Hey there! I’m going to deviate from my usual habit of sharing my personal writing with you guys this week and instead share a post that recaps my recent week-long mission trip in Ireland. It’s a post that is very special to my heart because of the subject matter, and I hope you will enjoy reading it! Be warned though, it is rather long… So in the spirit of the Irish, grab a cup of tea, and settle down for a read… 😉
Last week I had the privilege of participating in a mission trip to the beautiful country of Ireland. Now you may be thinking – ‘a mission trip in Ireland? Surely Ireland is a Christian enough place…’. Actually, that’s not true. Ireland has one of the smallest Christian populations in Europe, coming in at just 0.75% of Irish Nationals. The Catholic church looms large in the country, but very few people actually have heard the Gospel for themselves. The Christian church is generally very small, averaging out at about 30-50 people per congregation. So there is a massive need for the Gospel to impact the lives of Irish people!
The mission trip that I went on was made up of a couple groups of people – some from Missouri, USA, and some from England that all came and joined with a local Irish church. We partnered with them for the week, enabling them to do outreach in the community that ordinarily would be harder for them, due to their smaller size. This was my third time returning to do ministry with this particular church, and it was such an encouragement in so many ways. Spending time with fellow Christians from all around the world while serving God together had a huge impact on my heart. I came away from the week both saddened at having to say goodbye to new and old friends, and also so grateful that I was able to play a small part in how God is using his people to reach the lost in Ireland.
One thing that has become more clear to me every time I have gone on a mission trip is just how powerful the unity that Christ brings to his followers is. The bond that Christians have as fellow lovers and followers of God is very strong, and that is made especially evident in situations such as this mission trip. We came from all over – a large group from Missouri, a small group (including me) from South West England, a church in central Ireland composed of people from all around the world… We came from all different backgrounds – high schoolers, college students, young parents, older couples, new Christians, older Christians, pastors, and evangelists. But despite all our differences, we had the common bond of Christ – and that made all the difference!
It’s amazing how friendships can be kindled and rekindled in 8 days. I witnessed that firsthand, both in myself and in my teammates. In the words of my beloved Anne of Green Gables – ‘kindred spirits aren’t as scarce as I used to think’ – and oh how I’m grateful for that! The fact that it is possible to find kindred spirits in people from all corners of the globe and all walks of life is an amazing reality, made even more amazing by the fact that it is only because of Christ and what He has done in each of our lives.
It was such a joy to serve Christ together with this team during the week. We were able to put on kids Bible clubs in two housing estates – places where hope is not easily found, and the harsh reality of life is very apparent in the lives of those who live there. The children that came to these clubs were so precious, and I am so grateful that we got to share God’s love with them for the days we were there. We sang with them, shared a Bible story, did crafts, and played endless games of bulldog and duck, duck goose. Even something as simple as a game of bulldog can have such an impact on these children – children who perhaps rarely have positive, loving contact with adults. The joy in their faces as they chased us across the field or kept up with the hand motions in the songs was apparent – and what a privilege it was to be part of a team that was responsible for bringing that joy to those kids.
The team also was able to go out into the streets every afternoon, armed with handfuls of Gospel tracts, or in some cases, a sheaf of music sheets and a guitar. Our goal was to engage with the local townspeople and share with them the glorious hope that Jesus has to offer. There were many interesting encounters and conversations had over the week… I sat with one lovely, old Irish gentleman on a park bench one sunshiny afternoon and shared the Gospel with him. My heart broke as he told me that he hoped he would be good enough to be let into Heaven one day, and that he was trusting that his good deeds outweighed his bad ones. How he needs the reality of God’s grace to break into his life!
His opinions on religion are reflective of many of the Irish peoples’ opinions. Despite being surrounded by the ‘religion’ of the Catholic church, they have no idea how good the Gospel actually is, nor do they understand the reality of God’s incredible love for them. That reality became starkly clear the more interaction that various members of the team had with the locals. Many people were willing to stop and chat, and to listen as we shared the Gospel with them. But many more were unwilling to hear, unwilling to entertain the idea that there may be something more than this life they are now living.
One afternoon, I listened to a conversation that one of my teammates had with two women. They quite openly and cheerfully said that they didn’t know if there was anything after death, and even if there was, it didn’t bother them in the slightest. They said wanted to live their life to the full here on this earth – and after that? Well, it didn’t concern them. Again, my heart broke for them – they don’t know what they are missing! How I pray that they, and the many other people that we talked to, will come to know the reality of God’s love for them.
