As many of you know, in January we kicked off our Sunday night services with a first century church approach. We begin each week with a common meal, usually something simple and hearty, like a bowl of soup and a dessert. Occasionally, I’ll switch things up and make a regional favorite like mac-n-cheese, stovies, or this week’s menu of shepherd’s pie for those who don’t love soup (aka. Sam!). After we’ve eaten we move into the worship center and engage in about 20 minutes of video driven praise and worship, and then Sam spends about 35-50 minutes teaching from the Bible. Our attendance has been running consistently in the low 20’s each week, which seems really tiny compared to most of our church partners in the States, but for winter time in Buckie it’s great.
This week was a bit unusual in attendance, we have a lot of people out ill with the flu and late winter colds. To be honest, the day could have been really discouraging had the Lord not provided encouragement for us in some unexpected guests in our evening service.
Last night at 5:55 p.m. Sam, myself, and two of our faithful ladies were staring at each other over a massive pan of shepherd’s pie, feeling a bit disappointed that we were the only four who had come out for church. We knew in advance that a couple of folks would be out of town or at another church for a baptism service, but where was everyone else??? We could only assume the worst as I silently contemplated how many freezer containers I would have to come up with to ensure the 10 pounds of shepherd’s pie I’d fixed wouldn’t go in the bin later this week. As the four of us sat in silence the door opened and an unfamiliar face popped in – “Are you having a night service?”
Suddenly the room felt like it had been jump-started. “Yes! We’re just getting ready to have dinner. Please join us!”
“Oh, you’re having dinner? What time is the service, we can come back later?”
“No need to come back, we have plenty of food, and we’d love for you to eat with us.”
“Okay, let me go get my husband…”
A few minutes later we were joined by this lovely couple who live near Inverness. They happened to be in our area for a mini holiday and were on their way home when they passed by our building and saw our lights on. As we ate dinner together we learned that he is an ordained minister in the Free Presbyterian church in Scotland and he is not currently assigned a church but travels and preaches in a few churches ranging from Dingwall to Oban (on the West coast); and his wife is an American expat from Illinois who came to Aberdeen with the Rotary Clubs of America in 1990 to study for two years at the University. She met and married her husband and has been in Scotland ever since. It was fun to hear her accent, which is definitely not Illinois any longer but certainly not Scottish either.
Even though it was just the six of us we had a great time of fellowship, worship, and teaching. As I flopped in my chair last night at 9:00, having managed to get the remaining pan of shepherd’s pie into the fridge, exhausted and a bit despondent about the low attendance, Sam remarked that the couple told him they were blessed by our service and that they hadn’t eaten all day so the meal was an unexpected treat. Instantly, my heart broke for them and at the same time my feelings of self-pity and discouragement evaporated. We may never see this couple again, but I know that the Lord placed them in our path to encourage us, and us in their path to feed them.
Friends, we’ve been in Scotland for six months now, and while I would not say the honeymoon phase is over a lot of the glitz of a new ministry has worn off. Traditionally, February and March are the most difficult months here, and this February is proving to be a bad one for our community. Last week 5 people passed away from various illnesses. The previous two weeks before saw nearly that same number each week. Yes, the days are beginning to get longer by a few minutes each day but illness and seasonal affected depression are at their peak in our community just now. Morale is very low and it’s easy to make excuses to stay home and do as little as possible. The enemy is working overtime to keep people distracted, grief-stricken, and ill so they can’t or won’t come out and hear the Word taught.
Sam’s Sunday night teaching series is appropriately named – Game of Thrones. There is indeed a battle raging in our world for who will be King on the throne of our heart, and currently it looks like the enemy is making his move. What he doesn’t know is that we don’t give up that easily. We know who wins this battle, and the Devil’s time here in Buckie, Scotland is running out!
Oh, look…it’s time to get lunch sorted…shepherd’s pie, anyone?