A friend has asked to hear my thoughts so far on being in Ireland. There are so many that I struggle to know where to start. I'm certain they will come out in random ways here. I have thoughts about the students... the country... the leaders... my own walk with the Lord.
I tried to express this to Dave on the phone the other night. I have been studying and praying about compassion and the need there is in the world to reach out to other people in very meaningful ways. I've thought about the connections to that mindset and to the worship of God. I've thought about my resistance to communicate the gospel in the form of a proclamation. I don't know if this is going to make sense to anyone else... but I find myself living and breathing in the collision of all these things. They are not ideas. They are not thoughts. They are what we are living in community. And it is overwhelmingly beautiful to me.
There are many similarities to our culture and to Ireland. The differences that I have picked up on so far are very subtle but very real. It seems very risky to try and explain any of what I see because I have been here such a short time and I'm very open to the idea that I do not really understand what I am seeing yet. One thing that I find myself thinking about a lot is this: there is a history here of combat between two sides. The combat has taken place at all levels. It has happened with words, with fists, with guns. Those two sides want peace and they are trying to figure it out. They have succeeded in many ways. But what they still struggle to work out continues to shape their culture. There is conflict in all cultures. But what the conflict is and how God helps one person to develop a heart of compassion for the person they were once told to hate is very personal and very complex. Loyalty and allegiance to family and religion against an enemy is a great deal to let go of. What is so exciting for me to see in yet another culture is that Jesus Christ is excellent and making a way for all of us to let go of how we perceive others and see them through God's eyes instead and to love them as God loves us. This is a miracle.
The particular project that I am on is a good match for me. There are seven of us on our team. We have two leaders and one young adult that are all from Northern Ireland. We have three of us from Texas and one from Colorado. We are joined up with a baptist church plant in southern Ireland. We are in a county called Tipperary. A town called Nenagh is our location. The population is around 8,000 people. We believer there is only one evangelical church in this area and they are it. They are suspected by many to be a cult, so the people open to God are not open to them. Then there is the other problem that I have heard so much about in Western cultures which is that there is a very high percentage of people who are not interested in anything to do with religion. On Thursday I read a four page newspaper article ( I mean four full pages) on matters related to protecting children from the church. So our mission will be to interact with people in this community. We will attempt to show them what it means to be a Christ follower by how we treat them and how we treat each other. It will hopefully have nothing to do with religion. It will have everything to do with how much we know God has loved us and how much we know God loves them. We hope that any curiosity about who we are and why we have come will lead them into relationships with Pastor Matt and others at The Hatchery.
I wish I could say more about my worship experiences here than I will be able to do. I am very afraid anything I would attempt to say would take so much away from what actually happened in my soul. I will say that it is an honor, a privilege and a humbling thing to be invited into a vision or a mission that has been long sought and earnestly prayed for before your arrival. The leaders here are passionately hopeful about what God may do through Project 32. Their prayers and teaching and their worship through song reflect that passion well. It has made an impact on my soul. Other members on the team have acknowledged this out loud to me as well.
On a very personal note the Lord has given me glimpses of why I am here at this time in my journey. Saint Patrick and I seem to have a lot in common. When Ken Castor from Crown College was speaking on Friday night, I was reminded of this. Patrick is a contemplative prayer that I have taken note of before. St. Patrick has written a prayer that is often quoted and it goes something like this: Christ above me, Christ below me, Christ to my right, Christ to my left... It goes on. You can look it up if you'd like to read the whole thing. But basically Patrick was persuaded that if he chose to abide with Christ in prayer that God would help him to reach the people of Ireland. It turns out that leap of faith was correct. For the next seven days I will pray as often as God graces me with the ability to do so and watch God work through me and the rest of the team. It will be one of my greatest joys.
I have serious doubts I will have the time I have had this morning to write again while on this trip. But know that I plan to share more when I can.
Pray for God's Spirit to open the eyes of the blind to his love for them. Thanks.