2017 Family Report and Prayer Requests for 2018

I normally try to type a brief annual report to inform our friends and family about our life in Scotland. I apologize that this year’s update is late in arriving. We do appreciate all of the support and encouragement that you provide! Here I list a few updates from 2017 and include prayer requests for 2018.

Family
We thank God that Sophia continues to do well. Each day, she displays more and more of her personality. She laughs constantly, is always on the go, and loves to visit with people. Her laughter and playfulness bring joy to our home.

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Happy baby!

April continues to serve primarily as a stay-at-home mom to care for Sophia, and we are grateful that she can spend so much time with our daughter during this critical time. April does an excellent job caring for our entire family while I work to finish my thesis. She has made many sacrifices so that I can get my Ph.D. I am immensely grateful for her.

Publications and Presentations 
I am constantly trying to develop as a researcher and a writer. In 2017, I sent in book reviews for Regent’s Reviews, Southeastern Theological Review, Themelios, and The Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. I was especially happy that the respected publisher Peter Lang accepted my essay on the Scottish Reformation for a forthcoming volume on Scottish history. Also, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology requested to publish my journal article on John Gill. This fact was encouraging because it showed there is some audience for my thesis work.

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Mom and Phia on a wet Scottish day

I was able to attend a few academic conferences in 2017, though not as many as I would have liked. I presented a paper on the theology of James B. Torrance at the Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference, and I delivered a paper on Baptist missionaries in India for the Ecclesiastical History Society at the University of Cambridge.

This new year promises a busy schedule. In February, I am slated to present a paper for a Ph.D. seminar at the University of Edinburgh. I am also contracted to write a few essays on Jonathan Edwards for a new book that will be released by the Jonathan Edwards Society. I am most excited about the opportunity that I have to present a paper on Baptist history at Baylor Universtiy in July. I have never been to Baylor, a university that we have always half-jokingly referred to as “the Notre Dame for Baptists,” but I look forward to seeing the campus and meeting several of the noted scholars who teach there. It seems to me to be a wonderful place filled with people who are doing great work.

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Sophia works hard, too. Each day she has to examine the puppy display at the local grocery store.

Looking further into the future, I would love to submit my paper on James Torrance and my paper on Baptist missionaries to journals for publication, preferably before the end of this year. Please pray that I can do so—but also pray that I do not take on too much. If you know me, you know that I often work too hard and take on too many obligations. Publications are important, but family time and personal health must come first. I want these articles to see the light of day as soon as possible, but I also do not want to neglect my family. I already have enough to do with my Ph.D.!

Ministry
The busyness of Ph.D. work and family life has prevented us from engaging in ministry at a high level. April continues to attend the Bible study for ladies here in St Andrews. We both still appreciate the work of our church, St Andrews Baptist, and try to help the congregation as we are able. I attended a few meetings of an Alpha course to try to understand evangelism in Scotland better. I still participate in our church’s preaching team meetings and preach for our congregation when I have the time.

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Sophia in our church’s balcony trying to figure out what is happening during a baptism service

Many churches in Scotland need pulpit supply and interim ministers. I try to accommodate them as much as I can. In 2017, I preached in a variety of churches, from educated congregations located in cities to rural churches that only a handful of people attend. I think that it is important to work in these different contexts; it keeps you on your toes!

I am especially thankful for the opportunities that I had in 2017 to preach for my father. He faithfully serves as a pastor for churches near our home in Florida while working as a full-time theology professor. He does an excellent job as a theological educator and as a pastor, and I am happy that I can honor him by preaching for him when I have the chance. I am who I am because of my wonderful parents and grandparents.

Jobs
Employment is our main concern for 2018. The academic job market is terrible. Churches are struggling to support full-time pastors. We can only trust that God has something for us somewhere. As a family, we pray that God will send us to a place where we can flourish, where we can minister well, and where we can have our needs met.

I gave up a potential law career because I believed that serving in the ministry was important. I sacrificed much money and time to pursue a Ph.D. because I believed that theological education was important for ministry. I still believe those things. I have no money, but I also have no regrets. Always Forward.

Trips and Fun 
Of course, 2017 was not all work. We did have plenty of time to play! We took a family trip to London in early 2017. We went in connection with my work, but we made it a fun trip for the family while we were there. My parents helped us take a trip to Paris in July. Closer to home, April and I finally walked the Fife Coastal Path, at least from St Andrews to Pittenweem. We also toured several nearby castles and historic homes. Scotland is amazingly beautiful!

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With April before a university ball

A personal highlight for me was the research trip that I took to England this past autumn. I needed to visit Kettering and London for my work, but I intentionally added stops at Bedford (the home of John Bunyan), Olney (the home of John Newton, William Cowper, and John Sutcliff), and Northampton (the home of Philip Doddridge). I wanted to squeeze in as much time as possible to see important sites, so I typically returned to my hotel past midnight and then quickly left before 5:00 am the next morning to catch the outgoing train. When I finally returned home to Scotland, I was sick, exhausted, and had lost weight. As April can attest, I came in the door to our home, ate an entire package of cookies (an American size package!), and then stayed on the couch for over a day. I loved it, though!

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Sophia greeting me after my 5K

Regarding hobbies, April has taken up photography. She is terrific! I ran my first 5K in the summer and decided, yet again, that I am not an athlete. 😉

Prayer Requests

  • Pray that I might find a job that meets our financial needs and helps us to flourish as a family.
  • Pray that we might have our financial needs met. Though we had a decent year in 2017, the truth is that in 2018 our financial situation is going to be a little rough. Pray that we have what we need as a family.
  • Pray that I might defend my thesis well.
  • Pray for my other research projects. Specifically, pray that I would be able to balance work and family life well.
  • Pray for Sophia’s continued development and for April as she cares for our home.

About David Rathel

Husband to April; Baptist Minister; Student at St. Mary's Divinity School at the University of St. Andrews
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