After sleeping in this morning, we met up at school and hopped on our bus to head to the location of the day. Our adventure led us back to the lovely St. Luke’s on the Lake Episcopal Church. After unloading some tools and grabbing paints and pool noodles, we got to work painting our Dragons nest! With the dragon eggs completed when we last visited, we were determined to finish all of the components for the medieval nest. With some members working to put up a beautiful cross along the mindfulness path behind the building, others stayed inside and painted. While the girls were jamming out to music, painting, having a fun time making the vision that the church had imagined come to life, the boys slipped out to run an errand and grab a sweet surprise. Celebrating the birthday of Mary Claire, the boys brought back yummy ice cream sweets and refreshing sodas for everyone, which we enjoyed while we sang to her. Today’s tasks, assigned by our friends at the church, was pushing to get ready for the Vacation Bible School events put on every year for the children involved with the church. The staff and everybody involved with St. Luke’s put on this program to help children learn about and get closer to Jesus. With every component that goes into this project, we were thrilled to be a part of such an impactful project and glad we could help the sweet people at St. Luke’s on the Lake Episcopal Church. We had a wonderful day and hope to come back in the future!
Early this morning, we loaded our bus and headed on our next adventure. We took a ride and met up with our new friends at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. After munching on some muffins and getting our boundaries of the campus, we were told the objective of our service and led to the space we would be working for the day. We were assigned to a room with isles of shelves and boxes of unopened braille textbooks. With the task of labeling and organizing the books, we were in for a busy day! Though the job seemed straightforward and simple, we had some organizational conflicts and surprises along the way. The exposure to the curriculum of the students at the TSBV was insightful, and we were glad to take the weight of the task off of the staff’s shoulders.
While many of our team members live close to where we get to serve, not many are aware of the work that goes into the blind and visually impaired community. The teachers and staff work endlessly to help every student and resident develop their own independence, individuality, and insights into their lives, along with accomplishing advanced academics. Thankful that the TSBVI community let us volunteer, we are so happy that we could help the students and staff. After our work was done, we loaded on the bus, headed to B.D. Riley’s, and celebrated our day with some authentic Irish Cuisine. A perfect end to a lovely earrach day of service at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Today we had the opportunity to help some friends out with preparations around their service and work for the community. After meeting our team at the Hyde Park high school campus, we sat as a group and listened to an encouraging message about our GoWeek mission. Following a reflection, we packed up and headed to St. Luke’s on the Lake Episcopal church to give a helping hand to our sweet new friends. While boarded on our bus, we listened to worship music and spent time getting to know each other, which made us excited for the day ahead of us.
After arriving at St. Luke’s, we received a tour of the building and spoke about what we were going to be doing. Every summer, a particular program is put on by the church. Kids of all ages can come together to learn about Jesus at Vacation Bible School. With a magical medieval theme, we had the opportunity to help them decorate and get work done for the VBS events scheduled for this year. By painting and hot gluing “dragon eggs” and helping out with building the St. Luke’s Castle, we spent our time working to make this event special for the kids. With all of the hard work done by the community involved in the St. Luke’s on the Lake Episcopal Church, we were happy to help in any way we could.
Though the joy of pool-noodle sword fighting and making dragon eggs undoubtedly highlights our activities, everything we did today was rewarding and done for the fantastic members of the church who conscientiously devote their days to building the relationships between others and Jesus.
Thank you all again for your prayers and support! The first two days of service were fantastic. Really busy, but we’ve learned so much about Northern Ireland and have been creating wonderful connections with the youth.
In the mornings we have had missions education and devotions from the missionary who is hosting us, Richie. Richie has taught us how to share our faith in a way that isn’t bombastic. He used a book called God Space by Doug Pollock. In the book, Pollock talks about how to have a spiritual conversation with others without overwhelming them. Pollock created the term spiritual appetizers to help Christians share their faith. Pollock states “Spiritual appetizers are personal stories, no more than two minutes long, intended to stimulate spiritual thirst, keep the dialogue going, and demonstrate the relevance of Christ in our daily lives.” Pollock states that “Unfortunately, most Christians I know admit that when someone shows the tiniest interest in their faith, they don’t offer snacks in response, but a full-blown smorgasbord. Small inquiries get super-sized answers. All the not-yet-Christians wanted was a snack, but they got the full meal-deal instead.” This is really impactful for society today with the world of social media and broadcasting. People have become used to just getting quick snippets of ideas and so forth. It can be intimidating, especially for youth and young adults, to be blasted with the word of God when they have absolutely no background or familiarity to put it all in context.
