I buckled my seat belt, and waited patiently for take off, while my mind pondered on the events of the past three days. I left Hamburg, Germany with my husband and my team of colleagues, heading to Ireland for two weeks of ministry, service, and cross-cultural enrichment. Little did I know, my week would be cut short because of my impending health issues. I sat there as the pilot announced, “we are ready for take off!” wondering if I had dreamed the whole thing, or if this was really happening…Another bucket list item scratched off my list, however short-lived.
During my last day in Hamburg, I was already feeling “under the weather”, as I was fighting a stubborn cold that somehow managed to get a hold of me. Nevertheless, I was so excited to finally visit Ireland, nothing was going to stand in my way, or so I thought. See, for many of us Ireland is right up there with Paris, France, the Pyramids in Egypt, Berlin, The Holy Land, Buckingham Palace, The jungles of Africa, the Amazon River, etc. These are places you only dream of visiting or seeing beyond the screen of a television, or the pages of a travel magazine. Ireland was a childhood dream. I had been so captivated with what little I knew about the country, that I began writing a novel where the context of the story was set in Ireland, my main characters were a pair of Irish twins who were orphaned due to a terrifying event in their early childhood, and although there is (not surprisingly) various other destinations in the course of the story, Ireland is the main focus of the story. Wow! I did so much research on the island, the culture, the climate, and landscape for the purpose of getting my context right for the novel that you would think I lived there! Now, I had the chance of a lifetime to step out of the dream and into reality. Not gonna lie, I was as gitty as a girl who had just been given her first Barbie doll!
To say that Ireland is beautiful is actually an understatement. The island is spectacular and rich with history and color. There is so much green everywhere you look, but what makes Ireland truly precious is its people. I travel extensively, mostly around Europe and the Caribbean. in my travels, I have the honor of meeting people from different cultures, and all walks of life. That is probably my favorite part of what I do; meeting people, listening to their stories, and learning from them as I share my own story. Every destination has been unique and special, and I have always left each place with a deeper understanding of God’s love for his people. The Irish are some of the kindest, and friendliest people I have met in all my travels. They are very hospitable and accommodating, with a hint of sarcasm, yet not offensive, simply fun, and casual. I love that about the culture! they take a lay back attitude, yet they are productive and hard-working.
One characteristic that became interesting to me is how much the Irish appreciate their history. They find beauty in their green hills, and valleys because there is rich history there, and interesting legends and folklore. Their Celtic ancestry is very important to them. The dialect is interesting as well, and honestly at times it was hard for me to tell whether it was English I was hearing or Gaelic (Irish native language). I loved that when we asked for directions, everything seem to be 10 minutes away. There are several beaches also, this being an island and all. I was only able to see one on a morning when my husband, Brian decided we would do our workouts at one of the nearby beaches so we could catch the sunrise. It was 7:00am, but sunrise didn’t come until 8:30, long after our workout was over! So yeah, we missed it! It was also too dark to appreciate the beauty of the beach on that very cold morning. Brrr…
While I was with the team, we engaged the Solid Rock church (our host church) in a prayer service, where we served through worship, testimonies, and my colleague Kellie Calhoun delivered a powerful message. We also served at a Sunday service, where Brian preached a challenging message, as well as an inspiring ladies meeting, where I shared my testimony, and leader Elaine Marrett challenged us to release our inner warrior. We were also able to visit and partnered with an organization that focuses on culture connections in Drogheda. Our good friends Sharon Tuite and Michaela Marrett took us on a tour around Drogheda. The city had the English influence structurally speaking, yet its flavor was definitely the joyous “top o’ the morning” Irish flow we were learning to love.
Unfortunately, since my time in the island was so limited, I was only able to visit some memorable sites like, New Grange, Millmount Fort, St. Laurence Gate, Mainistir Bhuithe, Slane Castle in Co. Meath, and on my last day there, our friends Paul Barnett and Matej Ivankovac took us to Dublin for a tour of the city.
I missed out on many things I wanted to see because the angina pain ramped up, and I ended up sitting at a cafe resting while the team toured. I cried a lot that day because I knew then, we had to make the hard decision to send me home because it was just a matter of days before I would end up in the hospital (we’ve been in this situation before-six times already!).
That evening, I packed my bags, gave my precious Abante family a heartfelt goodbye, and early in the morning Brian reluctantly drove me to the airport. I felt deflated and confused as to why things happened the way they did. But as we neared the airport, I noticed the sunrise. Wow! It was the first time I had seen the full sun in the past three days. The sky was covered in tones of pink and bright reds; it was glorious! I felt a warmth in my heart I cannot explain. It was as if God was letting me know, all would be fine. There, beautiful Ireland was sending me off sun-kissed and in peace. After waving goodbye to my sweet husband, I resolved to shed no more tears during my flight. A simple, quiet surrender as I rested in the Lord’s arms, helped me prepare for arrival and an immediate trip to the hospital where I underwent my seventh Cauterization procedure this year.
I have no understanding of why things happen the way they do, however, I know this; my heavenly Father is in control! He is perfecting me with every personal encounter, hospital stay, every story I hear, and every new opportunity to love his people in any part of the world. What an amazing life I have been given, and what precious memories I get to keep in this most peculiar journey. 3 Days in Ireland…