We have been full-time missionaries in Ireland for 1 year now. (March 31 is exactly one year) So what has that looked like and what have we to say?
We started in Dublin and now live in Limerick. We have traveled over 30,000 kms in our little Blueberry (Blue Toyota Vitz). We have learned how the Irish do NOT like winter but love to play in the snow! They love summer but not too much heat. They love Spring but complain that it rains too much both in Spring and Autumn. In fairness, it rains all year round in Ireland but certainly not everyday all day. Irish people are very hospitable and above all KIND. They are loyal, chatty, friendly and adore family above everything. Most Irish love chocolate and good pot o’ tea (Barry’s in Munster, Lyon’s in Leinster, don’t know what they like in Connaught, but PG Tips and Punjana are popular in Ulster. Yes, I know too much about tea!) Some really love Irish Draft Ale, others whisky or wine, but contrary to public perception not all Irish drink and even of those that do, not all drink to excess. Folks in Munster (where we live) are fiercely loyal to their sports teams and its like they go to war whenever they play. Yet they leave the pitches as friends. No one does anything half-ways here. Its all or nothing and if you fail, at least you tried… now get up and try again!
We realize that, though we have greater understanding of the Irish culture, we still have loads to learn! Though we speak English there are many terms we are still unfamiliar with and there are tones and inflections which we need to learn how to fine tune. (I got a huge compliment my Newfie friends will appreciate the other day. A clerk at the Rock of Cashel asked if I was from Limerick or perhaps Newfoundland because of my accent!) They are blunt and forthright but terrified to offend and will feel horrible if they did.
As missionaries, we have learned that people back home mean well when they say they are going to support us, but sometimes they forget. We have learned that our budget is flexible and must be so. We have also learned that if its important for us to be here, sometimes it takes us supplementing when it seems a little too short. But it always works out. God always provides and always reminds us that we are called to be here. We have been made to feel at home here and feel like these are indeed our people.
Prayer has always been something we trusted in in Canada but not as much as we rely on it here. The spiritual battle just to keep our hearts from being discouraged is strong, let alone the rest of the battles ensuing. Loneliness is very real but we are thankful we are on this journey together and have the support of our families back in Canada. The prayers of those who love us are what keep us from falling apart at times. Please pray we can make good friends here.
We have also truly understood that missions can appear boring much of the time. Writing letters, keeping the web-site and blog up to date for those back home can take our focus off our main purpose. But we have it down to an art now so it doesn’t take as much time. Just saying hello to our neighbors every time we see them, stopping and visiting with the vendors at the local market, getting to know the elderly person just sitting in the park and hearing their stories is mission work. Going for Coffee and hearing how hard it is for someone to even think about converting because of their family and life, hearing how hard it is for those who have become Christians and offering them an ear and often a shoulder, being available 24/7 for anything is great but also exhausting. Sometimes we just want to be human and selfish and say “No, can’t help today, just don’t want to!” but that is not who God has made us to be or has us here for. We are here because Irish pastors, leaders and lay people are discouraged, exhausted and frightened. They need us to carry some of the burden sometimes and that is exactly why we came. We are here because almost everyone in our neighborhood (estate) of a few hundred homes is lost. We are here for the lady at the market today who told us she is one of the Irish who has lost hope and doesn’t trust the church (Irish Catholic) but was very welcoming to us talking to her about Jesus and being reminded that He loves her. We are here to kindly introduce Irish people to the Jesus they never knew but loves them just the same!
We were asked last Tuesday by a young Christian man in Cork, “What do you do all day?” The challenge is not to make light of what we do nor to make it into something so grand its nowhere near what we do. “We work on sermons, lessons, and studies. Bruce helps a lot with getting computer equipment working correctly and efficiently. We’ve developed and work on the church web-site and bulletins. We visit a lot of people who wouldn’t perhaps get a visit very often because of where they live and time of day, we pray, we read, we disciple one on one.” This is the heart of what we do. We do what we did in Canada really but without the title of Pastor or salary that accompanied that.
And we love it!