Day One: Flights, Train Rides, and Jet Lag
By Gavin McNellage
After a very long couple of days of flights, train rides, and jet lag, the first day has come to a close. Our team was able to visit London and really take it all in. From Buckingham Palace to Big Ben to a 5-story toy store called Hamley’s (that I got lost in), we were able to really just sit back and experience it all. On top of the multitude of sights, we were able to see, there were so many people that we passed on the sidewalk or sat next to on a train.
On top of the people that we might meet in our Hostels, there are people that we see every day that we have the opportunity to share and put on display exactly what the Gospel is. This is true for our trip and also for our lives when we return from our trip. Continue to pray for us as we try to get used to the time change and pray that God will set up divine appointments to share his love and live it out.
Day Two: We’ll never be Royals
By Chelsey Sayasane
In a city full of people and culture, there seems to be so much independence. Headphones, laptops, and cell phones everywhere. It’s incredible how many people pass us daily without saying a word or knowing our story. Today, we went to Kensington Palace where I admired crowns and jewels from centuries ago. Although we may never be royal in England, we know the royal inheritance ence we have in Jesus. He has directed every step (over 40,000 so far) we have had in London. We have had the opportunity to have a Gospel conversation and explain who Jesus is and why He loves us so much. I’m so excited for the journey to Cardiff tomorrow and I am thankful for our experience here in London. Onward we go..
Day Three: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
By Abigail Yount
“13 Little Blue Envelopes” is the first book I remember reading in third grade about a girl backpacking around Europe. Then, Lizzie McQuire taught me going to Rome is what dreams are made of, and Lorelei and Rory didn’t help anything. In high school, I fell in love with the British show Sherlock, and realized I lived a lot of my life vicariously through movies and TV shows. This time I am the one getting to gallivant around London and to carry a backpack that I can almost fit inside of. For me, this is a testament to God’s work in my heart not to be anxious of going out and putting myself in uncomfortable positions for the sake of His cause.
To capture a snapshot of some of the moments we’ve shared here, I want to talk about two things: the first friend we’ve made and the tube. Gavin and Hardy met John our first night in London and invited him to join us for lunch at a Pho restaurant (currently my favorite food). We were discussing our countries when John mentioned Germany’s president Angela Merkel. To me, Angela Merkel sounded like “Uncle America” when John said it in his German accent. I wrongly assumed that he was trying to say something about Uncle Sam. When we realized the confusion, he could not stop laughing at me. I was so glad he did not take offense to that as we continued to talk about religion. After talking to him about Jesus—someone he had never learned about and someone I’ve learned about my entire life—I was reminded of the fact that our different origins give us different perspectives on things. Just like the tube, some people hate it, others love it, while some have never even heard of it before. I happen to love it, because it’s apart of a culture I’ve always admired. I’m thankful for the people God has surrounded me with to hear their perspectives and stories and to grow closer to Him while eating a lot of cheese.
Day Four: Good Gifts
By Hannah Gibson
If I'm being honest, I have felt very inadequate this semester. Well, maybe this whole year. If you're close to me, you've probably heard me once or twice be honest about how I feel like I just have nothing to give. In my job I often feel like I have to always be giving, and when I can't, I feel like I'm failing.
My good friend and co-worker, Abbie, has been reminding me that His power is made perfect in my weakness." Through the reflection of this trip so far, I'm finally allowing myself to find joy in my weakness. No matter how much I know, I've been missing the point and continuing to find strength in myself instead of in the Lord. It hasn't been going super well, if you're wondering!
This Puritan prayer helps redirect my focus:
" O God whose will conquers all, there is no comfort apart from enjoying thee and being engaged in thy service; Thou art All in all, and all enjoyments are what to me thou makest them, and no more... I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal, and it delights me to leave them there. Then prayer turns into praise when all I can do is to adore and bless thee..." (God the All, Valley of Vision (This is only a tad bit of the prayer, if you get a chance, look up the whole thing)).
He is the giver of all good things and allows me to enjoy them: the good weather, the places and people we have enjoyed, the good food we have eaten, and the bond we have as a team. He has given all of those. Nothing I do should be on my own strength, because I truly do have nothing to give, that's the beauty of it.
Another good gift that He gave us today was the beautiful weather as we biked through the Mumbles and had time with my grandmothers cousin and her husband (who I had no idea what they looked like till today). We sat down with them, ate some amazing fish and chips, and listened to the many stories they shared. To bless us even more, they were gracious enough to buy our lunch. For all five of us in addition to themselves. So kind!!!
