Missing Ireland, the people, the food, and the weather like never before! I created this video to show some of the places we visited while over in Ireland and you’ll see some familiar faces throughout. I hope you enjoy!
Well, our time in Ireland is officially over. It is amazing to think that we have already spent our three weeks in the beautiful country of Ireland. First, let me tell you about what we have been up to these last few days. On Friday, we spent our last day in England by visiting Lancaster Castle, which was also the prison that many famous Quakers spent time (George Fox and Margaret Fell included). Our tour guide did an absolutely amazing job in showing us the different functions the prison was used for. He told us many stories that brought the history to life. A lot of the stories really struck me with how melancholy they were. It made me think about how much faith so many people must have had to be willing to suffer in order to do what God wanted them to do. I am amazed at how much God shows up in every place we visit, as well as showing me the fact that He has always been there.
The next couple days were our last days in Ireland to say our goodbyes and do the last minute stuff we wanted to make sure we did before we left. I cannot stop thinking about the people in Ireland that I would see walking down the street that I will never see again. I would have never even known they existed, and yet, God is in them! This trip has just really opened my eyes to how huge God really is. He is so big and powerful, but still cares about the little things. I am overwhelmed when I think about how God loves me so much when He has so many more people to love and care for. God is so so good!!
Our team has been immensely impacted throughout this trip as well. We have completely fallen in love with the culture in Ireland, the people, God’s beautiful creation, and each other. I think that we will all miss living life together. We had way more hot tea than we could have imagined, ice cream basically every day, sandwich after sandwich, played more Skip-Bo than you could even fathom, went on so many long and steep hikes, and just laughed and laughed all the time. Each member of our team brought something different and special to our experience. To let you in on our fun a little bit, I will give you a little insight about how our team worked together. We had Bethany, who was not only a comedic relief throughout the whole trip, but she was also the one who asked questions that helped us all grow and learn together. We had Marcus, who was the easiest one to pick on because of how good of a sport he was, but also was the one who brought an excitement in everything that we did. Amber, who cracked us all up with her particular ways she did things, but also was so willing to share her heart and make a safe environment to share our hearts as well. We had Chris, who cracks his own jokes at the most random but perfect moments, and also drew us all in when he would talk about his own experiences to bring substance to our conversations.
And then there were our fearless leaders: Kathi and Josh. Kathi was so sweet and caring. She made all of the plans and all of the connections for us during our trip. Kathi was the reason I got some insight in the Irish culture. Hearing her joys and her struggles as a missionary brought a reality to my view of ministry. Kathi truly invests in the lives God places in her path. I feel incredibly blessed that I got to be one of those lucky people! I don’t think we will ever be able to thank her enough for her time and effort she spent in order for our experience to be the best that it could be.
Josh Bunce. Poor guy does not get enough credit for all that he has done on this trip! Again, we were so so blessed to have him be the one who brought us to Ireland. Josh was so intentional in getting to know each one of us on a deeper level. He made every experience we had a spiritual one. Whenever we were having bad days, he was there to lift us up. When we were rejoicing, he gladly rejoiced with us. There is something about Josh that makes you automatically know that he genuinely cares for you and loves you so deeply. I believe that is a total gift from God. It is amazing to see how faithful Josh is and how much he has impacted each one of us on this trip.
Well, here I go again rambling away. Overall, we have learned so much in Ireland, and this experience will leave a lasting imprint on our hearts. We are overjoyed that this trip was so grand and are all excited to return to our families. Thank you all so much for your support and your prayers as we journeyed together. As the Irish say, “Safe home.” (Goodbye.)
As you might have heard, my team and I have now embarked to England. Its rolling hills and numerous breathtaking views are enough to make anyone’s soul shed a tear for its wonderous beauty. Although England’s green landscape is quite similar to that of Ireland, you can still appreciate God’s creation through each day.
The day we got here to England, we left the place we were staying in Ireland at 7:30am. Our plane left sometime after 10:30 and we got to England around noon. One of the shortest flights I have ever experienced and it was not too shabby. As we stepped foot into a new country I’ve never been in, I got little butterflies in my stomach at the anticipation of what experiences were before me.
