The eV&B Bulletin

My Mission to Ireland

eV&B Bulletin: August 26, 2009

eVB logoEnough time has passed since I returned home from my mission to Ireland to reflect on the event and gain some perspective for this report which I now present to you.

First, I thank God for the abundant grace that allows me the honor of representing Him. The longer I stay in this line of work, the more I recognize the great privilege and duty represented in 1 Thessalonians 2:4. Our privilege is found in the first part: "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel." Our duty is found in the second part: "...even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts." It is my prayer that when God tries my heart, He finds a place suitable to dwell.

Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Along with my thanks to God, I also give thanks for all of you who help shoulder the financial burden of this ministry. May I always prove worthy of your investment in me, to the end that "fruit may abound to your account" (Phil. 4:17).

You might find it funny, but I found this report much more difficult time to write than usual. I hate to admit this, but one thing I enjoy about my trips to Africa is how difficult they can be. I like the challenges I face, both external (the cultural differences, the transportation) and internal (how I deal with those difficulties in my mind). I like the adventure of it. In Ireland, the greatest distraction I faced was how much I enjoyed being there. My "tourist" mode was constantly trying to overrule my "minister" mode. Happily, being aware of the conflict helped me deal with it. Although I was in a vacation paradise, I was not on vacation from my vocation.

Only God is able to truly judge, but as far as I can tell my mission to Ireland was a wonderful success. I had been invited there to teach a group of young people, aged 13 to 20. What made this week so special was that the young people themselves made the invitation and not their parents. As a result, they came to class eager and willing to learn. It was truly my honor to be their teacher.

That is not to say that the parents had no part in the success. In particular I commend Aine Lucas for an amazing job of organizing the event. She led the event with such grace that no one actually felt they were being led! The other adults freely volunteered their service. We pitched in to help with the cooking and the cleaning up. The result was a rich blend of leadership and cooperation, with plenty of room left for the Lord to leave his personal stamp.

I arrived in Ireland on Thursday, 23 July. John Kelly, whom I had not previously known, met me at the Shannon airport. As it turned out, his wife Ellen was departing for the US at the same time. John brought me to his home to rest and returned to his office to finish work. John is the Chief Executive of the Irish Chamber Orchestra at the University of Limerick. More important, he is a man of faith, love, and devotion.

That evening we dined at the home of Adrienne Purcell, a vivacious woman if ever there was one, and a fabulous cook. She herself was hosting another American, a Christian musician from Colorado named Scott Powell. (The Yanks were just over-running the place!) The next day Adrienne took us on a tour of the area, which included a tour of the music hall where John works. It was a very nice time.

On Saturday morning, John and I drove to Ardmore in southeast Ireland. The journey took about four hours and the fellowship along the way was splendid. We arrived at the summer home of Neil and Vivienne Bourke. I’d met Vivienne at the Weapons of Our Warfare class I’d taught in Cornwall, England in 2000. I’d only met Neil in March of this year, at their home in Holland, during a long layover while I was on route to Kenya. After a short visit, John and I drove down the road to the Ardmore Holiday Homes where two cottages had been rented for the week. Once there, we saw that the others had arrived and a joyful reunion began.

Ardmore translates into Irish as Árd Mór, which means "Great Height." Saint Declan, a predecessor of Saint Patrick, founded Ardmore in the 5th Century, and he is its patron saint. We arrived in Ardmore at the end of the pattern festival (from the word patron) held in his honor. I had heard of a "pattern dance" before in the Irish song, "Star of the County Down" but I thought it was something like a square dance.

On Sunday night we joined the local festivities but instead of the traditional music I was hoping for we heard the "Counterfeit Blues Brothers" from Northern Ireland. "Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho!" All in all I heard more American music than any other kind while in Ireland, my only disappointment. But quality made up for the quantity, especially when Neil Bourke sang for us.

My seminar ran Monday to Friday, 26 to 31 July. I taught the class I most enjoy presenting, "If Ye Do These Things, Ye Shall Never Fall," two sessions each morning. The week’s schedule had been set up for classes in the morning, touring in the afternoon and recreational fellowship in the evening. While the young people were in class, the adults held their own meetings as well.

There were 12 students in my class, ages ranging from 13 to 20. There were three brothers from England (Darragh, Aidain and Conor Lucas); two sisters from Switzerland (Natasha and Sarah Bucher); four siblings from Holland (Neil Jr., Eoghan, Jim and Orla Bourke); a brother and sister from Holland (Shaunna and Jaimie Calpin); and Sarah-Louise Waterhouse from Southampton, England (whose sister Laura-Beth had stayed home to mind the family business). I presented my material more as a discussion than a lecture and I probably had the best time of anyone. I loved their inquisitive minds and open hearts to learning, and that they were not satisfied with simplistic answers. The week flew by, and I was very happy when they told me they wanted our fellowship together to be an annual event.

My last days in Ireland were spent in Connemara, near Galway, at the homes of Josie and Máire Ui Choisdealbha and Bob and Brid Ashford. (Máire and Brid are Aine’s sisters. I also met their brother Padraig). Helen Gilson, Mary Calpin and her son Jaimie, and Eoghan Bourke were also with us. If I go on too much, it will seem like I’m boasting but suffice to say it was a wonderful, wonderful time.

Click HERE to see some photos from this occasion.

Perhaps a new phase of work is opening up for me. I've been invited to present a similar seminar targeted to Maasai youth next summer in Morogoro, Tanzania. Lord willing, I'd be pleased to accept the invitation.

James 4:15:
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

I am beginning to understand why Paul requested prayer "that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds," (Colossians 4:3). The door that needs opening isn't political. It is the door to peoples' hearts that needs to be opened. As a worker together with Him, I know the joy of teaching people whose hearts have been opened by God, and with whom He has granted me grace in their eyes. I pray that hearts will open to hear the message God has given me to present not only abroad but in my homeland as well.

Thanks again for your love, patience and support.

2 Corinthians 13:14:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

In the service of His Majesty, the King of kings,
Rev. Tim Sullivan


The eV&B is now Tim's Blog.