Eight months ago on a rather dark and cold night in Birmingham, Cullen and I went for a walk. Not much is open at 10pm at night in Birmingham, and not much was within walking distance of our hotel either. Cullen wasn’t sleeping, and I wasn’t up to driving him around unknown streets. I bundled him up in his jacket, and we began the walk out of our Premier Inn, and down the street towards a nearby grocery store that stays open till 11pm. I pushed Cullen around in the trolley (shopping cart), and we picked out a couple items to purchase, and as he began to look a bit worn, we paid and made out way out.
As we made our way outside the doors and down the sidewalk in the chilly weather and wind that was blowing, thoughts of Halloween were in my head as the final remnant of the Halloween pumpkins sat alone in the middle of the parking lot. I noticed ahead of us a woman carrying two grocery bags and picking up this lonely and sad, Charlie Brown of a pumpkin. Signs still hung in the parking lot with the word “discounted” on them and “50p”, as this was the evening of November 6th, and for days these remnant pumpkins had been picked over, and this little one was the final one. This woman reached down and picked up this pumpkin, but not before noticing me. She stood back up and said, “I’m not stealing or anything”. I responded with a bit of a laugh, that I didn’t think she was, as all the big ones are gone and this little pumpkin was just one left by accident. (Inside I laughed and thought, “The Great Pumpkin would be pleased”)
She laughed and recognized that my accent was not local, of course, so asked which of the states I was from. I responded that I was from Texas, and she stated how much she loved Americans. We had a brief bit of small talk about flights and jet lag and she started to leave. Cullen and I made our way up the sidewalk toward the end of the parking lot and toward the final cart return. We parked the grocery cart and I took him out along with our items, and we began to walk toward the exit.
At the end of the parking lot right before the street, there is an area where they put a donation bin, one of the big metal ones where you drop clothing, shoes, toys, or recycling like cardboard or glass. As we passed by, the woman was standing there, once again reaching down to pick up a pair of shoes that someone dropped by the donations box, but had failed to make it in the bin itself. She put the shoes in the tray and dropped them down, and as we passed a nudge came on my heart. I turned slightly, and pulled out one of our business cards. Our cards have our email address on the front and told her that if there’s anything we can pray about for her, to please reach out to us.
She stopped in her tracks in that moment and stuttered a moment, then asked if I was with the local parish church. I explained briefly who we were and how we were visiting this weekend to attend a conference. In that moment she started to choke up and emotions began to take over her as the tears began to fall. She explained that she had come from a friends house whose life was in a total mess, where everything was wrong and she didn’t know what to do. She paused and looked up toward the sky and said that she had been… (pause) asking for guidance just now…and then here I was, all the way from America showing up and offering prayer. That evening at the corner of Park Way and Morrisons Rubery in Birmingham, we prayed out loud together for her friend that evening.
I think about that moment often, and how God tends to show up when we least expect it. In those moments of complete normalcy, in those moments of inconvenience when you would have rather been asleep, but he has placed you there in that moment for a moment such as this. That’s the tapestry He weaves, and you can’t tell how all those little random moments are working together, and for what purpose, but we remain faithful doing what we are told, being Jesus in those moments and being who He has called us to be.
That’s what life is like here in Scotland. It’s living like Jesus, and being faithful to His calling as He is at work. A couple weeks ago we met a woman who had been church planting further south in Scotland, and she explained how lonely it was for her and how deeply dark, empty and void it was spiritually in Scotland compared to other churches she has been part. A dark spirit that you can feel hangs over everything. People are hurting, lonely and empty while longing for something more. June has been filled with moments of spiritual attacks and battles, and only rightly so as the God of the Universe draws in his workers to the field. As we move through this month and into the next season of service here in Scotland, continue to pray for us!
We are so grateful for you, our Clan who we know are always beside us and behind us, supporting us and praying for us. We are thankful for those who have reached out to us over the month, checked up on us and who follow us on Facebook (Clan Stellhorn), so we know they are following the journey!
So now as June has come and gone now, and as we roll into July, we want to thank you for being a part of what’s happening here! The schools here have finished up for summer break and are out for seven weeks. Each culture, no matter how similar has their differences, and as we walk through this time of transition, integration, learning, and patience we find out more and more that we didn’t know prior to living here.
