Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ireland's Last Post

So the saga continues…

Our time of vacation brought us from dingle where we stayed right on the water in a quiet lodge. We cooked our meals, but had to get our first meal’s ingredients from a convenience store, so we had carrots, pork slabs- yes slabs, and fries, all covered in too much salt. We could hardly finish, but didn’t have any alternatives. As usual, food made us tired and we headed for a nap at 7:30 pm. Instead of waking up, we slept until 1 am when we all awoke and we dying (almost) of thirst from all of the salty food. We recovered and had a lie in (sleeping in) the following day. We headed for town on foot and saw some early Christian ruins, but after 3 km, and 7 more ahead, the roads were getting too narrow, so… WE HITCHHIKED! Yes, our mothers would be appalled and our fathers a bit proud?, but we are still alive to tell of it. The lady scolded us for standing on the wrong side of the road, but was kind otherwise. We chilled and walked around a bit and got a taxi back. We enjoyed some traditional Irish music played by three generations of a French family and had many more laughs.

Our journey continued on to Cork, which was much more city and less country. We had more adventures in the kitchen, including lighting a gas stove with a small lighter and having more odd food. We traveled to a small town on the coast and visited a famous fort before heading back to Dublin where we almost missed the train back to Belfast.

We stayed with a friend from camp and were welcomed by 1st Saintfield on Sunday. We worked along Paul and his wife Valerie who were aided by two AMERICAN interns from Colorado Springs. We almost wet ourselves when we heard and were not let down. The six of us stayed in a cute brick cottage next to the church and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. We got a break from Holiday Bible Clubs and did our first Football (soccer) camp that went M-F from 2 to 4:30, which is exactly the same time that the clouds opened up and dumped rain on us. The kids were very enthusiastic, so we weren’t too discouraged, but still rather cold. Each day we peeled off our wet clothes and hung them to dry so they would be crunchy for the next day. Jenna suffered through the cold like a champ while Nicole suffered from her lack of coordination and subsequent moments of almost eating grass. The actual drills and ‘world cup’ were run by three guys from ‘athletes in action’ which is a Christian group of athletes who travel and teach. At 7 pm we had teen events, which always had a good turn out. Our first night was messy fun which involved carrying soy sauce from one location to another in our mouths, wrestling for inner tubes on a tarp covered in soap, water, and oatmeal, and the finale of covering each other in ketchup, chocolate sauce, mustard, baby food, and flour. Kiel had a major victory when he ‘antiqued’ Nicole across her face and neck with flour as she turned with her mouth open. Other nights included a costume party at which Jenna and Kiel dressed as twins, Nicole as a Spanish fruit seller with dark eyebrows and a mustache, and Quinn as himself. While we had a blast, we were also each responsible for a talk at the teen events. It was kind of sprung on us, but God calmed our nerves and allowed to speak clearly and truthfully to the young audience.

After Saintfield, we met David and Janet Maxwell, who are the pastor and wife duo from St. Andrews Presbyterian. We chatted over burgers at an ‘american diner’ and were introduced to the congregation on Sunday during a little q & a time. Like most churches that we worked with, St. Andrews had a large amount of people over the age of 40 (which isn’t old). There were young people working with us, but we were most blessed by the adults who treated us like royalty. They wanted to know if we wanted any special food for lunch and always had dairy-free options for Jenna. They were thrilled to have us there and made us feel like family. Since we were working alongside adults rather than teens, they allowed us to stay at some dorms of the Presbyterian church. We were picked up each day before noon and then fed delicious meals, which included an Ulster Fry: fried egg, sausage, THICK bacon, hash browns, and tomatoes. Fortunately they didn’t serve the black pudding (made from blood) because they didn’t like it either. Instead of one sport for the entire week, we lead a different sport each day. Before we came, they had called it the ‘Seattle Saints’ sports camp, so each participant got a t-shirt sporting our name. Along with explaining the sport, we gave a talk to the kids who ranged from 10 to 16. Kiel started off on Monday with basketball, Jenna followed on Tuesday with volleyball (which they didn’t really catch onto), Nicole led track and field at a track that was the real deal, and Quinn led baseball on Friday. Thursday brought a special football coach that made most of us feel like our skills were lacking a bit. It continued to rain almost every day, but stopped most day for the two hours we needed to spend outside.

During the evenings, we assisted with the holiday bible club from 6:30 to 8 and then went to a few teen events, such as Indianaland (yeah Indiana!) which was a play place for children that we overtook. A tragic event took place on Friday with ten minutes left in sports camp when Quinn twisted his ankle after dunking during basketball. It was decided that he should go to the hospital and less than two hours later he returned with a wrap, crutches, and no bill. The health care here is pretty sweet and Quinn was definitely impressed. Saturday was rainy, as usual, so we went out to lunch with David, Janet, their daughter and another family we had met. We chilled before heading for dinner, but the rain was not slowing at all. On the drive to dinner, we had to turn around because the road stopped where the runoff from a field was passing over like a river. Many houses were flooded and the new highway was flooded at one spot up to the bottom of the overpass-oops. We all thought it was exciting and were ready to grab a life boat, but things ended up okay. We attended Sunday service and were thanked by the congregation who gave us each a small gift. We had been chatting about football jerseys and were each given a Glentoran jersey as a token of our new friends’ appreciation. We felt like we had done what was expected, but the people were so grateful and cared for us like we had known them for a long time.

The next week involved a few days off to recover from the busyness of camps and catch up on sleep. Quinn’s leg slowly began to heal and he was able to throw the crutches to the ground and walk again on his own. On Tuesday and Wednesday we took the bus to the Youth and Children's area of the Presbyterian headquarters. We worked for half an hour stuffing envelopes and then had a coffee break where we met some of the people who had been helping us plan throughout our time in Ireland. On Monday and Tuesday evening our friend Gordon from our first camp at Faughanvale came and went to dinner and bowling with us. It was hard to think that we had known him for a week about six weeks ago and there we were talking again. Thursday was another day to relax and in the evening we met with Graeme, who has been our main contact person while here. He asked us some tough, but really thought-provoking questions about our experiences. He also took us around to see a see a C.S. Lewis statue and some of the houses where he lived.

Friday marked the final big event for our trip when we joined 60+ other young adults for the Route 66 conference, which was held at the dorms we were staying in. It was called 66 because there are that many books in the Bible. Starting Friday and ending this afternoon (Monday), we traveled between the dorms and Union Theological school to hear seminars to open our eyes to the teachings of the Bible. We had mini ones on Philippians, Ezekiel, Obadiah, and Mark, which showed us some amazing new things about the Bible, the history of Israel and God. We had a main speaker each evening who was originally from Australia so we got to hear another sweet accent. He spoke on 1 Kings and the life of Solomon. All of this Old Testament information has created a new appreciation for it and a desire to study it because we were told you can’t understand the second part (New Testament) without knowing the first part (Old Testament). We had quite a few friends from previous camps who were at Route 66, so it was difficult to say goodbye once again. We have jokingly, but also sadly said ‘see you in heaven’ to many of our new friends who we may not see again.

The summer has been a whirlwind of new faces and experiences, but has always been a good challenge. We leave for the states in a few hours, but would have to try very hard to forget all that we have learned. We are not the same people we came as and are excited to live out all that we have learned. We have struggled with issues of faith, team dynamics, God’s will for each of our futures, and many other things, but have been brought through these two months with a closer relationship to God. We thank you for your prayers during these past weeks and ask that your prayers continue as we face the new challenge of applying all that we have learned in Ireland to our lives back in the states.

Home soon!
Quinn, Jenna, Kiel, Nicole

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