Ireland - the Emerald Isle with just a wee bit of history
Nov 1, 2022
What a week! Another week has flown by with much activity. I arrived to Dublin on the 21st and stayed the night in an airport hotel before flying out the next morning to Kerry in the south (after a 2 hour delay mind you). I was picked up by Pam Fulton, my pastoral care member with YFCI. She had already been touring with a young YFC missionary from the US who serves in Africa. The sight seeing began immediately as we drove through Killarney national park on a somewhat misty and rainy day. Nevertheless the scenery was beautiful as we made our way around the ‘ring of Kerry’ a world famous coastal drive. We stopped off for lunch in a small coastal village where we had the most delicious beef and Guinness pie. Then we made our way to the Kerry Cliffs, made famous by films such as Far and Away and Star Wars. The scenery is what you think of when you think Ireland, jagged cliffs with emerald green fields, and WIND! It was so windy in some places that you felt you could lean into it and it would hold you up!
We continued our way around the picturesque drive and made our way back to our airbnb just outside of Killarney. The next morning we awoke to blue skies and thus were treated to a delightful drive through the gap of Dunloe - stunning mountain views, fast flowing streams and serene lakes. It was made all the more entertaining by the sheep dotted throughout the countryside, who seemed to be more like goats than sheep from some of the spots we saw them in. Pam also had to navigate the narrow winding roads, shared by numerous driving tourists, walkers, locals in a hurry and horse and carriage tours - not to mention the odd sheep or 10 grazing by the side of the road.
The lovely village of Killarney was not too far so we spent the rest of the morning doing some souvenir shopping then lunch before hitting the road again to Kilkenny. On the way we stopped at the famous ‘Rock of Cashel’, the ruins dating from the 12th and 13th century. It is said that the King of Munster was converted here by St Patrick in the 5th century. When we arrived in Kilkenny we had a quick look in St. Mary’s Cathedral, which had stunning mosaics and a record of the bishops dating back before the 7th Century. It is so amazing to see this kind of history recorded. It was Pam’s birthday so we enjoyed a pub dinner at Kytelers Inn which included being entertained by some amazing Irish music. That evening we met up with Robert Harper at the ‘Lighthouse’ - a ministry centre which aims to be a light in the community. They are renovating a building to be a youth hub as well as to provide other services to the community. Each Saturday night they have an outreach youth night with table tennis, pool and games. It was fun getting my ‘table tennis’ talent out. We stayed with Robert and his wife Colleen on their beautiful farm called Cobblers Hill. They have been involved in mission for a very long time, with Robert having been on the board of Operation Mobilisation. They are also good family friends of the YFC Ireland director. We went to church with them the next morning, which was a ‘missions’ morning with the speaker being from Asia Link. He highlighted the fact that 60% of the world’s population live in Asia and then had a focus on Nepal where they are training local evangelists. After church, Robert took us to have a very quick tour of Kilkenny, driving by St. Canice’s cathedral, which has a round tower from the 9th century, then walking around the lovely Kilkenny Castle which is set by the River Nore. We were then treated to wonderful Irish hospitality back at the farm with a lovely homemade lunch of meatloaf and vegetables. In Ireland, you never get potatoes just one way, so we had both mashed and roasted potatoes! After hearing lots of fun ‘God’ stories over a cuppa, we departed for Mullingar where YFC Ireland is based.
After finally finding our airbnb after an errant google maps pin, it was a little disappointing to find that it hadn’t been cleaned or made up after the last guests due to a scheduling error! We managed to find the clean linen to make up some beds in the huge, 7 bedroom house. It was nice to have some down time on the Monday after a busy week. On the Tuesday, Pam collected Ember from the airport then we made our way to the youth Hub, YFC Ireland’s base. We went out to lunch with the team then had a ministry time back at the Hub with Ember leading worship and myself sharing some thoughts on prayer from my book. We also had the opportunity to pray for and minister to each of the team members. It was a beautiful time of encouragement for all. In the evening, the team came to our Airbnb where we feasted on homemade pizzas and a charcuterie board, then played a fun game of ‘fish bowl’. Each person wrote three different things on a piece of paper, which then went into a ‘fish bowl’ (or next best thing). We were divided into two teams and the first round involved a person describing the thing without saying the word, the second round involved acting it out then the third round was just saying one word (and if you said ‘umm’ that was counted as a word). Such a blessing to have fun and fellowship with people you’ve just met but immediately feel like family because of our YFC connection.
It was time to hit the road again on the Wednesday, with a couple of stop offs on the way to Belfast. Firstly, I had a much needed haircut. Then we made our way to the ‘Hill of Slane’, where the ruins of Slane Abbey are. It is believed that in 433 AD, St. Patrick, lit a large celebration fire first on this Hill. Each year, the tradition continues to light an Easter fire.
The second stop off was Dundalk, where Ember’s great, great grandfather came from. We had a late lunch there then made our way to Belfast. On the Thursday we drove for half an hour to the town of Bangor, which is famous for the Abbey started by Saint Comgall in 558. He trained missionaries, many of which went to the continent, and also established a pattern of prayer and worship that went on for 300 years. We had a look at the small museum and, while having lunch in the cafe, were interrupted by a fire alarm! We had to evacuate for a while. It ended up being a false alarm with a staff member setting a smoke alarm off with burnt toast.
On the way back to Belfast we stopped by a beach for a quick look then met up with Tommy Stewart, the chair of YFC Northern Ireland and an International Board trustee. It was such a blessing and time of refreshment meeting with this passionate man. After a quick dinner back at the airbnb, we headed into the Assembly Buildings for the first night of the 24-7 Prayer Conference. It was a wonderful night with worship being led by a South African, including one song with Zulu lyrics, and 5 different national directors of 24-7 prayer sharing briefly, including Trudi Sayers, the director in Australia. Her and her husband Mark lead Red Church, which meets in Blackburn, less than a 10 minute drive from where I live! I also did relief teaching with Trudi, many years ago in the Box Hill area.
The next 2 and half days were taken up by the conference, with so much to take in. My favourite talk was by Tim Mackie from the Bible Project. You can watch any of the sessions here with the password 1Samuel3v9. It was also lovely to meet a young Australian woman who was there by herself and is currently doing a school of ministry through Awakening Europe in Germany. She even knew one of the Australian YFC workers. The conference finished Sunday lunch. We had our final lunch with Pam. She made her way back to Dublin Airport on the Sunday afternoon while Ember and I rested. There’s so much more I could share about the week in Ireland but you’ll have to ask me in person if you want to know more! I departed very full, and with only two and a half weeks left of my trip, feeling ready to get back home to process everything that I’ve learned. I’m now back in England, visiting YFC colleagues in Harrogate, Yorkshire. Onto Birmingham next!