Ireland, Day Three

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October 18, 2009

Awoke bright and early at Anvershiel House, our bed and breakfast in Portrush, Northern Ireland.  It’s a delightful little home with perhaps five or six different guest rooms.  Our hostess, Erna, carried a friendly, joyful heart and was glad to serve us in any way.

Sorting through our luggage, Linda and I realized our clothes desperately needed an iron.  I made the way down the stairs to ask Erna if we might be able to borrow one.  "No?" she replied.  I paused…not quite making sense of what I was hearing.  It seemed she was telling me "no," but then looking at me quite expectantly as if I should say something more.  So, uncertain, I simply asked again.  And again, Erna replied, "No?" with that open expectant look still on her face.  I paused, trying to match her facial expression with what I was hearing.  Suddenly, it dawned on me that she was asking if I wanted the iron "now?"…and thus, my first trouble with the Northern Irish accent was resolved.  We both got quite a laugh out of that.

Forty-five minutes later, with clothes freshly pressed, Linda and I sat down for breakfast.  My morning selection consisted of coffee, juice and cereal followed by a traditional Ulster fry.  In other words, a LOT of food:  fried eggs, some kind of little pancakes, some sort of potato cake, fried bread, toast, baked tomato, Irish sausage (flavored differently than here in the States, much milder) , irish bacon (which is more like ham than bacon), and baked beans (yes, really),  Erna mentioned that it was typical for the  locals to cover everything in Heinz HP sauce, which is very similar to an A1 steak sauce.  I opted to simply use it on the side…and found that option to be just a bit odd on my taste buds.  Otherwise, everything was delicious!

Afterwards, we made our way on that very rainy day to Causeway Coast Vineyard for the 10:00 am service.  We arrived just as the service began, and were offered sweets by the greeters who met us at the door.  The church has two services in the morning, and this first one included close to 300 people.  I understand that to be quite a large gathering for any Christian church in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Comparable with many congregations in the U.S., the service began with a time of contemporary worship followed by some announcements.  Then there was a break for a good 15 minutes or so with an opportunity for coffee, tea, pastries and more.  Very nice!  The people then regathered as Alan Scott shared from the scripture.  Overall, a very enjoyable time with a practical message.  Before the morning was over, we met a few locals, including a woman from Texas who married a man from the area.  We found the people to be friendly and engaging, and really looking to know God in a deeper and more heartfelt way.

Following the service, we returned to the B&B.  Truth is, we were feeling a bit exhausted and still adjusting to the time difference and jet lag, and opted for a nap.  After a short snooze, I found myself being a bit restless and opted to check out a BBC program online called "Losing Our Religion."  The program originally aired in early October, but was not available to view online in the U.S.  It featured former Christian (and now atheist) William Crawley interviewing various religions groups in Northern Ireland, including Presbyterians, Catholics, Fundamentalists, Muslims, Humanists, and even star-gazers. 

The program depicted an increasing secular society and the increasing perception that religion is out of touch and irrelevant to most people.  However, it also featured footage from a service at CCV, interviews with Alan and Kathryn Scott, footage of CCV at the ocean for water baptisms, and interviews with CCV members whose lives have changed by Christ.  I found it immensely powerful, and a tremendous testimony of the real difference found in a vibrant relationship with Jesus verses the depicted staleness and irrelevance of religion.  It also seemed to me that the worship service and testimonies had a surprising and unanticipated effect on the host.  Pray for Mr. Crawley…it was apparent to me that the Holy Spirit was working to showcase the reality of God to that man despite his doubts, experience, and misgivings about religion.

Around 3:30, we made our way back to Coleraine to get a feel of the local economy.  We went through the local Dunnes store, a department store comparable to J.C. Penneys, and discovered that much of the clothing was significantly cheaper than anything here in the U.S.  We made a few purchases for family members before stopping at a Chinese restaurant called "The Water Margin" which has been greatly recommended to us by Alan Scott for having wonderful food at great value.  The food was indeed spectacular…but price is certainly relative.  Our impression of most eating establishments is that costs are typically high.  Our three course meal (during which I drank water) cost more than $40.00 for the two of us.  I was glad that we would spend most of the coming week buying our food at the grocery instead.

