Dear church family! I wanted to use this elder’s blog to share a bit about the mission trip to South Africa last year and my reflections on our time away. We’ve not managed to formally feedback on that trip so hopefully this blog will give you a flavour of some highlights. It is a blessing to be a part of these trips and I think I can sum that up in five different ways.
A Blessing to Go
Jesus called his disciples to go to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth sharing the gospel message, and it’s great to see that happening across our church family. From Alpha, mainly music, Deeside Care Home, Afternoon Teas, Goalside, Ignite, Holiday Bible Clubs and wider community events to engaging with mission partners across the world, I can see (and am excited by!) how we are striving to fulfil the command from Jesus to Go!
To be a part of a church that is looking to obey the call to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in a multitude of locations and demographics, making disciples through different methods (by any means!), is deeply encouraging. I pray that we might continue to see where God is calling us, and that we will walk wholeheartedly in joyful obedience both locally and further afield.
In the four years we’ve been worked alongside Liam and Rachel Byrnes, twenty-five different people have been a part of these trips. Twenty-five people have gone out and shared the love of Jesus. Twenty-five people have been sent out by our church family to the ends of the earth to give glory to God.
This year, for me, “going” meant spending time with 8 guys in my cabin (aged between 14 and 17) and I loved my time with them. We spoke a lot about the challenges of life, what it meant to follow Jesus, some big theological questions, we discussed bible passages, shared our dreams, were able to celebrate what God has done in our lives and prayed with one another. They taught me some Xhosa, we laughed a lot late into the night and also dealt with large spiders and scorpions (no joke!). I pray that they are all walking with Jesus and, God-willing, I’ll see them again to build on those friendships and further encourage them. Thank you all for supporting the team so I could go.
A blessing to be Family
In 2018 we sent a team of 8 people – Amy, Chris, Jon, Lynsey, Matt, Sam, Yasmin and myself. We didn’t all know one another beforehand but from March to July we got to know one another very well. We prayed together, we laughed a lot, we supported each other in difficult times, we shouldered burdens, shared meals, heard each other snore (I won’t say who!), saw one another in our most tired states, cried together, shared joyful and tough stories and laughed a lot more.
Shared experiences bring us together and I’ve seen that each year I’ve been in South Africa. In our first ever South Africa Team Meeting in 2015 when preparing for that first trip, Connie Cameron prayed, “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. Bind us together, Lord, Bind us together, Bind us together with love” and I think we’ve seen that.
Since the passing of our brother Chris, those days away have taken on even more meaning. I’ve reflected on the early morning and late night chats that we had, seeing Chris naturally loving and building up the young guys in his cabin, and I am very grateful for that quality time I got with him, and with the whole team – it’s quality time that we all spend together as family and it is a huge blessing.
A blessing to Support
These trips have been a great opportunity for the church to engage with Liam and Rachel, and I think everyone would agree with me that the time with them is rich. We want to not only work alongside them but to encourage them, to hear more of what daily life is like for them, including the challenges; to get a fuller picture of their ministry and to hear how God is using them to make disciples. They have sought to get to know each person who has gone, pouring into our lives. I think one of the highlights for most people is the time spent with Liam and Rachel. They’re fun, caring, passionate and genuinely love having us with them (at least I think so!).
We’ve seen others do that in the last few years with other missionaries. Emma and Naomi visited our missionaries in Asia; Martin spent a week in Kenya with Compassion; Colin and Clare ministered for a couple of weeks in Malawi with the Kerusso Trust and I spent time in India with IJM. More locally we’ve recently been able to engage with Bethany Christian Trust and IJM and they’ve both spoken of their appreciation of our support. Time is one of our most precious resources and I like to see us choosing to invest that in those we support.
A blessing to see
We see God at work in the campers’ lives but also in each of the team members. It’s especially exciting to see Him at work in the younger members of the team – Yasmin, Matt and Sam (Xhosa Sam as he is now known to us!). They were fantastic! They threw themselves into all situations with a maturity beyond their years. They were energetic, enthusiastic and selfless; they served incredibly well and we all felt so proud of them. In every team member, I saw God use them and continue to mould and transform them and it was a joy to see.
It’s a blessing to see the youth and children in the camp grow over those days too. As previously mentioned these young people ask great questions and you can see them wrestling with many big issues. God is at work during that camp and it’s a pleasure to be able to be a part of that and see how He moves in their lives.
One reflection myself, Lynsey and Rachel Byrnes had was that the three of us were serving in Cape Town as a result of answered prayer. Prayers that were said 3 decades earlier. Our families grew up together and our parents had prayed for all the children, that we would follow Jesus and we would shine bright for His glory. It was a special reflection to think on the saving work that God has done in each of our lives and how each of our journeys had led to us to working together in Cape Town. We see much answered prayer in the build up to our time away and during it, but this one has stuck with me! Let’s all be praying for the youngsters in our church that one day they would be used to spread the Good News of Jesus here in Aberdeen and further afield.
A blessing to grow
Post camp we spend some time debriefing. We look at the challenges we faced, share some highlights, consider what we’ve learned and what God has been speaking to us. In preparation for this blog I re-read some of the notes I made during that time – here is a taste of what was shared:
- I’ve learned to pass things over to God and seen answered prayer.
- I’ve learned how to give my testimony.
- God has unlocked a confidence in me that I want to bring home so I can tell others about Jesus.
- Our church community is God-given and we need to embrace one another more.
- I needed this experience for God to open my eyes beyond what life is like in Aberdeen.
- We might be materially rich but we’re often relationally poor. We need to address that imbalance.
My own faith has grown in these trips. From being pushed out of my comfort zone, to embracing new experiences and relying on Him. From God speaking to me in my disappointments, to the joy of joining in worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ; from serving with old friends to serving with new friends. It is a blessing to be a part of these trips.
Are you up for it?
As we look to put together a team for 2019 I hope the above has given you a taste of some of the blessings. Please come and ask me questions or anyone who has previously been – we’d gladly spend time with you and speak of this in more detail. If you would like to register interest in the 2019 team please contact Colin Ross or myself.
Scott MacDonald, March 2019