Have you ever felt like an outsider? Or have you ever been in a place where you felt like nobody understands you? If you have then you will be able to identify with how many teenage missionary kids feel as they carve out their middle school and high school lives while living overseas. This isn’t how every mission kid feels, but it is a common experience and it at least partially explains why many missionary families leave the field to come back to the States while their children are age 12-18. This past week we had the opportunity to coordinate the meetings and activities for the youth at the MTW Europe Area Retreat, and one of the most encouraging things we heard throughout the week from the teenagers was comments like, “these are my people” and “finally, a group that understands me”. Ruth Van Reken, co-author of the book “Third Culture Kids”, has said that missionary kids are among the most under-discipled group in the church. We are very grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of helping to make that statement not true for the mission families serving with MTW in Europe.
Here are a few photo’s from our time at the retreat.
Locksley and friends
Question of the Day
High School Girls Small Group
Gathering on the first day
Next missionaries and volunteers
One of the highlights of every week is the time we get to spend with teenagers on Sunday evenings. This semester our teaching series is called “people who met Jesus” and we are working our way through the gospels looking at the person and work of Jesus as he interacted with people. Here are a couple of ways you can be praying for our youth group.
- Pray for the couple of Christians in our group. It can be very lonely to be a Christian in Scotland, and lonelier still to be a Christian in high school. As they face social rejection and isolation our prayer for them is that they would know that their identity in Christ is secure. Please pray that schemes of the evil one would not succeed as he tries to use the difficult circumstances to cause these teenagers to doubt God’s goodness.
- Pray for the teenagers who come to our group who do not yet trust in Jesus for their salvation. We have seen encouraging signs that the Spirit is softening hearts to the gospel, but there is a real temptation to discouragement as change does not often come quickly.
- Pray for our relationship with the local high school and with the administrators there. I still have the opportunity to do mentoring and counseling at the school and we are hoping that the school will give us permission to invite the teenagers I meet in the mentoring context to our church and youth group.
As the summer came to an end we had the opportunity to organize and lead the St. Andrews Teens Week. Teens Week brings together volunteers from various churches in town and our hope is that as we as we gather in a safe and fun environment that we are providing a space for teenagers where the gospel can be clearly seen and heard. Special thanks go to Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, Maryland who sent 5 volunteers and to Joe and Amanda Lennon for coming from St. Louis to help throughout the week.
Each day at Teens Week consists of testimony from leaders, lots of games (loosely connected to an Olympics theme), crafts, dinner together, and our talks came from the story of the prodigals sons found in Luke 15. It was really encouraging to have significant conversations about what it means that we are lost and what the only solution to our lostness is. Over half of the teenagers who came have no connection to a local church so it was especially encouraging to be able to share the gospel with them. The purpose of Teens Week is not simply to provide a one off event where we share the gospel, so pray that we would have continued opportunities to meet with these teenagers and share Jesus with them.
our team of volunteers
human Hungry Hungry Hippos
Haggis in all its glory.
In June we hosted 8 teenage missionary kids from across Europe. We asked a Scottish friend to serve them an official Scottish meal of Haggis, Neeps (turnips) and Tatties (potatoes) – along with Irn Bru to drink and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Some were brave and surprised when they liked it.
The weather was typical Scotland – grey, wet, and cold. One girl said “I can’t wait to see color again…. all I’ve seen this weekend is grey!” Yep. But we still had fun with a scavenger hunt around town, bonfires and games on the beach, hang out time in our den, and meals shared. We hope to be able to make this event an annual retreat – although the MK’s all left asking if we could do it twice a year 🙂
For the month of January our GYFM team has been writing devotionals and sending them out to all the MTW missionary kids. It has been so encouraging to start each day with a devotional from a teammate, and to know that many of the missionary kids in the MTW community are reflecting on the same scripture. Mission kids often have very little spiritual community among their peers where they live, and this has been a fun way to virtually spend time together in God’s Word. I want to share one of the devotions from earlier this month because it picks up on one of the things our family is focused on this New Year. We want the testimony of our family to be one thanksgiving to the Lord for all he has done and all he is doing.
