Sydney Holt - Letter written on his tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland - May 22, 1985

Dear Ones far and near,

I believe my last letter finished while I was still at the Wood home in Eyemouth, Scotland. It was difficult to say goodbye to the four from the home who took me to the train for northern Scotland. One of the friends met me at Edinburgh (capitol of Scotland) and took me to her home for lunch. Saw Edinburgh Castle not far away which played a most important part in Scottish history. Then back to catch another train with Warren Wainwright (Canada-France), Douglas McConnell (Australia), and Frank Thomas (E. Canada) on it. Two hours later we got off at Aberdeen, which is a prospering big city since it is the main port for the off-shore oil rigs. Eleven workers and one Australian friend were there to board another train for a 1-1/2 hr. ride to Keith where the workers had hired a small bus to take us the last 18 miles to Findochty where the convention would be. Very cold (wind off the North Sea) and overcast. Daylight early and late because we are so far north.

Convention has been held here in Findochty 55 years and meetings are held in a stone hall the fishermen built years ago with the understanding that any religious services could be held in it. The dining tent (40' x 60') is set up down by the ocean and can really be cold. All the workers and friends stay in the home of friends. The cleanest village I've been in and all the homes are real old, made of stone but painted up for convention time. When you meet village folk, they say, “We hope the weather will be nice for your meetings.” The milkmen still deliver milk to the doors. The cars here are small but well-suited to the narrow roads, and I saw a three-wheeled car (really looked funny with only one wheel in front and yet full width of the body in front) with a sticker on the back, "When I grow up I will be a Rolls Royce." There is less tax on a 3-wheel car but I haven't seen many. The broad Scotch brogue is difficult to understand with a few. It seems to differ from one village to another.

Convention breakfast is at 8 a.m., meeting at 10:30 - 12:45. Then dinner and 3-5 p.m. meeting followed by tea in the tent, the last meeting (no gospel meeting in convention) at 6:30-8:00 followed by a lunch in the tent. Everything is served up at the end of the table by men and plates and cups then passed from one to another on down the table! You eat what you get and don't ask for more! Three out of the four days of convention turned clear and sunny which is very unusual for these parts.

The convention meetings are somewhat different than at home. 240 here altogether, but all the workers sat on the stage (and some friends when room ran out in the hall) with brothers on one side and sisters on the other. In each meeting the first brother would lead the meeting until the sister and he had spoken and then the last speaker would have the testimonies and finish the meeting. All but the last meeting ended with the last speaker's part without a hymn at the end. Prayers and testimonies were very special and not as long as I had expected. In one meeting Warren Wainwright reminded the folks to look at their watches like the workers do so they won't speak too long. Then an elderly man in the front row got up and was rather long. However, he noticed the older worker in Scotland (Horace Todhunter) looking at his watch and he said, "Horace, no need to look at your watch!" Singing was beautiful. Workers here from Ireland, Austria, Jamaica, Norway, Australia, Canada, Germany, England, Bolivia, Uruguay, Malaysia and U.S.A. One sees why folks living in these parts have such rosy cheeks with the cold weather and wind!

Walking down to the dining tent with an older man (Alex Cowie) one afternoon, he pointed out to a fishing boat in the ocean. Said he was cook and deckhand on that boat for 10 years when they had a crew of ten men. Monday evening Eric Thompson (Jamaica) and I went to their home (2 miles away in the fishing village of Buckie). Their home was 200 years old and 3-foot stone walls! Such a wonderful feed of fish that evening! Alex's wife (Peggy) was visiting in Sunnyvale, CA when Scott R. and I were in that field four years ago. Alex gave us a ride in a V.W. bug that I won't soon forget!

