Irish Summer

Sunday, July 31, 2005

belfast the beautiful

Hello all. Today is our last day in belfast. This city has been where we've lived, eaten, slept, worshipped, laughed, argued, prayed, walked, walked, walked, served, been served, shopped, and grown for the past five weeks give or take a week or more in other places. It's not exactly a charming city. It's somewhat grubby, sometimes tacky, obviously dangerous in some respects (though no more than most cities)... but... it is beautiful. There are people here who's hearts are immensely beautiful, there has been time and routine spent here providing us with familiarity in an unfamiliar land, and there is always the practical realization that God must have brought us here for a reason, so might as well go about expecting to see His love and work in this place, whether that be in the big ways (i.e. as with the recent decisions by the IRA) or the small ways such as being offered by friends to play badminton with them.
When we're asked if we like this city we all give somewhat different responses. For me, personally, I first realized, or rather, felt a love for this city as I was arriving to it from a visit with my friend sharon in the smalltown/country setting. I would normally assume that I would feel depressed coming back from that, but it was quite the opposite. It was raining that day (which hasn't happened as often here as we might have expected), and as soon as I saw that humongous budweiser ad (a good directional marker when walking around the city) that tackily graces the side of the europa hotel (europe's most bombed hotel, or so we've been told), I was happy to be "home". I even enjoyed the half-hour, sopping-wet walk back to university. I used to respond with, "I'm not sure that I love it, but it will always have a place in my heart." Now I think my response would be something like, "Yeah, gotta love it." Anyway, only time and His spirit will reveal to us all that we have really learned being here together.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Captain's Log, Star-date 2907...

So,

This is Benjamin. Here we are wrapping up things in Belfast. We have made arrangements to stay in Dulbin next week from Monday until we return home on Thursday. We are hoping to absorb a little more actual Irish culture than we have in Belfast (the north is predominantly protestants who predominantly identify themselves as Brits). In light of the fact that these shorter-term trips are usually more about what the trip members learn than about the impact we could have in this place, we are excited to continue our group experinece in Dulbin. Tina will not be coming with us though as she flew in, and is flying out of London and will be heading that way instead of traveling all Monday to get to Dublin and then having to travel back to Belfast on Tuesday to catch her flight to LondonWednesday morning. But our physical impact here has not been non-existent. We have been volunteering with a number of organizations, and you may know. Tina has developed fine relationships with the employees of a Help the Aged charity shop, where she volunteers. Julia has done the same at the Save the Children charity shop ad some of her more memorable experiences (Mary) have been recorded here. The rest of us have been volunteering at Action Cancer, an awareness and counseling organization. We have been helping out a lot this week especially helping them to get ready for a fundraiser, as Beka wrote about. They have been thrilled to have us and took some pictures which they are going to put in the paper here. They have been surprised that a group of young Americans would spend their holiday volunteering, let alone in Belfast, and are going do some sort of PR pamphlet or story about it or something. But it has been wonderful and humbling to see how appreciative and hospitable they are, especially in light of how we would generally spend our time (less productively).
We had another good group disucssion the night before last. We have been trying to kind of debrief and disucss the trip together so we are all aware of the impressions of the entire group about the various apects of the trip including our volunteering, the city of Belfast, our traveling, and our interactions with each other. It has been alot of fun to look back on the last four and a half weeks. One of the questions which came up in that time I wanted to post because it seems so difficult. One important issue on this trip has been when and how is it appropriate to talk to another person about something you perceive as a problem. This is something Lindsay and I discussed within our own relationship on this trip. Do we have a right or obligation to confront people about destructive habits or attitudes, or is there more of an onus to provide a loving atmosphere and encourage positive behavior and let conviction and coversation flow more organically. Obviously, there are sone circumstances when confrontation is at least acceptable and probably even necessary, but when it comes to issues which are probably destructive but not necessarily or do not acutally pertain to you, when is it appropraite then? An example to clarify, let us say that George has a bad habit of not doing the dishes at night. Everyone else does their part, but he never contributes. It is causing immense agitation after four weeks and you want to speak to George about responsiblity and consideration, or at least about doing the dishes specifically, Is it more effective to confront George about the issue, or just do the dishes and try not to let it get to you that George flops down in front of the T.V. every night? Maybe a more accurate question would be something to the affect of what does it really mean to extend grace to one another? What does that look like and how is that balanced with correction? The names and circumstances in this example are purely fictional. Any semblance to a real life person or situation is purely coincidental. It has also been really interesting how people's personal issues have become group issues here. Each person is being challenged in totally different ways as we are worn too thin to contain our demons. Anyway, I have rambled long enough.