We arrived about twenty minutes early for the evening gathering at CCV.  The ample chairs that had been in place for the morning services were mostly moved out of the way and replaced by a series of small, square, pine tables surrounded by four chairs each, complete with little candle centerpieces.  A few minutes before the start, Alan arrived.  He soon greeted us and spent a few moments chatting at our table.  He was speaking that night on how to make important, Spirit-led decisions, and suddenly asked us if we might also share with those gathered about how we, as pastors, make decisions.  Of course, we agreed, and within a few minutes were introduced to the church.  Linda and I spoke for 10-15 minutes on the importance of hearing God’s voice and the importance of walking in agreement.  Hopefully, it was of some insight and help to the 80 or so who were there that night.

As the night ended, we picked up a welcome packet and a music CD to leave with our hostess at Anvershiel House (we had the impression that though she was open to Christianity, she wasn’t really connected to any particular ministry or faith expression).  We said our goodbye’s to Alan and we both wished for more time to spend with one another.  It was good to get to know the Scotts during the previous day…and who knows what the future may bring.

After returning to our lodging, a quick check of my email revealed a note from Mike Mullins, director of Operation Mobilisation where we were scheduled to go in the morning.  He wondered if we might be willing to meet with a couple of OM missionaries in Buncrana before driving down to Lacken House.  We adjusted our plans and then fell into bed that night, eager for whatever adventure the morning might bring. 

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Ireland Day Two

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Awoke at 6:45 AM, tired but eager for the day.

We ate a continental breakfast at the hotel before sorting through luggage, repacking some things, checking out and getting on the road by 9:00 AM.

The drive north was pleasant and enoyable.  From Dublin to Belfast the sky was a beautiful blue and the temp was in the low ’50’s.  From Belfast to Londenderry, though, an immensely thick blanket of fog covered the area, giving everything a mystical and enchanting quality.  We arrived in Coleraine at 12:20 PM and finally found a place to park in the very crowded Town Centre.  At 12:30, we walked in to the local Starbucks to meet with Alan Scott, pastor of the Causeway Coast Vineyard where we will attend tomorrow. (And yes, Starbucks in Northern Ireland is just like Starbuck’s back home! Except no pumpkin spice latte to be found.)

Our slightly late departure from Dublin kept us from arriving earlier, so we missed the opportunity to see CCV’s Healing on the Streets team in action (alas!), but our encouter with Alan was delightful.  Soon his wife, Kathryn, joined us as she and their girls had just come from gymnastics.  We had a wonderful time sharing stories and reconnecting after first "meeting’ them a couple of years back.  Turns out that one of my former ORU professors, Dr. Shatzman, was also an instructor for the Scotts when they attended Bible college in England.  Small world!  Before our time together came to a close today, we even spent a few moments with them in their lovely home.  The Scotts are incredibly kind and gracious people, and it was a pleasure to spend some time with them.

Other highlights from the day included a visit to the Giant’s Causeway which is absolutely stunning.  By the time we got there, blue sky had returned, making for beautiful pictures that I’m sure will not do the location justice. 

As evening descended, my wife and I shared a lovely dinner at an area restaurant.  It came highly recommended by the hostess of our bed and breakfast, and turned out to also be Kathryn’s current favorite as well.  The place was packed with people, and we waited a good 45 minutes to get a table.  I sat next to a fellow who had driven up from Dublin for the weekend.  He raved about the food and commented about the outstanding prices.  The food was indeed spectacular!

Tommorrow, we attend services at CCV and see what else the day brings.  Looks like the next several days may very well be filled with rain.  Monday, we drive down into County Roscommon to meet with Operation Mobilisation.  We hope to somehow be of help to them for the rest of the week.  We’ll soon see what that brings!

 

Ireland Day One

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We arrived in Dublin a little after 11:00 AM.  It had been a long journey via Paris, and though quite tired from hardly any sleep at all, we were eager for the day to begin.

The walk through immigratin and customs was a breeze, and we soon had our rental car.  Fortunately, our hotel was only a few miles away, helping me adjust slowly to driving on the "wrong" side of the road.  Road signs seem hard to distinguish so far, and so I was also quite glad to have our GPS unit along.

After checking in to the hotel, we opted to explore a bit of the City Centre area of Dublin.  We boarded the bus, and off we went.  Here’s a quick synopsis of the rest of the day:

  • Lunch – fish and chips from Leo Burdock’s (wonderful!)
  • A stop at what we first thought was Christ’s Cathedral – but turned out to instead to be St. Vincent Depaul’s Catholic Church (still amazingly old and beautiful)
  • An incredibly long walk the rest of the way to the City Centre
  • A brief walk by the real Christ’s Cathedral, first founded in 1030 AD (but we were apparently too late to get in!)
  • A short stop at Trinity College with a look at the Book of Kell’s and the "Long Room" in the old library.  Amazing!
  • A walk up and down Grafton Street, part of St. Stephen’s Green, and the surrounding area.  Lots of people everywhere.
  • A small dinner at a restaurant in the area (Luigi Malones-?).  We split the Pisa Rustacana.
  • On the way to find our bus stop, we crossed the Ha’ Penny bridge and took pictures of the Liffey River lit up at night.
  • A final bus ride back to the hotel.

