Earl Lavender, Director of Missional Studies at Lipscomb University, along with 4 intentionally chosen students, travelled to Dundee, Scotland over spring break last month on a mission trip. They worked with Patrick Sullivan (’01), Lipscomb alumnus who is now a minister at a church in Dundee and very active in the local community. Lavender preached at the church on Sunday and the team had great opportunities to encourage and interact with the congregational body. The rest of the week was spent inside a prominent Scottish high school, working specifically with the 8th grade class, which is comprised of nearly 200 students.
The Lipscomb team worked with the students in 90-minute increments, building relationships and conversing about the Gospel story, and sharing how the Gospel has personally changed their lives. Larry Bridgesmith, from the Institute of Conflict Management at Lipscomb, also worked alongside Lavender and the students and delivered a presentation to the faculty/staff. “The administration were thoroughly impressed by the Lipscomb students and their ease at dialoging with these Scottish and usually atheistic pupils. Furthermore, they were bowled over by the high quality of training offered to student leaders and staff through Dr. Earl Lavender and Dr. Larry Bridgesmith,” said Sullivan. “They couldn’t understand why this University and this church would offer these services to them at no charge, but they do understand one thing now. These people of God care about this community and this school.”
Lavender also gave a presentation to the juniors at the high school on leadership principles and defining the Christian faith. The principal from the high school has requested continuing involvement with Lipscomb University in areas of faith and spirituality, which would involve the Scottish Parliament on higher education. Lavender was especially impressed with the maturity level of the 8th grade students whom they encountered.
Although most students at the school and throughout Scotland are atheists or agnostics, students in Scotland have government-required Religious Education (RE) classes. This class teaches students about all religions, but usually has a slightly higher focus on Christianity because of the nature of the British system. Regardless, 95% of Scots still claim no religious affiliation.
Sullivan was thrilled to have the Lipscomb team in Dundee, “Our community and our church are now different because they have experienced young men and women as well highly skilled professional staff, who want to help - just because they can. Never underestimate God’s power used through people who are, yes, talented... but even more important, willing!"
Jana Frankum, senior Bible major from Nolensville, was one of the students Lavender handpicked to participate in this trip. “The mission trip to Scotland was one of the most eye-opening trips I have ever participated in. We were exposed to an environment that was very different from my experience growing up in a Christian home. The majority of people in Scotland identify as atheists. This made our discussions with the kids in the schools even more interesting and difficult. As a result, the kids were able to ask really tough questions that many Christians my age would not have asked or even thought about. Simple questions like, "what does it mean to be a Christian?" and "how can you believe in both God and science?" were examples of the things we were able to speak to in our time in the schools.”
Lipscomb Missions has had a presence in the community of Dundee since 2004. Some eight years later, Sullivan describes those early trips as activities that helped lay a foundation for his current ministry. Having been a team leader to many of Lipscomb’s trips to Dundee over the years, Lavender has seen first-hand the lasting impact a trip such as this can have on a community.
“I was overwhelmed at the opportunity we were given to speak freely about our religious convictions in the public school setting,” said Frankum. “I was so encouraged by the tough questions these kids were asking because it showed me that God is alive and moving in the hearts of these people who do not even believe in Him.”
As Lipscomb Missions continues to engage with, teach and learn from the Scottish people, this group hopes that it will become even more evident that the Kingdom of God is bursting through the seams of the United Kingdom.