Richie, our missionary, had us come up with our own spiritual appetizers and share with our group during the day. Later in the day when we get to be with the youth, four students share their short story to the youth. Everyone has been doing an amazing job with their stories. They all have been so varied. Some feel they have a deep relationship with God, while others are really praying that they can one day get to the point of having a deeper relationship with Him.
During the night, after the students share, we get about 30 min with the youth for them to ask questions and connect on a deeper level. By just sharing our two minute stories, the youth get more interested in following up with questions. It has been amazing to see how our stories have related to the youth. Through sharing, they have opened up so fast to us and want us to be a meaningful support group to them.
Many of the Irish youth shared how they don’t have a strong role model in their lives. Many feel depressed and are searching hard for a change in their life. Some are just not ready to make the leap of faith yet. Please pray that God will use us to help them know that there is peace in knowing Christ. They come every night to the RIOT house, our gathering place, to get away from their situations and have fellowship with one another. RIOT stands for Revival In Our Town, to symbolize bridging connections of cultural Catholics and Protestants to better help them both see that they worship the same God. It’s really more than that. With us coming over to be with them, we’re bridging cultural gaps by creating meaningful relationships with these youth as caring peers. Many have opened up to us about things they don’t even feel they can tell their families. Please pray we will be a blessing and encouragement to them to turn to Jesus as their loving friend and Savior.
It has been wonderful to visit the beautiful sights of Northern Ireland. On our first day we visited a castle just up the road from where we are staying. The groundskeeper gave us a cool demonstration of all the swords from the Bronze Age and beyond. Noah Newman was picked out to participate in the presentation as the groundskeeper would demonstrate (safely) how each sword worked. We got to hold some of them and at the end the boys got to dress up in some famous gear that was used in Game of Thrones. In fact, the groundskeeper was a fencer and was a consultant and a minor character in Game of Thrones which was really neat to see.
Later on the first day we explored a beautiful forest in the town next to Dundrum. We stopped at ruins of a castle and used that time to worship and pray for the people in Northern Ireland to be more receptive to the Word. We had some fun time in a maze and got some amazing coffee afterwards.
The next day, we learned all about St. Patrick in Downpatrick by going to a few very significant places. We went up a large hill to St. Patrick Statue. During this time we learned more about Catholicism and the divide between Catholics and Protestants. Close to the statue we visited Saul church. Captured as a slave in Wales and brought to Ireland, Patrick initially escaped and fled these shores. But after he left, he found himself called back in a dream. Returning to Ireland, he set about his quest to find a way to relate to the Irish so they would know Jesus saves. God blessed Patrick’s efforts and the Irish converted to Christianity by the thousands. So effective was Patrick that one new convert, a local chieftain, donated a barn in which Patrick could hold his services. It was here, just outside Downpatrick, that Patrick lived leading up to his death and on the spot in 1932, a church called Saul Church was built to honor the site. We worshipped in the church and shared more of our stories. We visited the St. Patrick Center and got an interactive tour.
So, here we are, hundreds of years later, standing on the same soil where St. Patrick impacted an entire land by word of mouth with his passionate love for those who haven’t heard of Jesus. With all of mankind’s advances in technology, education and knowledge, it turns out nothing has changed for man when it comes to spirituality. God still works through us, one person at a time, when we are willing to reach out to another person, taking time to listen and to develop trust. What a blessing for us to have this opportunity to be available to share and listen to our new Irish friends. Please join in our prayer for God to work through us and show the love of Christ first and foremost, and that the impact of this mission trip will be magnified by the power of God!
On March 13th (Brooke’s birthday), we visited Slieve Patrick. We asked George to tell us about this place in his best Irish accent. Here’s what he said (more or less):
It’s a very pretty hill – a wee hill, a very muddy wee hill that you can climb all the way to the top. There are fourteen stations of the cross on the way up but you should probably watch where you’re walking so you don’t slide back down to the bottom. If you’re anything like us, you got there in a van driven by Richie.
Now, we love Richie but he’s a mad lad. He’s been driving these roads for so long, so it’s nothing to him, but there’s a two inch shoulder, and they drive on the wrong side anyway, and here he is taking these curves at 60 when he should be taking them at 30 and before you know it there’s a van coming the other direction around the bend and you can’t even see it in the fog until it whooshes past, scaring you half to death.
When you get the top, God is just flying the wind at you up there. It’s whipping around ya. It’s peaceful to some people and for other people it’s just a crapload of wind. There’s a giant statue of St. Patrick up there with a Latin inscription but I can’t read it anymore so I couldn’t tell you what it says.