At our first Quaker Meeting House we met a man named Ben Pink Dandelion…(I know, coolest name EVER) I was intrigued with his knowlegde about George Fox and began to see Quakers in a more intensified light. Actually sitting in a place that many Quakers years before had sat was mind blowing to me. I was able to visualize what it might have been like for them rather than just hearing about. Right after, we went to a very famous place among Quakers in regards to George Fox called Pendle Hill. Man oh man, was I not expecting what lay before me. I imagined it being a little hill in a field somewhere, but no. We hiked up a mountain of a hill which was so steep as to make me beg to God to have me live through the beautiful ordeal. I may have been slightly dramatic with my prayers as God giggled by my side and held my hand each step of the way. Everytime I stopped to catch my breath, I was struck by the view becoming more and more amazing with every step. I can only describe it as being from a movie….but better! Once I reached the top, I again dramatically thanked God for sparing me my life and was amazed by the neverending view before me all around. So, this was where George Fox had his vision of a great gathering of people? I’d believe that.
Today is our third day in England and I feel as though I have had a sort of revelation. We started out giving ourselves rest. We had a time of exploration and quietness where we all went off by ourselves and reflected in God’s prescence. I felt extremely close to God in this time as I usually do when I explore the beautiful and unique parts of the wilderness around me. Every flower and plant with its own detail, separate from one another, catches my eye in wonder. I even passed by a small pool filled wth tadpoles, just beginning their new lives in the life God created for them. I went on to explore a creek on the far corner of the grounds where we are staying, stopping only shortly to make faces at the cows, to which they replied with a stare and a simple “moo.” The creek was fun, skipping from rock to rock and looking at the various garlic plants and wildflowers and then I stopped. I looked up to a towering tree surrounded by purple wildflowers and light green moss. I felt as though God was telling me to climb up to it and sit. And sit, I did. I stared up into its umbrella like branches where rays of light were seeping in through the leaves, illuminating the ground below. I felt so at peace with God in that short time and I will always remember that place of awestruck beauty.
Later on today, I sat in my first ever, completely silent, unprogrammed Meeting for Worship. Beforehand, I was nervous that I would be the one to bust up laughing for no apparent reason and just because I would feel incredibly awkward. As it started, I was terribly focused on doing the silence “right.” Quite quickly my mind got distracted and started racing with various thoughts and I had to force myself to pause. I started to ask God to tell me something, anything. I told Him how I had been feeling very confused about my future lately and whether I was making the right decisions. I begged Him for answers and just wanted Him to tell me anything that He felt I needed to hear right now. I sat and sat and all of a sudden started to think about a boy I use to tutor in high school. I remembered being apprehensive about starting the TA position because I had previously never worked with any special needs students before. Eventally the doors to the positon opened up so wide that I couldn’t ignore it. Quite quickly this student became like a little brother to me. I no longer looked at the day ahead in fear of messing up or wondering if I made the right decision, I was at home there. As I sat in that Quaker meeting, I started reflecting over all the good times he and I had and how it had been so long since I really thought about that time. The last thing that floated through my head were the words that warmed my heart every day. He would say, “I love you, Anner,” and then I would say, “Love you, too, Buddy.” I suddenly became aware of my thought process and couldn’t remember how I had started thinking about something so random. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t trace back my thoughts. Was this God? Is He telling me that someting so small I did in high school was my calling? I can’t tell you for sure, but I definitely got emotional with the overwhelming sensation that God was speaking to me. Now, lemme tell ya… this does not happen often or as clearly as I felt today and man was it awesome. I still don’t think I know for sure what I should do with my future, but I feel as though I was given a sort of clue and for now, I feel at peace.
So, I just want to say, thank you God for today and this whole trip in general. For the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had, I am extremely grateful.
It is my turn to blog and I have been wrestling about what to post. Should I keep it simple or should I give a beautifully written poem about all the things we have done thus far? Seeing all the blogs written from each team and after careful consideration, I have decided to give you something different. I want to share where I am in this point of the trip. I am going to give you the real deal; straight with no chaser.
The reality of all missions trips is there will come a point in the trip where insecurities happen, tiredness starts to creep up on you, and the talk of community makes you sick to your stomach. These past couple days is when reality started to hit me HARD. Yes, we have had the training for these types of situation, but you never know how strong they will come and how much you’ll need to push yourself to try to keep your composer. Let me explain each of these a little bit further.
