Earlier this month, we had the unique opportunity to visit Northern Ireland. For those of you who may not know, Northern Ireland is not just the northern part of Ireland. It is actually a whole separate country. The Republic of Ireland (where we live) is part of the EU, whereas Northern Ireland is part of the UK. We went to meet up with Rick Cherok and a group of college students he brought from Cincinnati. For those of you who haven’t heard the back story, Rick is the very person who we met at ICOM in 2015 at his Celtic booth and told us about Stephen and Alisa and their need for teammates. So he invited us to join him and his team at the Murlough House in Dundrum. We had so much fun packed into 3 days that I don’t know where to begin. We were told that Northern Ireland was beautiful, and we were not disappointed! Rather than try to describe the views, we will let you see for yourself with some pictures, although they really do not do it justice.
Here are some highlights from our trip…
C.S. Lewis Tour
One of the days, we went with the group to Belfast and did a little C.S. Lewis tour. He was from Belfast, and they are very proud of that fact! We were able to go to his birthplace, his childhood home, and his church. Across from the church is a door that has a lion’s head on the knob, and that is what inspired Aslan. We also got to participate in a communion service at his old church and use the chalice that he and his brother donated to the church when their mother died. After that, we went to the C.S. Lewis square where there were magnificent statues of Aslan, Mr. Tumnus, the beavers, the white witch, and a man at a wardrobe. To top it all off, the house that we stayed in was an estate of one of Lewis’s friends. He used to stay there sometimes during the summer, and the room that we slept in was one that he stayed in and actually wrote part of the Chronicles of Narnia in! Outside of the house we saw the trees that inspired the Beavers’ home and Prince Caspian’s tree.
We got to visit two very different castles while we were there. One was very much preserved and looked like you would expect a castle to look. Our favorite though was the ruins of another huge castle that we went to. Walking through it was like stepping back into time hundreds of years ago. And climbing the spiral staircase to the top left us with a breathtaking view that was hard to leave.
The Murlough House that we stayed at was connected to some woods, a series of paths in big fields, and it led right to the beach! We joined the students in looking for sea glass that washed up on the beach and found some beautiful pieces. We also did some sand dune climbing to reach a fantastic view of the beach, the mountains, and the fields and valleys in one panoramic scene that we will not soon forget.
Two nights that we were there, we went to a youth center called “The Bridge.” It was made to help bridge the gap between the Catholic and Protestants in their town. We got a chance to hang out with some cool young people, play games, and sing with them. It was very interesting to hear about their lives and schooling. Many of the older teenagers had already finished “college” and were working full time jobs. It was a neat opportunity to see how the youth center worked there and possibly get some ideas and connections for a future youth center here.
As much fun as we had exploring new places and seeing some amazing sites, the best part was the relationships that we made while we were there. The students from CCU were a crazy combination of funny, spirited, talented, smart, adventurous, and caring young people. They made us feel like we were in college again! We had a blast with them playing mafia, exploring together, sharing about our time in Ireland, and learning about their lives and ministries. One of the students, Abby, even joined us in the car as we followed the group to Belfast and managed to get lost in the middle of the city. (We found the rest of the group about 30 minutes later.) She was such a good sport and decided to stick with us the rest of the day anyway! We look forward to seeing where God leads them and hopefully have them visit us in Galway sometime!