While visiting in Scotland a couple of months ago my wife Leeta and I had the privilege of meeting two faithful Scottish pastors (and one of their wives). As an evangelical pastor myself, I have a definite affinity and appreciation for fellow evangelical ministers who are faithfully serving the Lord and His people. Though my interaction with these two brother pastors was only brief, I wanted to share the blessing that meeting them was to us.

While visiting Glasgow Cathedral (also called the High Kirk of Glasgow) we met two very helpful tour guides, Rev. David Easton and Mr. Bill Lintoft. They answered our questions about the cathedral and a number of its features.

Vance with Rev. David Easton and Mr. Bill Lintoft
Vance with Rev. David Easton and Mr. Bill Lintoft

For some forty years, David Easton served as a minister in the Church of Scotland, serving two long pastorates in the Glasgow area. Recently, in his (partial) retirement, David served for two years as the interim minister at Glasgow Cathedral, until that congregation of about 300 people called its next full-time resident pastor.

Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral

The Church of Scotland has around 1,350 congregations. Like a number of church denominations in America, the Church of Scotland has embraced liberalism in various theological and social-moral issues in recent decades. Faithful evangelical ministers like David Easton are rightly grieved over that decline in their denomination and have been led of God to continue steadfastly promoting sound doctrinal and moral truth in the Church of Scotland. May the Lord encourage and strengthen them as they do so, and use them to have a positive leavening influence in the congregations and ministry circles in which they serve.

The one Sunday we were in Scotland we worshiped at the Fearn Free Church in Hilton, a small seaside town on the western edge of the Moray Firth in the Scottish Highlands. That congregation is part of the Free Church of Scotland, one of several smaller thoroughly-evangelical denominations that faithfully proclaim God’s inerrant Word and the Christian Gospel in Scotland.

Vance & Leeta at Fearn Free Church of Scotland
Vance & Leeta at Fearn Free Church of Scotland

 Our hearts were blessed by the beautiful Psalm-singing we heard and the welcoming individuals we met at that church. In addition, we appreciated the capable public ministry of Rev. Andrew MacLeod, the congregation’s young minister, who presented the Scripture reading, pastoral prayer, and sermon in the worship service. Andrew is in his second or third year of pastoral ministry.

Rev. Andrew MacLeod ministering at Fearn Free Church
Rev. Andrew MacLeod ministering at Fearn Free Church

After the morning worship service Andrew’s newlywed wife, Eilidh, invited us to their home for Sunday dinner. We requested, instead, the privilege of hosting them out to dinner at a restaurant. While Andrew finished up some further ministerial responsibilities at church, Eilidh invited us to join her at their home until he was available. As circumstances turned out, Andrew wasn’t able to join us for quite some time, during which period Eilidh went ahead and prepared a lovely dinner, which the four of us enjoyed together when Andrew returned home.

Andrew and Eilidh MacLeod ministering in their home
Andrew and Eilidh MacLeod ministering in their home

We felt somewhat bad about imposing on this young couple in the midst of the full weekend of ministry responsibilities they were carrying out. But, though we were complete strangers to them, they extended warm, gracious hospitality to us. We were further blessed to hear their Christian testimonies and to perceive their earnest desire to actively, appropriately serve Christ and His followers. Their youthful willingness and diligence in service reminded us of our own early years of ministry, and also how that we want to continue to serve with those commendable qualities throughout our ministry career.

Andrew and Eilidh MacLeod, along with David Easton, present attractive pictures of willing, active and faithful service of Jesus our Savior, both early in adulthood and clear through to the end of one’s ministerial career and life. They are positive examples for vocational and lay ministers alike. 

Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie

While in Scotland last month, my wife Leeta and I had the pleasure of visiting the headquarters of my primary publisher, Christian Focus Publications. Since 2008 I’ve had the privilege of publishing six books with CFP, and we’re presently collaborating on a seventh volume, a comprehensive biography on David Livingstone. Through those years I’ve interacted with a number of the CFP staff via email about a variety of matters. But this was my first opportunity to visit CFP’s lovely premises and meet several of its cordial staff members in-person. To follow are several highlights of our visit to CFP.

View of Moray Firth, Scotland’s North Sea

Christian Focus Publications is located on a scenic country estate on the western edge of the Moray Firth, an inlet of Scotland’s North Sea. CFP is a couple miles up the shoreline from the seaside village of Hilton and approximately a one-hour drive northeast of Inverness.

