This post is so late in coming, but it’s never too late to share what God does and how He
Sam and I traveled to Scotland for six weeks in October – November 2016. We went with the intention of visiting several villages along the Moray coast. Our plan was to meet with local pastors and access the need for new church plants in those villages. We also intended to travel to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Birmingham to talk with pastors and church planters in those areas. We had our schedule made, our speaking notes written, our bags were packed, and we were determined to fit as much into the six weeks as possible.
The first destination was Buckie. Sam spent the first seven years of his Scottish ministry in this quaint little fishing village located on the north shore of the Moray Firth. Buckie is the place that holds Sam’s heart, so naturally it had to be our first stop.
When Sam first went to Buckie in 1980 the church consisted of a dilapidated building and 12 members, the youngest was 50 years old and the oldest was in her 90’s. The first Sunday service Sam preached, the roof fell in, literally. The building should have been condemned. The membership tried to give the building to the local city council, but they refused it because it needed too much work. Three days after the roof collapse the oldest member passed away from pneumonia. It looked like a downhill slide was inevitable, but in spite of overwhelming obstacles, Sam spent the next seven years loving that church into health. By the time he moved to the metro Glasgow area to plant another church, the Buckie church had turned around. They had renovated the building and were running about 85 in attendance on Sunday mornings. They’d begun a Gospel service on Sunday night’s for unbelievers, and they had a successful Saturday club for grade school aged children, and a wildly popular family camp that ran for a week in the summer. They had also planted a daughter congregation in the nearby town of Forres, which was running about 45 in attendance. By American standards this doesn’t seem overwhelmingly amazing, but by Scottish it’s fantastic!
When we arrived in Buckie we were immediately aware of how unhealthy the church had become. Over the past twenty-five years they’ve had a string of short-term American missionaries who have stayed between 18 months and seven years. The majority of these pastors did not have a plan for continued outreach and growth, and the ones that did went about it in a very forceful and off-putting way. These men were decent preachers who loved the congregation, however, loving the congregation doesn’t facilitate growth. We were saddened to learn that the church had regressed back to about 12 people. Our heart’s broke for these dear old saints, and we felt God was telling us to spend some time with these people, ministering to their needs, and praying with and for them instead of rushing
off to other villages looking for easier opportunities.
I love when God throws a monkey wrench in my plans. I am a planner by nature so I hate surprises, but when God moves us to change our plans in favor of His I sit up and listen. And boy, am I ever glad we did listen. As the days pushed into weeks we were able to build trust with these people, and others within the community who are not a part of the Buckie church. We were invited into people’s homes, into their lives, and what we saw was a need for a fresh perspective on who Jesus is and what He wants us to do. Our hearts were moved in compassion and love for this community, and before we knew it, we were “home.”
After our return from Scotland in November we received an official invitation from the Buckie church to return as their pastor. We are honored that they would place this level of trust in us after so many years, and we are happy to accept the challenge that comes with this role. We have updated our ministry plan based on the needs we saw first-hand as we became involved in the lives of people in the church and the community, and it can be summed up in two words: missional engagement.
We will be writing more about the individual points of our ministry plan as we flesh out the details of each of the areas of ministry, but God continues to lead and direct us in this, so we know we’re on the right track. Currently we’re looking for individuals to partner with us as we prepare to move to Scotland. Our target date to be in the country is by the end of August 2017, and we have to raise approximately $28,350 in pledges for our annual support, as well as $25,000 in moving and immigration expenses. If you feel God is leading you to join with us as we minister to the people of northern Scotland please use the Contact page to let us know, or you can donate to us directly through our Giving page.
Thank you for your support!