Summer break here is very serious and does not simply mean kids are out of school, it means holiday time (vacation). Folks may not just pop out for a week for a trip somewhere, they may in fact be gone for 5-6 of the weeks during summer holiday. A few folks we have met will be gone from day one of holiday time and not be back until the end (except for maybe a few days to a week sometime in between). Some hit the road in camper vans, others hop the train and travel to England to visit family and others may even jump over to mainland Europe (or Disney World Florida) for fun and adventure. We have been warned that the village may seem a little empty during the summer break!
We spoke in our last blog about getting settled and our travels, but as well…the illnesses. It’s hay fever time here and a lot of people you meet are struggling, because it’s so bad. I (Chris) usually don’t struggle with seasonal allergies much anymore, but it’s hit me hard the last few days with itchy eyes, cough and scratchy throat while Cullen and Gideon have had it pretty bad too. We are not only learning to fit in, but our physical bodies are too as they face and learn to deal with the local bugs and allergens going on. Five of the past eight weeks have easily been full of some kind of bug of some sort and had at least two of the six of us down for the count at some point.
Moving and settling is a bit more tiring than we imagined, and it is not just physically settling, but also emotionally and mentally. It’s serious things at times, but also silly things than sometimes you have to stop and go…”oh, that’s different”. On the silly side, I realized yesterday that I haven’t heard any thunder or seen any lightening since arriving. I’m not sure that while living in Texas I ever went seven or eight weeks without thunder and lightening. In that moment, I found myself thinking about the comforting and familiar sounds of a thunderstorms.
Our Clan Stellhorn Facebook page contains a lot of great little tidbits and stories of our day to day adjustment and journey, but will share some of the “not as sensitive” information here as well. Step one is to learn, ask questions, study and ask more questions in this process of integration. Not being afraid to ask questions you think may be a bit silly but it is important, because that’s how we learn, so we have been trying to ask lots of questions to further gain understanding. Sometimes it is learning the answer to what seems like a non-important item, turns out to be a backbone fact to know, and sometimes the asking of a question helps build a relationship.
During this month we have continued to learn from Village Church on how the church functions and reaches the lost in this culture. We have helped serve in ways that are needed from leading music, which isn’t a strong gifting of mine, but it has been exciting to help Village to have live music for the first times. We have helped facilitate small group discussion in Zoom Bible studies, and at the beginning of July, I (Chris) had the privilege to lead on Sunday morning. It’s a big privilege given to us, and I am taking it very seriously, because it is trust that has been given to us. Trust can be hard earned in this culture.
Despite the hard hitting Scottish bugs that have seemed to be a constant part of our lives right now, we have still continued building relationships in our community.
This month we volunteered at the Oldmeldrum Highland games, which was a big event here in the village. The games is a pride of the village that has been on hold for two years, so it was a big come back. We volunteered for a two hour shift on the Saturday of the event manning one of the entrance tents, and in doing so was able to meet folks coming and going. We spent the majority of the day at the event enjoying and observing…and learning a lot!
Silas had a realization this past week, because he has a couple church related shirts, and after a discussion with friends, he realized that his friends had never been to church in their life and knew nothing about it. It was the first time he came face to face with understanding how serious the situation is here, and how different of a culture it is.
Gideon began school this final week of June at the local Academy to get situated before the holiday break. After a lot of prayer and considering, he asked to try out school for a term after only being home schooled all his life. He enjoyed his first week, and is quite the celebrity! He gets called out by name as he walks down the hallway, as we witnessed when we toured the Academy!
It is finally starting to feel like we are getting our footing here. At about the six week mark it felt like we hit a transition mark, and were moving from one chapter to another. Relationships with people we are around with regularly felt as if they moved to new levels. The first inclinations that this is where we live further set in, and as the summer heat in Scotland rose a bit it reminded us of home in Texas, and we missed Bucees, iced tea, and BBQ. As we progress through the next few weeks of the summer holiday will you continue to pray for us? The summer holiday ends August 23rd, when big transitions will be happening for our family as Gideon has his first full term at the Academy, Aibhlinn starts nursery (similar to preschool), and we expect the new baby to arrive the very end of August/early September.
Is there anything we can be praying over you? We pray for our Clan regularly, and love to hear from everyone and how we can support you from Scotland.