Thursday, July 7, 2011

January, February, March, March, March. . .

I am on outreach now in N. Ireland!  The above title is a joke about how they name the months here.  During the summer there are lots of marches or parades that are a public protest against members of the other denominations.  Again, this is another symbol of the division here between the Catholics and Protestants and how deep it goes.  Along with marches are bonfires, seriously huge bonfires that are built of pieces of fencing, wood scraps, old furniture, you name it.  The piles have already been started in preparation for the "big day" which is July 12.  Historically, during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, July 12 marks the victory of  Protestant Dutch King William of Orange over the Catholic King James of England.  From this the Orange order was created, a protestant group that is really about politics and not much about God.  Even today, the "orangemen" gather at the Protestant church at Drumcree, county Armagh and march to the end of the road, symbolizing their freedom and that victory.  This field next to the church at Drumcree has had many deadly battles over the years, particularly during the marching season. 

Our outreach group had planned on going to four places in the south of Ireland during the next two weeks, but the doors have closed at each place, and also our Ugandan teammate was denied a visa, which she needs to only visit Ireland.  Interestingly enough, more doors have been opening in N. Ireland which had been closed prior to now.  Through prayer and circumstances we really feel led to stay in the north, which has more need, especially at this time of year.  We have been priveledged to work with the church in Drumcree, mentioned above, and they have a need for us to come back.  We will be there just around the 12th of July, just beside the legendary field of public riots.  The pastor there is quite revolutionary and has a heart of reconciliation and is a catalyst of forgiveness for his whole congregation.  He has challenged his people to have living relationships with Christ and has seen many come to faith, even just in the last month.  Traditionalism runs deep, and the problem lies in religion being tied to political victory, even the national claim of "For God and Ulster" (Ulster being the name of the collective N. Irish counties).  God's name has been used for personal and political gain.  So this pastor has had his work cut out for him! 

So far on our outreach we have painted a room in our base to be used in the future cafe they hope to start within a year.  It will be open on a daily basis to the public.  The next week we went to the church in Drumcree and made dinners for a 30+ Teenmania group who had come to do evangelism and practical work there for 2 weeks.  We loved the relationships started with the pastor, so that's what's inspired him and us to work together again coming up.  During that week, we baked goodies and stuck a Bible verse in each one, delivering them to the neighbors.  The next weekend, June 24-26,  Philip, Kimberly and I packed up and drove across the country to Knock, a town in the south and helped run the registration tables at a Catholic youth festival.  Among Catholics, it is said that an apparition of Mary and Joseph was seen at this town, so a big shrine was created there, and many Catholics come as a religious pilgrimage.  Even with some slightly differing beliefs, we believe as YWAM Ireland that the unity of Protestants and Catholics should involve practical work together, so we packed up and many were blessed to know we were there supporting them even though we weren't Catholic ourselves.  Our leader, Jonny Clark, has talked about moving in the "opposite spirit" throughout our lecture phase and we are applying that to our outreach events.  Just last week, we were in Belfast helping run a YWAM venue at a big youth Christian conference called Summer Madness.  It is a 5 day festival, and we drove up 3 days prior to help turn this big warehouse type building into a hangout space for the kids.  We had a team of 20-30 youth workers from a nearby town help run the venue.  They have run several events in the past, so we really felt like we were helping them and not vice versa!  The biggest hit was the 10-midnight slot that we were open, with a DJ who played music.  There were also some powerful dramas, some live music and some group games.  In the afternoons we had drama, fashion/jewelry, and music workshops.  I helped teach the fashion/jewelry workshop and it was quite a success. 

Emotionally I am so homesick, even though being here is very good.  I am loving the people on my team and will really miss them at the end.  Spiritually I am a little discouraged.  I would appreciate some prayer, really for victory in the areas I have been struggling with for the past couple years of doubts and fears related to my relationship with God.  Physically I am doing well, we have been working hard but taking days of at least once a week to catch up on rest.  Since I am on outreach with a family, we do have more structure with bedtime and mealtimes, which is nice. 

Love you all.  Here are some recent pictures!
The Knock Basilica

Church at Drumcree

Four of us serving dinner to the Teenmania group.

Our whole team visiting County Armagh, and the church St. Patrick worked for.

My birthday cake!

Summer Madness at the Yak Shak, our venue.

Some of my chalk artwork.

About 2/3 of one side of our venue, while setting up.

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