Hope Is Rising: Craigavon, July 12, 2012

Northern Ireland is the last place I wanted to come to for a missions trip. They have a queen, plenty of churches, and it’s not the third world. But when I prayed, God confirmed that this was the trip for me. So here I am. But what an amazing time it’s been since touching down in Northern Ireland Saturday. We went right into an estate Celebration Church has gained access to, able to show the love of Christ by picking up litter around the complex.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? But it is. Craigavon is not like Jacksonville. In Jacksonville,if you come t someone’s property to clean, it’s viewed as an act of kindness. Here, you have to receive clearance before doing something like that. By the way, it has taken almost a year for this to occur. In fact, the morning we flew in is the same day Pastor John got the ok. Our time has been full of moments where I’ve felt we were making an impact and serving like Jesus did. Time does not permit me to tell you about all the things we’ve been allowed to do and experience.

Tuesday was my breaking point though. We were at the Hub, the place where Celebration holds its services. Nearby, there’s a trail that leads to several different estates, and linking the trail are a series of short tunnels.

Last year, the places were filled with trash and offensive graffiti. This year, because of what God is doing with Celebration, those walkways are now clean. The walls have been overwritten with verses and prose of hope. We turned the music on, we touched the walls, and then we began to weep and pray. God has been so good, but there is so much work to be done. For myself, all I felt was hopelessness. I couldn’t stop crying.

A few teenagers Pastor John knows came around, and he spoke life into them in a way that was real and effective. Looking into their eyes though, they seemed dead to me. I felt sad. John and his team are so patient, willing to love these kids and tell them the truth. All I kept hearing them tell the kids was, “We love you. We’re not going anywhere. That’s a promise. We believe in you. We believe in you.”

The rest of the week was more of the same, except something was different after watching this. My hope was increasing.

The next day we went to Monaghan, and we volunteered at a community center where a get-together was being held for Open Door Ministries participants. Everyone was there–the broken, the hurting, the abandoned. The widow, the orphan, the wanderer. And God allowed us to fall into the mix, sometimes serving, sometimes being served. Always loving, always feeling loved. It was so easy.

And there were kids here too, all ages were there. Something had changed in me though, God was letting me see something. As desperate as their situations are, when I looked into their eyes, what I saw was hope. My heart lifted.

Today is the July 12th, a day when Northern Ireland sees many riots and car fires. In fact, Pastor John told us this evening that earlier today a bus we had ridden two days ago had been torched. It’s getting rowdy and will probably stay that way for the next couple of weeks.

But the staff, they inspire me with their youth, their energy, their smiles and fierceness. Because of what God is doing in them, something continues to resonate.

Hope.

I didn’t believe in Craigavon before, but I do now, not because of the people though, not because of what I see on their faces. I realize now that it really doesn’t matter what I SEE. It matters what I believe. And I believe in our Awesome God Who does the impossible. He’s doing a work in this place. He’s changing hearts and empowering His people. What He’s doing is a miracle. And I am hopeful.

 
Be Blessed,
Shannon Middleton

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~ by Celebration Missions on July 12, 2012.

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