After our breakfast we had a walking tour of the city planned. This tour was a fantastic way to see the city and learn more of the rich history that goes along with Edinburgh. Our tour guide went by the alias of Australian David. Australian David was by far the most theatrical tour guide that I have ever had, and even made the many steep hills and stairs we had to travel worth it.
What do you get when you add 3 Americans, an Australian, a Frenchman, and a Dutchman? An extremely mediocre trivia team. As we were hanging out with our new friends we heard of the trivia night happening downstairs. The major incentive was that the first place team got a $25 gift card and the second place team got a bowl of Nachos. We were certain that we would do great because of our many different backgrounds. After coming in late and getting only one point in the first round, we were not so sure. Things started to look up in the next few rounds, but that’s easy when you start at the very bottom. When they were announcing the rankings, we were certain that we had lost, though we had many laughs along the way. It turns out we were better than we thought, because we came in second place and won that glorious bowl of nachos. We stayed up all too late this night hanging out with our friends Steve, Sven, and Kevin, sharing a whole lot of laughs and stories. Hopefully the conversations will continue as our time in Edinburgh continues.
Day 8: My “date” in Edinburgh
By John Matheou
We woke up extra early this morning so we could hike up Arthur’s seat which is the tallest peak in Edinburgh about 20 minutes outside the city center. We had a lovely time getting up there and goofing off along the way! We promptly hiked back down after reaching the peak and started our trek to the nearest ice cream shop. From there I actually split from the team to meet someone for lunch. This person was a friend that I had made from Instagram through the years. He’s a full time musician living in Edinburgh. It was really great being able to meet him and explain the purpose of our trip. We talked a lot about our own musical goals and plans for our future. What was interesting though was his perspective on social media. About 4 years ago he became semi “Instagram famous” and has since accumulated 50,000+ followers. He has a pretty extended reach in the Instagram music platform. However, he was telling me how much he counted that as loss compared to the amount of fulfillment he receives in serving his community with his music. Through a local program he is able to, every Tuesday, teach music to sick children at a local hospital. I found this perspective beautiful as someone who is always trying to search for fulfillment in people’s approval. Seeing someone who has “made it” in the music industry care more about serving others than himself really encouraged me. I’m really thankful for the time the Lord gave me with this friend.
Day 9: Edinburgh
By Abbie Mcauley
Edinburgh was a city full of history, stairs, and new friends! If we’re being honest, our hostel was not ideal for meeting people as there was very little common space and opportunities for conversations. I have been reminded that God is the one orchestrating our steps and we are not in control. We met some friends who we had the opportunity to connect with multiple times, giving us the opportunity for good conversations. One of my favorite moments from this city is from Carilton Hill, a place with monuments overlooking the city. But what I remember most is having an in depth conversation with Lexi while John was talking with our new friend about the gospel and telling stories about how his family has shaped his beliefs. I am grateful that conversations are happening and I am grateful our team is growing closer together in community. Nothing has felt forced, but we all carry a sense of awareness looking for the chance to engage in these conversations and I’m grateful the Lord has placed people in our paths for that purpose.
Day 10: Half Way There, LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER
By Sam Nichols
We made it into London last night but didn’t get the full extent of the city till we walked out of the hostel this morning. There’s so much happening and it’s not even 9 o’clock yet. There’s people, music, horns, dogs, just life and noise everywhere. Much different than any of the cities we’ve seen so far.
Lexi found us a Sandman’s Tour where Dave walked us around teaching us all about the history of London. During one of the stops we actually got to watch the rehearsal for Trooping the Colour. It’s the celebration where the Queen will inspect all of the royal army on her birthday. There had to have been over a 100 horses marching in sync. Some horses with guards and some even with a band. Abbie mentioned us adding some horses to RamCorp...don’t know how easy that will play out but I think it’s a solid suggestion ;)
After a long tour, we found a park across from Buckingham Palace and all took a much deserved nap. Who knew our park naps would be one of my favorite things!
Please continue to pray for our team as we finish the last half of our trip. This first half, our team has grown closer and stronger. To experience this has been a beautiful image of the body of Christ. We all bring something different to the team. It continues to amaze me watching God move in every situation we encounter. As we hit the downward slope of the trip, we have had many incredible experiences but we have also been placed in situations where we have to had be vulnerable and honest with each other. We have learned how to encourage and love each other in the good and the bad. I pray that we have a constant reminder that our strength comes from Christ alone and we can’t make it through on our own. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this next week and a half!
