From South Africa to Bellshill…

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Kevin and his family arrived in Scotland in 2015, and sensed a calling to the West of Scotland and set up temporary home in the North Road, Bellshill. How fortunate were we at Bellshill Central that God’s call was to Bellshill? The children settled in Bellshill Academy and Mossend Primary Schools and Kevin set about his familiarisation process with the Church of Scotland. We recently asked the family about how they have settled into Bellshill, Bellshill Central and community life here in Mossend and Bellshill.

1. Tell us what you miss most about South Africa?
Kevin … I miss the sense of colour and diversity. I worked with a wide variety of cultures in South Africa and, even though it could be extremely challenging, I sensed that this experience and exposure equipped me for life in a way that few other countries could.
Cheryl … I miss the gift of lifelong friends. There is a real gift in friendships that have been forged over decades. I miss that sense of being with people who have known me my whole life. The same can be said of family. It was difficult leaving my parents in South Africa. Yes and of course there is the weather. The weather in Joburg is amazing
Michael … I miss the specific culture and diversity present in South Africa. It really felt as if I was living in a unique place at a unique time. It really felt as if I would not have got that experience of life anywhere else.
Sarah … I miss the wonderful food, as well as friends. I could not walk to my friend’s houses (like I do in Scotland) but I enjoyed my time spent with friends. I also miss the swimming pools – one at the school and one at my grandparent’s house.

2. What are you enjoying most about being in the West of Scotland?
I love the people in the West of Scotland. I enjoy the fact that they call a ‘spade a spade’ and that certainly keeps me on my toes. I also enjoy our home city – Glasgow, as it reminds me of the Joburg of my youth and it is a city with an incredible sense of character and history.
Cheryl… I love the beauty that is on offer in the West of Scotland. We seldom have to travel very far to find ourselves in the countryside and, of course, there are wonderful parks where I can go walking with Marlowe. The people have also been openhearted and welcoming, which has made the transition to another country easier than I would have expected it to be.
Michael… I am enjoying the friendships I have cultivated in the West of Scotland. The people that I have met are much better suited to my personality here. Even more important than the gift of friends is the gift of education. The schooling in Scotland is excellent and I feel that Bellshill Academy has nurtured my academic ability in a way that the South African system simply could not offer.
Sarah… I enjoy the fact that I have made new friends and that I can walk to their houses. There are also a host of activities and opportunities that are offered by the school and the council. I live an active life here and enjoy the opportunities offered. I also enjoy the food that is on offer in the West of Scotland as I am always eager to try new things.

3. What are the main differences in ministering between South Africa and Bellshill?
Ministry in South Africa is incredibly stressful. This was not necessarily bad as I felt that it encouraged clear thinking and careful planning. I am, however, enjoying the rhythm of life and ministry in Scotland as there is more opportunity to be creative. One simple example – I have got used to one service on a Sunday as my experience in South Africa could vary from 2 services through to 5 services on a Sunday (and each service was different)

4. We’re told that the church nationally is in decline, what are some of the ways you have tried to tackle this?
My perspective is that the church is always going through seasons. This seems to be a winter for the Church of Scotland, but there are real signs of life. Of course I can only speak of my personal experience. What I have found is that there is still a deep respect for the church but that people have lost a little confidence in sharing their faith. I have engaged 2 strategies. The first is to become known in the wider community by being prepared to respond to the opportunities for ministry (I have been invited to officiate at a few services in the community and I have also been invited to minister at both Mossend Primary and Lawmuir Primary). The second is to develop resources that help equip people to talk about their faith and to share their faith in a nonthreatening way. One such resource is First Steps and I encourage people to ask for a copy of the book as it is a resource that people can read at their leisure and also share with others as an invitation to exploring faith.