So now, as we take a short train back into Cardiff, I take a deep breath and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord and the fact that apart from him I have nothing to give, but his power is made perfect in that.
Day Five: Vatican Cameos
By Hardy Acker
Life is filled with defining moments, but we never know which moments will truly impact us. As we traveled from Cardiff to the city of Manchester today it was all to easy to take in the country side and let my mind fade away into thought.
While we often prepare and practice for certain big moments in life, it is rare that those are the moments that truly impact us. It is often the small moments and the unexpected moments in life that we choose to remember. As we passed through the green and yellow hills of the country I began to understand something. That is that while we have expected to the English country side it is yet different than we imagined it. I believe the same can be said for this trip. We expect to meet people and share the Gospel, and we expect to see amazing places in the world. But often life is not like what we have been preparing for. We can prepare for a Vatican Cameo but the reality is that this team will never make it there. We can prepare for a mission trip or a vacation, but the reality is that this trips is neither of those. This is simply life, and I choose to live it. Every high, every low, and every single moment no mater how big or small I think it is. What we have been preparing for is the now. It is always the now. This present time is what God has allotted to us, and my only job is to glorify God by making the most of each moment that has come my way in the unfamiliar journey of life.
Please continue to pray for our well being and our willingness to boast in Christ Jesus.
Day Six: Championes! Championes! Ole, Ole, Ole!
By Gavin McNellage
Our first full day in Manchester was great! We were able to walk around on a walking tour where we learned about the history of the city while looking at its major attractions. One of the cool things that we got to see was the parade of the new Premier League champions, Manchester City (who became champions yesterday). I love sports, but I typically don’t get excited unless it’s a parade for the Alabama Crimson Tide (Roll Tide) or the New England Patriots (Go Pats). However, being able to be part of the crowd celebrating their home team and singing “Championes! Championes! Ole, Ole, Ole!” was pretty special and something I won’t ever forget.
Perhaps the best part of the day was on the walking tour. One thing I was really worried about was meeting people. I was uncertain about what opportunities there would be. But God is an omniscient omnipresent God and he has been faithful in setting up divine appointments. Today we met this guy named Diego from Columbia and he hung out with us all day! He was in Blackburn volunteering for a homeless shelter and just so happened to be in Manchester for a day. We were able to talk to him about anything and everything. Eventually we were able to share the gospel with him! One thing I’ve really enjoyed about this trip has been to see how my teammates can relate to people in different ways. It has reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul is addressing the different roles that Christians play in order to make up the Body of Christ, the Church. My boy Hardy (also known as Harmon, Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and Harmony) was able to communicate his story and the Gospel in a way I might not have been able to do as effectively in one particular conversation the three of us had. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but our job is just to share. We don’t have the power to save or to make people come to faith. We are just supposed to be a testament to Jesus who has all authority in Heaven and on Earth. I’m so thankful for the many people God has put in our path and the times we got to share as a team. Please continue to pray for us as we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ.
Day Seven: The Least of These
By Chelsey Sayasane
This mission trip has been incredible. God is truly at work through our team. Each morning, I wake up refreshed knowing and trusting His agenda for us that day. This morning, Gavin and Hardy went to the local grocery store and picked up breakfast items to cook. I was impressed by Hardy’s egg flipping skills, kinda. I met a sweet sweet human today named Omani. She gave me a sick henna (my first one (:) and we got to talk about Manchester and the States. She was so kind and we ended the session with a hug and a selfie of course.
I’m so in awe of my team. Gavin is the comedic relief yet very focused. Abigail is mission minded and so kind and genuine to everyone she meets. Hannah is such a fearless leader. She leads us well and keeps our goals in mind. Hardy is always jumping off of things and scaring the mess out of me but he is so good at starting conversations with complete strangers.
During our days, I continue to walk these streets uneasy. The homeless community has been one that has always touched my heart. I have never been able to comprehend what they go through on a day to day basis. Many of us have the stereotype set in our minds that the homeless are simply lazy people who will not find work. Although that may be true in many cases, I know it is not the case for all. I have met hundreds of homeless men, women, and children this past year who simply fell off of the track of life. Whether that was a spouse or parent passing, or the loss of a job, I found it to be true that some homeless are hard working and driven, life just happened. Being in a big city, the homeless are drawn to the major attractions hoping for loose change. In Manchester alone, nearly 4,428 people do not have a roof to call their own over their heads (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/homelessness-rise-manchester-oldham-shelter-13044554.amp (cite your sources people)).
