Sunday, May 20, 2018

Day 13, May 19: Last Devotion and the end of this year's Belfast Peace Project

Our last day in Northern Ireland!! We are sad to be leaving Corrymeela. We began another sunny day with devotions given by Mike. He mentioned all of our 13 days of activities and then he led us in his adaption of the Beatles song, “Friends.” Next we loaded the bus and took our seats. There was some conversation but the majority of us fell asleep.

We took a break just outside of Dublin and enjoyed the countryside views until we got to the airport. We said good bye with a massive “group hug” as Paula, Don and Mary Alice are continuing on a tour so they returned to the bus for a ride to their hotel. The rest of the team  made it through the Irish TSA, and even the USA TSA, with no problems at all!

As we sit in the plane thinking about the past 2 weeks, old friends and new friends of Northern Ireland, we are thankful we have been able to share this country of beautiful sights and people.

The 2018 Volunteers In Mission Belfast Peace Project Team

Friday, May 18, 2018

Day 12, May 18: Rathlin Island

Today will be our last full day at Corrymeela. We are scheduled to spend it on Rathlin Island. The day starts with breakfast at 8am.  There were a few disappointed when they were told they would not be getting porrage this morning. Laura provided devotions from a book her Bible studies group is reading, "A Cup of Our Life". After which were were introduced to our tour guide Kevin Mc Gowan. Kevin provided us with a brief overview of the island, it’s history and what were would be seeing.

We are on our way for a ferry ride over to Ratlin Island. Waters were calm and the sun once again warms us.

We were met at the ferry by our bus driver, Bert, for a meandering trip up the hill to the Westlight Seabird Centre. Were we took a stroll down to the lighthouse and the cliffs below to observe the Sea Birds of Rathlin: Guillemot; Kittiwake; Fulmar; Razorbills and the Puffin.
It was interesting to learn that the adult puffins spends approximately 4 months on the cliffs,  just long enough to have their young and 8 months out at sea. The young live at sea for 4 years then they will return to the same area to have their young.


Back on the bus for a ride down the hill for lunch at the Manor House and a presentation by Michael Ceisel on Refugee Rescue.

 With minimal time left we were able to get a quick walk in with Kevin along the water as he pointed out bits of information. Unfortunately our time was short as the ferry is already loading for the main land. On the ferry ride back I had an opportunity to sit next to a couple, Michael and Bernadette, locals, that had recently retired and were also enjoying the day out as tourists (his words).

We had a nice ride back to Corrymeela along the coast. Dinner, followed by review of time at Corrymeela and a wee bit of music at a local pub. Our journey will end with one last supper of hot chocolate and toast together. Most of us will retire to pack our bags for the journey home. Some will leave behind to continue on for another week of seeing the beauty of Ireland. For the rest of us we will be taking home many wonderful memories of time spent with friends both old and new ones we have met along the way.

Submitted by Liska Gibbons

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Day 11, May 17: Giants Causeway, work at Corrymeela, Ceili Dancing

Lynda lead us in devotions with a brief discussion of Jay and Mary ( a nun and priest). They were married and when Jay passed away and she became a Catholic priest.  She also started  a school in Troy. 

Lynda started our day off with an Apache and Celtic Prayer.

We left for a short bus ride. I closed my eyes and just listened for awhile to all the sounds on the bus, the different conversations, the laughter and stories. It was like sitting around the dining room table with family. The ride along the coast was breath taking. The different colors of green in the fields. All the sheep with their young.

We arrived at the Great Causeway. It took us a bit to finally get our tickets after we found the correct place for the bus to park.

My first reaction when seeing the cliffs, rocks and sea was WOW!

I walked on the rocks for a little but then I just sat and looked out to the sea. it reminded me of Maine in some ways, the water washing over the rocks. If only the rocks could tell their stories. Four of us got our picture taken near the organ pipes. Glad we did since I found out later we needed proof we had actually walked all that way.



We had a short time in the gift shop which was good. 

We had great lunch at the Smugglers Inn that Rod said was the Snugglers. Yes, Kathy even ate her peas.

Back to Corrymeela where Lynda tried to get us to sing on the bus. No takers!