View of Moray Firth from cliffside
View of Moray Firth from cliffside

The CFP offices are housed in a portion of Geanies House, a handsome, substantial manor built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Another part of the house is used as a private residence.

Geanies House
Office Entrance at Christian Focus Publications

The manor is surrounded by several acres of beautiful, well-tended lawns and gardens. Walking paths wind through those and the surrounding woods, which stretch to the nearby cliffs overlooking the Moray Firth.

Gardens at Geanies House 1
Gardens at Geanies House 2

On the shoreline at the base of those 200-foot cliffs is the bothy, a small stone cottage. Leeta and I enjoyed spending part of a day exploring the seashore as the tide was going out. An additional treat was sharing a picnic lunch at the bothy with Willie and Kate Mackenzie (of CFP), along with their lively young boys.

The Bothy by the seashore
Leeta at the seashore

Leeta and I stayed in the CFP’s Caretakers Cottage for several nights. Half of that cottage is a charming three-bedroom guest house which can be rented out by tourists in the summer months. The other half of the duplex is the private residence of one of the estate’s friendly groundskeepers.

Keeper’s Cottage

Meeting the cordial staff at Christian Focus Publications was truly one of the highlights of our visit there. Several years ago I had met William and Willie Mackenzie (uncle and nephew to each other), who serve, respectively, as CFP’s General Director and Publications Director. In addition to renewing my acquaintance with them, it was a delight to meet their staff members, who were all very friendly and helpful. They provided us with some great advice and assistance concerning some choice sights to visit while in their area.

Some of the Christian Focus Publications Staff

Christian Focus Publications has a room in its office building where copies of all the nearly 1,500 titles it has published through the years are displayed and available for purchase. People are welcome to stop by and browse through the books in this home-office bookstore. Each year CFP publishes scores of highly worthwhile books on a wide variety of topics for adults, youth and children. You can learn much more about Christian Focus Publications and its titles by visiting its website.

Some of the many CFP books
Christian Focus for Kids Books

The good folks at the CFP home office enjoy having people stop by to say “Hi” and to check out their great selection of books. If you ever have the opportunity to do so, it will be well worth your while.

Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie

Scottish-Cultural-Festival
Scottish Cultural Festival

My dear wife Leeta and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary this August 25th. As a special celebration of that exceptional blessing we are going on our first-ever overseas trip to Scotland, August 5-17.

We plan to visit a number of Scotland’s scenic and historic sights. We hope to observe one of the Scottish cultural festivals that are held in various locations during the month of August. (Think traditional Scottish dress, music, folk dances, food, athletic competitions, etc.)  High on Leeta’s priority list, and I’ll enjoy it too, is the opportunity to visit a couple of Scotland’s noble historic castles.

Scotland has a rich Christian history, and we’re looking forward to learning more about that and to visiting some of its related sites. We’re also desirous to learn more about the status of Christianity and the professing Christian Church in modern Scotland – various Christian denominations, their convictions, ministries, challenges and influence in society.

David-Livingstone-Centre-Blantyre-Scotland
David Livingstone Centre Blantyre, Scotland

For the past three and a half years I’ve been working on a comprehensive biography on the life and ministry of David Livingstone, the eminent nineteenth century missionary explorer to southcentral Africa (“Doctor Livingstone, I presume”). One of the highlights of our Scotland trip will be spending a day at the David Livingstone Centre and Birthplace Museum in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire.

We’re also greatly looking forward to meeting several of the people who minister at Christian Focus Publications, my primary publisher in Fearn, Ross-shire, in the Scottish Highlands. I’ve interacted via email with a number of those individuals for several years, but this will be our first opportunity to meet most of them in-person. We’re keenly anticipating worshiping at the church that some of the CFP staff attend, and to receiving a “wee ecclesiastical tour” of the region presented by William Mackenzie, the CFP Publisher.

CFPs-Geanies-Keepers-Cottage
Geanies Keeper’s Cottage at Christian Focus Publications

Christian Focus has a “cottage” (a cozy two-bedroom house overlooking the North Sea) which we’ll be staying at our second week in Scotland. From there we plan to make several day trips to see various sights in the north of Scotland.

