from Malc & Donna Mackinnon in California
TT: Malc and Donna, it’s now almost a year since you moved from Thurrock to Felton in California. What do you miss about the old country?
MM: Friends, proper tea, the ease with which we can get the gospel into schools, BBC, Tesco, Coalhouse Fort.
DM: My family, Radio 2, also Tesco and friends. Not the weather, though!
TT: What is the area of Felton like, both geographically and socially? What stands out for both of you?
MM: It’s right in the Redwoods, but also only seven miles from the sea. It’s very hot and sunny most days, with quite heavy rainfall in the winter. Socially, it’s very laid back and there’s a bit of a hippy/new age feel to the place. We love the scenery and the opportunities for outdoor life.
DM: The beauty and the wildlife – deer, raccoons, gophers, skunks, humming birds. It’s like being in an episode of The Waltons!
TT: What adjustments have you had to make in becoming accustomed to the American way? How difficult or easy have these been?
MM: We have to speak clearly and put up with people not understanding what we’re saying or, even worse, thinking we’re Australian! People tend to turn up to social and church events if they feel like it, and we’ve noticed certain issues with regular commitment to things. Mostly, there don’t seem to have been many adjustments at all.
TT: Malc, what is the church you’re working at, and what is your role in it? What kind of church is it?
MM: The church is the SLV Baptist (San Lorenzo Valley), and the denomination is First Baptist, but the denominational affiliations are fairly loose. I am now an elder and also associate pastor.
TT: Is church different in California and the States to how it is in Thurrock or Britain? If so, what are those differences?
MM: Nothing we do here is wildly different from anything done in UK churches. There is a strong emphasis on the preached word and sermons often last around 55 minutes. The pastor, Steve, is an excellent preacher. Communion is shared in every service and there is a brief thought about a different aspect of the creed each week. We have introduced the concept of a children’s talk, which is not a feature of most American services. These children’s talks are nearly always visual and they are video’ed each week. They will eventually be put on the church website but, for now, are available on Youtube under “bigmalc63” or “Children’s Bible Talk”.
TT: What is the general state of the Christian church in America, would you say? Does national politics play a big part, or does the church play a big part in national politics?
MM: I still haven’t really been able to guage what the general state is. The same issues that we face in England regarding increased liberality, general apathy, turning away from the Bible and embracing things that previous generations said were wrong seem to be just as relevant here.
DM: There is a heightened interest in political manifestos at the moment, regarding how people should vote as Christians. The people at this church are possibly more interested in national politics than in the UK and are aware of their responsibility to vote the right person in.
TT: Donna, have you found a role in the church?
DM: I support Malc in the youth and children’s work but also have made inroads into the local school. By building good relationships there, we have been able to start an after-school club, which is quite a major breakthrough.
TT: Malc, what are you doing at the church, and how has your ministry developed?
MM: I see my role as generally assisting the pastor and doing whatever needs doing. Mostly, I head up the children and youth ministries with Donna, including a weekly children’s talk, a weekly youth club, a weekly after-school club and plans to begin a weekly Sunday School. I preach fairly regularly and also have regular pastoral duties. Since I was employed on a part-time basis, I also have time to create new children’s talks, which I have loved doing, and also managed to finish my first novel, an allegory about a youth’s faith journey.
TT: What are your visions? What is the vision of the church?
MM: Evangelism, evangelism and evangelism. Especially for youth and children.
DM: We want to help the church to be more more outward-looking at the spiritual needs of the community. There has also been a strong emphasis on prayer lately.
TT: You’ve both got other interests. What are they and where have they taken you?
MM: My writing has developed since I’ve been here. My previous employers in London, as part of the redundancy package, gave me re-training money, which I have used mostly for writing conferences. It has also been nice to get out and explore, take photos, and get involved in new sports.
DM: I love the outdoor lifestyle here. I run through the redwoods every day and have recently begun to surf, which I love! However, I had my first surfing injury last week – just by trying to get into my wetsuit!
TT: You originally said you’d be out in the States for 5 years. Is this still the case?
MM & DM: Who knows? We like it here, we feel we have a work to do and feel that the door is still open. But you never know when God will close the door. We still hope to stay as long as possible.
TT: As keen sporting people, have you been watching the Olympics? What are the stand-out moments for you?
MM & DM: My one regret about being out here was missing the Olympics, especially since they were so close to where we were living. It only dawned on me once they had started that we would never again get the opportunity of watching a home Olympics. The stand-out things for me were that the Olympics were so good, so well-organised, so free of controversy and terrorism, and that the weather was so nice. NBC, a US channel, kept showing incredible footage of Britain from the air, and it looked amazing. Everyone here made renewed vows to visit the UK. The best thing had to be the phenomenal amount of medals we won!
TT: What other British sports and news have you been able to keep up with?
MM & DM: Everything, thanks to the BBC Sport website.
TT: When are we likely to see you back over this side of the pond?
MM & DM: Maybe January. We’ll let you know.
TT: Thank you, Mr & Mrs Mackinnon! Our thoughts and prayers are with you, in between the prayers for ourselves as we battle against envy! ; > P
Right: Malc and Tim, standing either side of a microwave with a doll in it, sometime in the mid-80s… (don’t ask)