We then spent some time doing gardening at Corrymeela under the watchful eye of Yvonne and Alastair. We all worked in the two gardens. Half of us worked and planted tulips on the side of the main entrance. We worked with Alaistar Kilgore the volunteer gardener. The other group chopped Australian flax. We cleared the area of debris. 



And much more:


While we were having tea Alaistar came in to thank us for our work. He was very pleased with everything we had accomplished. We were fortunate to have great conversation with him.

Dinner was a little different than last night since 50 children joined us. The noise level was quite high. 

They have a service at the Croi in the morning with 30 minutes of silence.  The group at my table had our 30 minutes of silence tonight.

Then we went to Ceili Dancing with an Irish Dance Instructor . A few of us learned some new dance steps.  We all might be a little sore tomorrow.  It was very enjoyable with plenty of laughs. Owen even joined us and seemed to like it also.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Submitted by Kathy Mascelli

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

10th Day, May 16: Derry with Jon McCourt and Adrian, Karin Eyben and Gavagh Forest School

Starting the day in one of the most beautiful places in the world! Experiencing a majestic sunrise, filling the sky and sweeping up across the hills of the distant lands, down the shoreline, across the sea, up the coastline of Ireland, and into your soul with the Creator's Peaceful Presence...A sunrise for ALL God's children everywhere.

Moving devotions by Rod...moving original poem, greeted by a caring staff that is a joy to be around. What better way to start the day, Praise God!

Rod's Poem


Many brave souls planted the seeds,
one venturing act at a time,
holding visions of healing petals 
opening some bright shining morning, 
fluorescent sheaves centered on love at the heart. 

Now the caretakers 
labor to nurture forgiveness among the weeds of retribution and anger,
and the brambles of resentment and backsliding. 
They watch and listen with open discernment. 
They act in cultivating harmony. 

All are needed -
Brave pioneers and committed cultivators,
those whose faith overcomes violence, jealousy, and tribal hatred
one emerging seedling, growing shaft, rising stalk, whirling vine, or stalwart tree 
at a time. 

Bless the gardeners of peace!

Ray Davis had a vision of the need for a place for peacemaking even before the "Troubles". People from Ireland and all over the world have come here to be the recipients of that purpose. One thing you realize is how much you are in need of that peace making in your own life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, on this journey, you begin to change.

In Derry we met Jon McCourt at the St. Columb's Cathedral, which also served as a fortress during the siege of Derry by King James II. Jon went over a brief history of the various invaders of Ireland, the vikings, the English, Scotts, French and even an attempt by the Spanish.

There has been ongoing distrust between the Catholic and Protestant Communities, but they are now working together to resolve many issues. He said the youth of today say "it his not our war", it was a war by their parents.

A good sign is that they have started festivals where both Catholic and Protestants attend, and there have not been violence!

Jon, who had been an active IRA member stated he realized that there were "too many deaths, what's the point". With tears in his eyes he said I carried too many coffins.

After lunch we met with Adrian Callan, also a former IRA member. He spoke movingly of his 11 year imprisonment, and was part of the hunger strikers. If the women had not come out and insisted they stop their hunger strike, Adrian and many of his imprisoned friends, would have died.

They all decide to put down their guns and find a better way. The motto became "we needed pencils in our hands" instead of guns, meaning they could achieve civil rights through their votes.

In the evening we met with Karin Eyben, who talked about her community work in the Garvagh Forest School. All participated in discussing her program.

Submitted by Don Washburn

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

9th Day, May 15: Carrickfergus, Glenariff Waterfall Nature Preserve, Corrymeela

Doug led us in daily devotions today drawing from 1 Cor:13, exhorting us to trust steadily, hope unswervingly, and love extravagantly. We applauded his stirring rendition of “You Raise Me Up.”

Shortly after 10:00 a.m., Eion arrived from Corymeela with a bus to take us on our day’s journey.

First stop: Carrickfergus Castle. Our tour guide, Simon, explained that Carrickfergus dates back to the Norman invasion of 1066.

This castle remains one of the most intact Norman castles in Ireland and Britain and had a continuous military presence from its inception until 1928. Its cannons have been fired only once, serving as a warning shot. The castle has survived attacks by Scotts, Irish, English and French, and served as an air raid shelter for the people of Carrickfergus during WW2. Although nearly surrounded by salt water, there is a fresh water well in the center of the castle which was crucial in staving off a siege which lasted over a year.

