last day in London/first in Scotland

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The prayer engraved outside Westminster Abbey

We’re in Scotland!

With all sixteen kids! (Not much of an accomplishment, but on last year’s London/Scotland trip, we “lost” a kid the very first day, so I’m grateful!)

Yesterday we began the day with tube travel in peak morning traffic (one Londoner told me the government is considering all kinds of options to decrease tube traffic in the morning—it’s crazy!). Our marvelous tour guide Ruth met us just outside Westminster Abbey and told us one story after another as we walked through the Abbey. The kids kept turning to me and saying, “She’s amazing!” She really is! A good tour guide makes all the difference!

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The view of Trafalgar Square from the entrance to the National Art Gallery (see the street performer in the bottom right corner? Fun!)

Highlights for me from Westminster Abbey (if you’re a parent, this will give you talking points with your student):

-the tomb of the unknown soldier from WWI (when Ruth told us about the hundreds of war widows who came to the burial, all of them thinking of the unknown soldier in the tomb as her husband, several of us had tears in our eyes)

-Queen Elizabeth’s tomb—where she is buried with her enemy-sister Bloody Queen Mary (the tomb is pretty incredible, but the main point of fascination for me is Ruth’s telling of these sisters’ backgrounds and their father’s craziness!)

-the pause for prayer (Westminster is still a working church)

-Poets’ Corner (and especially Dickens’ memorial—where, following his death, the poor of London came by the hundreds to pay tribute to the man who was sympathetic to their plight and wrote about them as real and valuable people)

-the gothic arches—can you believe that those huge, soaring ceilings were accomplished through trial and error? Incredible.

After Westminster we walked to Buckingham, watched the changing of the guard, learned about the current state of the monarchy from Ruth, a born-and-bred Londoner who loves her queen, and then had lunch and free time at Trafalgar Square.

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I moved WAY back–still couldn’t fit the entirety of St. Pauls in the shot!

All fun, but the most meaningful part of the day for me was Evensong service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. As an Anglican myself, it had special significance, but even the students unfamiliar with liturgy took something from the service. When you recite the Lord’s Prayer in a place as grand as St. Paul’s, with the great dome rising above, and you remember that the God we worship is so much more majestic and mighty and beautiful as to make the dome seem pitiful in comparison—well, that’s pretty awe-inspiring!

Last night at room check, Dave and I gave the kids a taste of Scotland in the form of Tunnock’s teacakes (about which, by the way, there is currently a bit of a furor [sorry, couldn’t resist the word] because the director of Tunnocks just ran an ad in the London Underground marketing the cakes as “Britain’s” tea cakes rather than Scotland’s. Follow this link to read more!)

This morning, bright and early–correction: “dark and early”–we boarded the train to Edinburgh. Another smooth transition, aided by a very kind rail worker named Simon who saw our huge pile of bags and offered to put it in a secure car at the back of the train because he knew we would have taken it to our carriage only to find it packed so full of passengers there wouldn’t have been room for it. Thank you, Simon!

So now we’re in Scotland, the real heart of this trip, where we will hang out with Scottish teens and spend time in Scottish churches and do, of course, a lot of discovering of this beautiful, rainy, long-historied place. We spent the afternoon in training sessions, learning about the church in Scotland and talking about our faith and how to share it with the Scottish teens we will soon meet. After sessions and dinner, our students went home with their Scottish host families, and Dave and I caught up with Rob and Louise Bell, the missionaries and dear friends who help coordinate this trip.

Tomorrow we’re off to Stirling Castle and the William Wallace Monument. Our driver Billy will tell us all kinds of interesting tidbits about the Scottish hero he and so many other Scottish lads are named for, and we’ll end the day with some work time for the church service we’ll lead on Sunday.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

Scotland trip, final day

The last post I wrote was after our full day at Deans Community High School. The following morning we were at Deans for our last assembly, presenting the cardboard testimonies to another group of students. Afterward, our students hung out with several of the Deans students they’d attended classes with the day before. We finally broke up the party and trekked the students to the train station. The attendant didn’t make it to our car till about 50 minutes into our trip to Glasgow. When he entered, Dave and I motioned to him and he walked past the rows of students to get to us. “They’re all with us,” Dave told him. He looked back at the kids, each one either asleep or zoned out, and then turned back to us. “What’d you do, drug them?” he asked.

