When I was in school, our school mascot was the Pioneers. I wish I had a photo to show you of that mascot, but all I have is the cover from one of the boy’s school books. So hopefully you all know who the American Pioneers were and how tough it was for them. If not, just google Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone and you’ll be good (scrap the PC versions of their stories though). Anyway, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the pioneers, the ones who went west to find gold, to settle new land, and to start afresh. We’ve been given so many different words about being Pioneers here that I sometimes just let it go over my head and I don’t stop to really think about what they’re saying. What does it mean to spiritually pioneer a land or a new ministry?
This past weekend, we went down to Carlisle to see my in-laws and to just take a break from all the hardship here. We needed a change of scenery. And to be super honest, there is a heaviness that sits over Edinburgh and this area. We felt it when we first came, then we adjusted, and then we don’t think about it again until we’ve been through something so bizarrely hard. It then dawns on us that this place is hard! All the advice we received from other pastors when we first arrived here was how necessary it is to get away on a regular basis so that we don’t get sunk into the heaviness. Yet it’s not always affordable or practical to get away. And Mark’s dad turns 85 in a few short weeks, so I just felt the urgency that we need to make time with him more of a priority. So we did.
It’s a 2 to 2.5 hour drive down, and we love what is called “the Borders” – the area that lies between Edinburgh/Glasgow and England. It’s just beautiful. It’s also quite isolated and has a feel of being a bit deserted as the textile industry is slowly dying here and jobs are becoming quite hard to find. Yet we always feel the pull to go and be in the Borders. So this time, we took the long, scenic route and made it fun for the kids. And Ryder decided that the scenic route is the best; he loved the trip (even after having his sister puke all over the car!). And so when we returned home, I started researching the Borders. Just wanted to see what it’s like to live there, what the job market is like, do they welcome outsiders, etc. And man, the reports were heart breaking (and also taken with a grain of salt as everyone’s experience is different). The drug rate is high; the depression rate is high. The job market is so bad that people are commuting an hour or more to get to the bigger cities to find work. The housing prices are tanking as people leave the villages. And it’s all the same issues that plague the villages of Scotland, which just confirmed all that God’s been saying to my heart lately.
Every time I hear reports about a society going into serious economic and moral depression, I stop to look at where that society is looking to find its value. Is it a society that believes in God? Is it a culture where people promote one another and value their gifts and talents? Or is it a culture that teaches that everyone needs to look, talk, and act the same? Does it teach that individuals have no unique value? Does it push people down so that no one can excel? Does the government dictate what/who has value or does the government say which people have value and which don’t? In these societies, there is no motivation to be who God has made each person to be. There’s very little entrepreneurial spirit, no drive to go beyond the norm, and little motivation to try something new or different. And in my humble opinion, it’s because value for each individual life has not been taught. When we are taught that we are created in the image of God and that He gave His Son in order so that we could could truly know and be known by God, it gives us value. When I teach my children that He created them with their unique personalities, their giftings, and their names, they light up like they can do and be anything. They love knowing that they are original beings who have value. We all love being noticed and valued because of who we are. But what if you’ve never been taught that? What if society keeps telling you that you can’t be something because no one else in your family ever was? What if your culture teaches you that it’s best to just blend in and be like everyone else? What if you don’t even realize that you could try to be what you’ve always wanted, because no one ever encouraged you to even think out of the standard box?
I realize that this may rub some readers wrong, or you may miss what I’m saying because you’ve never lived in a society that does not teach value. So please believe me and hear me when I say that we live in a place that is so full of vibrant history, so wonderfully beautiful, and yet struggles so badly to survive. Scotland has such a strong heart to lead and to be valiant, yet it’s hindered in so many ways. And I won’t say anymore than this, because this post can’t be pages long . . .
So I’m sharing all of this in order to lead to this – the past week has probably been the toughest emotionally. I’ve felt like depression and hopelessness are trying to smother us, and yet Jesus keeps speaking and showing me life. We’ve had 5 days of glorious weather (a rare treat for June), and as I was tackling the weeds in the garden and digging up old potatoes left from the previous tenant, I sensed this –
What if these feelings of depression, isolation, so much struggle to find work, so many hardships to get through, what if these are the things that all your neighbors live under? Those villages you drove through and marveled at – what if they’re dying, because of these things? What if they sense the heaviness, yet have no idea of what it is or why it’s here? So they fill it, they treat it, and they do all they know to cope. Yet those things don’t help; they don’t bring life or hope. Who will bring them hope? Who can teach them hope if they have not had to also find hope? How do you teach someone to thrive if you have not had to learn how to go from surviving to thriving? What if the Enemy of their Souls has noticed that you have noticed them? How hard will he work to keep you from pioneering into his territory?
I’ve so longed to hear from the Lord and to know that we’re in the right place, doing the right thing. I’ve so longed for Him to see how we counted the cost, paid a higher cost than we figured, and have fought so hard to stay in this place that He has called us to. And this morning, when I got up, I first found a sweet message from a Scottish friend saying that God had shown her what was happening with us and how to fight. I then sat down with Mark to read the Word, and as we read through Ephesians 1, I said “look at all that He has already done for us? How could I be worried?” And then to end my day, I get a message from friends back home who have been praying for us and have sent an encouraging word. Then I get word that twice as much support has come in for us this month (!!!). So Who has noticed and Who has seen us all along . . . the One Who SEES and KNOWS. The One Who cares enough to let us know that He is watching and moving on our behalf.
I don’t know what the rest of this year holds for us, but I do know that our hearts are tied to this place. God has placed Scotland and its people firmly in our hearts, and so we pioneer on to claim more land, more villages, and more hearts for Him.