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!