Scotland in November!

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Thanksgiving Greetings from the Stellhorn Clan as November progressed very quickly! Last blog we laid out our itinerary for November and all that was going to be taking place, so hopefully the news we have to share is worthy of all the work and busyness that has taken place in the past month! 

The past month...

The end of October, we loaded up all the kids, filled the van to the utter brim, and hit the road heading north early in the morning.  We made a couple stops before ending up in De Soto, Missouri (which is south of St. Louis) to make a quick visit with relatives and drop off all the kids except Cullen. From there, Shannon, Cullen, and I drove north out of Missouri and into Illinois to Chicago. We spent the night about 15-20 minutes from O’Hare airport, and flew out the next afternoon toward London!

It is recommended to arrive three hours early at the airport for international flights, plus a little extra time to park the van and take the shuttle to the terminal. We made it through security and waited for our flight, which all went fairly smooth. The flight from Chicago to London was around 7.5 hours, and with British Airways it is usually a comfortable trip. The baby didn’t do so well and was pretty fussy, which makes it all more tiring, but we survived.  We went through passport control, received our rental car and made our way along the two hour drive up to Birmingham. We were so tired, we actually stopped at a Tesco grocery store on the way and rested for a while in the parking lot. 

You might ask, “I thought you were looking to serve in Scotland?”. That’s true, but we were invited to participate in a conference being held by the church organization that is sponsoring our visas. It gave us a chance to meet and visit with church leaders from across the United Kingdom.

After a few days in Birmingham, we started to make our way north to take a couple days to rest after all the travel and conference. We spent two night in the Yorkshire Dales after over a week of traveling. It was good to take a breather and refresh before we continued northward. 

From there we drove across the border into Scotland and spent a night near Edinburgh (Ed-in-burr-ah) so we could visit with some missionaries who just arrived in country to serve at a church in North Berwick (Bear-rick), and then to meet with two couples in Edinburgh that are also with New International. 

The next morning we made our way north a couple hours to Oldmeldrum, a small town near Aberdeen in Scotland. We arrived around lunch time for an initial meet and greet lunch with Bridget, who started Village Church in Oldmeldrum. Shannon and I walked into the location and immediately got a whiff of all the fresh baked pastries and breads before being seated. As we made our way into the seating area, we both locked eyes and knew what each other was thinking as we stared at the big blue neon letters on the wall. I laughed inside thinking about the phrase, “The writings on the wall”. This is what it said: 

I don’t want to say it was a sign from heaven…but I don’t want to say it WASN’T a sign from heaven, because to tell you the truth it felt like God showed up in that moment and was like this:

It was a great meeting time, and we immediately were made to feel like home. After lunch, we headed to check in to our accommodations and to rest a little before we met up with Bridget once again.  This time at the local Co-op grocery store in town for their church prayer walk. The prayer walk goes for about an hour walking the streets of Oldmeldrum in a loop before returning. That evening we drove over to The Sunderlands’ home, and had dinner with the family, met their kids and enjoyed a great evening together. The night was late, as it was the start of their “marriage course” which we participated as well. 

The following morning we woke and went to explore the city of Inverurie.  Inverurie is a slightly larger town nearby with some shops, restaurants, and some important stops we needed to make. One of those stops was to speak  to a real estate agent to ask some initial questions about renting in the area. It sounds like it could be simple, but acquiring a rental property without being in and from the country can be a bit difficult, but we now know  a basic rundown of what is needed which will help when the timing is right to look for a property to rent,  We shared soup with Bridget at her home for lunch before gathering with members of the Village Church at the  Sunderlands’ house.  We had a chance to visit, share stories, learn about one another, as well as the culture of the church and city. That evening we had dinner again with the family, and joined the Sunderland’s for their church board meeting via Zoom. We were able to visit with their church board, and learn more about the church and their needs.

The next morning we joined Bridget and the kids to go take a nature walk in the area. It has a couple playgrounds for kids, a historic home on sight, woods and a duck pond. After the walk, we tried an area pub for lunch and ran a couple errands, before rejoining them for dinner and visiting that evening. An important part of being there was to bond and get to know each other to see if we all had the same vision and connection, and that evening opened up for a great opportunity for that while we talked over Indian food.

On Saturday we went on a day trip to the coast to spend the day together, then enjoyed some coffee and dinner before calling it a night in preparation for Sunday morning. 

Sunday was a different kind of day, because it is a holiday in the UK called, “Remembrance Day”. On this day, it is common for much of the communities to gather together in unity to remember those who gave their lives in defense of the country, similar to our Veterans or Memorial Day in the US. We gathered first at the Royal British Legion in Oldmeldrum (similar to the VFW Hall in US), and watched as the veterans, town officials, scouts, public servants, and a band marched from the legion to the hillside nearby where the soldiers memorial statue is located. As the parade leaves the legion building, the town joins the parade and follows them to the memorial site where a service is held. It was a beautiful thing to witness; for me the single most memorable part was when a single bagpiper played and marched off by himself until he could no longer be heard. It reminded me of the cowboy who rides away into the sunset. 

