Wow. It’s hard to believe that we have been in Ireland for 5 weeks already. So sorry we haven’t posted an update…definitely wrote a post and thought it published, but I guess not.
Anyways, our trip has been brilliant so far. The weather has been incredible. Everyone here says they haven’t had this kind of weather in at least 6 years. But that’s besides the point. We are working with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) to work with their summer outreach teams and put on Holiday Bible Clubs all over Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We learned very quickly to distinguish between the north and south of Ireland because of the history and relationship between the two. (For a summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Troubles)
Our teams are usually somewhere between 15-20 people who can be as young as 16. Each week, we travel to a new location and a new club where we stay with the team usually in a church hall. We spend the entire week with that team depending on the local congregation for food and often showers. Each team is incredibly different and each location has its quirks. So far, we have done four teams which have all been great craic. (Craic means fun if you haven’t caught on).
What we didn’t anticipate with this trip is how difficult it is to switch teams each week. We get attached…to the teams, to the kids and to the struggles of the local community. Just as we form relationships and get into the swing of a location, we are packing up again and are off to meet a new team that functions differently and requires different roles from us.
But each team has been uniquely enjoyable. We have met the best people, had lots of fun, served a lot of kids and teens and eaten some ridiculously delicious desserts. Seriously though, we’re definitely putting on weight. We’ve gotten to see a side of Ireland that many people don’t. We’ve seen the hurt and confusion and conflict caused by decades of turmoil. (If you’ve seen Belfast Bombings in the news, no worries we weren’t anywhere close.) It’s weird because we were given a brief history of the troubles our first week, we took a tour of Belfast’s most divided neighbourhood and signed the peace wall that divides them and with that simple understanding of things, we know more than a lot of the native Northern Irish teens we are serving with. A lot of them have never even met a Catholic, some have parents who play in the loyalist bands but don’t know why, and many celebrate the Protestant holiday of 12th of July, but don’t realize the conflict underlying it. It’s a bit mad honestly.
Next week, we will be working in Sandy Row, which is an extremely loyalist estate here in Belfast. The area is pretty rough and the kids have not had easy lives. Nikki and Evan will be working with P1-P3 (Kindergarten-2nd Grade) and Levi and Sarah will be working with P4-P6 (3rd-5th grade) during the day and we all will be working with teens in the evenings. If we could have prayer just for strength and grace and extra love to give the kids of Sandy Row, that would be lovely. It’s probably going to be a tiring, and stretching week for all of us. Thank you for your prayers and support.
We have three more weeks and can’t wait to catch up with everyone when we get back!
Sarah, Levi, Evan and Nikki