Scotland, days 1-3

Scotland groupWe’re in Scotland! (If you’re one of my blog followers, my apologies for not giving you a heads up before now—it’s been a little busy.)

So the next few posts will be about this trip that Dave and I and 15 teenagers are taking.

We arrived in London Monday morning and were met at the airport by my lovely niece, Anna, who is in a master’s program at the University of London. She was able to spend the next couple days with us, serving as our “tour guide” and extra chaperone.

We negotiated the tube with all our bags, settled in at the hotel, and headed out for a late lunch at Wagamama (think Noodles and Company). We were a bit short on time, so rather than touring the Tower of London, we walked around it, across London Bridge (SO beautiful), past the Globe Theater (for some reason, no one was as excited about that as I was!), back across the Thames River, and then to a tube station to head to Covent Gardens, where the students got to hang out, eat stolen ice cream—just kidding, but we did have a couple students whose credit cards would NOT work at one of the ice cream stores. The clerks graciously let them walk all around Covent Garden–with their ice cream!–while they looked for a cash machine, and then they were quite surprised when we actually returned to pay!

The following day we toured Westminster Abbey, guided by the very knowledgeable Ruth. This was a major highlight for many if not all of us. Ruth made the history come alive and wove in stories from the early 900s all the way through to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, which contains an unidentified body from World War I.

I have to admit I’m still a little fuzzy on my early British history, but I will not quickly forget the Stone of Scone (the monarchy stone robbed from the Scots by a British king so the Scots could no longer crown a king—clever, huh! It has since been returned to Scotland, but will be brought back temporarily when it is time to crown Prince Charles as King of the British Isles.

I finally got the two Queen Marys—one bloody; one the Queen of Scots— straight! (Sorry, I couldn’t find a single web site that successfully explained both of them clearly.) Ruth said ours was the first group she’s ever dared tell both stories (about the two Marys). I found it fascinating that both Marys are buried in Westminster Abbey (despite both of them being Catholic!). Bloody Mary is actually buried WITH her sister Elizabeth—whom she tried to kill. That meant, of course, that Elizabeth had to have her executed. And now the two bodies lie together!

Stories galore—my brain was swimming happily—and then we went to Poets’ Corner! My favorite, Charles Dickens, became even more of a favorite when I heard about his desire to “not make a fuss” with his burial and how the poor of London covered his grave marker with small bundles of flowers—to honor the writer they saw as their champion.

I have to brag on our kids a bit. They were so attentive. I think they made a very good impression on Ruth. One special moment was the 11 o’clock prayer time. Everyone in Westminster Abbey was asked to stand still. What an incredible thing to know that across the Abbey, at least a few other fellow believers were praying with us.

More: a tour of Stamford Bridge (the stadium of Chelsea, an English Premier League team), high tea at the hotel, wandering around Picadilly Circus, and final goodbyes with niece Anna.

It all involved LOTS of walking. Team member Grace is wearing a wristband that tracks her steps and mileage: a total of nearly 15 miles and 21,000 steps in the two days.

And that brings us to today—where the real purpose of our trip came clear. We’re now in Scotland, where the church is dying and so few people are Christians that it is almost a novelty. (For just one example, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) had 2.6 million members in the 1950s; now it has fewer than 400,000 with an average age of 57. The students went through orientation today, learned their responsibilities in some upcoming ministry opportunities, prayed, and then met their host families—who are all faithful members of the small, loving Christian community in this area.

The touring was good, but this is better. Please be praying for us. We are working with Rob Bell, a Scottish missionary—to his own country—who works with The Heralds Trust. This is what Rob told the students were their opportunities during the next eight days:

-Give your testimony

-Defend your faith

-Meet lots of new friends

-Engage in Scottish culture and history

-Lead church services

-Lead public school assemblies

-Attend public school for a day

-Build your FAITH and relationship with Christ

That’s a pretty good prayer list!

Thanks for reading,
Jen

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