“It’s hard to believe it’s basically over.”
That was a phrase used by one of our students tonight to describe his feeling of impending closure. In all honesty, it does feel that way. Today we packed up our belongings, cleaned our way out of Coleraine Methodist Church, and took a coach about four hours south to Dublin (with a brief pitstop in Belfast to visit our favorite author). With the exception of performing our skill groups in downtown Dublin tomorrow afternoon, our ministry in Ireland has concluded; but let it not be said that we didn’t go out with a BANG.
While our ministry in Derry / Londonderry was varied depending on the day, our ministry in Portrush this last week was consistent, with virtually the same schedule each day. We partnered with The Surf Project to facilitate a week-long holiday club (or VBS) for children aged 6-12. Our team could not have been more into it if they tried. Each day we arrived by train at roughly 12.03pm. Basic set-up each day was followed by lunch, squeezing into wetsuits, fellowship with The Surf Project team, and a bit of collective worship and prayer before welcoming the children at 1.45pm. Our team was divided into two groups: ‘in the water’ or ‘on land’. The Water Team assisted the Surf Instructors in building relationships with the kids and helping them catch waves in the surf. Simone Bergeron in particular connected with one young girl who seemed unwilling to have anyone else assist her on her board. They were a great pair.
The Land Team spent their time leading each particular group. Mariah Maddox and Reagan Vaughn led with the Dolphins (age 6-8) and Abby Schmidt worked with the Sharks (9-12). They spent all afternoon with the same children as they transitioned from surfing to crafts and story time to worship. The surf camp averaged about 50 kids each day and our team loved on them in a great way. One of the kids, Adam, even wrote a thank you card for everyone who had worked at the camp saying that this had been the best week of his life. How beautiful is that? To be able to serve God and share Christ through something as simple as leading a child out into the surf. What a joy and privilege.
Each day, as the camp wound down our team was out ferociously washing rash guards, wetsuits, and water boots. This was an arduous process and often led to damp clothes on previously dry bodies but our team sang and laughed in spite of a little water. About the time we had finished debriefing how the day had gone, we would leave the church at around 6.30 with enough slack time to catch our 7.03pm train back home.
It is difficult to think that, yes, our ministry in Ireland is basically over. We’ve left our second ministry location and by Monday night we will be in London. We may never return to Portrush or Ireland. Or pick up a surf board. We may not see those children again this side of Heaven, but as we so often remind our students (and they will hear it again throughout debriefing) this was always meant to be a summer of service for a lifetime of ministry. So actually…
…it’s basically just beginning.
For the Ireland Team,
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