As I’ve been away from blogging for a bit, I flatter myself that you the reader might be interested to know what I’ve been up to. If there are any of you left.
It has been a long hiatus, so, as Desi Arnez might say it, “I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.”
At the end of October last year (yes, it has been that long!), my daughter and I traveled to Brunswick, Maine to preach for my good friend Pastor Bobby Mitchell. Mid-Coast Baptist Church is a refreshing place to be. The people of the church clearly love the Lord and delight in His Word. I can’t say enough good about this church. The men are men, and they take the lead in the church. They are capably pastored and shepherded by Pastor Mitchell. They love each other and have a heart for the lost. I met a large number of people who came to Christ under the ministry of the church. They have a passion to honor God in worship and praise, and a true submission to the Word. We were honored and delighted to spend a week with this church.
Pastor Mitchell is outspoken for Christ and very bold. Because of this, I can remember other pastors making judgments about what his church must be like. Let me assure you, this is a true church of God. The joy of the Lord fills this place.
My daughter is now in her senior year of high school, so it was a special time for the two of us to spend together. In addition to the wonderful fellowship we enjoyed with the Mitchell family, we were able to see much of the coast of Maine, from Portland to Camden along Highway 1. My daughter loves to take a long drive, and because it rained most of the time we were there, we spent hours driving up and down the coast, exploring a few of the many peninsulas.
We were also able to visit my good friend Daniel McGovern in Lee during our visit. Daniel spent a summer in Ogden, interning in our church during his college years. His sister Heather taught in our Christian school for two years before marrying this past summer. Heather now lives in Maine as well, and she and her husband stopped by to visit. Overall, it was a great time to catch up with these three fine young people.
My daughter and I returned to Utah on a Monday afternoon at the end of our visit to Maine, and the next morning my wife and I boarded a plane bound for Dublin, Ireland. We were able to spend two weeks visiting four missionaries supported by our church – one in Ireland, one in Scotland, and two in England. We had a wonderful visit to these places and found that our missionaries are doing tremendous work proclaiming the good news to the lost in these places.
Our flight out of Salt Lake was delayed by more than two hours, which meant that we would miss our connecting flights in Newark and Dulles. Because of this, we were re-routed through San Francisco, where we boarded Aer Lingus for a direct flight to Dublin. We arrived at 11:00 on Wednesday morning and were met at the airport by Andrew Canavan. Andrew’s parents, Dan and Beth Canavan, have served in Dublin for more than twenty years. By God’s gracious provision, their church was enabled to purchase a church building – as far as we are aware, the first Independent Baptist Church to own their own building in Dublin. Andrew has returned to Ireland to follow in his parent’s footsteps as a missionary. He was an excellent tour guide for us. We were able to visit Glendalough, home of one of the few intact “high towers” in the world. It was a true Irish experience. Andrew treated us to our very first Irish meal before we headed to his home to prepare for the Wednesday night service. We had the privilege of meeting Pastor and Mrs. Crichton, who spent a few months in Ireland filling in for the Canavans while they were in the States. Pastor Crichton led the Greater Rhode Island Baptist Church for many years prior to retirement. Praise the Lord, they are still serving!
We were blessed by the people of Hope Baptist Church in Dublin. Several of them rode a bicycle more than an hour in the drizzling rain in order to be in attendance at the midweek service. The people were hungry for the Word – more hungry than I think I have ever seen before.
The next day, we flew to Edinburgh, Scotland after spending the morning touring Dublin with Andrew and the Crichtons. We landed just after dark and stayed by the airport overnight.
Friday morning, we were to hop on a train to Elgin, Scotland. However, as we rode the bus through Edinburgh, we were overwhelmed at the beauty of this historic city. My wife has always loved Scotland, and though she didn’t ask, I could tell that she desperately wanted to see Edinburgh Castle. As a girl, her favorite book was Scottish Chiefs. So, when we arrived at the train station, we found a place to stow our luggage, figured out the rail system (there are more than 17 different tracks at Edinburgh Station), and then took a walk up the hill to the castle. On the way, we paused to look at a beautiful monument, little knowing that it was the monument to Sir Walter Scott. We were surprised to find a monument right next to that to David Livingstone. And as we walked up the hill to the Castle, we paused to look at a beautiful building, only to discover that it was the University of Edinburgh. Because the door to the courtyard was open, we walked in, and to my surprise found ourselves face-to-face with none other than the monument of John Knox. Edinburgh was full of surprises.
We boarded our train for Elgin at noon and enjoyed the Scottish countryside the entire way. Missionary Don Clough met us at the station – actually, at Aldi’s next to the station (yes, we were surprised to find Aldi’s). We used Air BnB to rent a small apartment in Lossiemouth where the Clough family has been serving for the past five years. Lossiemouth is located on a small point on the North Sea, and our missionaries live right across the street from the Sea. It was a beautiful place. Besides the fact that we were surrounded by that wonderful Scottish brogue, my wife absolutely loves the ocean. It has always been therapeutic to her, and this time was no exception.
The Clough family were very gracious hosts, and we had a wonderful time with them and especially with their children. On Saturday morning Brother Clough and I took a walk around the entire village of Lossiemouth. That afternoon, we took a drive to Loch Ness to see the monster. I learned that the monster’s real name is Harry…
Kidding. The main attraction at Loch Ness is Urquhart Castle, which today is a ruin. Still, enough remains intact to give a true picture of what was a strategic point centuries ago.
