Ally and Margot Stoddart
This article was initially written by Ally and Margot Stoddart as a piece for the South Uist and Benbecula Free Church Newsletter. I am thankful for the opportunity to publish this on my web site.
When we were asked to write this article we felt that it was beyond us, yet, again within a week, the Lord in His providence, has shown His hand in our lives and given us the perfect time and opportunity to share our story with you.
To give you some background, we met at school in Glasgow, both of us from Church-going families, yet neither of us took much interest in the Church - we merely went through the motions. Alastair left home in 1986 to join the Northern Constabulary and was based in Inverness. By this time Margot was at Glasgow University. We saw each other as much as shifts and distance would allow which was usually about one weekend a month. This continued until we were married in 1992.
By this time Alistair had been transferred to Dornoch and did not much relish the thought of spending 5 years in this quiet town. Once we were married, however, we knew there was something missing. In March 1996 we were transferred to Lochboisdale and in May, Dana was born. We had heard many awful stories about life in the Western Isles and had resigned ourselves to 5 years hard labour when we arrived.
The first few years were tough as we tended to keep ourselves to ourselves and we were kept busy with the arrival of David seventeen short months after Dana. Things improved slightly after Margot started working, but one parent working full time, one parent working shifts and two children lead to a very hectic, tiring and unfulfilled life. One Friday night we received an E-mail from Jim and Emma Renwick, inviting us to the Baptism of Emma, Nicola Angus and Joanna. Margot being Margot read it and prepared for the big event two days later. we were uncomfortable at the thought of going to Church but were slightly curious, so off we went the following Sunday. Luckily we have been blessed with a sense of humour which we needed when we found out that we were one month EARLY for the baptism!
Even though our presence there was an oversight, we could not have received a warmer welcome. having had no experience of the Free Church before, only hearsay, we were extremely surprised at the warmth of the service and fellowship. Iain's sermon that day was from Ruth, focusing on Ruth's redeemer. This was all language that we had not heard before; redeemer, saviour and the true meaning of a Christian. The sermon was from the heart. We had both had good Sunday school upbringings but had never heard what it truly meant to follow Christ. If Iain ever wanted to take up fishing, that was the day - we were hooked. An interest was sparked in that first day and almost immediately we progressed to being seekers. We were greatly blessed and encouraged by those around us whom we now know were positioned by the Lord to be in the right place at the right time with the right words, for His glory. We each had a burning desire to know more and began reading and attending Bible Study. Bible Study is a great benefit to a non Christian. Although all the pieces in the jigsaw do not fit in your own journey, you can enjoy the company of Christians who become role models and shine with the assurance of salvation that you are seeking. The result is that the right words will come at the right time when needed. This is very encouraging also for the Christian who may have difficulty in witnessing: no matter how insignificant you may seem, you will be used to glorify God and make a difference in somebody's life. One of the books we read was a gift from Jim and Emma, "God Found Me". It is a collection of testimonies outlining ordinary people coming to Christ. One of these stories stuck in our minds - Bob Akroyd's. When we found out that he was to preach in Benbecula the next weekend, we knew we had to be there.
By this stage we had been led by the Lord in many ways. We had been shown open doors and we were beginning to realise that our blessings were not ours but His. There were too many coincidences happening in our lives for there not to be much greater force at work and it all seemed to be focusing on one weekend. We attended both services that weekend and also had a great time of fellowship and prayer with the Renwicks, Ann O'Henley and Chris MacRae. We cannot thank the Lord enough that these people were put in our paths at the right time and were used amazingly.
That weekend we both gave ourselves to the Lord and asked for forgiveness and salvation - one through a friend's prayer, the other through a Bible text.
From that weekend on it has been WHOOSH time! When your eyes are opened by the Lord you realise exactly what was missing before. Certainly there have been bad times as well as good but when you trust in the Lord, He will support you and give you rest. The encouragement and help that we received from the South Uist & Benbecula congregation, as we started our walk, was amazing and is something we will never forget.
In October 2000, Dana and David were baptised by lain along with Sine MacRae. It was one of the greatest moments of our lives. It was a very special day that we will never forget. A couple of weeks later at the communion, taken by Kenny Macdonald, we joined the Church and sat at the Lord's Table for the first time. We again felt humbled by God's work in His peoples lives.
On New Year's eve we received word that the Police were transferring Alastair to Golspie, Sutherland. Whilst sad at the thought of leaving so many good friends, we know that God has a plan for us,.........not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11.
We will think of you all with love and affection. You have been a tremendous encouragement to us. we hope and pray that the work in South Uist & Benbecula will continue to flourish under the amazing stewardship of Iain & Ann MacAskill.
"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation" Isaiah 12:2.