Scotland, days 4-5

The students on the "new" Stirling Bridge

The students on the “new” Stirling Bridge

It is one thing to study “why we believe Christianity is real” as part of an academic class; it is an entirely different thing to study it when you are fairly certain someone will ask you that question—genuinely—in just a few days.

We spent most of Thursday in orientation sessions, first hearing from Ian Leitch, one of the original members of The Heralds (the Scottish gospel band of the 1950s/60s), which eventually became The Heralds Trust. For the last 40-odd years, Ian has been presenting and defending the Gospel in Scotland and around the world. The kids listened attentively, though most of Ian’s jokes went, as he said, “over their heads.” I liked them, though. For instance, when Ian was talking about Mahatma Gandhi’s belief in Christ as merely a good teacher, he said he remembered when Gandhi’s brother came to Scotland. “Mahatma Coat, remember him?” he asked the kids.

The kids just looked blank. Oh, well.

Following Ian’s presentation, we met with an American couple, Jerry and Elizabeth, who are here in Scotland using the arts, specifically drama, to encourage and minister to the church and to enable the church to reach out to the community. They talked specifically with our kids about Scripture reading, about allowing the meaning and power that is in the Word of God to shine through in their voices. A few brave volunteers stood up to read a passage of Scripture. Jerry and Elizabeth gave them pointers, and then they read the passages again. Huge improvement, and it was wonderful to hear Scripture read in a vibrant way by young people.

In the afternoon, we spent a short time at the nearby mall, but then we returned to the church to practice the testimonies, music, and dramatic reading we will be giving during the church service and youth service we will be leading on Sunday morning and night.

We worked till evening and then went to the local bowling alley. It was a fierce competition between the teams (not really), and my team came in second (which surely had very little to do with the fact that we had the bumpers in our lane put up—and no other team did. Claire had a great rebound shot perfected—off the bumper about halfway down the lane and right into the side of the lead pin.

This morning we met up with our bus driver, Billy, who is from the same town as William Wallace (of Braveheart fame—though, as we learned today, it is NOT anywhere near historical accuracy). Billy, of course, is named after Wallace, as are a very large number of boys born in his town. He drove us to the Wallace monument, where we climbed up the hill to the monument and then up the monument’s 240-something steps. The top parapet was closed due to high winds (as a chaperone, I was just fine with that), but we learned all kinds of interesting facts about Wallace’s victory at Stirling Bridge and his eventual martyrdom at the hand of the English king. His sword (or at least its replica) was MASSIVE!

We briefly stopped by Doune Castle (where Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed and, more recently, the Scottish show The Outlanders), and we saw the approximate site of the bridge where Wallace defeated the English. Then we were off to Stirling Castle. It brought together a lot of the history we’d been learning over the last few days, but I think the kids enjoyed most the rooms that had been remodeled to look as they would have when James IV and his wife actually lived there (and if you’re a Scot reading this, and I’ve got the wrong James, PLEASE forgive me.)

We learned a few new words from Billy, one being dreich, which described the weather of the day: drizzly, windy, cold. Others: kil (relating to religion), loch (lake), glen (valley), inver (mouth of a river), ben (high point).

Then, finally, the highlight of the day: a caleidh with the members of a Scottish youth group. A caleidh is a traditional Scottish dance party, generally held at a wedding. But we did it with teens, and it was a blast, and they all mingled and danced and talked (when they needed a break from the dancing, which was quite energetic). Besides the traditional caleidh dances, we discovered our young Scottish friends are quite fond of the music from Grease and a few other oldies our kids had clearly never heard (including one of my favorites: “I’m Gonna’ Be (500 Miles)” by the Scottish band The Proclaimers). But YMCA was, as always, a big hit; our kids requested “Hoedown Throwdown” (a new one for the Scots); and we closed out the night with “Auld Lang Syne,” written by the Scotsman Robert Burns.

A grand night! And it set the stage well for next Wednesday, when we will join the two groups of youth again to have a more serious time of Bible discussion and fellowship.

Good night, all.


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