Team Ireland Expansion Pack, Entry 1

So, Facebook and Twitter are helping keep everyone in touch with family and friends at a pretty good clip, but there are a few things here and there that I can expound on beyond a status update or a photo or that 140 characters just won’t cover.

However, don’t get too accustomed to this. It looks like our access to Internet and such is intermittent…so it’s possible even the FB/Twitter stuff will slow down as well.

At any rate, the travel over was uneventful, really. We did have a delay of half an hour (or “ur” as our new friends pronounce it)…and a bit of an “uh-oh” moment when the flight before us on the same airline to Chicago was cancelled due to weather, but other than that not much. Wasn’t too bumpy, one of the in-flight movies was “The Adjustment Bureau” and everyone grabbed a couple of hours sleep.

The crossing into Dublin went smoothly, too. Cued up, waited our turn, got our passports stamped, grabbed our luggage and met Ian & Alan who were our bus transportation to Belfast (about 1.5 hours, “urs”). We grabbed some coffee and waited on the team from Minnesota (Crown College) to arrive.

One thing our students noticed: The “pace” of the different airports. In Dallas, everybody’s moving quickly and seems in a hurry to get where they’re going. You can pick up that vibe. In Dublin, everybody’s having a leisurely stroll and seems to be enjoying the moment. Charlie and I wondered if maybe we’d been born on the wrong continent when it comes to that mindset. Believe me, we’d both prefer to mosey.

Once in Belfast, we spent a little bit of time getting into our dorm rooms, key distribution and a little bit of unpacking. In order to keep our teens awake we had planned on a long walk to explore a bit…and we were in LUCK. See, we’d arrived on July 12 here in Ireland. It’s a celebration of a Protestant victory over a Catholic king in 1688 complete with parades and such.

The difference in our July 4 celebration is that these celebrations tie in political and religious overtones…and we walked down a parade route from a parade that ended recently and you could feel the tension. You can feel the passion both sides feel for their causes in the air, too. One side commemorating, one side seething. Add alcohol to the mix on both sides and see what you get.

But, in the morning parade there didn’t seem to be any violence, so we took a walking tour of our little area. We saw the Belfast City Hall(which is incredible), a view of one of the remains of the previous night’s bonfire (click the link for July 12 to see what that’s all about) as well as got a view from the top of the mall observation deck. You could see the shipyard where they built the Titanic, tall church spires, and grassy knolls.

We also got a tale of love from the security guard who agreed to take a photo of some of us together…he’d asked where we were from and when he found out we were Christians, he said, “I’d like to tell you a Christian story. Now, I’m not a Christian, but…”

Uh-oh.

I didn’t know if we were being set up for a joke, or if he was going to belittle us or what, but it turned out to be a snippet from his toast at his daughter’s wedding and a touching story. Anyway, the gist of it is that his daughter had a part-time job as an elf for Christmas and one of her co-workers noticed she was tired and offered her a Twix candy bar and nice conversation while in the break room. His daughter was 17 at the time. Four years later, this girl had gone to a youth conference while in university and become a Christian. When she moved back home, she told the family she was looking for a church and after several months she settled on one a mile from their house. At that very church she’d discovered the guy that offered her a Twix bar years earlier was also a Christian and they fell in love and eventually got married. The guard delivered it with the local accent and much more flair…but all I could think about what how God might use that very story in his own life to reveal Himself. We all applauded and he took our picture. It was a great spontaneous moment.

We walked the 3.5 miles BACK to the dorms and were walking through the crowd assembling for the next parade. This is a big-time holiday, folks. Kids were banging on toy drums & blowing whistles & parents were festive and drinking and the tone of walk back seemed much more celebratory. Turns out that while we were blissfully back in our dorm sleeping, well, in the words of our hosts, “We had an interesting night last night.” Passions certainly run high. I’m actually glad our teens got this little history lesson from a safe distance. I’m glad I got to be here to walk through it, and truth be told, I would’ve liked to been a little closer to the action of that night to see that side of it.

One of the interesting things about the people I’ve met and gotten to know a little bit about are where they are with regard to their views on church and how it’s done in the U.S. and all that. Suffice to say that all I’ve been reading lately (namely the books I’ve blogged about here and a few others) about where the church is headed and what we need to be doing, well, these guys are in that same ideological place. They’ve read the same books. I mean, we’re all the same age, we’re reading books that describe what we’re seeing, and we’re coming to many of the same conclusions. Very interesting to see what God is teaching me in a bigger picture sense being confirmed by pastors from Calgary and Minnesota.

Yesterday was a sightseeing day along the beautiful coastline of Northern Ireland. It seemed like every view was camera worthy. We went to a pretty little coastal town (I’ll try to get the name of it and edit this later), followed by a trip to a rope bridge with views of the sea and cliffs, then to the Giant’s Causeway (we could see Scotland in the distance because of the sunny day) and finished with a beach rest at Portrush. The kids have walked a total of 12 miles in the last two days…

…but my guess is most of that will come to a halt as we begin training for ministry in about an hour (ur) and it’s going to last for two days…so I’m not sure how well we’ll be able to access Internet much, but I’ll try to fill you in as time permits.

I’ll close with a fun fact: We discovered that you can fit 8.5 Irelands into 1 Texas.

Kind of a scoreboard…but when you compare aesthetics, well, they win hands-down.

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