We’ve been in South Shields for 5 days now and have met more people than we can remember. We are definitely going to like it here!
We arrived right on time Wednesday afternoon making all our connections without much time to spare anywhere. Our luggage enjoyed Logan National Airport in Boston so much that it decided to spend the night there, but fortunately we had packed a change of clothes in our carry-ons. We were met at the airport by two very excited and bubbly ladies, Angela Pino (the Church Secretary and deacon) and her daughter Julie Price (also a deacon). They delivered us to our lovely home, a “semi-detached” house, known to us in the U.S. as a duplex. It is quite charming and very comfortable. It is obvious that the team of ladies who worked at setting up our home have a flare for design and color because it is truly beautiful. Geoff Aydon, who is a very committed servant in the church, spent several hours cleaning up, preparing, and planting flowers in the front and back gardens. The addition of a patio table and 4 chairs makes it feel like home for sure.
We spent Wednesday afternoon exploring our neighborhood on foot. If we walk between the houses across the street, then across the Coast Road, we find ourselves on The Leys that lay on top of the cliffs overlooking the North Sea. The sun was shining and the temperatures were in the high 50s which made for a great time of walking along the cliffs. The days are very long here and it doesn’t get dark until midnight, so we had several hours to enjoy these new and very different surroundings.
The next morning (Thursday) Liz Aydon (wife of Geoff and also a deacon) arrived to take us to the church. Whizz Kids was in full swing and we were able to meet the lovely ladies who make this a wonderful program Monday thru Friday for 2-4 year olds. While at the church Angela, who is the director of Whizz Kids, showed us around Westoe Road Baptist Church. The word “beautiful” does not do this building justice. It was built in 1881 (the same year Hardin-Simmons began) and finds its roots back in the 17th century when dissenting groups separated from the Church of England. The church was actually established in 1818. We’ve never seen architecture quite like this with a balcony that circles the entire sanctuary. We are told that the sanctuary seats over 600 and in the past has been full. We pray to see that again . . . before January 2012 if the Lord should will it. The pipe organ is original to the building but is seldom used these days. However, we attended a wedding on Saturday afternoon and it still sounds beautiful. The wedding was beautiful, by the way.
Today, our first Sunday, has been an incredible blessing. We were graciously allowed to be observers today. The service was what is known as Church Parade. We were not quite sure what that meant, but it became clear as we witnessed the entrance of the British flag carried by some dashing young men between the ages of 5-11 along with the young ladies of the Brownies carrying their organization flag. These children are all a part of clubs that meet weekly at the church. The Anchor Boys (ages 5-8) and the Boys Brigade (ages 9-11) along with the Brownies (girls ages 7-14) all meet at WRBC each week and so the Church Parade spotlights these weekly ministries as an outreach to the families of the children and the surrounding community. As part of the service today we were each given a few minutes to introduce ourselves and express our joy at being called to serve this body of believers. After the service we all enjoyed lunch together which makes them officially Baptist, right?
This evening’s service was our time to tell about ourselves and our journey with the Lord as He has brought us to this beautiful place. We are so humbled by the Lord’s goodness as we already feel a sense of belonging here. Our coming week will be a busy one as we will participate in their church activities. There is ministry going on every day at Westoe Road with Whizz Kids as well as a variety of other opportunities to meet with the church family for both social times and activities that focus on spiritual growth.
Westoe Road Baptist Church has a high level of energy. Their leadership is enthusiastic and committed to the teaching of God’s Word. They have a deep desire to reach their surrounding community with the Gospel of Christ and are willing to step out of their comfort zone in order to do that. They are definitely a church with a vision and there is great confidence in and a sweet spirit of cooperation within their leaders. It did not take us long to realize that the WRBC family deeply loves one another and they long for their church to be the Light of Christ in this city.
We treasure your prayers as we begin to realize what God has called us to here in South Shields. We would covet your prayers for:
• Deepening relationships with our church family at Westoe Road
o We will be experiencing a night of Texas Line Dancing in the church hall on Wednesday evening. Imagine coming to England to brush up on our Line Dancing Skills
o Brenda will also have the opportunity this week to meet with the “50-Somethings” for a night out at one of the local pubs
• Opportunities to build relationships with our neighbors, Cliff and Margaret, to the south and Eleanor to the north who shares our duplex
• Clear understanding of what ministries we are to involve ourselves in and how God might use our gifts in those ministries
• Dennis as he ministers to the men of the church and how to draw more men to participate
• Dennis as he prepares each week to present God’s Word
• Brenda as she seeks to know how to minister among the women. There are 3 venues of ministry for women:
o Modern Girl Bible Study – a monthly meeting of the young women of the church for Bible study specific to their generation
o Sisterhood – ladies over 50 meets weekly for Bible Reading and to hear speakers on various topics and missionary work (similar to WMU)
o Knit and Natter – ladies over 50 who focus on fund raising projects using their needle crafts. They have coordinated and promoted the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child. (Brenda’s on her way to the yarn shop tomorrow!)
We have definitely had some moments of missing everyone back home, especially on Thursday evening when our Skype connection would not work with Brenda’s mother. We know without a doubt that God’s has directed this moment in time for us to be in this place and while we may miss everyone back home, it’s so good to know that our God is so big that He can be both places and through the power of His Holy Spirit connect our hearts and minds. His work goes on regardless of which side of the ocean we are serving on.
We pray many blessings for all as you do the Lord’s work.