I have struggled so hard with this idea of “not being as smart” as the other members of my team. I have put my self in a box and labeled it “dummy”. We have seen so many theological sites and have learned so much about God and yet the questions that are asked by my team and the answers they share with each other never crosses my mind. Before I came on this trip someone told me, “Marcus we all are on different paths of this spiritual journey and its okay if we don’t know all the answers to the question”. That is what i remind myself everyday. Its okay to not know something because we all learn and we are continuing to learn as we get older.
Because this trip is so educational, relational, and missional we are busy many hours of the day. We have met so many amazing people and have been able to be a blessing to so many as well. Personally I pour out too much before refilling to pour into the next person. As a result I have become spiritually and physically tired. My professor once told me that, “In order to fill others you must allow God to fill you”. I allowed myself to press on through because I know that this is what I was called to do and because I know that God will give me the strength and every to make it through.
Being in community 24/7 can be a bit overwhelming. Not allowing yourself to retreat, gather yourself, and come back is even more challenging. I am the type of person who loves to be around people, but at the same time I need time to process and be by myself. This trip has tested me hard in this area. My times of retreat are few to none because i want to stay engaged, I want to be present, and I want to be active in furthering the kingdom of God. And because of God calling me to this specific country I am giving my all to the people here and being sensitive to the needs of those around me.
So how can I pray for you Marcus? Well there are three things you can pray for. One being that God continues to use me for His purpose. Two being that God gives me the strength to finish the trip strong. Lastly, that God reveals Himself to me even the more through the people I come encounter with for the remainder of the trip.
Thank you for allowing me to be transparent. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your support, and mostly thank you for your prayers!
If I could lament one thing about Ireland…they don’t really have licorice here! As Josh said about me, “I’m pretty worried about it.”
I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss my home…yet Ireland continues to delight and surprise. One more day dwindles behind us and the end of our trek speeds ever onward toward us. Soon, this surreal, once-in-a-lifetime treat will be but a fond memory. If you’re reading this, then it’s likely you’ve read my companions’ entries and already have a sense of our experience. I may not write anytime new but perhaps I’ll pose it in such a way as to make it worth your reading. Either way, it should be a different flavor than what you’ve read. I believe in the punchiness of brevity, so in hope that this will mean something to you, I’ll keep it short (and bittersweet). Lucky for you, it will probably turn out lengthy regardless.
As I was saying earlier, Ireland delights and surprises. This lush and verdant green country spills over with visual beauty and stunning architecture, the old bones of the land, still strong. The sense of permanence, of dense time packed long and wide like the ocean floor, is sunk deep into most of what you see. It’s all so untamed, the growth threatening to devour and encroaching everywhere. Here and there, the greenery of the earth violently intersects with the creation of man, creating a pleasing aesthetic of two worlds colliding. Everywhere you go, a pervading history presents itself from every pore of the land. It feels like a real tether that ties things (and the people) together. Never get any feelings like that in the States. The U.S. is a few centuries, a mere toddler! We were inside a carefully crafted and purposeful structure purportedly 5,000 years old, more than 15 times the span of our country. That’s the kind of deep history that this country draws from.
Also, it seems this structure was used for religious purposes. Ireland is also a country deeply religious. It was jarring and altogether alien to tour Belfast, as there is a literal 17 kilometer wall cutting through the heart of the city to mirror the metaphysical wall that separates the Protestants and the Catholics. The divide is full-fledged…there is no real mixing to speak of. The tension was palpable for me…a rather disconcerting feeling, sorrow almost permeating the air. Our driver, Pat, made a couple statements in regard to him being merely a taxi driver, but he was more than that. More than just a witty and humorous tour guide, he was a storyteller. In the Homeric oral tradition, he poured himself into the role. He is a safeguard of the tale, inviting us into the story of the hatred between Protestants and Catholics, keeping it alive and getting the word out to outsiders.
