For those of you who don’t yet know, I’m in Ireland! This past Friday, I was asked to fill an opening on a team doing ministry this week in Ireland! I had about 30 minutes to make a decision and barely any time during my packed weekend to get things ready. But here I am, almost three days into the total trip and two days in Ireland!
Why Northern Ireland?
I know, I know… When you heard I was in Northern Ireland you gasped:
“How wonderful! I’ve always wanted to go there!!”
“That will be so beautiful – take lots of pictures!”
You were expecting me to say Haiti or Africa when you heard “missions trip,” weren’t you?
I know it’s a touristy, bucket-list destination, rather than a third-world country where you have to be prepped with vaccinations, mosquito nets, and tons of sunscreen. But… *in my best preacher’s voice* I’m here to tell you, we ALL need Jesus!
Seriously though. We all could use a little more Jesus.
They may not be known as an impoverished country with diseased water and voodoo, but we’re talking about souls here – regardless of which locale those souls are residing.
What We’re Doing Here
We’re basically helping to start a ministry that is interdenominational and encourages discipleship and Church unity in Northern Ireland.
“You’re not evangelizing non-Christians?” you ask.
Because of the history here, there is much built up between churches, denominations, political stances, etc. The ministry we’re helping to establish here is one that will eventually be run completely by Northern Irish for the Norther Irish! The goal is to strength the Body of Christ by helping Jesus-followers become more passionate, spreading the passion in a way that unites local churches.
Like the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people.” If we ignore the pain of people who make up local churches, they will inevitably pass hurt along – we can’t help it. If Jesus said, “They will know you belong to me by how you love each other,” then I’d say caring for and ministering to fellow Christians is a pretty high priority. And when that happens, non-Christians are inevitably drawn to Jesus.
The Not-So-Petty, Petty Challenge
So let’s be real. Traveling to a different timezone, overnight, in cramped airplane space, with a bunch of people you’ll be close to all weekend during an extremely packed week in an unusual location is not exactly an ideal set up for perfect happiness and serenity.
I knew from the get-go the real challenge for me this week would be overcoming my own attitude.
I’m not a traveler, so I knew it would be so important for me to be intentional about practicing gratefulness – and I’m SO thankful that my way was paid for this amazing trip, and grateful to those who donated towards it within the short time they heard about my opportunity!
I also knew I would need to be intentional about asking myself some serious questions to make sure I didn’t get sucked into negativity:
Am I truly continually and consistently filled with the Holy Spirit?
Am I truly allowing Him to flow through me?
If I am, I should be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. Talk about a reality check!
Inspired by the Passionate
The small group of Northern Irish people who are hosting this event and making it happen truly inspire me. They are willing to do whatever it takes to help the Church in Northern Ireland grow stronger and more passionate (as we all should desire). They believe strongly that this happens when Christians encourage and build up each other (as the Bible teaches is true).
They’re doing whatever it takes to tear down barriers for others to get here and experience this spiritual-emphasis weekend. They are taking slow baby steps, patiently believing for a huge outcome in the long run!
Here, it’s all about meeting people where they’re at and not worrying about forcing them to jump to where we’re at.
And isn’t that truly what it’s about even where you are? Isn’t that what it’s all about back home in Fort Wayne and Life Bridge Church where I live?
I’m telling you what, ministering to middle and high school students is a totally different culture from mine! In youth ministry alone, we have to be willing to get into their mindset and accept it for what it is, working from there.
Yesterday, when I was reflecting on all of this, I was reminded of Romans 5:3-5:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
What I’m starting to have more faith in from being part of this team and watching the Northern Irish we’re ministering with is this: A small handful of devoted, determined, passionate, and called people can make a huge impact.
My Tourist Side
As far as when I’m noticing about the country itself, I’m very drawn to the culture!
I enjoy the quaint architecture of the homes. I envy their meal structure – 5 smaller-portioned meals throughout the day, including two tea times. The sizes of drinks you can get anywhere from a Subway to a gas station are all a ton smaller than our super-sized America. And the environment in general seems more relaxed – they take walks daily and are not as task-completion focused.
Getting to Know Me Better
I’m still called to America.
I can change the cultural things I admire listed above for myself. But I can’t change that my heart is in America, my calling is there, and I feel massively uncomfortable dealing with foreign currency.
Like I said before, we all could use a little more Jesus. And I’m called to bloom where He’s already planted me.
I love America.
I don’t mean in a cultural way. I don’t even mean in a patriotic way.
I mean I love it’s people. I understand their struggles. I appreciate their wrong mindsets. And my heart literally feels heavy when I think of them.
And I love that even ministry in Ireland can teach me more about how to minister to my own people.