Peace.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

pink ribbons and shakespeare

today a bunch of us went to action cancer again to sort a bunch of pink ribbon pins that they sell to raise money for breast cancer research. we had to take two boxes with fifty in them and convert it to one box with a hundred. I developed a system to fit them all in that blew everyone away and I'm not even that good at problem solving. anyway, that was fun working together and they even gave us free lunch to go with it. Some are still there and I might head back in a little bit to continue the task. we also got to watch an seventies version of romeo and juliet whilst we worked, hence the title of my post:) it's one of my least favorite of shakespeare's plays, but whenever I come across it I try to ask myself why the story is so "universal" or whatever the right word is. And then I reason that it's because shakespeare is trying to tell us that love so young and unsullied maybe really is the ideal, and then at the end I reason maybe he was really trying to tell us that it is the least ideal ideal of all time. Who knows what he was trying to say. Maybe he was leaving us to decide. All I know is that I have so much fun with the sweetness of the balcony scene and then turn to despise it all for the bitterness of the death scene. Personally, I would rather despise all of it right up until the end, and then suddenly love the way it ended and have my mind and perspective shifted all around. That would leave me thinking well of the whole thing. I actually wrote a paper on another shakespeare play that had a similar effect on me. It earned me a scholarship that allowed me to even come on this trip. hm...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Uncovered passwords...

Ah, now that I have uncovered my password it seems as if though I have become slightly obsessed with postings. That may be true.
I know for those back home doing the supporting, praying, and loving aspects of the members of our trip I thought experiences like what Jeff and I had this afternoon are important tidbits to relay you. Jeff and I had our one on one time scheduled for 1:15 just after I get off at Save the Children. A woman who has come in quite frequently to assess the new goods came in again this morning. Slightly bedraggled, a bit unkempt, wandering to and fro between the woman's clothing and the bric-a-brac. She had purchased two very large paintings and offered a trashbag for me to place them in (I have as of recently been taken off cashier duty due to my 1.05 pound overcharge...don't worry it was corrected). I noticed that the paintings would be a cumbersome way to travel so I simply placed them in a handled bag and gave them to her. As I walked about the counter she simply put her arm around me and said something to the effect of, "my dear, your accent certainly isn't from around these parts, do tell me where is it that you come from!" I answered the U.S. and she exclaimed that her son has been living there for the past couple years and it is "quite the lovely place." The conversation flowed freely from there. She would place her left ear very close to my face (which I have been told from previous conversations is a sign that the person could have been involved in some of the bombings during the Troubles and have therefore incurred hearing loss) when I would speak and concentrated ever so hard on the formation of my lips. She explained that she lives in the Falls area (a notorious Catholic neighborhood) but does not separate between the two religions (that being Catholic and Protestant). Not but a few minutes later did Jeff arrive for our one on one time.
Mary (as we had come to find out) was enchanted with the fact that Jeff (whom she called John or Jack) and I would be willing to accompany her to her favorite cathedral to visit her favorite saint-- Saint Benedict. We entered the church and with a delighted heart Mary showed us the various places where she would sit and pray and take joy and comfort in the Lord during the Troubles.
To make a long posting short, Mary has nine boys and was pregnant with two girls but lost them both during her pregnancies to bombings related to the Troubles. She mentioned in a hushed sort of tone that, "we aren't even of different skin tones and yet we still can't get along." She lives in the Falls area and is extremely proud of the way that she tried to raise her sons. It is obvious by the seemingly incoherentness of Mary that she has indeed had a difficult life. That this historical event deemed the Troubles has impacted her entire life. She lost brothers, nieces, and nephews to bombings and murders. She has had her house burnt to the ground for living in such a conflict centered area, yet has a demeanor about her that expresses love for all and a thankfulness that she lived through it and is somehow a better servant to God for it all.
It is the times and the conversations like these that I look forward to folding into my own life. The ceaselessness of grace. The overwhelming power of forgiveness. The bedraggledness that accompanies a life of pain, yet a smile that says life is good because I am in the comfort of God.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Snippet, from Lindsay

