Friends and family, I hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving! I was sad to miss seeing family during this special holiday, yet I was so welcomed and loved here in Derry, that it felt like being at home. In fact, I’ve already gotten about 5 queries regarding my Christmas plans from folks who’d welcome me into their homes if I didn’t have a place to go! (I’ll be in London, by the way.) Speaking of Christmas, I cannot believe it is December 1 today. If I had chosen to stay here for a semester, I’d be heading home in two weeks. Praise God I get to stay for another six months! Our Thanksgiving celebration here was held at the home of Troy & Noelle Rhodes, the American missionary family who work with kids at Cornerstone. About twenty people filled their wee home with love, light and laughter…and LOADS of food. We could have fed forty! The Rhodes handled the turkey and everyone who came brought a dish (or two) along. I took roasted garlic Brussels sprouts and sweet potato-apple sauce. Margaret was very kind and compounded a beet root jelly for me to bring along – a sort of savory pink jello with slices of beet. I took a picture of Noelle’s daughter, Olive, enjoying it.
Besides me and the Rhodes, there was another Northern Irish/American family, the four American interns, several girls from the church and Krystyn. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely! The interns and I stayed late and played card games with Troy, while Noelle skyped her family in America. On Friday, I met my friends from Magee Christian Union, Fiona Mercer and Marie Durning, and we headed out to Creeslough, a small town in Co. Donegal in the Republic. We were headed to a young adults retreat through Marie’s church. We had a fun time chatting as we drove west into Ireland’s most beautiful county. Once we arrived at the “glamping” site, we unpacked into our pod. What a cozy little set up! (Can’t take the credit for the pics below…they are from the website!)
For our sessions, we met in the nearby home of a man in Marie’s church. He is rarely there, and often offers his home for use. It was the perfect size considering there were about ten young adults and three leaders (Paddy De Lasa and Craig & Alison Johnston). It turned out that Paddy and Craig both used to attend Cornerstone, but felt led to begin a new congregation (Killult Christian Fellowship) in Donegal. Once I heard their story, I realized that I had heard about them from Cornerstone folks. Small world. On Friday night, we had our first session which went late (but great!). After a lovely sleep in the cozy top bunk, I and the others headed back to the house on Saturday morning for breakfast and a sequence of sessions. We discussed loving the Holy Spirit and not just using Him as a power to be harnessed. We talked about the early church doctrine of Christus Victor and that at the cross, Jesus defeated the Devil as well as sin and death. I had never really contemplated Jesus’ capture of authority from the Devil and his subsequent transferal of that power to his followers in the Great Commission. We discussed “extravagant expectancy” – how we often expect too little of God, not too much. We saw how Jesus not only brought salvation, but almost more importantly, the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. We talked about the fact that faith without risk-taking is not faith at all. There is so much more to tell, but I cannot write it all here. If you’re interested in discussing, let me know! That afternoon, we went out into the nearby waterside town of Dunfanaghy, in order to pray for the area and the people there. We were to practice listening for the Spirit’s direction if people needed prayer. It was a new experience, and a bit difficult. However, Fiona and I kept seeing one lady with her son who had Down Syndrome. I wanted to chat with them, and we finally got the opportunity. We then found out they lived in Derry and that Craig was her son’s teacher! As we chatted away, I felt led to ask her in what part of Derry she lived. No wonder. As soon as I asked, she said, “a street called Stoneypath.” No kidding. She’s number 3 and I’m number 2. We’ll probably have coffee together soon 🙂 Sunday was a lovely day to reconnect with Cornerstone friends. I had an opportunity to be “extravagently expectant” with Dori. As she has a little side business making jams and chutneys, Dori is very busy during the holiday season. Because she had to get all her wares ready for a market after church, she arrived late to pick me up and was a bit flustered. She prayed that we would find a close parking spot by church so that we could make it in time for part of the worship. Guess what? When we arrived, there was a perfect spot waiting for us right in front of the door! Praise God 🙂 After the service, I had lovely chats with many folks. Then, I finished off my afternoon enjoying a date with Diana.