A pair of church ministers from South Africa have said they have no regrets about moving to the north-east amidst the pandemic.
As the country battened down the hatches, reverends Gert Van Rensburg and Eduard Enslin began finding their feet in Scotland, 9,000 miles from home.
After both were ordained in October, Mr Van Rensburg is now minister at Udny and Pitmedden parish church, with compatriot Mr Enslin getting used to life in charge at Mortlach and Carbrach in Dufftown.
Originally from Pretoria, Mr Van Rensburg is a keen triathlete who has taken part in five ironman competitions.
He grew up on a dairy farm in the South African countryside and describes himself as a “free spirit”.
After a spell in Canada, he returned to South Africa to support his parents through illness.
Then, encouraged by his father, he decided to pursue ministry in Scotland.
He first spent a year of “familiarisation”, learning about the Church of Scotland at Cranhill parish church in Glasgow, where he supported people who were trying to apply for Universal Credit.
“Universal Credit keeps people in poverty – for me coming from South Africa it was a real eye-opener to see, as people really needed help,” he said.
“It challenged my preconceptions.”
He admitted that starting his new charge during the pandemic has been a challenge, but is looking forward to developing his ministry, and “guiding” the people of his parish.
Fellow countryman Mr Enslin and his wife Carlien swapped life in Johannesburg for Dufftown after a friend suggested Scotland as an option.
“It took some time but we decided to go through the interview process,” said Mr Enslin.
“I have travelled overseas a lot and enjoy expanding my horizons.
“I remember that at Sunday School our minister always said that ships coming into the harbour were guided by lights which line up to show you are on the right path.
“As a Christian, if these lights line up you are sure this is what you’re supposed to do.”
He moved to Pollokshields in Glasgow for the first phase of his integration into the Church of Scotland.
But just as he was open to finding a congregation to lead, the pandemic was changing everything.
“It was daunting,” he said.
“March 2020 put me in a completely different phase.”
Luckily the couple were able to visit the area when restrictions relaxed.
They “completely fell in love” with Moray and have now been welcomed by a supportive congregation.
Mr Enslin has adapted to getting to know the people in his parish online, but says he has become very conscious of those who have difficulties accessing technology.
“Not all of my congregation are well-versed in online platforms,” he said.
“That said, I’ve learnt not to be afraid to use technology with my parishioners.
“People find a way of connecting.”
He added that once the pandemic has passed, his focus will be on building a sense of community.
“I love the pastoral side of ministry, which is tricky at the moment.
“Rather than being confined to the church I want to be involved with the community.”