Day 11: A Stressful Day in London
By Lexi Kilsdonk
After breakfast, we hopped on the tube and headed into town for a long morning of sight seeing. We got lunch at Borough Market, then stopped for a classic High Tea and spent the afternoon with an old friend of mine who lives near London. It was awesome to reconnect with him!
However, the day was not without stress. As amazing as this trip has been so far, we’re all getting exhausted, and the buzz of such a big city isn’t conducive to quality rest. Our travel back to the hostel at the end of the day was long and a bit tense, as I tried unsuccessfully to get the team home quickly and efficiently after a long day.
But through the stress and the sleepy sighs, I’m thankful for an intentional team who seeks to build each other up and understand each other better every day. We finished Friday night and started Saturday morning with long talks about what we’ve learned so far and how we can encourage one another when we aren’t at our best. I’m encouraged by the way that my team focuses on serving not only our new friends, but also each other, even when it’s difficult. What a picture of the gospel!
Day 12: The White Cliffs
By Lexi Kilsdonk
Today we took a day trip from London to the White Cliffs of Dover! When we got into town, we went to a little shop to get fish and chips, and like always, found a grassy spot to sit and enjoy our picnic.
We didn’t really know where to go for the best view of the cliffs, so we just wandered along the coastline until we found a path up to the top. We’ve discovered that sometimes it’s more fun to explore than it is to know where you’re going all the time!
The trek up to the top of the Cliffs was tiring, so we took lots of breaks along the way. But the view from the top was so worth it! Just like so many other places we’ve seen on this trip, I was astounded by the beauty of the White Cliffs. Places like these are such clear reminders that this world was created by a good God!
Day 13: We’re going to look at rocks!
By Abbie Mcauley
We began our travel day out of London with a pit stop planned for Stonehenge en route to Cardiff. I was honestly ready to leave London as I thrive in the smaller cities and enjoy the quaint towns. As we navigated our way through the Tube, I was aware of the kindness of people. From one lady letting Lexi and I go ahead of her to refill our Oyster cards, to another man once on the train helping fold a seat down for me to sit, and using his phone to help us find another train since we were going to miss our original one due to the heavy lines and traffic of rush hour. I’m thankful for the people we encountered that morning.
We arrived at Stonehenge to our first day of less than ideal weather. Shoutout to Lexi for taking the guided tour in French as we traveled through the city of Salisbury to the Stones. It was cold and rainy but still an incredible experience (aside from John having flu like symptoms). I honestly felt like my mom must have when she dragged us to educational things we expected to be lame but were actually really cool. As Johnny put it “I’m paying money so Abbie can look at some rocks” I think I speak for everyone when I say we are glad we went.
We had the best picnic laughing and growing even closer through this time while also seeing some incredible sights. We’ve learned to appreciate each other’s quirks, we know what stresses each other, and are learning better each day how to love and serve one another.
Our train was delayed for a little bit at one of the stops because of a man threatening to jump off the bridge in front of the train. It was honestly heartbreaking to hear some of the things people around us were saying, as there was no concern for human life.
I think I speak for everyone when I say we were pleased to arrive in Cardiff, enjoy some dinner, and do some much needed laundry. We went to bed, setting no alarm clocks and all ready for a morning of rest after a crazy busy two weeks!
Day 14: First day in Cardiff
By John Matheou
Today was a lazy first day in Cardiff. We’re all exhausted after London, and a bit of rest was certainly needed. We slept in and took our time getting ready for the day, then wandered around the Cardiff city center. It was a bank holiday, so a lot of businesses were closed, but we wandered through the arcades, alleys full of little shops, and stopped for coffee.
We cooked dinner together in the hostel kitchen, and as we were preparing food, I noticed a man struggling to get his luggage up the stairs. I offered him help and asked if he would like to join us for dinner. His name was Brian. Brian told us stories about the time he spent two years backpacking across the world. He was really knowledgeable of world events and politics. He challenged us with A LOT of questions about gun control, Donald Trump, and racism. It was honestly quite a difficult conversation, but he said that our points of view made a lot more sense after the conversation. It was neat being able to chime in as someone who grew up in a European household as my father is Greek. Brian and I shared pretty similar political and social values.
Brian also told us about his beliefs. He’s a Unitarian, which means that he focuses on values rather than theology, and doesn’t conform to any one belief system. We as a team were able however to explain to him that we believe in Christ being fully man and fully God while also being the head of the church. He respectfully disagreed, but it was neat to be able to give him a tangible example of Christ’s body as he watched us be that to each other the rest of the night. I’m excited to spend some more time with him to see where our conversations will go!
