Over the Pond… Where Mission Work Took Place in My Heart!
My heart was broken by the words Matthew spoke at the 9marks Conference: “It is more likely for a Scottish person to know a Muslim than a Christian.” How could this be? If Scottish people don’t know any Christians, how will they ever hear the good news of the gospel or even want to hear it when it is presented? These are the exact thoughts of the 20Schemes founders. 20Schemes is a one-year-old Christian Church Planting Organization that is trying to plant 10 churches in 20 years in the schemes of Scotland. Schemes are a European name for government housing, though these communities are like mini cities within a city, with 10,000 plus people living in each scheme. Because of the governmental system, most people do not work and therefore spend all day doing…well… really whatever they want. Children go to school but only have to attend until they are 16. Then, because they are able to live on the system, most never aspire to attend college or university.
With demographics as the ones listed above, it is no wonder most people living in the schemes are single moms with drug and addiction problems with abuse running rampant, whether child abuse or relational abuse. 20 Schemes has recognized that if they can plant churches in the middle of these schemes, where they provide a coffee shop or other form of public service in the church, they can reach the people relationally.
This idea presented by Matthew at the conference caught my attention, and I was hooked: I wanted to see what God was up to in the schemes of Scotland, so I signed up to join the Scotland mission team that traveled over Spring break of 2014.
When I arrived in Scotland, I was pleasantly surprised by the “warm” weather and the lack of rain. I was also surprised by the agenda of the trip. Though we had arrived thinking we were doing mission work, the trip ended up being much more of a vision trip to hear about the purpose and mission of 20Schemes. When I first realized this, I must admit I was discouraged, as I had hoped to get to know native Scottish people and share the gospel with them. God used this trip, though, in a completely different way than I expected. God changed my view of a mission trip and redirected my thinking to remaining missional minded. He pressed me to learn how to be a better missionary in the context I am presently living by observing other believers in their everyday lives.
The team worked with a church in the Nidre Scheme, in Edinburgh, Scotland. We got to meet the church leaders and also many of the native interns that are doing ministry through the church. As I talked with the members of the church, I realized that their entire method of integrating people into the church is through discipleship. In all actuality, they really don’t invite people to church until they have shared the gospel with them and formed a deep-rooted relationship with them. This is such a different way to go about evangelizing, as compared to our “American way”. Discipleship is the key thing in the church. When a person becomes a Christian, they are immediately paired with an “older” person in the church to be discipled weekly. They are to be taught the gospel truths and held accountable in every area of their lives. Because of this, people immediately feel a sense of community and are instantly held accountable for their decision to become a Christian. This was absolutely beautiful to me.
My heart is to disciple women. Having the Women’s Ministry pastor in Scotland ask me what I was doing weekly to disciple girls was humbling. When she asked if I discipled anyone, I answered “yes.” When she pushed me as to what that looked like, she quickly clarified that she didn’t want a “tea and biscuits” answer. As Christians, we can get tea and biscuits (or Starbucks) with anyone anytime. Discipleship should be a spiritually older woman coming alongside a spiritually younger woman teaching her the Bible and asking her the hard questions. Yes, this can be done over tea, but the content of the conversation shouldn’t be trivial things; it must be godly things. If this isn’t happening, it isn’t truly biblical discipleship.
As the week progressed, we visited many sights included Sterling Castle in Glasgow, Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, as well as various places throughout Edinburgh. We even ventured out and tried Haggis (yes, sheep intestines- That will be the one and only time I do that). We stayed at a seminary in Edinburgh where we met students studying from various parts of Europe. Where we have 4,000 enrolled in our seminary, they have about 20 enrolled. This is the stark contrast between Europe and America- one more example of the lostness of Scotland. The team of 12 grew close quickly, and there was never a dull moment with Dr. Eccher leading our team. It was amazing seeing each person on the team come alongside their team members to love and encourage each other, even though most of us had only met one time before.
There are so many things I could tell you about the trip, but I would like to leave you with these thoughts. Though the trip was not a mission trip in the sense I was expecting, we were able to encourage our brothers and sisters in a way they rarely ever receive. We visited two pastors in Glasgow, Pete and Pete (we jokingly called them “Pete and re-Pete”). While there we were able to go into the high school and meet students as well as meet with teachers in a primary school and talk to them about the gospel. I absolutely loved this more “mission geared” day, but I realized that the people who received the most missional love and support were Pete and Pete. Our brothers and sisters in Scotland are lonely and tired and worn down. They find their strength in the Lord, but there is power in the body of Christ- the joy they expressed because we visited them was humbling; it proved the urgency we need to have, as the body, in not only reaching the lost but supporting out fellow brothers and sisters.
As I come back from my trip to Scotland, I am not only encouraged to rethink my goals as I disciple younger women, but I am challenged to push hard to loving my brothers and sisters where I am at as well as from afar. As I think of the many missionaries overseas (or stateside), I am struck with how little I do to love them from America. A simple card through snail mail or email would not take much time at all, and it would mean the world to my Christian family that doesn't have much family and support close by.
I challenge you, as women of Southeastern: Don’t wait another day to love your spiritual family. Don’t take for granted the incredible gift we have here at Southeastern where we are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” And don’t stop teaching the truth, searching and spurring on new believers to think about the tough questions. Challenge those you are discipling and be intentional in the way you teach, reproof, correct, and train (2 Timothy 3:16) those whom God has placed in your life. Finally, look at every experience as a missional experience. Whether you are personally serving or observing others as they serve, let God teach you more about His character and how He wants you to actively participate in the mission He has called his children to live out.
Catie Thomas is a student at Southeastern working towards her Masters of Divinity in International Church Planting. She is also currently the Administrative Assistant in the Women's Life office. She has a heart for women and is humbled that God allows her to share His truth with them, whether that means mourning with them as they mourn or rejoicing with them as they rejoice. She looks forward to the future as she continues on this journey with the Lord but joyfully rests in the place where God has her here at Southeastern.