Greetings Friends and Family,
This is Lindsay writing. Currently it is about 1:30pm and we recently returned from church at Belfast Christian Mission. Once again we were greeted with warmth. One of the girls at church named Naomi, who is employed at Action Cancer (where Benij, Jeff, Beka, and myself have been volunteering), will be taking our group out for a bit of local siteseeing this Tuesday evening. She is a very sweet girl and along with her boyfriend will be carpooling the 8 of us around. It will definately take both of their cars b/c for those of you who have not seen the cars in Europe they are a wee bit smaller than we are accustomed to at home. That should be a very enjoyable time. This past week on Thursday morning I went in to volunteer at Action Cancer and I worked at the tea bar so my responsiblity was to offer tea or coffee to all the patients and their families who were coming in for counseling or screenings. The morning was pretty slow but luckily I had the opportunity to become friends with the girl working at the reception desk. Her name is Patrice and she is a student at Queen's University and is preparing to start her third year of studying medicine. She came over for dinner to eat with our group on Friday night and I really enjoyed her company (as did Tom!). It was great to have the opportunity to talk to someone my age who had grown up in Northern Ireland and to get her perspective on things. She and Benji also got the chance to discuss medical school and make some comparisons and contrasts between the two countries. Hopefully Patrice will grace us with her presence for dinner again some time this coming week.
Yesterday I had my one-on-one with Julia and we had a very good discussion about our struggles with living in the future and the dangers of doing so. For myself it is easy to be consumed about thoughts of being home and making the move to Chicago and Benji beginning Med. school, however, we both came to the conclusion/realization of what an amazing time this is right now, right here in Ireland. Even though living in community has definately proven to be just as challenging and "painful" as we were warned it would be, as with many other things in life, the pain has provided us with great gain. There are many positives about living in community such as the shared responsiblities of cooking and cleaning up, entertaining Emma, and having this built in support system around you. One of the hardest things about living in community is that it accentuates your biggest sins and struggles, but one of the best things about it is that you are consistently seeing the positive results of sacrificing those sins. Anyway, Julia and I realized how unique it is that we have the opportunity to eat breakfast and dinner with a group of people we have grown to love and care about every day of the week. Whether or not we feel like it that particular day, the time is already built in and in most cases it is good for us to be committed to something in spite of whether or not we feel like it. The same goes with our morning times together, which I have been loving so far. I have begun to ramble and I am losing the ability to organize my thoughts in a coherent manner so I will save the rest for another time.
Oh yes, and CONGRATULATIONS to my brother Roger and his wife Gina who are now the proud parents of their third little boy. Gabriel Robert Link was born July 22. Give him hugs and kisses for us.
Love & Blessings

