Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hiya. (Aka hello in Norn Irish)

Ethos: the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution.

This word has been used many times by several sites we have visited in Northern Ireland. While it’s not that it’s a new word to me, I would not say that it’s a common word in American vocabulary. In a conflicted society, does a person’s/ group’s/ community’s ethos become vital in discerning friend from foe?

Yesterday concluded our orientation with Doug Baker. We ended up having the morning and early afternoon off, so we got to run some errands! We scoped out our local library, registered with a doctor (while we don’t have access to NHS funds, it’s best to sign up for a doctor before becoming sick), and concluded by making our first trip to the grocery store! It was altogether a successful morning. And after the guys came over to East Belfast, we had some more free time before Doug got here, so we wandered over to a local park to throw a Frisbee and soak up some Vitamin D.

I know I have been talking about the weather a lot. I guess my response is to say: get used to it. :) Weather is a big part of the experience of living in a foreign country. We have been so, so, so spoiled since we’ve been here. Only two rainy days so far, and today was another gorgeous day of sun and warmth. The greenness of this country really comes through on sunny days.

So we concluded our orientation with Doug yesterday, and today was the first day for us at all of our respective sites.

Today was AWESOME.

I met up with my site supervisor (Mark) at 9:30, and over tea and coffee, we talked for almost 3 hours about what at EBM I might possibly be involved in, life stories, theology, and many other side tangents. (The conversation was not linear in anyway; we jumped back and forth between many topics throughout the discussion!)

I spent this afternoon socializing with the Friendship Circle (a group of older women in the church). Mark and I traversed in a minibus around East Belfast to pick up members of the circle, and we then socialized over tea and biscuits (and my favorite: CARAMEL SHORTBREAD), sang some songs, and a short devotional. It was awesome/ amazing/ astounding/ marvelous/ fabulous/ prodigous/ stupendous/ wonderful. Heck yes synonyms.

In blog-form, it might not seem like I did anything today. Not true. Let me explain a little about the philosophy of the YAV program, the PC(USA)’s approach to mission, and ultimately, the purpose of my time here in Belfast.

Young Adult Volunteers do not go out on a converting mission. We do not go out to save the world – neither the soul-saving version nor the eliminating poverty, hunger, or social injustice superman approach. First and foremost, we are here to “be” more than “do.” During my time in Belfast, I am here to forge meaningful relationships with people of all ages. Through simply being here, I impact people’s lives. In a society where self-worth is often belittled, I am here as a confident American woman who wants to go into ministry. (Already gotten a few comments on how rare female clergy are. Yes, they are rare. I’m hopefully part of a trend to change that. God loves, cares for, and calls all of God’s children, regardless of society’s prejudices against gender, race, sexual orientation, or age.)

I am a firm believer that people never stop learning. Our perspectives on the world are constantly being challenged and reformulated because of interacting with other people. We all bring gifts, talents, and experiences to the table, and through sharing them, we can all grow. Cross-cultural exchanges are especially a beautiful thing.

During my day today, I met dozens of people: some workers at EBM, some members of the congregation, some members of the surrounding community. I am so excited about being a part of this web of people. I pray that in our interactions I can learn from them and likewise they can learn something from me.

If there is to be peace in this world, communication – particularly a dialogue in which all sides have a voice – must happen. We must be able to admit that at the end of the day, we are human. And who are we to say that we are right about something and the rest of the world is wrong??? That is only a useless monologue in a world in which only a select few are truly hearing. Burning of the Qur’an is not an acceptable form of communication.

A bit preachy of a blog post, but it's a year of service for a lifetime of change. Just trying to spice up the details of everyday life with some deeper reflections.

May there be peace in Northern Ireland, throughout the world, and in your life.

In peace and grace.

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