Scripture: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. (Psalm 69:30)
I have a confession to make. I don’t always magnify God with thanksgiving. Instead of my praise being directed toward God I often direct my praise toward something man made. I either look to praise myself, or look to praise other people or other things. Without realizing it I think I’m trying to find joy and security in things of this creation.
Pastor John Piper calls this kind of praise “magnifying glass” praise. What he means is that I am taking something that is less worthy of praise than God (myself, others, things of this world) and I am magnifying them to try and make them bigger than what they are. Piper’s suggestion, and what I think David is getting at in this Psalm, is that we are meant to magnify like a telescope. The purpose of a telescope is to take something that is already massive, and magnify it so we can see it in greater detail. So my response to the good news of Jesus, the good news that God sent his Son to rescue me, is to be like a telescope and magnify His greatness. In this Psalm David gives us one way we can do that. We can magnify Him in our worship and in thanksgiving.
Piper concludes his thoughts on this verse by saying: “The whole duty of the Christian can be summed up in this: feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as he really is. Be a telescope for the world of the infinite starry wealth of the glory of God.” As I reflect on this verse and on John Piper’s thoughts I realize more and more that I can’t magnify what I’m not looking at. So join me today in praying that we would turn our eyes away from the things in the world that cannot satisfy, and that we would gaze at the majesty and glory of our God and King, and respond to Him with lives of worship.
One of the highlights of each week is our Sunday evening youth group. It has been fun to get to be a part of the lives of so many teenagers who this time last year we hadn’t even met! Throughout this semester we have been studying the book of Mark every Sunday night and I’ve been amazed at how interested they have been in the stories from Jesus life. Most of the teenagers that come do not come from a church background, and it is a real privilege to share the good news of Jesus with them every week.
This past weekend we hosted a Christmas party at our house and we were encouraged by how many kids came to the event. We are so grateful that our new house is big enough to host parties in and I think everyone that came had a great time. Please continue to pray for our youth group here. Pray that the Spirit would be using our time every Sunday to be softening hearts and drawing these teenagers to Christ. You can pray specifically for us as we are inviting some of the kids who don’t have a church family to come and worship with us on Sunday.
We celebrated our first Thanksgiving away from family ever. It was also my first time to cook a turkey (minus a small practice one I did the week before 🙂 I now feel like a real adult. It was a lovely evening surrounded by new friends. Some who already feel like family. We had 4 Scots, 10 Americans (not counting us), a girl from Australia, and a girl from China. It was a fun clashing of cultures and we had a really fun night. I am beyond thankful for the community that we do have here and the way the Lord has provided and met me exactly where I am.
It was also bittersweet because it was the last big meal with our closest American friends – Joey and Kate Sherrard and their two boys, James and Joseph. They have been in St. Andrews studying at St. Mary’s – the Divinity School – for the past 2 1/2 years. When we arrived here they were such a huge help in getting us settled and we quickly became friends. They attended Cornerstone, had kids at Canongate where our girls attend school, and really were a life line whenever we felt like we were drowning. They left St. Andrews yesterday and will soon be in Chattanooga! Joey is the new assistant pastor at Signal Mtn. Presbyterian Church and I found it so humorous that the Lord would send them there of all churches and cities!!! Needless to say we have lots of bonding points and know that we will see them again whenever we visit the states. Thanksgiving reminded me to be thankful for so many things – and the Sherrards were at the top of the list. Goodbyes are hard and we will miss sharing daily life together. ps – I also had a new found appreciation for my mom and mother-in-law for all the cooking they do at holidays and family events! I spent the entire day in the kitchen and was even sharing food responsabilites with multiple ladies. I will say though that having a dorm size fridge makes things very tricky and I’ve learned some good tips for the next time I host a large holiday meal. Mostly that I can’t functionally pull off 50% of American recipes 🙂