That number troubles me because I know that there are millions around our big beautiful world who are hungry. They may be physically hungry, but I know they are spiritually hungry as well. One thing we all strive to get our hands on as humans is hope. Hope that Jesus was and is to come and making us white as snow through the process. Although I cannot provide the needs of all of the homeless, I can make a difference where I am. I have trusted that if Jesus takes care of the birds, He will take care of His people too. I am asking you to say a prayer for those sleeping on the streets tonight. At the end of the day, they are people like you and me.
Day Eight: Lovely Things
By Abigail Yount
First of all, we woke up to fits of giggles about the mouse who ate through Hannah’s almonds in her bag and our bread. We haven’t found him yet, but we hope we don’t. We have also washed clothes for the first time today. We stink (boys AND girls), but it was worth missing the chance to in order to spend time with a guy we met. He’s now meeting us in Glasgow to spend more time with us.
Philippians 4:8 reminds me to think on lovely things. Dublin will be voting in the referendum on May 25th to decide whether or not to abolish the 8th amendment giving rights to the unborn (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/abortion-q-a-what-will-happen-after-you-vote-in-the-referendum-1.3478922%3fmode=amp siting my source, Gavin) God has a plan for the child and mother despite the circumstance. Yet, Hannah put into words how I feel about our approach as believers. When we attack the product instead of the root of the issue, we accomplish nothing. We may save a life, but what about the soul?
As you pray, please think of the loveliness of the Gospel, and that the people of Dublin would be transformed by the renewing of their minds. That decision will lead to wiser, God-honoring decisions. Thank you for praying and following our journey!
Day Nine: Enjoyment
By Hannah Gibson
"What is man's chief end?
Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever."
As I walked along the Liffey river today, I was reminded of this catechism. Sun, blue sky, and four people that I have grown to love made me take a breath and reflect on the blessings around me.
In past few months, I've been realizing that I am often times task oriented instead of relationship oriented. This can be a really good thing. I get the task in front of me done and have the ability to focus on it and not get distracted by the happenings around me. However, this can also be a bad thing, because the person in front of me is far more important than the process I'm working on (#peopleoverprocess @studentlifeum).
This trip, our time in Dublin in particular, is exposing the weaknesses of this in me. We met several people on our walking tour today, but did not find many open doors to have conversations deeper than the normal small talk. With the task oriented mindset, this could be frustrating and cause me to not see the blessings right in front of me.
Seeing what God is doing right in front of me, forces me to take my focus off of me and what I can do and shift it to Him and what He is doing. Here's an example: we are four cities in and there has been one thing in common for all four. In every city, locals have welcomed us and said, "this weather is brilliant, isn't it? It's normally not this way. Our city and cold and rainy!!" Where we believe the locals, all we have known is blue sky, sun, and a cool breeze.
I want to find joy in these things instead of failing to see them because of a task. I want to find joy in the strength of the Lord when I deal weak, tired, or inadequate. I want to be aware of what He is doing around me instead of being so focused on the things I can do or say. This quote encourages and challenges me: "Like everyone else, you long to be 'blessed' or happy. That's how God wired you. The ultimate way to nourish this longing is to satisfy it with the deepest and most enduring happiness, God himself, and then share that deep joy with others by loving them. Your chief end is to glorify God by enjoying him forever" (Naselli & Crowley, Conscience, 25).
So today as I walk around this beautiful city, I let the sun hit my face and enjoy this blessing from God. I also find joy in the four around me that God has called to Himself and is daily sanctifying and making look more like himself. May others see this deep joy in us and may God use our weakness to show his power and allow us to love on others through the joy and strength that enjoying Him brings.
Day 10: Salads and Sandwiches
By Hardy Acker
As we’ve traveled the UK and Ireland our diet has mainly consisted of bread and some variation of potatoes. While sandwiches and fries (or “chips” as they are commonly called here) are a great meal it does lack some nutritional value.
Today as we toured Trinity College in Dublin we had the opportunity to view the book of Kells, which is essentially a Latin translation of the four gospels. Having this opportunity to see the beauty in the preservation of God’s word is just a glimpse of God’s sovereignty through time and proof of how it extends many different cultures and languages. As we ate salads for lunch on the campus lawn we discussed the value of a nutritious meal. The same is true for our spirit. Wayne Grudem say, (This might not be an exact quote, but I’m trying) “To neglect the regular reading of God’s word is as detrimental to the health of our souls as the neglect of food is to the health of our bodies.”
