Church of Scotland on the Isle of Lewis. Earlier this year Dr Iain D. Campbell from Back Free Church (also on the island) asked if I was interested in filling the pulpit for a month, as the congregation is without a minister. Needless to say, he did not have to twist my arm! My duties included leading worship and preaching for the morning and evening Lord’s Day services, taking two prayer meetings and bible studies each week, and pastoral visitation. Angela and I were kindly given full use of the manse—handsomely situated along the east coast of the island overlooking the mainland—and a wee car to enjoy the sights and scenes of Lewis and Harris. We felt an immediate bond with these dear folk and were greatly encouraged by their heartfelt (Gaelic!) singing, strong biblically informed prayers, earnest and evident love for Christ, and warm hospitality. For more pictures from our time in Lewis, go here and here.

Angela and I are continually blessed by the ministry of Buccleuch Free Church, where we have attended since our first Wednesday night in Edinburgh. The congregation has welcomed us with open arms and has become our home away from home. We still coordinate the monthly International Meal, and I am actively involved in the weekly evangelism ministry of the church. Over the past year, we have interacted with well over a hundred different people—many of whom are non-Christians—from Scotland, England, Germany, and the far corners of the world, especially Chinese graduate and postgraduate students at Edinburgh University. Some only come for a week, others longer, but at least three have become Christians. At the church, I also regularly meet with a Scottish friend of mine for accountability and discipleship and participate in a men’s weekly morning bible study. Angela has a regular ministry to a handful of single woman in the church, participates in a women's bible study, meets with a prayer partner, and works tirelessly to make our flat an inviting and comfortable place for people to visit for tea or a meal. Additionally, I preach on occasion in the wider Free Church and consistently (every 4-8 weeks) at a small Reformed Baptist church where I am working through 1 Peter. Opportunities such as these have proved an incomparable training ground for what we hope to be a lifetime of ministry in the local church.

Angela’s work at the Royal Infirmary continues to be a blessing and a curse. When she commenced her job in April 2006, she was informed that her qualifications in radiology from the USA would not transfer into the UK. No problem. She could work in the department as a clinical assistant, doing menial jobs, but not as a radiographer. Over a year ago she was approached by her supervisor with a proposal to make her an assistant radiographer. It still was less than what she was qualified for, but it was a start. Thirteen months later, however, nothing has materialised, and the whole situation has created a complex of frustrations. But time and again, Angela has risen above the fray. At one particular low point, her director even exclaimed, ‘What kind of person keeps coming back to this job!’ Beyond filling a husband with pride, Angela’s steadfastness in a less than ideal job has resulted in a tremendous Matthew 5:16-type witness that has enabled her to befriend several non-Christians in her department. For these experiences and more we give praise to God.

My studies are at a crucial juncture. I am in the middle of the writing stage of my thesis, and the pressure to finish is mounting! Lord willing, I will submit in the summer. There are moments of weariness, but thankfully I have found a stimulating companion in John Owen. I am continuing to audit the two year systematic theology course at the Free Church College under Principal Donald Macleod, one of the leading reformed theologians of our day. Other work includes reviews for the Banner of Truth Magazine, the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, and, as well as an article on early church exegesis for reformation21. I am also working on another project which I hope to be able to announce shortly.

As Angela and I forge ahead in our final year, please join us in prayer for the following items. First, pray that God would continue to grow our love for Christ and for one another. Second, pray that God would grant us endurance to finish strong in our work (Angela) and study (John) and ministry. Third, pray that God would provide the necessary finances for us to leave Scotland with no debt (so far so good!). Fourth, pray for what’s next as we anticipate where God would have us serve when we leave Scotland. Once again, thank you for your generous support. We could not do this without your help.

Pictures: The top picture was taken on the Isle of Harris; the middle picture is the inside of Point FCS; the bottom is the outside of Point FCS.

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