Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Ireland Chronicles: Entry Six

This technically contains information from weeks six and seven, but I'm going to smoosh the two weeks together since they did kind of blur together.

Wrapping Up Impact Ireland - Preparing for Re-Entry

(Warning: Long Post Ahead)

Week Six: Training and Prep

The day after I posted the last entry, Lacken House was swarmed with new faces. Volunteers from all over the world came to join the OM Family for Impact Ireland. Honestly, the first day was like one huge party as everyone was welcomed and we all got to know each other. Team Tullamore, my team, got to meet its new members that day too! Me and three ladies from the Bus Team were joined by one more German and an American from the good ole' South! Now our team of six could start prepping for Impact! We meshed right from the start. I was so excited for the coming days!

We had three days of solid training after that. Our first day of training centered on topics like "Intro to Catholicism" and "What Is The Gospel?" Even though I have been a Christian for most of my life, I was amazed at how much I learned just in the first day. That day we also learned how to summarize our individual testimonies into three to four-minute presentations. But, my favorite part of the first day of training was the Athlone Experience.

By this point, I had been in Ireland nearly fifty days. I had been on the Big Red Bus, visiting schools all around Ireland for weeks already. So, I felt I had a decent grasp on Irish Culture. I was wrong. There were still some surprises left in store for me. The Athlone Experience is a city-wide scavenger hunt for all the teams involved with Impact. Our team was dropped off in some parking lot and given a list of things to find. The list included Irish phrases that needed to be translated, finding someone born in Dublin, and seeing who could tell us the answers to certain Bible Questions.

If you know me at all, walking up to total strangers and asking them questions is NOT my thing. Here's where God did something funny and yet not funny at the same time. Funny: He put me on a team of introverts. Not Funny: Half of those introverts don't speak English as a first language, and now all eyes look to ME to be the bold question-asker of the group. (I see what you did there, God. Very Sneaky.) Long story short, I talked to LOTS of strangers that day. And my eyes were opened by a lot of their answers.

For instance, me and one of the German girls on my team went into one of the Catholic Churches in Athlone. Our quest was to find someone who could either a) recite John 3:16, b) list the Ten Commandments or c) Name the Four Gospels. In a Catholic Church, I figured that would be simple. We talked to six individuals in the Church and not one of them could complete any of the questions. One very patient woman tried to figure out the Gospels but could only name two. She tried adding Revelation and "Paul's Book" in there just to get to four but gave up after that. Before the Athlone Experience, I had not realized just how little some of the Irish Catholics know about their own Bible.

Day two of training was all about Evangelism and World Faiths. I LOVED it. Something about sitting in a classroom setting and absorbing information never gets old for me. But day two did have its own surprises too. Each team was given a random scenario in which to present the Gospel in under five minutes. Team Tullamore was given a children's club as their scenario. This was actually good for us, since our team would mainly be doing kids club in the next week. This assignment really helped to fuse us together as a team, and it gave us confidence that we could actually clearly communicate the gospel to children.

The last day of training was all fun and games. I'm being serious. We all took classes on balloon animal making and face painting! These things sound silly, but it's these things that open doors with children and their parents. The end of the day was our commissioning, as we prayed for every team and for all the churches across Ireland that would be ministered to in the coming week.

Week Seven: Team Tullamore

On that Saturday, my team of six amazing women departed for Tullamore. Our mission for the coming nine days was to assist a local church with their Children's Holiday Club (VBS) and run a Youth Night for three of the days. We arrived and hit the ground running.

Our team of six would be not only the group leaders, but the actors in the dramas, and anything else you could think of that a holiday camp needs. It was definitely intimidating at the start. My personal responsibilities included playing Swift (one of the main on stage presences), Kala (a drama character), and leading Yellow Group. My Yellow Group were the 4-5 year olds. I was supposed to have eight children total but ended up only having about 4-6 over the course of the week. At the start, I really wondered if I could do all of this. Leading a group of toddlers all day, plus being in front of the whole club for a large majority of the day? It sounded like I would be wrecked by the end of the week.

