We took our vacation in May and fully intended to write while we were on vacation, but that didn’t happen. Our vacation this year was to visit wonderful friends in Ireland. We’ve been to Ireland to visit them before and thoroughly love Ireland!!!
The first time we went, 12 years ago, our friends, the Schusters, had just moved there as missionaries. We went to visit them, and my husband (Meg’s dad) helped them move their belongings from their first place of ministry in Spain to Ireland. That visit was my first time out of the United States (other than Canada), and the trip was full of wonder over a different culture and how beautiful the country is! I loved going to the market nearly every day since the refrigerator in their rental house was about double or maybe triple the size of a dorm fridge here! I couldn’t believe it! But Gerry’s market was a couple doors down, and I loved to walk there and pick up whatever Becky or I, depending on who was cooking, needed for meals. One time I walked across town to a larger market, but it wasn’t as far as walking across town here since Skerries downtown area is fairly small. I loved their rental house and the location! Their rental house was three stories but narrow. So the bottom floor had the master bedroom, another room they used as an office and a bathroom. The second floor had a dining room, kitchen and living room with a balcony looking out over the Skerries beach that was right across the street. The third story was smaller and just one big bedroom with a bathroom of it’s own that we got to use as our bedroom and bath while we were there. And as I already mentioned the beach was right across the street. There was a little red-headed neighbor boy, Peter, that followed Meg everywhere. And he was bad with names so he kept calling her girly with his full Irish accent! The first week we were there my husband, Steve, and our friend Jon were gone all week to Spain to load a moving van and bring back their belongings. The Schusters, at the time we were there, were just settling into this new rental. They had only been in the country six months. Much of the time I helped with whatever projects Becky had to help her get settled in which included making meals sometimes. Speaking of meals, I never truly had an Irish meal that visit. That fact disappointed me later when we were at home and I realized I’d been to Ireland and back and never ate an Irish meal. When we ordered out, we had pizza or Chinese food from places nearby! That food was good but still not Irish food. But the first day we arrived (flights to Ireland are overnight so you arrive in the morning), they took us to a castle to keep us awake during the day. It’s the best way to adjust to the time change…staying up until the locals go to sleep…no napping during the day!! So that was a wonderful way to start a trip…visiting a castle with a big yard for the kids to run and play and kick a soccer ball around and a garden to visit with the roses in full bloom! The second week we were there Jon was able to do a day trip or two with us but again they were just settling in and much of their time needed to be focused on settling in and preparing for their ministry there. Jon did take us to Powerscourt and Powerscourt waterfall. Powerscourt, by the way, is an estate which was the filming location of part of The Count of Monte Cristo movie. We saw that movie after we had been there and recognized Powerscourt when the count was landing in a hot air balloon supposedly in France! But we also did at least one day trip by ourselves and went to Malahide castle on the train and walked around Malahide. We got a kick out of how they pronounce Malahide with the emphasis on the last syllable. And we worshiped in the Schusters’ church on Sunday. The church met in an elementary school so they had to set up and take down each week and the experience of worshipping in a different culture of course was new to us as well. So I remember that trip as a time of wonder and marvel at the new culture and surroundings.
