IMB missionary Erin Schwartz, left, talks with Peter Fullerton, pastor of Refuge Church in Glasgow, and new believer Meiying Lin. IMB/Special
By Leslie Peacock Caldwel
Patrick and Erin Schwartz have had to get used to the darkness that often clouds Scotland’s beauty. According to the World Weather Information Service, Scotland only has around 100 days of sunshine each year. That leaves most days rainy or cloudy.
Patrick says their family has missed the sunshine they enjoyed in New England, but after a few months back in the U.S. on a stateside assignment, they are ready to return to Glasgow this spring. Having lived there for three years, it now feels like home.
Patrick explains that one of the biggest blessings from their first term as IMB missionaries was connecting to a local church in Scotland – Refuge Glasgow. This family of faith has provided a church home for them and their two daughters, McKinley, 6, and Rowen, 1. The church has also provided key ministry partners for reaching their neighborhoods for Christ.
“While we were certainly glad to come alongside them in the work of the Gospel, we felt like we received the greater blessing,” Patrick says.
“The church has become a backbone for what we are trying to do in our community. It is a visible expression of Christ’s love.”
Erin has focused much of her ministry on connecting with other mothers at McKinley’s school and in her neighborhood, which she describes as very diverse.
“We didn’t realize how diverse Glasgow would be. Half the kids in McKinley’s school speak Arabic and come from Muslim backgrounds,” Erin says.
One mother Erin met is Meiying. Meiying grew up in China, but now lives in Scotland with her husband who is a university professor. Erin had actually been to the city in China where Meiying went to university. For Erin, that journey to China was her first mission trip.
Their friendship in Glasgow grew and though they often talked of spiritual things, Meiying was not interested in Erin’s initial invitation to study the Bible. However, after asking Erin why she always looked so peaceful, Meiying asked if she could visit their church. Erin and Patrick brought her with them to Refuge Church, and Erin gave her a Chinese/English Bible. When Erin asked again if they could meet for Bible study, her friend accepted the invitation.
“Over the course of the year, Meiying grew in her knowledge and understanding of God and what it means to follow Jesus,” says Erin. “I had the privilege of watching the Lord work in her heart and life and walking alongside her as she repented of her sins and placed her faith in Jesus.”
In December 2019, Meiying publicly confessed her faith in Jesus and was baptized. “I now have true inner peace because I follow and trust the words of 1 John 1:9,” she told the church before her baptism. “I have experienced true repentance. I have been forgiven of my sins and I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”
Meiying is now connected with Refuge Glasgow and has a family of faith to support her and disciple her. Patrick and Erin are grateful for Meiying’s involvement at the church and are hopeful that others in her family will come to faith as well. They also feel very blessed that they have been able to see the fruit of their work in a country where people do not often respond to the Gospel.
Patrick describes the culture of Scotland as typically “post-Christian,” with little interest in spiritual things. Churches that used to hold worshipers now stand empty or have been converted into local pubs. Drug use and violence in Glasgow remain on the rise and the dark skies of many rainy days reflect the spiritual darkness of the country.
But Erin and Patrick see the Light of Christ penetrating the darkness. That Light gives them hope and calls them home.
Leslie Peacock Caldwell is senior editor at IMB.