Sunday was Remembrance Day, the UK’s version of our Veteran’s Day. As this was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1, the entire UK held large and festive celebrations. In Lossiemouth, I would estimate that somewhere between 2,000 – 3,000 people turned out for the small parade and memorial service. Because the Cloughs are not able to rent a facility for Sunday mornings, they hold their Sunday services in the afternoon. So we were able to be part of the morning festivities. We wound up at a Church of Scotland – we believed for a short ceremony, but it turned out to be an entire service. I was glad because it gave me a unique perspective of Scottish life and culture. The church was packed with somewhere around 400 people. The pipe organ in that stately old church played the old hymns of the faith and we felt as if we had stepped back in time. Sadly though, no mention was made of the gospel or the saving grace of Jesus Christ, despite the fact that the pastor preached from the Sermon on the Mount. What a missed opportunity.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to join Brother Clough in letterboxing the Village of Keith before my wife and I boarded the train for Carlisle, England. We arrived in Carlisle just after dark, where we were met by missionary Keith Cashner and his oldest son. The Cashners have been serving in Scotland and England for about a decade now. Carlisle is a border town, and through history changed hands often between the Scots and the English. Bloody Mary was held in the Carlisle Castle for three days prior to her execution.
On Tuesday morning, the Cashners took us for a quick tour of Carlisle. Then Tuesday afternoon, we joined them for Bible studies, first in their home with two families, and then in a very proper English country home for a separate Bible study with another family. Brother Cashner is a very diligent pastor and takes the time to prepare at least four different Bible studies each week, personalized for the members of his church in order to disciple them. Each Bible study was carefully prepared and rich with instruction. We were thrilled to participate in this part of his ministry. The Cashners have three sons who have grown into fine young men and are an asset to their ministry. We really enjoyed our time with this wonderful family.
On Wednesday afternoon, we boarded a train for London after spending the morning walking around Carlisle with the Cashners. We arrived in London at 4:30 and were met by our missionaries, Kent and Andrea Gossmeyer. The Gossmeyers serve in the southern part of England – no, they don’t have a southern accent. Unless Oklahoma counts. They serve in the Cornish country in a small village called Liskeard. But they made the four-hour drive to London so that they could take us around to see some sights.
When we arrived in London, we again found a place to stow our luggage before heading to the British Library, where we saw an original copy of the 1611 King James Version, along with a number of ancient documents. After dinner, we took the Tube to Elephant and Castle where we attended Wednesday night church at the historic Metropolitan Tabernacle. Pastor Peter Masters, now in his 80’s, has been a faithful pastor. The church is thriving, and without the use of any of the modern or contemporary methods that American churches think are necessary to draw a crowd. The service is very simple, and little changed from the days when Charles Spurgeon pastored the church in the 1800’s. On a Wednesday evening in early November, the basement was crowded with more than 300 people. The head usher tells me that on Sundays, every seat in the auditorium is full and overflow seating fills up before the service. More than 900 people attend services on Sundays in that church.
The service begins with a lengthy and very passionate prayer, very dignified and yet very rich. The pastor announces the hymn and the piano plays a simple introduction. The congregation stands as one body, without any direction from the pastor, and the church sings heartily to the Lord. The announcements are straightforward with no joking or cutting up. One of the men of the church prays another lengthy and meaningful prayer. Two more hymns are sung – old hymns, often centuries old and doctrinally rich. Then the pastor preaches an expository message. The service concludes with a final hymn. Then, for nearly an hour after the service concludes, the people talk and fellowship together. The church serves tea and cookies.
We were delighted by the service. That night and the next, we stayed by Heathrow Airport. On Thursday, we walked more than 25,000 steps (yes, we kept track) as we visited everything from Windsor Castle to Buckingham Palace to Big Ben to the Tower of London, and plenty of places I am not going to name right now.
Friday morning, we made the drive to Cornwall. On the way, we drove by Stonehenge, visited Salisbury Cathedral, and visited Bath. My wife had her picture taken with Jane Austen and we chatted a little about Mr. Darcy. You know how that goes. Mainly, we couldn’t pry Kent away from the footman.
The Gossmeyers provided us with an excellent tour of London. They really extended themselves, ensuring that we got the most out of our visit. I especially felt bad for Mrs. Gossmeyer, as she had to haul her husband around town all day, him being quite aged these days. But he is good at barking orders from his wheelchair. He makes a great nagivator. Hopefully, he has recovered his strength.
We were able to visit Plymouth while in Cornwall. It was great to see the dock where the Mayflower launched, and see the Plymouth Hoe, where Sir Francis Drake calmly finished his game of bowls before launching his ships to defeat the Spanish Armada.
On Sunday, we had the joy of greeting the brethren in Liskeard Baptist Church. God has really blessed the Gossmeyer’s ministry, and today they have a thriving church in that little village. Praise the Lord.
Sunday afternoon my wife and I flew across the Irish Sea to Dublin where we spent the night before our return flight on Monday morning. We were back home for about a week and a half before I traveled to Chesterton to visit my son and attend the wedding of one of our young men. The week after I returned home, my wife traveled to Pennsylvania to spend a week with her mother before Christmas. Our son returned the day after she did, and we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season as a family.
Sadly, our Christmas was disrupted by the tragic death of my youngest sister, ten years my junior. The doctors believe that her death was the result of a brain aneurysm. My wife and I and our two youngest traveled to Kansas City for the memorial service to celebrate her life. She was a vibrant Christian and made a huge impact on many people, and she will be sorely missed.
Our return trip was slowed by a severe snowstorm through Wyoming. Wyoming is a beautiful place to travel, but it became very treacherous on this trip. We praise the Lord that we are home to stay for the time being. We have never been gone so much.
With such a flurry of travel, we have taken some time to catch up on our work, and as this blog is not my highest priority, I have let it lapse. It is my intention to get back to blogging now, so be watching – both of you!