I believe I mentioned previously that Derry is the place to be on Halloween…at least for those who enjoy the festivities of this ghoulish celebration. In the evening, people in outlandish outfits come from all over to view the fireworks, walk the city walls, visit the markets and…hit the pubs.
Anyway, Krystyn and I had arranged a scavenger hunt for our International Society group on Friday morning. We had created a list of sights to see or things to do (each designated a specific point value) throughout Derry. Each team would have to take photos or videos of themselves with each of the items, and extra points would be awarded for creativity. We’d asked everyone to arrive at Magee at 9:45 am and planned to start the hunt promptly at 10 am. Well, 9:45 came and only two had shown up. We soon found out that most of the group had stayed out late the night before at the Halloween Ball in which alcohol had flowed freely. We almost gave up hope, but eventually most everyone (except for the exceptionally hungover) did turn up at 10 o’clock sharp. By that point, it was drizzling, the teams didn’t seem enthusiastic and we felt like the whole thing was a flop. In the end, everything was saved by the German team. They made a great video of their hunt and won the prize (afternoon tea at a cute cafe here).
In the evening, I planned to participate in Cornerstone’s Street Pastors outreach program. Every Friday night, we pass out tea, coffee and soup to people coming out of bars. Halloween night was my first experience. At 10 pm, our group of forty gathered, prayed and worshiped before dividing into teams and setting up in two strategic locations.
The first people to come by were the street police. My initial attempts to pass out the beverages were a bit clumsy…”Hi! Would you like tea, coffee or soup? Tea? No problem…” Grab tea bag, strain to remove a cup from the stack, pump water into cup, “milk or sugar with that?”, “two sugars and wee bit of milk coming right up,” rip two sugar packets, pour in, open milk, pour in, lid on, done. Phew. Sooner or later, we set up a bit of an assembly line and I got the hang of it.
People of all sorts came by. Some were tourists, obviously sober and not dressed up. Others, tell-tale tipsy, were wobbly-kneed or unusually friendly. Some ignored our offers and one retorted, “we’re not homeless!” Some walked past and said what we were doing was great. Some gave us their orders and pulled out their wallets, saying “how much?” Upon hearing, “it’s totally free!” one might be skeptical and the other thrilled. (Does this not reflect how people respond to the gospel?) Mostly, we were asked, “why are you doing this?” Score. That’s the question I wanted! What a perfect segue into our mission. I explained that we were with Cornerstone City Church and that in the Bible, Jesus tells us to be kind to others. Most people would nod and smile, but two young men engaged me in extensive conversation. It was amazing to hear the stories of the first, an 18-year-old with a delinquent past, difficult childhood and dysfunctional family. I felt for him, but was thrilled that he truly enjoyed our conversation. He also invited me out for a drink and a bite, but I told him kindly that I needed to man the booth, but he could definitely come visit our church!
The second young man was obviously very interested in religion, philosophy, debate and deep thought. We talked for quite a while and I believe he’d really enjoy Alpha. I hope he comes!
I even got an unexpected compliment from a drunk man. “You have gorgeous teeth,” he exclaimed. “Where did you get them?” I smiled, “They came with me.” He thought that was funny.
When we finished up at 2 AM, it felt like 10 PM. It was a fabulous evening and I’m so glad I went out.
Today, my friend Kelsa came to visit me in Derry. We had an absolutely lovely time traipsing through the city. I took her to the Guildhall, the city walls, Magee, the Bogside Murals and Austin’s (the oldest department store in Britain). We also popped into lots of second hand and vintage shops. There, we enjoyed donning hats and posing with mannequins.
For whatever reason, we were feeling very silly. There were many laughs – the crazy, cathartic kind that make you feel lighter, carefree and about 5 years younger.