Day 15: Team in Tandem
By Sam Nichols
Today we went to explore Swansea but with a little bit of a twist, we rented bikes and rode around the mumbles. We showed up to the bike rentals and were shocked to hear they only had 3 working bikes for our team of 5, which threw a wrench in our plans. Until Johnny turned and saw a tandem bike...Abbie and I volunteered as tributes for this two seater bike and this is where our adventure began. This whole trip is team bonding but when you put a team on bikes it’s a whole other level. We biked along the beautiful beach side for a while till we hit this really cute ice cream shop for a break.
Today was simple and relaxing, especially after Abbie and I developed some crazy trust skills and mastered the tandem bike! It was a great reminder to sit back and reflect on what God has done and is doing. Today was a good sabbath in the midst of our packed week.
Day 16: Uphill Both Ways
By Johnny Howard
Travel days have started to become some of my favorite days. These days are typically very long, but are filled with bonding like no other. It’s nothing to look up and see a big pile of bags covered with a pile of teammates. These piles usually are for warmth and comfort on the cold hard cement where we do our waiting.
Today we boarded a train to head to the very north of Wales from where we were at in the south. After being on this train for several hours it finally was nearing our stop. As we were getting ready to get off the train a herd of people flooded in and clogged up the aisles. As we were finally getting to the doors the train took off, and we had missed our stop. This started a downward spiral for our travel day luck. This added an hour of extra train rides plus about three more hours of waiting around for trains and busses. When we finally made it to Betws-y-coed when we were informed that we had just missed the last bus to take us up to our hostel. This meant we had to walk up several miles to our hostel. Now a decent hike on a YHM trip is not an uncommon thing, but this hike was a little different. We had all of our big packs with us and to top it all off it was raining the whole way up. This trip up to the hostel reminded me of the stories of how my grandparents used to get to school everyday growing up. They would always talk about traveling “uphill both ways in the pouring down rain.”
Even on long travel days like these where everything seems to be going wrong, I really enjoy having this team by my side. In the many hours of traveling we shared so many laughs and turned what seemed to be a bad day into a great one!
Day 17: Snowdonia National Park
By Abbie Mcauley
We’ve arrived in the small town of Betws-y-Coed after an eventful travel day yesterday! We took advantage of the rainy day this morning to sleep in and catch up on some rest. While traveling is exciting, it is exhausting to continually pack up and move on so we are happy to have some extra down time on our hands.
We enjoyed lunch together and an afternoon exploring town. I think something that is beautiful about this experience is that the time spent traveling and getting to the destination is just as enjoyable as the end goal. We make the most of our time walking to talk and get to know each other better, and we can always count on someone to have a story to pass the time.
We visited Swallow Falls which are the beautiful waterfalls located just across the street from our hostel and had some quality time around the dinner table afterwards. I’m thankful for time to slow down and enjoy the place where we are right now.
Day 18: Literally blown away by Snowdon Mountain
By Sam Nichols
Our hostel here feels like we are up high in a little rain cloud. We came to Snowdonia to hike a mountain and we weren’t going to let the cold rain keep us from that! We’ve been extremely blessed to have amazing weather pretty much every day of this trip until today’s rain, so first thing on the list was to go buy Lexi a rain jacket.
We jumped on the bus that took us down to the base of Snowdon Mountain. The views from the bus alone were postcard perfect. However, once we got out we quickly realized we were not prepared for the amount of wind and rain this day brought. We hiked for a bit before Abbie and Johnny turned around for some hot chocolate in the dry cafe. I don’t blame them at all but John, Lexi and I pushed our limits in hopes of some great views. We only made it another 20 minutes or so until the rain and wind just became too much for these Americans.
Mountains have always been my favorite. Whether you are on the top or the bottom, rain or sun, it’s such an amazing image of how great our God is! Even though the fog was limiting our view a bit, I loved standing up there and just taking in the moment.
Day 19: Travel Day to Dublin
By John Matheou
We left early from our hostel to catch our first bus out of Betws-y Coed (Wales) after having a lovely night of fellowship and fun together! We had to take a few buses and a train to make it to the ferry. Honestly I was expecting a tiny little tug boat, but it was basically a cruise ship that took us across to Dublin. We had a lovely time on the boat and were able to rest for a bit before we landed in the Dublin port! It was mostly a slow day, but I was thankful and reflective all day about all the things the Lord has done so far. I’ve had conversations with people from every corner of the globe and have gotten to share my story with many of them. I’ve been surprised so far with the receptiveness of the people I’ve talked to. A lot of them are just genuinely lonely and looking for a community. It’s made me really thankful for the community of believers I have here at UM, but also it allows me to give them hope in knowing that they can have that too through Christ. The Lord is teaching me a lot. There’s only 2 days left until we leave, but I’m optimistic about where Christ will lead us next.
