I think I saw about half of Scotland yesterday. I am here to see the work of 20schemes, an organization dedicated to providing gospel churches for Scotland’s poorest. Scotland’s poorest tend to live in schemes, government housing that is free for the destitute or subsidized for the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Scots live in such housing and these neighborhoods extend through every Scottish city. Very few of them have churches where the gospel is believed, honored and preached.
We began our day in a scheme on the outskirts of Edinburgh. For ten years one young lady and her brother have been working with the young people in this scheme, even moving in to be a part of the community. She befriends the children, organizes sports and activities for them, and tells them about Jesus. Just a couple of days ago one of the children saw her mother die of a drug overdose; her care will now pass to her grandmother. Around 150 children attend the programs every week. There is no church in this scheme and no nearby church to send children to when they profess faith in Christ. She has a growing number of children asking about the gospel and showing interest in it, but no church there and no pastor. It was a joy to see her joy, it was a blessing to see her serving, but sad to know that there is no church nearby.
From Edinburgh we headed to the city of Dundee, a working-class town traditionally built around the textile industry. It has a significant Roman Catholic population that came in a wave of Irish immigration. There in the heart of a great neighborhood is a church building that has not housed a congregation for over 20 years. The building could easily house 100 or 200 people, just as it did in its glory days. Today it provides a location for some clubs and activities, but there have not been worship services there for many years. A nearby gospel-loving church has made a commitment to continue to support the building, to pay for its maintenance, to keep it open, even to provide some funding for a plant. But again, there is no pastor. 20schemes is partnering with this church to look for a team of people who will settle in the scheme, who will become part of the community, and who will preach the gospel. In Toronto and so many other places we have planters with no buildings; in the schemes there are buildings with no planters.
We left Dundee and drove to Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city and the city with the highest population settled in schemes. And here we met two young men who, along with their wives, are caring for the kids in one of these schemes. Just like that young lady in Edinburgh, they lead the children in games and activities and they tell them about Jesus. And just like her, they do not have a solid church to direct the children to. A Church of Scotland building houses the activities; its sanctuary has seating for 600 or 700 people, but today only 40 or 50 attend on a Sunday. There is no pastor and if one is ever assigned, it is unlikely, based on the condition of the Church of Scotland, that he will know or preach the gospel.