The ultra-primitive loos and damp winding staircases convinced us that none of us were cut out for full time castle life.

Leaving Carrickfergus we embarked upon a 75-minute ride along the Antrim Coast passing rolling meadows filled with swaths of yellow, blue and white wildflowers with sheep and cattle lazily grazing under gray-blue skies. Bright hillsides, yellow with gorse, greeted us around each turn as we passed through small coastal villages of Larne, Drains Bay, Glen Arm and Carnlough.

Arriving at Laragh Lodge, we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch, anticipating a spectacular walk in the forest. Glenariff Waterfall Nature Preserve lies within Glenariff Glen, known as “Queen of the Glens”. The deeply wooded gorge is marked by pools, rapids and multiple, breathtaking waterfalls. Songbirds and abundant wildflowers, ferns and mosses graced the trails.

A quick round trip through the Glen:

Following a “wee tea” and desserts at 5:00, we again boarded the bus, heading this time to Corrymeela. We traveled through markedly hilly country on sharply-winding, narrow roads passing miles of stone walls. We arrived at Corrymeela on Rathlin Sound at 6:00. 

Corrymeela has existed over 50 years as a place of refuge and reconciliation where all may be safe and be heard. We look forward to spending four nights here.

The day ended with a light supper of stew, an evening worship, and a beautiful sunset.

Submitted by Mary Alice Nyhan

8th Day, May 14: Skainos, Belfast City Tour

Today was another beautiful day in Belfast. The sun was shining as we ate breakfast and started our day with devotions.

Today was spent at Skainos, the East Belfast Mission, supported by the Methodist Church. We were greeted by Fiona the volunteer coordinator who gave us the list of jobs that were available:

Fiona then brought us up to a conference room to see a presentation by Andrew, another administrator at Skainos, to give us an over view of the work being done at Skainos.

 Mike gave Andrew a donation collected from last years team, in memory of Margaret Furgeson, who the team had worked with for the past 5-6 years.

After Andrew's presentation, we got a walking tour of the facility with Gary.

Because the jobs we would be doing were spread out in Belfast, we decided to have a slightly early lunch before heading out. We ate the cafe in Skainos. They had a very nice selection and high quality food.

Then it was time to work. We broke up into three teams. Three people stayed at Skainos to do dishes. Four people had a five minute walk to get to the Re:Store of Connswater. The last group of six took taxi's to the Re:Stores in Park Center Mall.

The group that stayed at Skainos as it turned out, did not do dishes. The cook really needed them to dice onions and cut peppers:

 They were so fast with the task that more tasks needed to be found. They had the fun of breaking down boxes which we are all sure was tones of fun.

 They toured the vegetable garden, helped 5th years students with their homework and cut out admission tickets and raffle tickets for an up coming fund raiser.    

The group that walked to the Re:Store were assigned the task of cleaning and organizing the store. One of the piles of stuff they needed to sort to be sold. A skateboard was found, cleaned up and displayed and within minutes it was sold for 6 pounds. There was also furniture that they cleaned up and fixed from the supplies at the store so the item would be sold more easily. They even improved a vanity table by changing the table top with a wicker item and adding shells to make it more presentable. They organized books and toys and cleaned and organized brick-n-brack.

The team of six worked in three stores. The Re:Stores were actually in a mall. One store was household, furniture and clothes, across the hall was the children's store with toys, clothes and books and then down around the corner was the bridal shop. Two people cleaned up and organized the bridal shop:

 Two people cleaned and organized the children's store

and two stayed in the home store and moved furniture that was sold, to the back room so it was ready to be delivered and then hung up clothes and steamed them without scorching our fingers.

The Re:Stores were run mostly by volunteers. At the mall stores, in the children's store and bridal store, our team was the sales people. The bridal store is only open three days a week because they cannot get the volunteers. The children's store sold some items by helping customers.

Tonight was dinner at Fratelli Italian restaurant.

 Our team got Judy to come out of retirement to give us a city tour in the evening.

No tour would be over without pictures of a few true Irishpersons in our group:

Submitted by Darcianne Leizer