Random thoughts and such

Broken hearts

Probably every missionary in history can agree that one of the hardest things about it is when tragedy hits your home country and you are not able to be there.

We awoke Saturday to the news that there had been a terrible bus accident involving a junior hockey team on the prairies. Western Canada is big in size but not in people. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows you. And when it comes to hockey…everyone knows the teams. Did we know everyone on that bus? No. Did we know anyone personally on that bus? No. But we do know the culture, the people, the small towns the kids came from and the country that revolves around hockey from the time most kids are 4 and old enough to strap on skates to the time they pass away. That date is supposed to be a long way down the line…when they are very, very old.

This tragedy took the lives of 16 people ranging from 16 yrs old to 42 and older (I haven’t been able to find out how old the driver was).  14 died at the scene, another one day later and yet another today. I am so thankful the Head coach was a strong believer. I believe he would have told the team often how much Jesus loves them and how He wants them to accept Him as their Lord and Savior.  I assume a lot of things…I probably shouldn’t, but I do. I have to. I can’t understand any of it just yet. Perhaps I never will.

This could have been any of us at any time driving across the massive expanse of Canada’s prairies.  This could have been any of our kids on any sports trip. We all live so far away from other venues.  We trust the coaches and drivers and everyone else on the roads to get everyone safely to their destinations. We trust because otherwise we would all stay scared in our homes. We must live. These kids were living their dreams.

I feel like maybe this hurts just a bit more than it would in Canada because we cannot grieve with those who understand. We cannot don our jerseys and set out hockey sticks on the porch without having to say a word and know others understand. We hurt from afar. We hurt so very much. And we pray.

We have been in Ireland exactly 1 year now!

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!


Irish Brown Soda Bread

Neil’s Brown Soda Bread (as given to me by Mary in Limerick)

700mls Buttermilk

1 3/4 c Cracked wheat flour (or Old fashioned Oats,  raw spelt flour, or raw Rye flour) (Raw meaning cracked but not white and fluffy flour)

2 3/4 c regular Flour (for Oat bread: blend oats to as fine a dust as you can, for spelt or rye do the same)

handfuls of pumpkin seeds, ground linseed (Flaxseed), hemp hearts, or whatever you want)

2 tsp Salt

2 tsp fresh baking soda (if you can’t remember when you bought it, it may be too old to rise the bread)

fistful of oatbran or wheat bran

Mix all the dry ingredients together than make sure your oven is at temperature (200C), be sure you have prepped your 2lb loaf pan by lining with parchment paper. Once all is ready, pour in your buttermilk. It will begin the chemical process mixing with the baking soda immediately so you need not be neat in this process. Just be sure its all mixed in and plunk it into the pan(s for 1 lb loaf pans). put in oven for 40 mins. Check done-ness by inserting a toothpick into the center and coming out clean. lift out of tins by the parchment paper.

Cool in cookie racks before removing the paper. Enjoy slathered in Irish Butter and strawberry jam (or whatever you like…I like nutella!)

Don’t let your church become a graveyard

Its amazing to walk where saints of old have walked and served God the best way they knew how. In light of this understanding, I empathize with their practice of burying people within the church walls because it was somehow considered a more holy place. What saddens me though is that this Collegiate Church in Killmalock, co. Limerick, which was once vibrant and full of life, now only hosts the dead.

I pray that the church in Ireland will blossom, grow and flourish to such a state that we outgrow our walls and there isn’t enough room for all the believers anywhere in one place! But I also hope that our places of worship of the living God where lives have been changed today, oh I hope that they do not become places only death resides!  May we always be seeking how to bring life into our fellowships, both in age and spirit. It is an eerie feeling to be looking up and walking around these amazing 12th century buildings only to look down once in a while and see that we walk on the graves of those who could afford the luxury of being buried in the church itself. Through the passage of time, most of the ancient churches we have visited are simply glorified graveyards.

Respecting all that has gone before, I love going to graveyards, cemeteries, burial tombs, and the like. I love imagining the lives that were lived there and the love that was felt there. But I fear that our churches may become places where people come to rest (die) rather than to live and be trained for life and spiritual battle! Let us learn from the past and stay places of life, joy and hope!


A new way of foot washing

This Sunday Paul was preaching on Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Bruce was overseeing the music and response times. He brought towels and set up chairs at the front of the service. I thought, “What is he going to make us do this time?”

Well, after an amazing worship based prayer time Paul spoke on John 13 where Jesus washed His followers’ feet. He really focused on how we are to FOLLOW Jesus in His self-sacrifice. (We keep telling people to be leaders when the Bible simply and clearly tells us exactly how to be good Jesus followers.) It was great to be reminded that its not the exact act of bathing someone that Jesus wanted us to copy Him in. But to serve one another. To not consider any task too low for us or any person too high or low for us to care for.

Afterwards, instead of just playing a song and praying. Bruce encouraged us (music soft, lights all on, everyone aware) to come forward if you would like prayer and someone would wash their feet with prayer and encouragement. The towel was a symbol as we sat at one anothers’ feet and prayed a blessing over them, speaking words of encouragement to them and giving them love.  When we were done, we were to pass the towel to the next person waiting to pray. There was so much prayer this night!  We were hard pressed to get everyone to be done (we did not want to rush this precious time) so we could move on to the birthday party that was ready for us all in the next room.  But what a wonderful time of communing with the Lord and each other!

I encourage you to be a follower. Be a true follower of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and enjoy the sweet fellowship of community.