Speaking of people, the people here have been as delightful and surprising as the landscape. They’re the true gold at the end of the rainbow. I love their humor. They’ve all been sharp. They’ve been heroically friendly and welcoming. To put it simply, they’ve been accommodating to the utmost. Thank you for singing your lifesong to us and letting us feel the Irish heartbeat. When the memory of this trip grows dim, I shall still remember you fondly. So here’s to you, Pat, and to you David Martin, Sarah, Mary Rose and David, Carolyn, the people of the Nazarene church, and everyone else we had the honor of sharing time with. May God bless you. Keep Ireland beautiful (and by that I mean “stay alive” 😉 ).
I cannot even begin to explain to you how blessed I have been throughout this trip! Today was so special in so many ways. It has been obvious to us all that God has really been moving here in the last few days. It has just been such a joy to see God’s glory throughout the beautiful creation we have seen and the beautiful people he has placed in our path.
Yesterday we came up to Northern Ireland, which is totally different from where we have been staying. This morning we got to go to a food bank called Storehouse that was just mind blowing. We met one of Kathi’s friends, Aiden, who does a lot of the directing and planning in the organization. It was so fun to volunteer this morning packing food boxes. Even more, it was wonderful to hear Aiden’s heart for people and for doing what the Lord wants him to do. Not only do the Storehouse volunteers want to give people food and essentials that we can take for granted, but one of their goals is to also give the people their dignity back. People can be so ashamed about asking for help sometimes, but Aiden and his crew want them to know that anyone who needs the help is precious to God. They are not any less than God created them to be. We all have pitfalls in our lives, they just look differently for us all. Hearing him speak so sweetly of all people was so humbling and touching.
After the Storehouse, we got to meet another one of Kathi’s friends. (I am realizing that Kathi has a ton of friends who are just wonderful!) We went to Carolyn’s house where she treated us with some wonderful lunch. Then, we went up to the Mourne Mountains and hiked up to see a little bit more of Ireland. Man, I wish I had the words to describe this experience. Being on top of that hill was breathtaking. It was a whole new perspective and another way to see the glory of God. No picture and no words can describe the experience we all had today. Something about the sunshine and the warmth (which can be rare in Ireland) just really made today special. Carolyn also shared her heart with us. It was lovely to hear her passion for people and for what the Lord has for her. She wants to love people and serve people in any way God calls her. As the Irish say, we had a “grand” day!
I can feel our team growing together and building our relationships to last forever. We have all fallen in love with Kathi, which does not take long to do. Her beauty is getting more and more prominent every day. Getting to be a part of her life has shown me what it looks like to have God’s hand in your life! I could literally go on all day about how much I have learned and how blessed I have been in our time here so far, but it might be a little overwhelming. Therefore, I should really stop here. All in all, today was beautiful, and God is working in our lives like crazy. God is good.
Although today was a wonderful day, we took a bit of a tour that wasn’t so pretty. We went around the city of Belfast. Belfast is in Northern Ireland where conflict and tension is always happening. The Black Taxi Tour is a tour about the political conflicts. They take you through the city of Belfast and show and explain the differences. The city is split in half, literally. There is wall built in between them. On one side is the Catholics, and on the other is the Protestants. There is such a hatred between the both that they had to put up a wall to make peace. The wall stands, and is called the “peace wall.” The Peace wall was built in the late 1960’s; it’s 30M high and more than 10 miles long. Because people were becoming so violent, the British thought this would be the best way to make peace. The wall has 17 gates, and every evening at 6p.m. the gates are shut until 6 a.m. and also through the whole weekend. Anytime between then people are welcome to go back and forth. You would think the conflict between these two groups would be religion, but it’s more than that. These people are fighting over how to rule, and who should be making the laws. The Catholics believe, the church should make the rules, and they also believe Northern Ireland should follow the laws of the Irish. The Protestants believe the bible should be the rule maker, and also that the British should stay in control. These are two extremes, and they can’t seem to meet in the middle. We sometimes don’t think this conflict is happening today in the world, but we are seeing it here today. It makes you sad, and wonder how people live in such fear, and tension all the time. As we went from one side to another you could feel the tension. It was almost sickening. This isn’t just happening in the city of Belfast but its happening in the whole country. You think of Ireland as one big country, yet it’s split in two. The North is mostly Protestant controlled by the British, and the south is mostly Catholic, controlled by the Irish. This is something we can be praying for, that peace will come between these countries and people. They have lived so much in fear and tension that I feel like they don’t even know what it is like to feel free.
Blessings, Bethany and Team Ireland