My Mission: Unexpected Gifts at Christmas

My Mission: Unexpected Gifts at Christmas

I met Adrienne who is studying Pioneer Ministry. She arrives a little late for our meeting at Parkhead Nazarene Church, full of apologies. “I’m so sorry — we had a great tutorial and it was just so interesting I just got caught up”. Adrienne’s a mature student with brown hair and brown eyes, dressed casually in jeans with a white top. At first sight she’s a serious sort of person, but on getting to know her she is warm and friendly. 

So why did you choose our Pioneer Ministry training programme?
I want to deepen my faith. I do not want to be a pastor but I do want to pioneer by reaching out to people. It is my personal objective. Our tutor, Alastair Macindoe, says pioneer ministry means crossing boundaries, requires that you have to be open to new things, and other people have to be open too. For me, pioneering is about outreach: there can be all sorts of expressions of church planting.

Are you enjoying the experience?
I am getting so much out of it! I am working at placements including a ministry called Broken Chains and in a food bank. One day a woman, Marie[1], came in to the food bank. After we welcomed her and looked out some groceries, quite unexpectedly she burst into tears. We told her not to worry and not to feel embarrassed. “I’m not!”, came back. “It is just that you are being nice to me”. Then, with some pride she said, “I’m not ashamed to provide food for my children”. I sat down with her and she told me her story. In Marie’s case, her marriage broke up and her friendship circle diminished when she became single. She received no maintenance payments from her ex-husband and a change had affected her benefit payments. Marie was worried she was becoming dependent on her children for company. Of all the problems the worst was loneliness. It came to me in a flash: I know a lady who runs a faith-based cafe – Cafe Hope – and I suggested Marie might drop by. They have now developed a friendship. I can’t tell you how great that made me feel: I asked God to work through me. I feel so blessed to have been used by Him.

How are you finding your classes?
It’s a small class and that means the interaction we have in tutorials is great. Our tutors at Scottish School of Christian Mission are insightful people and they are caring. I feel very loved.

What are you learning on your course?
I know my way around the Bible a lot better and I am seeing it in a whole new light! Isaiah — no clothes for 3 years! Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20; Hebrews 7:1-3) comes from nowhere, no genealogy, no parents! He is the image of Jesus in the Old Testament. His name translated means ‘king of righteousness,’ and he is king of Salem, meaning ‘peace’ so he is also ‘king of peace’. Dr Wesley White, the lecturer, sometimes takes us deep into translation to help us understand layers of meaning in the Bible. It’s eye opening. I am thinking more about how Jesus interacted with people, especially those he was not supposed to be talking to. Being totally immersed in the Bible has changed me.

How has it changed you?
I am a lot more aware of how I behave around people. I work with addicts. It is easy to assume addicts are undeserving, but as I learned about how those I met arrived at their situation I changed my mind. For some it stems from relationship conflicts; others lose their way when they move away from their home; some are victims of abusive relationships. Often addicts worry people will judge them and this can make it so much harder for them. In particular, they fear Christians will look down on them. It is as if they think judgement is lurking waiting to get them.

What have you learned from real life practice?
People in trouble don’t want to be in that situation: they realise they need help and they can change. One woman I know was an alcoholic who regularly ‘escaped’ into prolonged drinking sessions. It was almost as if she escaping from reality. Low self-esteem made the addiction worse. She was abused but did not report it because, as she had been drunk, she felt she would not be believed. That same lady helps other girls now — she comes to Broken Chains, an informal church service. Another woman I know managed to recover by herself by self-reducing methadone. She now runs her own support group — people like that inspire me to help others and not to judge.

I think I have been guilty of being judgemental in the past: I would see people shouting and swearing at each other in the street and I would think, ’that is awful’. Now I’m more likely to think, maybe that person shouting and swearing has had a bad day. At the Broken Chains worship service people will get up and go for a cigarette — they don’t see a problem in that, and why should we see a problem? At one time I might have thought that it was not right, getting up to have a cigarette during a church service, but now I do not.

There are special moments for example, when people begin to trust you. They give you a hug, they open up. When I know their default is to tell lies or embellish and they are not doing that — these are uplifting experiences.

I have learned what Jesus says about love on my course: now I’ve learned what pioneering ministry means in practice. The commandment to love is not easy. But with the God’s help it is possible. Showing love can be just listening and spending time — sometimes it is all people need. People ask for us to pray for them even if they are not Christians: how wonderful is that?

What is happening this Christmas?
My church, Southside Christian Fellowship in Ayr, raised several thousand pounds to help the children connected to Women’s Aid in Ayr. Halfords did us a deal on bikes, providing we built the bikes ourselves. So we’re assembling 83 bikes for kids this Christmas as gifts, and will deliver them all over South Ayrshire before Christmas.

What does the Bible say about bearing gifts? In an instant Adrienne’s Bible is out. She finds the passage about the Magi, travelling from the East (Matthew 2:1–12).
The Magi were pioneers, they crossed boundaries. Yes, I’m trying to do that! Of course we don’t always get to see the kids’ faces with our gifts, but we get to see the mum’s faces. I cried my eye’s out when I read the thank you cards from last year. One mum wrote, “I didn’t think my son was going to have any kind of present and now he is going to have the best Christmas ever!”

I ask what it reminds her of? Another woman, someone fleeing from violence, who had no home to go to and nothing to give her baby, who received unexpected gifts? Adrienne brightens at the thought of one of the women at Women’s Aid being like Mary. She laughs and says,
“Yes, I am very very lucky. Very blessed”.

Adrienne Malcolm is studying for a CertHE in Theology (Pioneer Ministry) and was interviewed by Shona Maciver. To find out more about this programme, complete our Intent To Study enquiry form (this does not commit you to studying with us).

[1] Not Marie’s true name.

CHANGING CHURCH IN SCOTLAND