I had so much fun during our two week stay in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland a couple weeks ago. We got to know a lot of the youth in the community in a couple of the schools. To end our stay, we had a Celebration of Light, where we invited people of all ages in the community to join us for praise and worship, story sharing, and prayer. We had a good handful of youth come to the evening- on a Friday night- and they even hung out with us for a couple hours after the event was over! I am so excited for the youth in Downpatrick, I know we helped “set a fire” in their souls and helped them get excited for their faith. I can’t exactly explain it, but I have a really good feeling about the youth in the Downpatrick area, especially the future of youth ministry there.
After we were done in Downpatrick, we headed back to Rossnowlagh, in County Donegal, which is in the Republic of Ireland, but in the Northwest area. Rossnowlagh is close to Ballybofey, which is where the NET Ministries Ireland Offices are located. We went there because we had a visit with our supervisors. Basically, they watched us perform a couple retreats, we had a lot of meetings, and check-ins to see how we are all doing. It was a really good visit that I think our team benefited a lot from. We learned a lot of things and are getting back on track. Once that was over, we went to Delvin, in County Westmeath for a couple days. We had a Confirmation retreat that we put on, and it was agent themed and the students were around 11/12 years old. It was the first one I’ve done, because I was sick for the only other one our team put on in the fall. I absolutely LOVED that retreat. The students were great and we had a lot of fun putting it on with the theme and different activities we got to do.
Then, on Saturday night, we boarded a ferry to Wales! We have been in Wales for this last week, at one school- a 6th form college, which in the states is like the last two years of high school. In Wales, the school structure is fascinatingly different. I think because I was a teacher, I am interested in the difference in the structure and how it is beneficial (or not) for the students. Basically, they have high school, but it only goes until they are about 16 years old. After that, students can choose to be done with school and start working, find an apprenticeship, or they can go to college. College is an extra two years on top of high school and is required in order for someone to be elligible for university. So, they have high school, college, and university, and each of those is a different level of schooling. At the school we were at, because it was just a college, it seemed like it was organized similarly to a community college back home- at least that’s the easiest way for me to think about it.
At this school though, we had the theme of life choices everyday this week. I gave a talk two of the days, where I shared part of my story of how I made different choices after high school and university, and a lot of the story I share has to do with how I got to be on NET. I think with my story, and one of my teammates who shared their story the other three days, the students realized that we are just the same as them. We were there to share who we are, our experiences, and how when we let God into our lives, our lives changed for the better. Also, we do a lot of activities when we put on retreats, and just about every student came into the retreat not knowning what to expect. So, many of them were surprised that we weren’t just sitting there and praying all day long. We had about 60-80 different students each day, so we got to know a lot of people. I love being in one place for a few days because it allows us to make connections and to talk to people over a few days time, rather than being in and out and gone. I like the chance of follow up we have had for the last couple weeks, since we’ve been many places for multiple days.
Tomorrow/Sunday morning, we are going to hop on the ferry back over to Ireland. I am excited to go back but I will miss the people I have met here in Wales. I don’t know where we are headed next, but I’m learning to let go and try to embrace that I don’t need to worry about it! 🙂