5. You must have faced challenges in your time so far in Bellshill Central, what were these?
It is incredibly challenging to adjust to a new country and its culture. There is a wonderful gift in learning from people who understand and experience the Christian faith in different ways to what you are used to. The challenge, however, is to make sure that you are building bridges that facilitate conversations about faith, hope, and love. Of course there are practical challenges – the financial costs of settling into a new country, the adjustments needed to appreciate different accents, and the need to win people’s confidence in your ministry and your ministry style. God has been gracious and I sense that the ministry offered at Bellshill Central is bearing fruit.

6. In the last two years, what have been key developments within Bellshill Central? How have these benefited you and our congregation?
The organ, the music, and the development of the choir have proved significant. It is a real gift to work with such a committed organist (Alan Mathew) and we work well together in an effort to offer a meaningful act of worship.
Worship is central to the church’s self-understanding and we are now at a stage where we are confident that we can offer this act of worship to a wider audience via the web. This is a key development as it has ensured that we see ourselves as part of a worldwide community and there are people who value worshipping with us (even when they are on the other side of the world).

7. Looking ahead over the next 5 years, what do you see as our aims and goals as a Church in our community?
Since I have arrived at Bellshill Central I have sensed the value of 3 words that I believe prove helpful in appreciating our gifts and our ministry and mission. These words are: Worship. Welcome. Witness.
The value of these 3 words are that they are true to our mission statement and they also serve as words that are relatively easy to remember as a plumb line against which we can measure how well we are doing.
I have already mentioned worship and it is humbling to sense that we can now worship with people scattered all over the world. This enlarges our sense of vision and is a reminder that we belong to a worldwide family.
We are often affirmed as to the sense of welcome that we offer at Bellshill Central. We cannot browbeat people into an experience of God’s grace and love. We can, however, encourage people to know that they are welcome to visit, to participate, and hopefully to join with us in the act of worship and service.
The third word is a tricky one. To witness to the Reign of God is difficult and so many of us would prefer to remain quiet about our religious convictions. There are ways in which we can witness that do not need to be arrogant and certain, but can still be confident and offered with a sense of conviction. It is to this end that I have worked on ‘First Steps’ and spend a significant amount of time working on videos for YouTube that people can share quite comfortably via Facebook. This has taken quite a lot of prayer, effort, and patience…but it does encourage me to know that people have now watched the series ‘First Steps’ for a total exceeding 100 hours. We have received positive feedback as people find that they are being encouraged to live out their faith where they are.

8. Michael and Sarah, What are you hopes and aspirations for the future, what do you hope to do once you leave school?
My main goal is to go on to university and study chemistry at a higher level, so that I may qualify for industry or research roles. Since I have come to Scotland, chemistry and mathematics have quickly become my favourite subjects.
I am also working on my skills as a guitar player and hope to achieve a higher music qualification this year. I am also hoping to achieve a Duke of Edinburgh bronze award.
Sarah… I love the arts and the wonders of self-expression. I am hoping to pursue a career in film, but I change my mind quite often. I love the different options at school and I have already appeared on Sky television and in various school plays. I am excited by future possibilities and challenges.

9. Cheryl, we know you enjoy reading and writing. Do you have any more books underway?
What do you do for relaxation, do you share Kevin’s enthusiasm in rugby and golf?

Cheryl…I have plenty of books within me waiting to be written. The most immediate book seeking a voice is a memoir, detailing the call that led me from practising as a speech therapist to embracing a more ministerial and writing vocation. My Masters in Theology, specialising in Christian Spirituality affirmed this path. My passion for spirituality, psychology, dream work, and theology continues to guide my reading material. Hopefully, in time, I will come to produce written resources for use within the church community, whether that be for use in workshops, retreat work, small groups, or one-on-one sessions.
As to relaxation, over the years I have explored the arts – pottery and painting; reading fiction, watching movies or listening to music. With the move to a new country I will have to slowly re-stock some painting tools and resources, so in the meantime relaxation means walks with Marlowe, taking in the beauty of a new country, long chats with Kevin pertaining to our shared passions, and simply time spent together as a family.
Finally my personal favourite for sport includes gymnastics (I was a provincial gymnast) and horse-riding, but I do enjoy quality time watching golf, cricket, and tennis with Kevin

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