Recently I have asked a few of my close friends to pray for patience and peace on this stage of the journey. But today I am reminded that there is no better substitute than the Word of God. I have found that simply reading Scripture aloud has a more soothing effect over my mind than any food or drink or nights rest could ever have.
Please pray that we will continue to spend time in God’s word. And that we will be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” Colossians 1:11
Day 11: Slowing it down in Belfast
(Play on Words by Gavin McNellage)
Today we traveled from Dublin just a little ways north to Belfast. Even though it was a pretty short travel day, it was still something I was able to look forward to. I look forward to travel days because they have essentially become our rest days. Typically during our days in the city, we are constantly moving, meeting people, and exploring until it is time to go to sleep, wake up, and do it again. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing everything, but it is nice to be able to have a little time, whether on a train or ferry, to just be able to rest. Today we sat outside of Belfast City Hall in the grass and talked about how nice it was to be able to relax a little bit.
We still explored and tried things, like this nasty Mexican/Chinese place (Me and Chelsey ended up going to KFC, which is also not good). We also went to the top of the mall and the view was incredible!
Altogether, it was a good day.
My daily routine back home, which I believe is the same for my team, is all work and very little rest. This is contrary to what we are supposed to do! God created work and designed it to be something good that can be used to glorify him. He also created rest, which is also good and necessary to continue work. This trip has been a great way for me to be forced to kind of slow down and rest. Please continue to pray for our team!
Day 12: My Little Cubby
By Chelsey Saysane
Today, I find myself laying in my little cubby in the top bunk in our hostel. My body is forcing itself to slow down, just a bit. Hannah, Gavin, and Hardy ventured to C. S. Lewis Square and the Titanic Museum. Those lucky suckers saw Kate Winslet (Rose from the Titanic movie) from afar!! That’s so stinking cool. Abigail and I stayed back and rested. We ate breakfast together and had the greatest conversation about horror films and relationships. She is truly a gem. Although I am missing out on today’s activities, I find peace and rest here. As I lay here, talking to Jesus and watching stranger things, I have to ask myself where do I truly find my peace and rest? My first thought is at home in my bed of course, but the question is so much bigger than that. Whenever Satan tries to attack, do I truly run to my little cubby to find Jesus? I get caught up in life very easily, as we all do. I think I can handle everything and hold all of the weight on my own shoulders. His presence is sufficient and overflowing in love, grace, and strength.
My recent struggle has been with my future. I am such a planner. I like to know what I am doing tomorrow, next month, and next year. With graduation slowly approaching in May 2019, I have felt so uneasy. I don’t have a plan. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a plan. This is such a season of learning and firsts for me. Although I stress about the topic often, it’s a season for growth! It reminds me that I don’t have to know, and that I serve a God that already knows :) He cares about my weary body in my little cubby right now and my career in the future. What a God!! Sometimes, all it takes is for you to sit in His presence. I find peace in knowing He holds the rest of my tomorrow’s and He is before and behind me.
Day 13: Bel- went by too- fast
By Abigail Yount
Last night I fell asleep at a bad time and slept through dinner. My sweet and lovely flatmates walked with me to get food, but I went to the kitchen to eat. It was crowded with rowdy and chatty hostel occupants. I ended up talking religion and travel and life with a guy from New Zealand and a girl from Alabama. We agreed to stay connected and follow each others’ travels. I’m praying God will make Himself real to them and provide what they’re looking for.
Today we rented a car, and it’s on my list for top favorite things we’ve done. I videoed the first 15 minutes of the drive, because I was so excited to get in a car, in the country side of Ireland, passing herds of sheep. I was proud of Hannah’s U.K. driving skills and Chief Gavin’s navigating. Sweet Chels faced her fear of that bridge head on and dauntless Harmony climbed down the front of a cliff. The steering wheel is on the right and you drive on the left in case you are unfamiliar with our motherland. We walked the Giant’s Causeway and a breath-taking rope bridge. I was shaking from the icy rain and heights, but it was exhilarating and a great team-bonding activity. We left cold and drenched; yet, we all agreed the weather and time was all part of this experience. Please keep praying as we pack for Glasgow and meet back up with our pal Diego!
Day 14: From Ireland to Scotland
By Hannah Gibson
Today we said our goodbyes to the wonderful city of Belfast and hopped on a ferry and arrived in Scotland. Scotland welcomed us with sunshine, rolling hills with grazing cows, and colorful wildflowers. After a bus and train ride, we arrived in Glasgow. As we walked off the platform, we were greeted by our good friend, Diego.
