Talking Ministry: ‘The islands await what he will teach them’
Published on 15 November 2023
Looking to the Bible for inspiration led Rev Attie van Wyk to leave the sun of South Africa for the sleet – and stovies – of Scotland.
Speaking as part of the monthly Talking Ministry series, Mr van Wyk revealed he was inspired by the same Bible verse which had led him to a career in ministry in the Dutch Reformed Church to follow God's call to a new country and continent.
A committed Christian from his early teens, Mr van Wyk had a number of career options to consider when he left school, including the possibility of training to be a vet and the offer of a music scholarship.
However, in praying for guidance, he found his answer when he read a text from the Book of Isaiah, which begins:
"Here is my servant, I appoint him. I have chosen him, he enjoys my favour. I let my Spirit come upon him, he will make my will known to the nations."
In what was to prove prophetic for the future minister, the passage concludes: "He himself will not be extinguished or broken until he established my will on earth. The islands await what he will teach them."
Mr van Wyk said: "It was in receiving this passage that I knew God wanted me to go into ministry."
That passage, and particularly its final verse and its promise "the islands await what he will teach them", was central to another decision about his future when he began to think and pray about where God was leading him next.
"It very quickly became evident that Scotland, and specifically the Church of Scotland was where He wanted me," he said.
"I knew, moved by the Holy Spirit, that God called me not only to serve in South Africa, but also to the ‘islands' – not knowing it to be the British Isles."
With a typically romantic view of a Scotland of ancient castles and kilt-wearing locals, his first visit to the country to attend a Church of Scotland assessment conference did not quite live up to his expectations.
"During these two weeks, it was raining and sleeting non-stop," he admitted.
"For a sunny South African it was bitterly cold and wet, and I recall praying to God on my flight back home: ‘Lord, are you sure it's Scotland you're calling me to?' God is never in doubt, so Scotland it was."
A place for all to flourish
Fortunately, his familiarisation placement at Llhanbryde and Urquhart in Moray proved far more welcoming, and when his new congregation welcomed him to the area with a ceilidh, he discovered some unexpected Caledonian connections.
The evening included a meal of stovies – a dish which Mr van Wyk's mother used to make, but which he had always assumed was her own invention.
"The night at the ceilidh I realised that stovies was probably passed on from my Mum's grandmother, who was British, and I want to guess Scottish" he said.
"Looking back on my heritage, I came to realise how many Scottish influences there were around me whilst growing up, and later ministering in South Africa, and that God had ministry in Scotland planned for me all along."
After serving in Moray, Mr van Wyk moved to Liberton Northfield Church in Edinburgh before taking up his current post as the first minister of the unified Park Church in Stirling last year.
Having followed a call from South Africa to Scotland, it is natural that Mr van Wyk thinks that it is important that we always follow where God leads, even if that is into the unknown and a time of change and reform.
He commented: "My hope for the Church is that we will be a place for all to flourish as God had made us to do. So, may we as a Church be, and continue by creating spaces to share and receive the love and grace of God with and from others."
You can read Rev Attie van Wyk's full interview and access the resources for November on our Talking Ministry page.