Afterwards we gathered back at the legion hall to serve the veterans, serving where we could, but also observing and learning so much about the local community.   That afternoon we gathered back with the Sunderlands at home for a Sunday dinner. After the kids were in bed, we were able to speak about the future, clarifying how we all felt, shared stories, and importantly prayed together.  

Some amazing things came out of this time together!  We look forward to sharing more about our potential partnership with Sunderland’s and The Village Church. Stay turned for future updates!

Through many conversations, we were able to learn more about the current state of things in Scotland. The data we share on our website from Barna Research is very helpful in understanding, but as COVID has swept the world, things have changed a bit. Many small town churches have continued to close their doors, long time leaders who have served have had to retire for health, so that has left a larger void in leadership within the churches in Scotland and a giant lack of teachers. 

In the US, about 65% of the population claim Christ.  In Nigeria, it is 46%.  in China, it is 2.5%, which means Scotland is on the same level, per percentage of population, as China at 2-3%. We live in a digital age, and many resources are able to be found through the internet, but as it has always been…it is about relationship. Coming to Christ isn’t about knowing the right stuff.  It’s about relationship with our Creator. The church isn’t about just doing the right things and hearing a sermon, it is about relationship with one another in Christ. The need is great, but the workers are few. 

We would like to pause a moment in this blog and just give mention to a servant of Jesus named, John Coppard. Mr. Coppard and I met through the internet last year during COVID and swapped messages a few times. He and a friend held a YouTube video series with special guests who serve Christ across the UK. They discussed stories and what others were doing. Mr. Coppard passed away this past month due to complications associated with COVID. 

We found that our time in Oldmeldrum was powerful, and we left feeling confirmed that we are meant to start our ministry in that town, but seeing how huge the need is in that community has stayed deeply with us and on our minds daily.

For us, the need has always been known, but being in the area we will be working, having real life conversations and seeing with our own eyes was a different story.

Mental health services in general is lacking, but for women of childbearing years/postpartum, it is critical. Suicide rates are high, trauma significant. For postpartum women, if they even find the courage to seek out help from their community midwife or GP, it can come with a struggle to get a prescription for medication, and it can take 18 months to receive therapy services, and then only six are covered by the health services. There is one lactation consultant to cover an area equivalent to the size of Houston. Women are left to struggle alone to feed their babies. It was eye opening how significant help for new moms is needed, and further ignited my (Shannon’s) passion to want to help the community with my skills with a new mom support group and lactation services.

End of the Year & Coming in January

In January, we will head to Union Mills, North Carolina where we will attend pre-field training at the Center for Intercultural Training (CIT). The whole family will attend classes relevant to their age range in preparation for an international move. The number one thing we have heard is that moving to an English speaking country can often have more culture shock because you don’t expect it or adequately prepare for it. We are looking forward to the training to help make our transition in Scotland more smoothly.

Our cost for pre-field training is $12,000. We are focusing our one time gift needs in December towards the cost of pre-field training. There’s still time to give before the year ends, if you would like to make a tax deductible gift! If you feel called to helping with this part of our preparation, you can give here.

What’s Our Timeline

Now to get to the big question… when are we leaving for Scotland?

After our research trip in November, our hearts are so ready to have our feet on the ground and acclimating and serving.

Our prayer and hope is to be in Scotland by late Spring. Once we attend our pre-field training, our biggest requirement to meet is obtaining 100% of our on-going monthly support to move to Scotland. This support is the support that gets us on the field, and keeps us on the field doing the work that’s so needed in the community.

We have reached the 60% mark of our ongoing monthly support, and so blessed by the many families and churches that have joined our clan and being part of the work in Scotland.

Once we reach 80%, we can begin the process to obtain our Visas to move to Scotland. Once we reach 90%, we can purchase our plane tickets and navigate a day for the big move.

How can you help?

We are prayerfully seeking who God has planned to fill the spots to be part of the work in Scotland.

To launch, we need monthly partners giving:

6 at $500 a month (or annual gifts of $6000 a year) or
12 at $250 a month (or annual gifts of $3000 a year) or
30 at $100 a month (or annual gifts of $1200 a year).

We would love to treat you or anyone you might know to coffee and share this journey God is calling us on.

Prayer Requests

  • For Tom and Bridget and the work they are doing at The Village Church.
  • Silas and Aibhlinn are having surgery Friday, and would be grateful for prayers for that.
  • For Shannon’s midwifery license and for divine intervention in the communication process to move forward in the journey.

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