We’re here for ‘Encounter’. It’s the summer mission and discipleship program for Irish and American university students that Serge co-sponsors with Christian Unions Ireland, the Irish version of InterVarsity. We have 9 American and 8 Irish student interns for the summer, 4 other American young adults who serve as 2-year apprentices with Serge, a variegated crew of Serge and CUI staff, and a few other visitors mixed in.
Right now we’re in the middle of two weeks of intensive teaching and reflection on our identity in Christ, grounded in Serge’s ‘Sonship’ curriculum and a detailed study of Galatians. Then the interns and apprentices will head out in small teams to serve Irish churches for two weeks. That’s a big deal because most of our Irish students are actually from the Protestant Bible belt of Northern Ireland, which is a whole ’nother country. They’ve had very little experience of Catholic Ireland here in the Republic and this will be a significant cross-cultural challenge for many of them. We’ll come back together July 7-10 to debrief and say good-bye to our Irish participants before the American interns and apprentices go out again for two more weeks of team outreach. Then one final end-of-program debrief before the Americans go home on August 2. It’s quite an intense – and hopefully transformational – summer for these young adults.
And what’s my part? I led some of the initial cross-cultural training sessions – déjà vu all over again since in many ways this is similar to InterVarsity’s summer missions program we used to direct in Kenya back in the 1980’s. (In fact, I’m feeling practically ancient because one of the Serge staff visiting from America is the daughter of a couple who were InterVarsity staff with me on the Kenya program before she was even born. I am so old.) During this segment I’m leading one of the small groups through a manuscript study of Galatians – again shades of InterVarsity over the years – and I’ve been assigned to mentor two of the young women interns through the spiritual formation material. And mostly I’m here to learn in more depth how Serge does ministry in Ireland, because Encounter is a big piece of it.
But I confess I’m secretly relieved that I don’t have to go out with the student teams… Instead, this marks the watershed between the two parts of my six-month stay in Ireland. The first three months were focused on settling in, getting to know Ireland and Irish people, and meeting folks working in various church ministries and theological education. The second half started last Monday when I gave up my seaside apartment in Dun Laoghaire, became homeless (I don’t know, does ‘vagabond’ sound better??) and launched out on what I think is going to be a three-month whirlwind of ministry connections and building relationships for my role as theological education specialist within Serge:
- 8-24 June: Encounter training
- 30 June - 7 July: Academic biblical studies conferences, Tyndale House, Cambridge, UK
- 7-10 July: Encounter debrief
- 22-29 July: Serge Ireland ‘Prayer Summit’ – see here for more
- 29 Jul - 2 Aug: Encounter final debrief
- 6-11 Aug: Society of Biblical Literature International meeting, Berlin, Germany
- 12-21 Aug: Vacation in Germany/Prague/France (I’ll already be there and I’m homeless anyway, so I might as well enjoy it!)
- 28-30 Aug: ‘Textual Scholarship on the Bible’ conference, Dublin
- 31 Aug - 2 Sept: British New Testament Conference, Dublin
Yeah, it sounds a bit crazy even to me. I’ve found it works best if I mostly think about what I’m doing now and not too much about whatever I’m going to be doing next. But I’m very grateful for this crazy, amazing, overwhelming, significant ministry that God has allowed me to be part of – and for the many of you who make it happen through your prayer and giving. “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Cor 9:12). Thank you so much!
Vacating my Dublin apartment... So there's the bag to go to my team leaders' house until I leave for India in September, the bags to store at the church until I get back in 2018, the bag to go to the US with a colleague next week, and the bag to haul around with me for the rest of the summer. And my carry-on/computer bag.
What are the odds that I managed to get all the right things in all the right bags...?
They're here! American university students arrive in Dublin for Encounter
Encounter training in full swing... with a little relaxation at the pub next door thrown in
Love these people. My Serge 'Metro Dublin' team: Team leaders Tom & Vicki Gilliam (2nd & 3rd from left) and 2-year 'apprentices' Kristen, Jes, Katie, and Amy.