Saturday, February 19, 2011

Halfway here, halfway home

This past week marked my halfway mark. I have been in Northern Ireland for exactly 5.5 months and have about 5.5 months to go. Halfway here, halfway home, depending on your outlook on life.

How am I settling in?
It's been awhile since I was asked that question, which is very much indicative of my state in Belfast. While it doesn't necessarily feel like my permanent 'home,' one still uses the phrase when heading 'home' from a day of work. It's definitely feeling like a home.
Two weeks ago, I was working across the street from Stepping Stone, the office of EBM that I usually work in, and it was definitely weird not being a part of the everyday banter and hustle of the place. As I returned back to my normal routine these past two weeks, it feels just like that: my normal routine. Being comfortable and confident in the work that I am doing.

What exactly am I doing here?
Everyday bring different tasks and activities. Since I am working on Sundays, my 'sabbath' day varies from week to week. Sometimes I take a Monday, sometimes a Friday, sometimes a Wednesday, etc.; every week it's different.
The past two weeks have had me leading a Sunday evening worship service, doing multiple pastoral visits, helping out with Friday Fusion and Dance Nation, helping brainstorm and look at the larger calling of East Belfast Mission as the organization moves into Skainos, and much more! I also have had the pleasure of leading Friendship Circle multiple times as we have explored the topic of 'remarkable, but ordinary people.' This has more or less culminated in a craft project: decorating picture frames using cut out words from magazines to form a collage on the frame. In the frame we will put a picture of someone in our lives that is 'remarkable but ordinary.' The women have done a wonderful job! I will hopefully get a group picture of it over the next few weeks as we do a 'show and tell' time. :)
Life has been very full as I have been helping and thinking and dreaming and talking and a small share of 'doing.'

What is one important 'lesson' that I have learned here?
"Listening is a rare happening among human beings. You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance or impressing the other, or if you are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking, or if you are debating about whether the word being spoken is true or relevant or agreeable. Such matters may have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered. Listening, in other words, is a primitive act of love, in which a person gives self to another's word, making self accessible and vulnerable to that word." - William Stringfellow
The importance of listening can't really be overstated. I have learned the most about the people of Belfast by simply listening. It's often hard to slow ourselves down long enough to listen to others, but it's so important.
From listening comes understanding, and from understanding trust can be built. There has begun to be more listening in Belfast, but the people have not begun to truly understand and trust one another. Just by listening to people's conversations, particularly their rhetoric of 'us and them,' one hears the 'peace walls' and murals that are present in people's minds and not just in their neighborhoods.

Vocab lesson:
suss it out = work it out
Ta = often used to end a conversation, more or less 'thank you', often taught to younger children in place of 'thank you,' but used by all generations
peelers = police
yer man/ yer woman = often used in conversation to generally mean that woman/man

We are off on our second retreat to Ballycastle (city on the North Coast) on Monday. It's hard to believe the second retreat is already here!
The weather has been lovely lately. Some days of rain and cold, but generally the next day brings back mild temperatures and weather.
In grace and peace.

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