And, wow, were we tired by the time we got back!

Quick observations:

  • Black seems the overwhelming color of choice for people in Dublin.
  • Beware packing hair spray in your luggage lest the entire can empty out while in transit and cause issues with your clothing.
  • God is amazingly good and we are so encouraged to be here.  We look forward to the rest of our time with great anticipation.

In the morning, we make the drive to the North.

I saw the sun come up…over Paris

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As I write this, it is 9:20 AM in Paris.  And you thought we were going to Ireland?

The weather in Pittsburgh was a mess.  Flights from all over the mid-west were delayed or canceled.  Our flight to Atlanta was going to be about three hours behind schedule.  That meant there would be no way to make our connection to Dublin.  So…

We called Delta reservations…and after almost an hour on the phone, they booked us on a flight to Paris with a connection to Dublin.  Currently we’re sitting outside “Porte E21” in Charles DeGaul International Airport waiting for our next flight.  We were the last ones on board in Pittsburgh…and who knows where our luggage is.  The gate attendant informed us that they would do our best to get it to us by Friday night.   Prayers would be appreciated!  In addition…there was no more room on the Paris flight for my carry on case.  They made me check it at the plane side and said it would be awaiting our arrival in Dublin.  However…it seems that they didn’t give me a claim check.  This could  get interesting!

On the plus side, I just had an authentic Parisian croissant  with my darling wife, and I can tell people that I’ve been to Paris!  Even if I only got to see the airport.  

And so it begins…

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In just a couple of hours, my wife and I will head out the door on our way to the airport.  Our trip to Ireland has been a long time coming, and we are looking forward to it greatly!

I will do my best to post regular updates along the way, depending on the availability of wi-fi during the travel.

Today, I was up early and tackling the long list of items that I need to get done before departing.  So far, I’ve completed the following:

  • Kids to school
  • Older son to the doctor (turns out he has an upper respitory infection…prayers are appreciated!)
  • Drop off prescription at the pharmacy
  • Stop at AT&T – make sure my cell phone will work overseas and set up calling plan.
  • Sending a 42 page fax from the library (yeah, the one at the church is not currently functioning…so I’m at the library.  While I wait for the fax to complete, I’m typing this!  What’s the fax…lots of banking and tax paperwork…did I mention I’m refinancing my house?)

Here’s what yet remains:

  • Final paperwork/kid info for my folks who will be caring for our children in our absence
  • Final bits of laundry
  • Copying all of my travel paperwork (itinerary, various confirmations, car-rental stuff, and more).
  • Packing (is it too soon to start packing yet???)
  • Cleaning out our van.
  • Online check-in with the airline.
  • Balance checkbook and do last minute banking.

I think that’s it….I’m carrying a pad and paper as I move around today…it seems for almost every item I cross off, I add something else!

As this journey unfolds, I’ll update here when I’m able.

Father, thanks so much for this opportunity.  I’m looking forward to all that You have in store for us as we go.  Keep my children safe and healthy, and give my folks grace as they step in to care for them.  Thanks for being so trustworthy!

Ireland Missions Donation

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From October 15-24, 2009, my wife and I will be in Ireland on a missions trip.  The background, rationale, and specifics of that trip can be found HERE.

Recently, I was asked how someone might easily donate toward this trip.  As of today, we have a minimum of approximately $1,065.00 left to raise.  We are hoping to potentially travel into Northern Ireland in order to connect with a church there, which may necessitate another $200 or so in lodging costs 2 nights).  If we end up doing that, we may need to spend a night in Dublin too ($150-$175).  Also, it would be wonderful to be able to provide Operation Mobilisation Ireland (the main ministry we’ll be with while in Ireland) with a monetary gift toward their needs and endeavors.

For anyone who would like to donate funds via Paypal, there is an easy link button below. 

 

Thank you for your kind and gracious support!

 

Expenses and Receipts for the Trip

Mission To Ireland (We’re going!)

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It’s official.

My wife and I are headed to Ireland in October.  I bought the plane tickets earlier this week.

We will be gone for ten days, eight days in country, two days of travel.

Where?  What?  Why?

That’s a bit of a longer story…