This is where God surprised me again. Every day was a different program, with new lines to memorize and new lessons to plan. Every day brought its own hurdles, from rain to last second changes in the order. But every day, when I saw my kids coming through the door, I got excited. I stood at the door and waved when I saw them. Their faces lit up and they waved back, so happy to be back at holiday club! Because my group was usually small, I had a lot of time one on one with each of my kids. I got to sit with them for snacks, crafts, and during Bible Time. I loved talking with them and hearing what they had to say, even when it was just excited babbling. The best parts were when my kids would give me hugs before they left for the day.

By the end of our time of ministry there in Tullamore, I was wrecked, but in the best sense. All my previous ideas of children's ministry, and ministry in general, were completely shattered. God had answered so many of my prayers. He helped me to see each one of these children as precious and in need of Him. He helped me be brave in leadership (and being extroverted all day for the kids). And God gave me unique opportunities to plant seeds there in Tullamore. I was also completely exhausted by the time we got back to Lacken House. I now have a new appreciation for anyone who tackles kids ministry in any form!

Coming back to Lacken House meant that Impact Ireland was drawing to a close. All the teams returned from their churches and we all gathered again for fellowship and some time to debrief. I realized how well our team had gotten along and how well we had managed to serve together. I'm glad we had the time to debrief together and let each other know how much we had enjoyed the experience. At last, the day came when we had to say goodbye. Three of our team members left to return to their own countries.

It seemed as though, in a flash, everyone was gone. All the noise and activity ceased. I stood there after the vans of people had departed, realizing that Impact Ireland was actually done. My part with OM Ireland ministry was also done. It was a striking moment to realize....soon I would be going home too.

Preparing for Re-Entry 

As I write, I have just three days left here in Ireland. It is the most bizarre feeling. An in-between feeling. I've felt this before when transition is about to occur. I've felt it the day before I moved into my first college dorm, the day my family moved to Virginia, and the day before I flew here to Ireland. The normal world keeps going, but my inner world stands still. I'm watching as people here prepare to move forward into new ministry oppurtunities. But I can no longer journey forward with them. It is my time to take a different path. These few non-descript days are the preparation for transition. Thankfully, they can be anything I want them to be. The first day off was most defnitely for sleeping.

Of course, I did take two days to squeeze a few more adventures in before I leave. I made a solo journey to Newgrange, which was incredible beyond words. I also went with friends to see the Cliffs of Moher and visit Galway. I've been pretty much everywhere in Ireland that I wanted to see. And I got a few last long drives in to soak up the beautiful Irish countryside. I'm going to miss it terribly.

Because of these free days I have been able to take a lot of time to reflect. I've been able to catch up on my journaling, and of course get back to keeping everyone back home updated. After all these weeks of running at full speed, it has been nice to slowly wind back down. Having this time to process will be useful because, as some of you may already know, I have one more stop to make before I return home.

This coming Wednesday, I will get on a plane and journey to Italy. Remember I mentioned in the early entries that coming to Ireland was part of a class called the ACTS Project? While I've been here in Ireland, other classmates from Bryan College have also been serving in other areas of the world. Now that our time is finished, we will all gather together in Venice to debrief. It is going to be such a sweet time to see everyone again and share about our summers! And I'm sure I will be able to process more once I am able to talk through my summer with friends who know exactly what I've walked through.

Till then, I have lots of last walks to take in the countryside and lots of goodbyes to say to Ireland.

And my next entry will likely be written from Italy!

Some Prayer Requests

  • Preparing to return home has its own set of challenges, just like preparing to go into Ireland did. Please pray for God's guidence and peace. 
  • Please pray for safe travels for all the classmates as we journey to Italy.
  • Pray for open and honest communication during the debriefs, so we can lift each other up and encourage each other. 
  • Pray for clarity as we process what God has been teaching us this summer. 