One outstanding thing we heard was Joe Ames (Norway) told of being in Italy a few years ago for a convention. Earlier there was a man in Italy who had fought in World War II against the Allies, lost and afterwards felt there was no hope for him, nothing to live for and was going to take his own life. About then he walked past where the workers were having meetings and on an impulse walked in. He continued to attend and later made his choice. It was some time later when he felt he couldn't continue in a divided home, as his wife didn't share in any interest in the meetings, and this day he gave the ultimatum that he was leaving home and any of the children who wanted to come with him could. He then told the workers what he had done; and they told him he had acted foolishly--to humble himself and return to his family and tell them he had acted too hastily, as this was the only hope his wife and children would have. It was 10 years later when Joe Ames was at convention there and this man told the first part of the story (in his testimony) and being willing to follow the workers' advice to humble himself to return home. Then his wife got up and finished the story by saying she was so glad her husband had returned home as she wouldn't be at the convention and professing had he not returned. Then a daughter and her husband got up a few seats behind her parents and said they wanted to make their choice in that meeting! Joe was speaking of the power of prayer and the power of example.

Only two meetings on Tuesday, so the hall was cleaned up, tent put away and all the work finished by evening. Early the next morning we started our trip south with Eric Thompson (Irish - labored in Lebanon, Cypress and other countries, before going to Jamaica) and I going 9-1/2 hours by trains to London. John Porterfield had arrived early that morning and great to be together! Tom Clarke (Philadelphia) and two Greek sisters (Alexandra Kazakis and Anna Priniotakis) were also at the Pepper home. Our Bible study that night was Daniel 6 and so touching to hear Alexandra tell of some in Greece who stood firm like Daniel at the risk of their lives.

Thursday afternoon there were eleven workers who caught the train for a 1-1/2 hour ride northeast to Suffolk for our next convention. This is near the area where the Jennings are from and Susan and her husband (Peter Lewis) are here. Wish we could have had time to have gotten to their home. This is the oldest convention in the world (since 1909) and the gospel first came to this village of Debenham in 1904. The meetings are held in a 45' x 60' white tent and here was one of the parabolic mikes from California to pick up testimonies! The dining tent is separate from the cookhouse and perhaps 45' x 80'. Fifteen long and narrow tables (don't have to put food on them as serve from one end and pass it down) and 10" between tables! 32 settings to a table so it is well that it is cold weather! The speaking list comes out about noon the day before convention, but you can't be sure of who will speak in what order, other than the last speaker! Sometimes it is the older brother leading the first part of the meeting who speaks first and other times the sisters. No platform list, so you wear your suit all the time just in case! It was very cold at first and even the natives felt it, but the two Greek sisters almost froze! Nice to see a little of the sun one day of the conv.

In Scotland the sisters are getting away from wearing hats when they speak, but not here in England! In the evenings after the last meeting supper is served and hot drinks. Tea (with milk), horlicks (hot milk with malted milk), and dandelion coffee which I haven't tried yet! What the English call coffee, we would call milk with a very little coffee flavor!

There are workers here from France, Madagascar, Kenya, Germany, Nigeria, Greece, South Africa, Italy, Uruguay, Indonesia, Jamaica, India, and the U.S. Many of these are on home visits from these countries where they labor. A very rich blending together that only God's Spirit could accomplish. Very touching to hear some labor in using the English language at a great cost.

We heard about four voices to each of us:
1) The voice of Satan - "Save thyself" and "worship me." Matthew 16:21-23
2) The voice of the world - "Enjoy yourself" and "love me." Hebrews 11:24-26
3) The voice of self - "Please yourself" and "feed me." Romans 15:3
4) The voice of the Lord Jesus - "Deny yourself" and "follow me." Luke 9:23-27

Tuesday after the last meeting some of us took the train back to London where we catch a train north to Scotland (Dunbarton at Gartocharn) where there is a workers' meeting Thursday.  Plans are being made for John Porterfield and me to help out at conventions on the continent, but it may be a while before we know for sure. We are to be back in Los Angeles the first part of September for sure. We'll get a return reservation and ticket when we know for sure.

Hope this finds all well at home and very interesting to see the preparation list. This time will come before long and my thoughts will be at each location. Sorry to learn of some illnesses and surgery, but hope for a good recovery. I'll miss the early preparation at Casa Grand for the third year running and feel badly about this!

Your brother in Him,

Sydney (Holt)