Seven months ago, we were like wide-eyed tourists standing on these beautiful cliffs looking out over the North Sea feeling like we should pinch ourselves into the reality that this was our home. That first afternoon back in June as we walked along the footpath that meanders along the Leys, we prayed for God’s direction and wisdom in the ministry at Westoe Road Baptist Church and wondered what we would watch Him do. This past Sunday 166 people filled our sanctuary to participate in the dedication of sweet, little Jennifer Marshall, to say “welcome” to Ron and Karalee Johnson, and to say “farewell” to us. What a crowd!
It is with great confidence and gratitude that we look back on these past months. Sunday mornings have become our favorite time of the week as we sense a growing energy among the worshippers who faithfully attend the services. During the month of December we enjoyed several Sundays where there were more than 80 people who came for the special services celebrating the birth of our King. Sunday after Sunday there has been an enthusiasm and warmth of friendships that has drawn people back to this place to worship and to learn more about our Loving Heavenly Father and the peace and grace He offers through Jesus Christ. We will definitely miss our times of worship the most!
Each Monday the sweet, loving “sisters” of Sisterhood have been a reminder of the love and friendships that have been anchored through the decades as they have met to listen to speakers who teach God’s Word and share their personal walk with the Lord through the years. Sisterhood began in the early 1900s and many of these ladies tell stories of their own Mothers attending Sisterhood when they were just school girls. Then they tell of how they each became a part of Sisterhood as young women and how it was sustained through the dark days of World War II. Their lives are testimonies of lifelong faith and the strength and tenacity that come as a result of that faith. Those wonderful Monday afternoon meetings will be missed the most!
We are going to miss the Coffee Pot crowd and seeing the loving, smiling faces of Dorothy and Bobby Alexander, Dorothy Binns, and Vera Brown. If ever there was an example of teamwork, it is this little group. While Bobby sets up the room and quickly finds needed chairs, Dorothy Binns goes to work in the kitchen. Vera is a gracious and efficient server while Dorothy Alexander works the crowd and greets everyone with her beautiful smile. Those who attend Coffee Pot know they can expect a warm welcome along with a great cup of coffee or tea and something yummy that the Dorothys have baked. We are wishing that we could take them back to Abilene with us because we are going to miss Coffee Pot the most!
Then there are the Knit ‘n Knatters! Wow! They had their work cut out for them. From the beginning they took up the challenge to teach Brenda to knit and, believe it or not!. . . They’ve done it! It must have been sheer determination that they patiently put up with her bringing her knitting to Coffee Pot and Christmas parties and, yes, even to church! They persevered and she is now able to actually knit something she (or someone) can wear. After watching this week-end and week-out process, Dennis commented that he was so glad he knew he was going to heaven, because he was quite confident that if he was sent to hell, it would be a place where they would give him knitting needles and insist that he learn to knit. Many times he suggested that she needed a new hobby. However, she has learned and everyone will certainly be sweaters next Christmas. Those Wednesday mornings are definitely going to be missed the most!
Our times of socializing – curry nights with the guys, the Modern Girls, the 50-Somethings, the garden parties, after-church tea, etc., etc., etc., - have brought indescribable joy and blessing. We’re afraid that the garden parties in West Texas won’t be quiet as cool and refreshing as the ones we enjoy at the Aydon’s, the Marshall’s, and the Tennet's. Dennis has enjoyed many evenings out with Geoff and the rest of the men from Westoe Road. There have been lots of good conversations about the Lord and other “manly” topics over a spicy curry. Who is Dennis going to eat curry with when we get home? Will we even be able to find a curry house without having to drive to Dallas? The Modern Girls and the 50-Somethings have been such a blessing to Brenda. They have afforded her many evenings of great fellowship as well as the sweet, sweet times of studying God’s Word. They will forever come to mind every time she reads the book of Ruth. We will certainly miss all of this the most!
These last two weeks have been like the icing on the cake as we have been blessed with the excitement of Lianne’s baptism. Thank you, Lord, for moving in her life and calling her to obedience. Her excitement and joy in her newfound relationship with Christ will be contagious and we cannot wait to see what the Lord does with her life as she serves Him at Westoe Road. Then there is the birth of precious little Jennifer. How sweet it is going to be to watch Greg and Deanne raise her to know the Lord and follow Him! To watch the Lord’s hand in all of these lives will be what we miss the most!
There have been so many sweet times with the deacons – Angela, Audrey, Doreen, Julie, Liz, and of course, our precious Nellie – that it is really hard to decide which ones stand out in our minds. Shortly after we arrived we began a study on servant leadership. There have been so many times that we were blessed as we watched them serve the body at Westoe Road. They ARE servants! Vacuuming the floor in the church, putting out biscuits and preparing for after-church tea, running carpool for the older members, counting the offerings, pastoral visits, teaching Bible study, helping in the morning worship services . . . the list could go on and on. It is so obvious to us that they are hopelessly in love with the people of Westoe Road. They also love their Lord Jesus and when you combine those two things you can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-39, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” They have a deep understanding of their roles as deacons – servants of Christ’s body. They have made a place for us here at Westoe Road, not just among the people, but in their hearts as well. We will miss them the most!
So we now turn another page in the diary of our lives. Only the Lord knows what is to come for each of us – life back in Abilene, time with Brenda’s Mother, trips to Colorado to see the kids, new avenues of ministry. Only the Lord knows! However, as we look back on our time here in South Shields we can honestly say that of all of life’s experiences and of all the people we’ve come to know through the years, we will miss these the most!