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Refresh and Wait

The title of this blog has been deeply inspired by Benji who instructed me that this free internet has a few hangups when it comes to the blog and simply refreshing and waiting will eventually allow me to post. Anyway, as you may or may not have noted I have been a bit absent in my postings on this blog-- for one overwhelming reason: I lost my password and have recently uncovered it. Alas! I can post! In regards to my current disposition about the happenings of the trip...
Since we had a hash out of feelings and the sorts on the beach at Whitepark Bay we have begun to have daily morning readings and prayer. As may have been previously noted, we struggled with the way to build in a consistent avenue to explore Biblical principles and prayer. The days that have followed the mornings of readings and prayer have been considerably more thoughtful for me. For example, yesterday I was walking in the crisp of the morning to my volunteer spot at Save the Children. Since we have moved locations of residence the walk to Save the Children is about 20 minutes from Queens (all downhill-- going home walking uphill is not so pleasant) and has given me time in the morning to think. Now usually my thoughts would wander in and out of my surroundings-- making sure I pass someone on the correct side, not getting hit by traffic coming from the right (oh yes, I have unknowingly challenged large buses for space in the street), watching the road construction continue, noting the new lunch specials offered (prawns are not my cup of tea) etc... however my mind was filled with little blurbs from James. Lindsay had selected a few excerpts that she thought were important for our morning read. And indeed they were! I was thinking about my tongue and the way that I choose to say what I do. I was thinking more about patience and the overwhelming thought of love. And throughout the day my thoughts would wander back into the text read in the morning as I would sort the bric-a-brac or make the tea for my fellow volunteers who are just a wee bit too old to climb the staircase to get to the tea. It was a wonderful day for my thought life!
After returning from Scotland and Whitepark I struggled with keeping up a delightful spirit for the remaining two weeks of our trip. I discussed some of my hopelessness with the other group members and was encouraged to keep on keepin' on. It is difficult to not let my mind wander to what life holds for me when I return back to the States but as I have brought forth these requests to the group I have felt an immense sense of comfort. A comfort that rests in the love that all of the members have shown for me, each other, and the random people that filter their way into our lives. That realization alone is enough to seek hope and hopefulness for the remaining time here. Plus its not everyday the I will get to hear Emma sing "twinkle twinkle little Tom."
I have come not so that I may teach but that I might be taught...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Expectations and Contact Informations

Well, wouldn't you know, as soon as I go saying we have unlimited free internet access and that I will post again in 24 hours, the internet server here shuts down and we are stranded again; left looking unmotivated and inconsiderate. However, the internet is again working, as are we. This is Benji and I would venture to say that the last two days have been the most valuable on the trip thus far. We have broken new ground amongst the group members and are really beginning to have what I consider impacting, lasting, deep conversations and making sweet memories with the time we spend together. While we were at Whitepark bay last week we had a really emotional and powerful conversation regarding our individual expectations about the trip and specifically about the times we spend together. We had already committed to meeting for prayer, discussion and reading as a whole group every morning at 8:30 over breakfast, as well as Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sundays after church. We have been frustrated though in our time together as it has not been easy to balance the expectations and preferences of seven young adults and one child. We have tried to disucss our expectations many times, but were unable to really establish any type of format for our meetings. But in raising the same questions about expectations and voicing the same frustrations about the way things were going, we were all at a point last week that we had a heated discussion on the beach in which we were finally able to hash out the roles and responsiblities of the individuals in the group in relation to one another. We were able to point out what people were passionate about in terms of group dynamics and to recognize the responsiblities of each person to pursue and introduce the elements they wanted to see (i.e. prayer, songs, deep theological debates, etc). This was also balanced with the idea that we must be sensitive to how assertive or non-assertive each person may be, and we made a group decision to be sensitive to each person's hopes and desires for the trip. Discussion is something that I personally want to see and have and be a part of, and since that time, we have already had some really provocative conversations. I would say that it was something I was looking for in the trip and had not yet experienced, and I have begun to feel more connected and affected in the last 2 days. As an example, just today Jeff and I sat and had a disucssion about divine election and free will vs complete sovereignty. Jeff has come to hold a rather Calvinist view and I was hoping to learn more about these topics having never really researched or discussed them. Also, I bought Compendium, a collection of theological conclusions written by Aquinas at the end of his life, and we were able to use that as a springboard for some of our discussion. I really enjoy being intellectually stimulated and for the first time on this trip had a really complex and abstract conversation. I am being challenged in ways about personal issues that I did not expect and would not have thought to have any bearing on this trip. I know the rest of the group is experiencing the same challenges with personal issues. So I will leave you with the new contact information. We are staying in Derryvolgie hall which is a dormitory of Queen's University in Belfast. I am pretty sure this will work...

Derryvolgie Hall
49A Derryvolgie Avenue
Belfast
BT9 6FP
Tel: 028 9068 2848
If you try this without success, you need to look up some type of general number for Queen's University (housing) and ask for Derryvolgie hall. I say this not because I am uncertain about the information itself, but becuase it is a large hall and there is not someone working the desk 24 hours a day. So I don't know if we would always hear the phone. Best of luck in any case. I would promise to post again in 24 hours, but then the internet would not work and we would all be frustrated again, so stay tuned without expectation.