The students livened up a bit after we got off the train, and they had some free time at Buchanan Galleries (one of the major shopping districts) before we went to the People’s Palace, a museum that celebrates the lives of ordinary people in Glasgow. We returned to Livingston North in the late afternoon and went straight to a church in Linlithgow. We had a chance to hold a debrief meeting before the church’s youth—the same kids we’d danced with at the ceilidh the Friday before—arrived for a joint youth gathering.

This meeting unveiled so much. We knew our students were tired, and after more than 10 days of the trip, with a lot of late nights/early mornings, and miles upon miles of walking, this was understandable. But Dave and I had guessed that for many of them, the fatigue was also tied to the day before, the day spent entirely at Deans. The debrief bore this out. Many talked about the nervousness they’d felt about being in a public school, about being questioned about their faith, about spending the day with peers they didn’t know. But they also shared how powerful the day had actually been for them. We asked each student to share a “takeaway,” and I’d like to record here (without names) some of their comments.

-This was my first missions trip. I’ve known for much of my life that I was interested in working in missions in one way or another, but now—on this trip—I’ve seen God’s power at work as we’ve shared about Him, and I want to do this.

-It was refreshing to see the Holy Spirit at work and cool to see apologetics in action—outside the WA “bubble.”

-I’ve always been so nervous about talking about my faith, and that was a huge weight that was lifted off because I actually shared. It was great preparation for going to a secular college.

-This was different than other mission trips I’ve been on because we actually got to interact with other teens who don’t know Christ.

-I’ve been inspired to have more courage.

-This was very stretching.

-I haven’t had a lot of chances to be with non-Christians, and on this trip, I was—and we talked about faith.

-Going on other missions trips has never stretched me like this trip did. I want to look for other Gospel-sharing opportunities.

-We are spiritually and physically rich in Wheaton. I’ve been to places that are physically poor, but Scotland is spiritually poor. I had to pray for courage like I haven’t before, and God clearly answered.

-We had to trust that the Holy Spirit would work—and we saw Him do it.

-I’ve been in Christian schools my whole life, and meeting kids face-to-face who worship other things/gods was shocking. It makes me want to grow deeper in the Word so I can give answers.

-That was huge to have someone ask me about my faith.

-I learned that when I am truly genuine and vulnerable—when I take off the mask and really show my struggles—it builds connections.

-I was tested and couldn’t fall back on my friends.

-To share my cardboard testimony was terrifying, but in doing that, I saw the clear transformation that has been worked in me—I’m a “new me.”

-The spiritual warfare here is huge, and apathy is dangerous.

-It was hard for me to share my testimony with all of you, my teammates on this trip.

-This trip was hard for me. I’ve never gotten homesick before, and I thought we’d be doing more missions, and I thought that would pull me out of homesickness. But even when we were “doing mission work,” it didn’t make me feel good. As I’ve been thinking about that, God’s been showing me that it’s not about me, about my “feeling good.”

Every single student shared. The Scottish youth group arrived just before we finished, and Lorna, their youth leader, split the kids into small groups (with a mix of U.S. and Scottish teens), and led them in a wonderful time of discussion and prayer. It was incredible. They were sharing deep things with each other, and the time was rich.

It was late before we finished, and the kids still had to return to their host families and pack up. We left for the airport the next morning and arrived safely in Chicago with no lost luggage—or students!—the same evening.

We’re now four days post-trip. We were very, very glad to get back to our kids, but Dave and I are still discussing and thinking about this trip. We want to bring the lessons learned during it into everyday life, and we want to continue to pray fervently for Scotland. That’s our prayer for the students as well.