So much to see and take in, so little time! But we’re looking forward to taking in as much as we can while enjoying what we are able to see and experience. I’ll plan to share some highlights from our Scotland trip in future Perspectives blogs. Your prayers for the Lord’s manifold blessings on all aspects of our trip will be greatly appreciated.

Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie

Mary Slessor (seated) with a Nigerian family

Mary Slessor (seated) with a Nigerian family

Throughout her thirty-eight year missionary career in southern Nigeria, West Africa, Mary Slessor (1848-1915) exhibited the spirit of a true pioneer missionary. She was never content to settle down permanently in one location, but was always seeking to advance Christ’s kingdom work into hitherto unreached areas.

The first twelve years of her missionary career were spent along the coastal region of Calabar, where Scottish missionaries of the United Presbyterian Church denomination had ministered for three decades. Mary then gained permission from the UPC Foreign Mission Committee to carry out missionary service in the previously unreached Okoyong region, which she did for the next seventeen years. (See my June 21, 2017, Perspective for a summary of her courageous, compassionate service during those first two periods of her missionary career.)

In 1904 she once again gained the Foreign Mission Committee’s permission to expand her work further inland to a pair of unreached tribes, the Ibo and the Ibibios. Slavery, human sacrifice and cannibalism had been carried out among them from time immemorial. While the British Government was seeking to curtail those practices, they were known to persist, especially in more isolated regions.

Mary Slessor at a Nigerian village

Mary Slessor at a Nigerian village

In opening that new work, Mary was initially granted one year in which to carry out itinerate ministry in the area. She took with her a small group of Christian teenagers whom she had trained in Okoyong to assist her in the new ministry. Amazingly, by the end of that year of itinerating, Christian schools and congregations had been established in six towns and villages along Enyong Creek which ran between the Ibo and Ibibios.

When Mary’s year of ministry travels concluded, her mission board desired her to resume her former responsibilities back in Okoyong. But she could not reconcile herself to that prospect, explaining: “There is an impelling power behind me, and I dare not look backward. Even if it cost me my connection with the Church [denomination] of my heart’s love, I feel I must go forward. I am not enthusiastic over Church methods. I would not mind cutting the rope and going adrift with my bairns, and I can earn our bite [food] and something more.” She was greatly relieved when the Mission decided to free her from normal responsibilities at a fixed base so from that point forward she could act as a pioneer missionary.

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Her advance into Ibibios territory was aided by the fact that the British government was building roads in that region. “Get a bicycle, Ma,” government officials said, pointing to the road, “and come as far as you can. We will soon have a motor car service for you.” At fifty-seven years of age Mary gamely learned to ride a bicycle after a government official presented her with a brand new model from England.

The early months of 1909 found Mary covered with painful boils from head to foot. “Only sleeping draughts keep me from going off my head,” she related. She later became severely ill from blood poisoning. She was taken to Duke Town near the coast where members of the mission attentively nursed her back to heal. But after five weeks of such care she was eager to resume her ministry responsibilities inland, and did so before some officials and doctors thought it fully advisable.

Mary Slessor Memorial in Dudee, Scotland

Mary Slessor Memorial in Dudee, Scotland

Eventually her health declined to the point that the Mission’s doctor forbad her to travel by bicycle. Hearing of her need for an alternative means of transportation, a group of ladies in Scotland sent her a Cape cart, a basket-chair on wheels capable of being maneuvered along quite easily by two boys or girls.

In the closing years of her life Mary established churches and schools in the villages of Ikpe, Odoro Ikpe and Nkanga further up Enyong Creek. She carried out ministry at those locations unaided by fellow missionaries. To her deep disappointment, the Mission had already concluded that health conditions were not safe enough in that region to place other missionaries there. To the end, however, she continued to be assisted by several African girls who lived with her as foster daughters.

Women of Faith and Courage by Vance Christie

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A fuller account of Mary Slessor’s storied missionary career in Calabar is recorded in my book Women of Faith and Courage (Christian Focus, 2011). W. P. Livingstone’s Mary Slessor of Calabar, Pioneer Missionary (originally published 1916) is the classic full-length biography of her life. Bruce McClennan’s Mary Slessor, A Life on the Altar for God (Christian Focus, 2015) is a more recent full account of her life.

Copyright 2017 by Vance E. Christie