On the way down there’s lots a slipping but you know our motherland, Ireland–that’s Northern Ireland–is known for the mist and the rain. Aidan did fall. It was quite funny. Noah fell, too, but I think it was later when we were at St. Patrick’s Church in Saul. Maybe it was some of those ancient people buried around that tripped him up. In fact, it feels very weird to walk around in the churches with all the tombstones in the floor. I’m walking around going, “I’m so sorry I’m stepping on your grave.” But what can you do?
But it wasn’t raining, which was nice, and we recreated the Abbey Road album cover, which was also nice even though it’s not the right country. But it’s still the UK, after all. I have to say, it’s really messing me up that they drive on the left. I don’t know what to do about it.
The craic is good in Dundrum. That means we’re having a great time.
We have learned to say “Northern Ireland” instead of just Ireland.
St. Patrick did not drive out the snakes, nor did he have anything to do with a shamrock so don’t say it.
We haven’t touched a potato in non “crisp” form.
Irish people will call you out immediately on everything. It’s savage.
There’s KFC here.
Pool is a huge passtime for teenagers in Dundrum. They toast everyone.
Fries are called chips.
When Irish people say they like country music, they will try to prove it by pulling up Florida Georgia Line, which is incorrect.
At least one Irish kid is named Wolfgang.
There are something like 1300 people of African descent in this country. None of them seem to be in Dundrum.
The grocery store in Ireland only has weird off-brand “chili heat wave” Doritos.
There are Irish people who know about Salt Lick barbeque from the show Man vs. Food.
There are kilts here but they came from Scotland. On boats.
Irish kids will mess with you and play on your ignorance for their own amusement for as long as they can get away with it.
Irish kids will hustle you for your money on a game of Uno but they’ll be too nice to keep it after all.
George is developing an amazing Irish accent.
If you ask the Irish to do an American accent, they’ll go New York first.
We hope you’re sucking diesel on this post. That means tracking with us.
Here is Kenny.
Thank you all for your prayers and support! Team Ireland landed safe and sound after a very long trip. So, we really enjoyed our first night of ministry to youth, even though we were a bit tired from the journey. It was so much fun getting to meet the students and we are so excited to get to know their stories! I will share more on that after we have another opportunity to interact with the students.
Today I want to tell you about meeting the Mission Discovery people, which was really exciting. Their main focus is for us to learn more about living a missions life style. Here is some of what we learned today and what we’ve been learning in preparation for Hyde Park’s Go Week. It will help you understand what we’re doing here and why we are on Go Week:
Missions are important because it is important to Christ, and it is important to those around us who have mentored and encouraged us to live a life which has spiritual impact and meaning. Jesus leads us in this desire, from His words and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We yearn to please Jesus and be part of His Great Commission to take the Gospel to all nations and all people throughout the world. One must understand that it is not enough to hear the Word, or to even be saved by Jesus. God wants our all! Missions are important because we must live out our salvation by proclaiming what Jesus has done for us and will do for others when they hear the Gospel.
A missions lifestyle includes actively praying, giving and going to spread the Gospel, and keeping the Lord’s viewpoint of this in mind as we set priorities and order our lives. This means living each day in a way that points towards our Savior and which draws those around us closer to Him. So, it means regularly praying for missionaries and for those who are lost, both near and far. It can also mean giving money to support missionaries and giving of ourselves to go on mission trips, and to be of service to those in need.
Some people think missions is only for full-time missionaries. Not true! Where ever a Christian is, they can do missions. Where we live now is not truly our home: we are already away on a mission to a world where we are strangers, if our Lord’s viewpoint is faithfully applied to our lives. Missions is educating others about the needs of the lost and the Christians (and missionaries) trying to reach them. It also means reaching out to those who don’t know Jesus, who are within our reach as friends, classmates and neighbors.
To sum up, let’s live a missions lifestyle by looking for opportunities to create a personal relationship with nonbelievers and believers. We can best do that by living a life that is honoring to Christ, filled with love, kindness and a willingness to help others in need. We are Christ’s ambassadors to the world. We must faithfully declare God’s truth in love, remembering to clearly state that Jesus is Lord, and He is the only and one way to an eternal relationship with God.
Well, that’s what we’re learning, and that’s what we’re trying to live out on our Go Week in Ireland. Please pray that we’ll make the most of every opportunity here and give thanks for our safe journey. Next time I’ll share details about our actual experiences here.
Here is a quick picture of most of our group from Friday morning. More to come soon!