When I look back over the week of ministry, two reoccurring themes jump quickly into my mind – music and laughter. These two things were present every day in varying situations, and oh what joy they brought us all!
We were blessed in that we had many talented musicians on the team, which led to many music-making sessions. One afternoon, while preparing tracts for street evangelism, an impromptu sing through of every song from The Greatest Showman broke out – I will never forget the sight of 30 odd people all belting out ‘From Now On’ while gathered around a long table, their hands a hive of activity as they stuck labels on tracts and organized them.
Another evening we all gathered together for a worship session that lasted for over 2 hours, as we sang song after song after song all together. That evening was like a little glimpse of heaven – being surrounded by people from all over the world, all united in our love for Christ, singing our hearts out in worship for Him. And if we can have such worship here on earth – imagine the worship that will be in Heaven! I can’t wait…
There were also energetic sessions where we all grouped together to learn the actions to the songs that we used in the kids clubs – sessions that invariably ended in crazy dancing and hysterical laughter. And of course there were the afternoons where we would stand on the pavement in a group – a couple of singers, a guitar, and a cajon – and sing worship songs until our voices grew dry. It was such a great way to share the truth of the Gospel with others, as well as having fun making music together!
Laughter is a good medicine, especially for the weary soul. It was a week of long days and late nights and we soon found that laughter was a good respite amidst the busyness. Somehow the comedian Tim Hawkins was introduced to the group, and that led to a series of evenings that were spent in helpless, hysterical laughter watching him. I’m not sure what was more fun – laughing at his comedy or laughing watching everyone else who was laughing! Finding that it was possible for two people to play one guitar while moving in a circle was another extremely random but hilarious discovery. Inside jokes, heated card games and random conversations lent themselves to more laughter, and it wasn’t uncommon to hear the entire church building ringing with laughter. So many of the memories that I have of this trip are stained with joy and I can’t help but smile as I reminisce. As Christians, we have such an amazing hope, and with that hope comes a joy that we just can’t contain! Whether it be over making music together or laughing over stupid, American jokes – that joy is something to be treasured.
As I look back over the week, I’m struck by how many things I learned. One particular lesson that really hit home for me was the idea that we are planting seeds. I actually taught the parable of the Sower from Matthew 13 one day at a kids club, and that theme of sowing became a recurrent one over the week. We were reminded that we as a team were not there to convert people. That is not our job. Instead, we were only there to plant seeds – seeds of hope, seeds of love, seeds of the Gospel. It is true, some of those seeds will fall into rocky or thorny soil and bear no fruit. But a precious few will fall into good soil and those will bear a harvest! It is Christ who does the work in people’s hearts though, not us.
We were only there for a week, but who knows how God is going to use those seeds of the Gospel that we planted! It may take years before there is a harvest, we may not even know how we impacted people until we get to Heaven… But what a privilege it is to be able to share the hope we have with others, and to know that God is going to use us somehow – we, who are just a few, weak people in a very large world – to show people who He is, and to draw people to Himself. We were just the sowers, sowing seed in a very specific way during that week in Ireland. It is up to God to bring that seed to the harvest. What an exciting privilege it is, to be a small part in His big plan to bring people to know Him!
I’ll finish by sharing a couple of verses that were laid on my heart over the course of the week. One morning I was randomly flipping through my Bible before the day started, and my eyes were caught by Romans 10:14-15:
“How then will they call on him whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”
Reading this was like a wakeup call for me. I have such a glorious hope in Christ! I know where I’m going after I die. I have a personal relationship with my Saviour. But 99% of people in Ireland do not. They are living in spiritual darkness and hopelessness. How are they to know the reality of God’s love unless they hear the Gospel? And how are they Gospel unless someone tells them??
And how can I remain silent – I, who have such a hope in life and certainty about my future?
I came away from my week in Ireland even more certain that I cannot remain silent. I have the wonderous privilege of holding the Gospel in my very hands, and I cannot keep it to myself! Why would I keep quiet about something that has transformed my life and my heart?! It is my continued prayer that the people of Ireland will be confronted with God’s love for them and that their hearts will be captured by His goodness. And may it not be just in Ireland… I pray that the Gospel will transform hearts and lives all across England and America and the entire world.
My week in Ireland reopened my eyes to the goodness and graciousness of my God, and the amazing privilege that I have to be able to share His love with others. How will people know of His love unless we tell them? We are called to speak up and to share and to sow seeds – seeds that will one day produce a harvest of righteousness. Fellow Christian – we are called by God himself, and what an exciting prospect that is!