At the beginning of this month, I noted in my blog that somehow, I knew that this trip would change my life, though I did not know in what ways. Now, five weeks later, many of those changes have come to light. I have learned more here in Scotland than I could have imagined, and certainly more than I could describe here, though some things are more obvious than others.
I have been greatly challenged in my theology. Before my trip here, I was in the process of searching for a church, but really didn’t know where to start as I had not claimed a denomination. I had never heard of the RP church before this mission trip, and knew very little about it when I arrived the end of May. Since then, I have been learning about reformed theology, and trying to determine how it fits into my life. With no RP churches near my university in Nashville, I have a lot of decisions to make regarding church membership etc. That, in itself, is teaching me a great deal about taking time and prayer to think deeply about God’s Word, and how it should be applied in my life.
On a more practical note, much of our work during our trip involved approaching people personally with the Gospel. That can be quite intimidating at times, but I have discovered that it is always worth the discomfort. Most of the time, our fear is irrational. I spoke to quite a few people directly about their knowledge of God and the Bible, church attendance, relationship with God, etc, and the worst response I received was a rather angry, “I don’t want to hear about Jesus”. Still, even when our fear is rational, nothing is more important than spreading the Good News of the Gospel. Our fears are meaningless when we realize that A: we have God’s Almighty protection on our side, and B: there is nothing that anyone can do to us that
will have an effect on our eternity, except maybe to get us there a bit faster than we had expected. That is a very freeing notion, and I hope to live with that sort of fearlessness in the future.
Our time here has been a very fruitful period, full of encouragement, new friendships, and ever growing faith. After the events of this month, it is clearer than ever to me that God’s Providence is perfect, and His plans for us are always good. Praise Him for that! I would much appreciate your continued prayers for wisdom as I continue my church searching journey throughout the next few months. I hope to see y’all next year one way or the other! Thank you for everything, and God bless you!
Reflections from Patrick
In more ways than one, my time spent in Scotland may be called “Back to the Beginning.”
In our morning devotions, the team went through the first third of the book of Acts. We were greatly encouraged seeing how those who were first called Christians lived out their faith in light of the recently ascended Christ and outpouring of the Spirit. Thankfully, although two thousand years removed, the Spirit still speaks to our hearts and minds afresh through His Word. Shea and I have received immense benefit from this reality, as we have drawn our strength from these passages and the prayers of saints from home and around the world to speak boldly and clearly in schools and during times of fellowship. We are thankful for the time spent in God’s Word, particularly in this book of beginnings for the New Testament church.
For three days in Scotland we were privileged to experience the Reformation tours. It was deeply moving to see how the saints of the Scottish Reformation had sacrificed their own comforts and lives for the sake of Christ’s kingship and headship of the church, and how the Psalms were sung upon dying lips. It was a salient reminder to fear God and remain steadfast to His Word, even in the face of fearsome men. How wise were the Scottish martyrs, for they had understood the beginning of wisdom – a beginning that can never be departed from if true progress is ever to be made.
Upon much deeper reflection, though on a lighter note, I really had to go back to the beginning of my early childhood skills. Having a persuasive older sister, I was forced to do “girly” things on a regular basis. Well, those formative years paid off, seeing that I was on a team with only girls and none had the knack or ability for arts and crafts! So I stepped up and put my craft skills to work when called for. God equips those he calls.
Perhaps one of the most fruitful “back to the beginnings” was the day-to-day practice engaged in during the month-long stay here in Scotland. Most of our days we read about spiritual disciplines – from the book entitled the same – for the purpose of godliness. It is one thing to be diligent in studying the Word of God, which is certainly a priority of mine as a seminary student specifically, and as a Christian especially. But this was a good reminder to be equally diligent in applying the truths of the Word of God, and we were given every opportunity to do so. With “my schedule” cleared for a month, and the cultivation of spiritual disciplines scheduled in, I was reminded of one of the most important beginnings: ordinarily, godliness does not come by accident or convenience, but by intentional, disciplined, Spirit-energized pursuit.
I am thankful to all who have supported me prayerfully and financially, allowing me to go to Scotland and, more importantly, back to such important beginnings.