Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Tensions

I arrived back in Belfast on Monday afternoon to 60 degree weather that felt wonderful after the 110 degree heat index in New Orleans.
I will post another response soon on the YAV trip to Iona and my trip to the Fund for Theological Education conference in New Orleans...

I just wanted to post a quick word that, if you have been following the recent headlines for the UK, Belfast has been making the news.
The flashpoint is about 1/4 of a mile from where I work and about a mile from where I live. (I can hear the helicopters buzzing around as I type this.)
The summary on the site covers it all:

The riot in east Belfast was another reminder that Northern Ireland has a peace process but it does not have peace.

The number of walls between Protestant and Catholic areas has risen in recent years rather than fallen.

Outbreaks of violence are relatively rare these days, but tension in some areas continues to simmer.

One night of rioting normally leads to another in Northern Ireland. The challenge facing the police is to stop an isolated problem escalating.


So, no need to worry about me - I don't live near the flashpoint.
But please pray for the people that do. Pray for the cross community women's group whose poetry presentation tonight had to be postponed; pray for the cross community youth gathering which was canceled.
Trust takes time to build and all too easily crumbles when the uncertainty of violence and mob rioting brings flashbacks to times of fear.
The 'peace walls' remain and are added to in number. 'Peace walls' such as the one that provides the landmark for the current site of the rioting. '

So many factors playing into the current tension that there is no simple answer to 'why now?', just the general response of heavy sighs and shrugs of shoulders.
Pray for the parents, pensioners, and children who can't sleep with helicopters buzzing overhead and petrol bombs bursting nearby.
Pray for the people in the area - both victims and abusers - that all might come to know peace with themselves and with others in the place they live.

In grace and peace.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Traveling Mercies

Well, it's back to 'normal' life in Belfast... But not for long!

My visit with Mama Foltz was absolutely fantastic. Absolutely.
Our trip to London was awesome. We did the tourist-y stops: everything from Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral (yes, we made it up to not just the Whispering Gallery, but even up to the Stone Gallery: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/Climb-the-Dome... thought Mama Foltz might not make it down with her heart still beating.); we also visited the Globe Theatre (such a good feel to the place - it's definitely on my list to see a performance there!), Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, the Courtauld Gallery, the National Gallery, the Handel House Museum, the Churchill War Rooms, the Tower of London, and so much more.
We also got the chance to get tea with one of my W&M friends who had been studying in London and enjoy a dinner with my second cousin who is also a student in London.
We sat two feet away from the choir during Evensong at Westminster, took a boat from the Tower of London to Westminster, and wandered in the light rain around Hyde Park/ Kensington Gardens.
Overall, a simply splendid holiday that I got to enjoy with my mom. :)
She was a trooper who kept up with my fast paced walking, absolutely clicked with the people of EBM as she tagged along to activities with me, and even spent the night in Newark last night as her plane to St Louis was delayed until this morning. She is a superstar.

Yesterday and today have been busy catch-up days at work full of e-mailing, catching up on some smaller projects, leading a Bible study last night, and general planning of activities.
This next week marks the conclusion of most of the children and youth programs at EBM until summer schemes later in the summer.
Unfortunately, I will not be in Belfast this next week for these activities.
A little bittersweet: I am sad to be missing the epic end of the school year festivities, but there are adventures awaiting!

The YAVs head out for our last retreat of the year to IONA, SCOTLAND. For those who are unfamiliar with Iona, it is a small island off of Scotland which holds tight to its early Celtic Christianity roots.
The group will then head to Edinburgh for a couple days there, but I will be catching a plane back to the United States...

I applied to a fellowship program through the Fund for Theological Education called 'Volunteers Exploring Vocation.' I was accepted to the program which comes with monetary support and also the opportunity to meet with other soon-to-be seminarians who have also done a year of service.
I will be in NEW ORLEANS, LA, from Wednesday to Sunday for a conference during which we will have the opportunity to do a service project within the community off of which we will base many of our discussions for the weekend.
It should be absolutely fascinating... and hot.
I received an e-mail a few days ago with the main packing requirement being 'hot weather clothes.'
So, I will be going from chilly 50-degree Belfast/Iona to humid 100-degree New Orleans.
This is going to be a fun packing job. :)

So, adventures are in store; never a dull moment in the life of a YAV.
Traveling mercies are much needed.
In peace and grace.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

LONDON!

Hey all -

It has been a very full week since Mama Foltz arrived!
Along with sightseeing Belfast, she has been tagging along with me to my weekly activities - getting to experience Friday Fusion, Kids GAP, and Friendship Circle, to name a few.
It's been great!
My mom, unfortunately, did get to experience the chaos of last Friday when there were 14 bomb threats made throughout the Belfast area, in effect, bringing all traffic coming in and going out of the city to a complete stand still.
I thought the excuse of 'I was late to work because of the bomb threat' was a thing of the past. Unfortunately, it was the truth as we rushed to make it to Friday Fusion on time. (And I say 'rushed' - sat on a bus in standstill traffic for an hour on what would otherwise be a 15 minute journey.)

On a much happier note though, this weekend, we are off to LONDON! We fly over tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.!!! (I have never been to London before; so this is very, very exciting especially since it's with my mom!)

Also, happy 100th anniversary to the Titanic! In East Belfast on May 31, 1911, 150,000 people lined up for the launching of the Titanic down a slipway into the Belfast Lough. It was then floated into a dry dock to be outfitted further.

So good night, and I will post further reflections upon my return.
In grace and peace.