If you've been following along with us, you may remember hearing about us meeting Diego in Manchester. When we parted ways there, we talked about the possibility of meeting up with him here, in Glasgow. Gavin kept up with him as we traveled through Ireland, and Diego arranged with some co-workers to switch some shifts so he could meet us here for the entirety of our time in this city.
It was really good to see a familiar face as we arrived. Diego is super kind and is always smiling. It is incredibly humbling that someone would meet us and want to spend more time with us. So much so, that he worked in order to take some days off and bought a ticket and a few nights in our hostel so we could spend this city together.
We spent the evening walking around, eating dinner, walking through University of Glasgow, and watching the sunset over the city.
Please pray that God would continue to give us grace to love each other well so others might see Him through the way we love one another.
Day 15: Motherland
By Gavin McNellage
Well today wraps up the last full day in Glasgow, Scotland. When I first found out that I was going to the U.K., I was the most excited about going to Scotland. Way, way down the family tree my family was from Scotland so I was very excited to get to go to the “Motherland” as I’ve been calling it these past few weeks. It did not disappoint. From the hour-long Uno games, to the wandering around the city, it has been so awesome to be able to share it with my team. Perhaps the best part was being able to share it with our new teammate, Diego. We met Diego in Manchester on a walking tour and spent the entire day with him. He decided to take off work and come and stay with us in Glasgow the entire time we were here! Today we went to Loch Lomond, a huge lake and national park, and hiked. It probably would’ve been nice if we stayed on the trail...but we didn’t. So after a long day being stuck with thorns and dodging branches, we ended by sitting by the Loch and relaxing in the sun. It’s been really cool hanging out with Diego and just getting to know him. Just a random encounter in Manchester turned into a genuine friendship. It has also been interesting to live out the Christian life with someone who does not claim to be a believer.
I have been reading through the book of Acts while on this trip and have been thinking about the life of the Apostles. They were a bunch of educated nobodies who spent time with Jesus and, through the Holy Spirit led the early church. They had no qualifications, yet with Christ they were able to do an amazing work. Hardy was able to share the Gospel with Diego back in Manchester and I believe our time in Glasgow has been a mission for us to live it out. I’m praying that God will continue to use us and will make Himself known to the people we come into contact with. We’re almost done with our trip but we’re just beginning the rest of our lives being a vessel for Him.
Day 16: What a Beautiful day it has Been
By Chelsey Sayasane
What a beautiful day it has been. Today, we said “see ya later” to our dear friend Diego from Columbia and traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland. He has truly been a sixth man on our team. Looking back, you can see how the Lord orchestrated our paths to cross. We explored a little slice of Edinburgh today. One thing that has been constant in every city is street music. I have especially enjoyed Scotland because of the bagpipes, but music has been present everywhere. While watching and listening to many of them, I reflect on their talents. Now obviously most of them are incredible at singing, playing guitar, or even bagpipes but we all have some kind of talents. Whether it’s dancing, singing, painting, speaking, writing, or connecting with others, it’s from God. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” I am instantly convicted because I know for certain that I fail using my talents daily. I get selfish and inconsiderate and lose the eternal mindset to focus on my own needs. Although I am not using my talents to make extra money, I am using my talents to lead people to Christ! How incredible is that?! I often forget that The Lord designed me to use my talents to lead the lost to him. I criticize myself for not being good enough or being too insecure when I should be rejoicing because Jesus entrusted me with an incredible gift! What an awesome God.. Well, the team and I are about to chow down on 100 wings, but I’m sure Hardy will eat half of them (honestly, the dude can eat). Keep us in your prayers these next 4 days! See ya soon.
Day 17: All Praise to Him
By Hannah Gibson
We started our morning out by eating breakfast in a little cafe then we headed up to hike Arthur's seat. Rumor has it the views over the city are amazing. However, today, we experienced typical U.K. weather and the fog was too dense to see anything. Nonetheless, it was a nice little hike.
We crossed paths with several Americans today. Some from Texas, Colorado, and a couple from Mississippi celebrating their honeymoon. This world truly is a small one. I'm thankful for a team that is able to make connections, and share a smile or laugh wherever we go.
As the trip quickly draws to a close, we are once again reminded of our weakness. Our bodies are tired and ready to sleep in our own beds.
I am encouraged by 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. In this passage, Paul talks about how he can only boast in the Lord. A "messenger of Satan to harass" him was sent to keep him from becoming conceited. He referred to this as the thorn in his side. He pleaded and pleaded with the Lord for it to be taken away. God's response: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul's response: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."