We always hoped to make it back to Ireland but didn’t for 10 years. Finally, we decided to go again before Meg graduated high school. We didn’t know how much we would take family vacations after she graduated so we wanted to make it back before she got busy with a life of her own. So in 2014 we got a small missions team together from our current church and went for a 10 day mission trip there. We also stayed the remainder of the second week to have a small holiday with the Schuster family. As our second visit to Ireland, I remember this visit more as a time with other team members who had never been there before seeing things through their eyes. We talked a lot about the differences in wording that they use versus what we use in America. For instance, they call a garbage can a bin. We would say to get in line but they call it a queue. Or to say you’re going to the bathroom or restroom they would say they’re going to the toilet. We worked on a project at the Schuster’s home, worked at a Christian retreat center with some projects there, did some painting at a neighbor’s home, participated in leading children’s church at their church which meets in a community center and participated in prayer walks in their current town of Rush and their former town of Skerries. As church planters they have moved on to this newer church, and we enjoyed worshipping with them as well! The second week after the missions trip was over, we travelled across country to some locations to see some tourist sites such as Bunratty Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, Lahinch beach and the city of Galway. As we prepared for this missions trip and went on the trip, I remember being hit by the fact that less than 1% of the inhabitants of Ireland are evangelical Christians….much like other western European countries. I’m sure I knew that the first time we went there, but in a culture so modern it seems like that fact is out of place. I would expect that fact to go with other cultures such as the jungles of Brazil or tribes in Africa or some place like that. But for people in Ireland who speak English so there are no language barriers, it just seems so wrong. On this trip I fell more in love with the country, but also the people that are so lost and need desperately to hear the gospel message of Jesus’s free gift of salvation. Not just hear it but accept that free gift and let it transform their lives!
This year we went in May basically as just a family vacation. We had our own rental car and as the Schusters are busy with their ministry and daily life we spent much of the time on our own doing mostly day trips from their home in Rush. We went back and revisited Powerscourt, and we’ve been to Ardgillan Castle each time we’ve been to Ireland. But we also visited some new places as well. And we did some sightseeing with their family, mostly on the weekends, and just spent time with them in the evenings and weekends to see what their daily life is like. Traveling in our rental car we found a Christian station on the radio. But mixed in with the Christian songs from America such as Francesca Battistelli or King and Country would be a few Christian songs from European artists but mostly clean non-Christian songs from America. We kind of thought they mixed the non-Christian songs with the Christian to attract more listeners maybe. Again on this trip I marveled at the beauty of the country and wondered if people that live there right across from a beautiful sight would ever become used to the beauty, and it wouldn’t stand out to them so much as someone seeing it for the first time. Then I remembered that back home in Michigan we live in a rental on a lake. When we first moved there almost 6 years ago now, I was astounded by the beauty right outside my window each day. We see the lily pads on the lake, the swans swimming about and an occasional sandpiper crane or blue heron. But more recently it’s become more common place probably just as the sights in Ireland to those that see them every day. But I guess the fact that really hit me hard this trip is that Ireland is such a beautiful country but the people there still desperately need the gospel! I talked with Jon about the needs there as he saw them as a missionary there now for 12 years. He said they need church planters. Some people that he told me about in the southern part of Ireland travel two hours to go to church on Sunday and then two hours back home. That’s what they have to do there in some parts of the country to attend a church that believes the same as they believe. That would be like us traveling two hours up to our former church in Grand Rapids to go to church each week. We were talking about this fact with some friends of ours here in Michigan after we returned from Ireland in May, and we counted about 12 – 15 churches right here in our little town. No, we don’t believe the same things as all of them, but there’s more than one that we do have common beliefs with that we have a choice right here of which church to attend all within about a 20 minute drive from our home. We also visited Northern Ireland for the first time on this trip. By the way, Northern Ireland is a totally separate country with allegiance to the Queen of England and British flags flying. We stayed overnight at a Bed and Breakfast there, and God had placed us in a Christian home for that overnight stay. We talked with Valerie and her husband in the morning at breakfast, and they found that we were Christians. We ended up talking with Valerie, after we had eaten, for quite a long time. She was pleased to find we have friends that are missionaries near Dublin. And she expressed how different Northern Ireland is from Ireland in that Northern Ireland has many more Christians and evangelical churches. She expressed the need for missionaries in Ireland as well. I enjoyed talking with her and hearing her viewpoint of the need for missionaries in Ireland as a resident of Northern Ireland.
Another regular feature we will be including on our blog is interviews with women that have insight into careers and vocations that may interest you as well. We will be posting our first interview with Becky Schuster who is our missionary friend in Ireland.