Day 20: The Last Supper
By Johnny Howard
As we woke up this morning I was honestly so sad that this would be our last day here in the UK. We had a lot planned for the day and only a small amount of time to do everything. We started the morning off with some breakfast and a great time of reflection of the past three weeks together. We then got to go to a local church for Sunday service. This for me was honestly one of the best parts of the trip. Working in a church, a Sunday service is a busier day of work than a true sabbath. It was so great to be able to sit back and rest in His presence among fellow believers. This trip has been very long and this time of rest was much needed for all of us.
Later in the day we got to meet back up with our friends Marcin and Kumaran who we met at our hostel in Belfast. Getting to reconnect with these guys was great, because they knew the city of Dublin so well! They were able to take us around to some of the greatest places in the city and help us find some of the best food we have had on this trip! Walking around with locals makes seeing a city so much better. We were able to say what we wanted to see and without hesitation the guys would put us right on path where we needed to go. Marcin and Kumaran spent the whole day with us and even came back to hang out at the hostel with us. At the hostel the guys began to ask us questions about what we believe and why we believe. This opened up for fantastic conversations and growing of our friendship. Today was probably my favorite day of the entire trip and it was all because of the relationships we had made earlier on in this trip. I cannot believe that it is over and we are headed back home tomorrow morning.
Day 21: What I've learned
By Lexi Kilsdonk
I can’t believe this trip is already over. In the last 3 weeks we’ve seen so many places, met so many friends, and grown so close...it’s a lot to process. I think I’ll be learning from this trip for months to come, but there are a few big things that I’ve already taken away from our time travelling.
First, my team taught me so much. I am amazed by how close we became in just a few short weeks. We’re all very different people, and a few months ago I knew little more than their names. But this trip taught me that we are a lot more alike than I would’ve guessed.
They were intentional to show me Christ’s love in so many ways—asking thoughtful questions, making me laugh constantly, rubbing my back, and being patient and forgiving every day. Through them, I was reminded that if you want to love your neighbors well, you have to know them well, because we all have different strengths, weaknesses, and needs.
God has also taught me a lot through the friends I met in the UK and Ireland. Each of our friends had beliefs and views that challenged me and made me think about the world around me in new ways. But I was most surprised by how willing they were to discuss them in the first place! The friends I met on this trip didn’t hesitate to ask about my beliefs, and they were all genuinely interested to hear my point of view and share theirs. I’ve realized how often I settle for small talk out of fear, when there is so much to be gained by being bold enough to ask real questions.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity YHM gave me to get out of my comfort zone! I I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned on this trip in my everyday life by investing more deeply in relationships with the people I meet.
Day 22: Reflection of the Trip
By John Matheou
This has genuinely been a life-altering experience. These past 3 weeks have shown me so many things about the Lord, His kingdom and His faithfulness. Ultimately though, I think I learned the most about control. This past semester I’ve really struggled with trying to control every outcome of every circumstance I’ve been in. However, during this trip, I was faced with a desperate notion to faithfully surrender to the will of Christ for every little thing that happened. There were times when I genuinely wanted to be left alone, or didn’t think that I had anything important to say to anyone, but the Lord urged me tremendously to rely on His wisdom in every conversation I had. The beginning of the trip left me a little discouraged as I was still trying to control the interactions that I had with people... I wanted every conversation to immediately change someone’s life, but obviously that just doesn’t happen. I think the beauty about this kind of ministry is honestly how rare it is to see the fruit of it. We can get so caught up in church with our numbers of baptisms and salvations, that when we come to have conversations with others, we expect people to put their faith in Christ after one conversation. It just doesn’t always happen that way. Like I said, I was discouraged at first, but then I started to realize the effect I can have as a person who is just willing to listen to someone’s story for a brief moment on a bus, or willing to give small but biblical based advice to someone who’s opened up to me at a bus stop. Those conversations mattered. I’ll probably never see them again, but I’m so thankful that the Lord put me in those positions.
Then there were conversations that left me speechless. There were times that I left conversations knowing that the Holy Spirit had a hold of someone’s heart. I’m so thankful for those moments and I’m also thankful that I’ll be able to continue them as I will continue those friendships over long distance.
In all, my perspective of the world has changed completely. I have a new sense of courage and boldness for the gospel and I’m excited to take it back home. I have four new best friends that I honestly never thought I would love as much as I do. I’m thankful, but exhausted. I’m ready to come home, but I know that I’m coming home more like Christ.