Thank you to EVERYONE who has been keeping me and the OM Ireland team in their prayers this summer. We saw God do amazing things! I'm so grateful to all of you who keep up with this story!

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Ireland Chronicles: Entry Five

Just one day late!

As of entry three and four, the June Tour for the Big Red Bus was officially over. The beloved Bus Team has disbanded in favor of forming new teams for Impact Ireland! (Which starts tomorrow!) For this week's entry, I'd like to summarize some of my thoughts from the June Tour and fill everyone in on what I'll be doing for Impact Ireland!

But! Before I get going with that, here's a little trailer I made to give you a taste of what tour was like!

(visit this link if the video isn't working)

Debriefing from the Bus

It seems like a lifetime ago, but really it was just under a week ago that June tour for the Big Red Bus ended. The first half of my time here in Ireland has been thoroughly spent. We visited so many schools! I can't begin to count all the little faces that boarded the bus for puppet shows, crafts, songs, and games. The constant repetition of the program, the continuous ache in my arms, and the ongoing sound of children's chatter all began to blur throughout the days. It became a wonderful white noise where my mind could start to grasp what was actually going on here.

God has a way of changing your expectations. I'll be honest, the idea of children's ministry can be scary. My introverted self loves alone time and quiet, none of which you find when working all day with children. When I began, I was worried about misbehaving children or just plain rude children. And we did encounter those from time to time. But I encountered something surprising too. I asked God to help me see past my worries. I asked to see the children and this ministry through His eyes.

Through God's eyes, these children are precious beyond price. And this ministry gives me gifts that I could give to these children. Through the puppet shows and the dancing and the songs, I could give the gift of time, fun, and the Gospel to these children. I didn't realize this all at once. But, as it came to me in bits and pieces, I enjoyed each day more and more. The Bus pulling into a new school meant new opportunities to plant seeds. Every puppet show that made my arms and knees hurt meant ten or more new children heard truths from the Bible. I was reminded of my little seven-year-old sister, who accepted Christ recently. She had been to VBS and Church functions many times for the sake of fun and being with friends. Each time she was ministered to by someone willing to be uncomfortable and be silly for a few hours a day because they wanted to share Jesus. I may not be able to see the seeds grow, but I trust God was at work in every school we visited here in Ireland.

Being a part of the Big Red Bus was an incredible experience. It taught me new things about myself and about how God views children. Don't tell anyone, but it's made children's ministry less scary for me.

Preparing for Impact

What is Impact Ireland? Well, it happens in two parts.

Stage One: Everyone at OM Ireland is joined by new participants from around the world to train for a week. We get to take classes in everything from Evangelism to Face Painting! During this first stage, everyone is split off into different teams to prepare for individual programs that will happen in Stage Two. My team includes three girls from the Bus Team (yay!) plus two new girls coming from the USA and Germany. We have a week to prepare and get to know each other before stage two!

Stage Two: All the teams are sent out! Each one goes to a specific church somewhere in Ireland to serve and minister! My team will be going to a place called Tullamore to help run a Kid's Holiday Club (VBS) during the day in addition to a Youth Club in the evenings. It's going to be a packed week! Think VBS, but on serious steroids. We'll be doing crafts, songs, Bible lessons, dramas, and more puppet shows! And only 6 women to pull it off!

Honestly, it all sounds even more intimidating than the Big Red Bus. But, that only means there will be even more surprises as we walk through it! I know there aren't a lot of details, but I'll have more by next week.

(our Big Red Bus Team! Minus one who wasn't there for the picture)

Some Prayer Requests

- Pray for all the new team members as they travel in for Impact
- Training week is going to be intense as we prepare. Pray for energy!
- Pray for the kids and families all the teams will meet at they disperse across Ireland.
- Pray for energy and enthusiasm for me and my team. We're going to need it!

And a shout out to everyone who has been keeping up with these updates and my time here in Ireland. Your encouragement means SO much!