13 July 2013
Ireland feels a little like Israel: every corner you turn you discover another piece of fascinating history. So poor Ruth had to endure another day of satisfying my habitual cravings for all things historical and archaeological. And County Meath has much to offer such an addict!
Newgrange is a massive passage tomb constructed over 5,000 years ago making it older than Stonehenge or the Great Pyramid of Giza! Nestled in a bend of the Boyne river in Ireland it is a UNESCO world heritage site and rightly so. The archaeologists tell us It is also a place that had astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, much like the cathedrals of more recent years.
It never ceases to amaze me – that instant sense of bonding in the Holy Spirit that comes when true Christians meet for the first time, even across cultures and nationalities. And that was certainly the blessed experience Ruth and I had when we met at the midweek evening meeting of the church in Castlebar that Calvary Mission has recently established.
We met in the house of Stephen and Nikki Childs as their children, Saoorse and Eoin, were just being put to bed. We had a wonderful time talking and praying with Stephen, Nikki, Andrew and Larry about things of the Kingdom, the state of Christ’s church in Ireland, and the work God is doing through them in Castlebar. It was heart warming to witness the commitment and dedication of these disciples to live 100% for their Saviour in this key town in County Mayo.
Stephen and Nikki grew up on the west coast of Ireland and moved a year ago to Castlebar after education and work in Ireland and London; Andrew and his wife are from the US and been in Castlebar from April 2012; while Larry is a native of Mayo. They are looking forward to September when two new families join them, and they hope to start meeting regularly on Sunday mornings in a venue that will make it easier for people to come along.
After our time in Westport with Paudge we had the wonderful opportunity to see County Mayo in the exceptional summer weather. So we spent a wonderful afternoon/evening driving round the coast from Westport to Achill Island to find at Keel the most amazing of beaches full of children swimming and surfing in bright blue water against white sand and clear skies. Ireland is just not meant to look like this!
In the midst of all this fun and beauty, a God-given discussion with a dog walker turned into a deep talk about spiritual matters. It drove home a point Paudge had been making about the cultural environment of Ireland: unlike the UK, and despite the recent public failings of the established church, gloriously the Bible’s words are still respected here and are a sound bridging point for sharing the true Gospel of Jesus. Continue reading
The Octagon, Westport
Wednesday 10th July
Our first full day in County Mayo started with a major discovery: inside two weeks we had been in two places with public spaces that were, for obvious reasons, called “Octagon”. The first was in Budapest, Hungary, and the second in Westport, County Mayo. Perhaps you know of more places by this name?
We were in Westport to meet Pastor Paudge Mulvihill who is the experienced but unassuming leader of Calvary Mission – a network of Christians working together to establish Bible-centred churches in the West of Ireland. Paudge is also a key partner for One Mission Society in the Republic of Ireland.
Tuesday 9th July
The fun of a road trip, wherever you are going, is the excitement of that chance discovery. Turning off the main road just south of the city of Galway to find somewhere for lunch we stumbled on the quietest of bays in the complex of inlets that is Galway Bay. Aging traditional fishing boats lay haphazardly on the shingle beach in an all-enveloping silence that was so deep that the munching of grass by the sleepy cows was as piercing as a jumbo jet passing over Trafalgar Square, and the fishermen a mile away on the mill-pond still bay could be heard chuckling over a joke.
Monday 8th July
Even born in Scotland the pronunciation of Gaelic names comes as a challenge to me, whether in Ireland or the West of Scotland. And with no k, q, v, w, x, y or z in the core alphabet the English speaker gets very confused by the combinations of letters used in, for example, my daughter’s name Mhairi (pronounced “Vari”) and Cobh (pronounced “Cove”).
However difficult to pronounce, Cobh is a beautiful spot in the heart of what is said to be the second largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney Harbour. It has a lovely water front of brightly painted shops that reminds me of a bigger version of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, and still gives a great view of the military and container ships using the port. And the quite modern cathedral towering above the town is well worth a visit for its fresh architecture. Continue reading