Here you can find the updates from our Freshmen students studying overseas during January!
Ireland Honors Ireland 2014
Entry #13, Wednesday, January 22
(From Samantha Petersen)
Today was our last full day in Belfast but also in Ireland. It’s a little bittersweet as this amazing two weeks comes to an end, but I can honestly say I have learned so much from this experience. Meeting with different church leaders, talking with community members, and being able to engage in numerous historic Christian sites has opened my mind up to ideas I’ve never thought of before.
Before we headed out of Belfast, we had a chance to debrief with Dr. Roddy Cowie (Professor of Psychology from Queens University) and Rev. Steve Stockman (Minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, who helped host our visit). Dr. Cowie spoke to us on Sunday night as part of a lecture for the city-wide “4 Corners Festival” (http://www.4cornersfestival.com and https://www.facebook.com/4cornersfestival) about our responsibility to live out the Sermon on the Mount, and how God can use that to reflect His goodness to others. This morning we had the chance to ask him questions regarding his lecture and dive deeper into some of the issues surrounding reconciliation. One of the prominent topics was the division between the political parties that have permeated every aspect of life in Northern Ireland. Dr. Cowie challenged us to look for these divisive ideas back in the states. What kind of interactions do we have at home that seem functional on the surface, but are actually fraught with bias or a sectarian-type mindset? I think it made a lot of us examine how we unconsciously separate those we perceive as different from us. That was just one of the many questions and thought-provoking answers we discussed in our wrap up of the Belfast learning experience.
As you might have gathered, Belfast was a very heavy place. After years and years of conflict, the weight of sectarianism was palpable as soon as I entered the city limits. I originally thought I was going to hate every moment, but I was wrong. Our five days in Belfast gave me an opportunity to get to know the people that have been living through this conflict and not just the details of the conflict itself. I was able to meet people like Steve Stockman and Father Gerry, pastors of churches who have been on opposing sides of the conflict, but are now trying to work together to foster reconciliation. The youth of Fitzroy Presbyterian were willing to talk to a bunch of Americans about their faith and how it doesn’t reside in what flag flies over city hall, but in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The people who are working tirelessly to create peace projects like the 4 Corners Festival and the Unity Pilgrimage were inspiring in their tenacity to do whatever is deemed necessary to bring reconciliation even at the risk of their lives and reputations. In a city I thought I would strongly dislike, I came to love and care about the people who are still living in a very polarized part of the world. It was an honor to learn from people who have the power and the vision to change their country despite their differences.
After leaving Belfast, we headed to Newgrange. There are many mysteries about Newgrange because the civilization of that time period didn’t have any recorded history that we know of, but it is an example of what is known as a passage tomb. Now this is no ordinary tomb; it’s built into a hill with 97 stones surrounding the bottom, some weighing up to 10 tons. It’s main entrance is covered with white quartz quarried from 80 kilometers away. There are decorative designs carved into many of the stones around the outside, making this 5000 year old structure absolutely breathtaking. What I can’t seem to wrap my head around is that this Stone Age Culture was able to construct a cohesive structure (with rock they had to move by hand) over multiple generations of people. Because their life spans were so short and all the building processes took a long time, it is believed that the grandchildren of the original builders were the ones to finish the tomb. So this unknown civilization had some way to communicate the plans for this beautiful structure many years before we imagined thought processes like this to happen.
Another mind boggling thing about this tomb was the alignment created between the sun and the door. The door was created in such a way that the sun shines directly into the tomb on the winter solstice every year without fail. This shows that this prehistoric civilization had some knowledge of the workings of the sky as well as amazing architectural know-how. In case you couldn’t tell, Newgrange blew my mind in its complexities. I think the group as a whole were amazed that we could touch something that’s older than the Egyptian pyramids by 500-1000 years.
Newgrange was our last stop in a long list of historical sites we had the opportunity to visit the last two weeks. It was a great cap to our historic tour of Ireland.
We spent our last night back in Greystones before our big flight back to the States. Before heading our separate ways, Dr. Moeschberger led us in a time of reflection focusing on what we want to remember and apply to our everyday lives after this amazing experience.
I would personally like to say how much of a blessing it has been to be a part of such a great, intellectually challenging group of students for the past two weeks. These people have pushed me to be better in so many ways. I have left my comfort zone by trying new things, meeting new people, and ultimately entertaining ideas I’ve never even imagined. I am sure this trip will mark me for the rest of my life as a pivotal moment for my relationship with these people and my Heavenly Father. Going on an academic trip, studying Historic Christian Belief with 31 other very bright students brings so many layers of the Taylor vision together, it could have been overwhelming. Thankfully, wonderful leadership, great students, and the history-rich land of Ireland have made this trip challenging and stretching in all the best ways possible.
Tuesday, Entry #12-Our final day in Belfast, January 21 (Nicole)
It rained today. The weather was no different from every other day we’ve experienced in Belfast, but we learned material that did not match the gloom outside. This morning, we visited a streak of sunshine in Belfast’s rain cloud.
Skainos is a community complex that spilled out of a Methodist church’s sense of mission. Their 150-year-old congregation was planted at the corner of a minor Catholic sector and a major Protestant area of town. The relatively impoverished surrounding community still feels the aftershocks of sectarian violence. We met with the director of the organization, who outlined its mission for us.
Skainos contains a hostel, a theater company, day centers for the mentally ill and elderly, a trendy (but inexpensive) café, apartments, and the church’s sanctuary. I was most impressed, however, by the building’s symbolism. It begins with the facility’s name. The word Skainos loosely translates to “tent” in Greek. The meaning is twofold: the first is a definition of their meeting place as frail, removable, repairable, and disposable. The second is a reference to John’s description of Christ: “The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.” The congregation at Skainos wants to “pitch their tents” in the midst of their community and dwell with them. In a city full of territorial space, they hope to create a shared space.
The symbolism goes beyond the churches’ intended purpose and into its very architecture. The exterior of the building contains a four-story “vertical garden” wall, which provides a living, always-changing contrast to the bleak, concrete sectarian walls that separate Catholic and Protestant sectors in Belfast. On the inside of the building, symbolism is inescapable. The brick walls’ mortar spills over to cover the bricks, representing the Holy Spirit’s power to unify believers. Doorways, table legs, and even the lectern are angled to mirror shipbuilding cranes (a symbol of their community). A curved wooden ceiling (representing God hovering over believers) covers both the sanctuary and the café as a reminder that God is present in every place. Brightly colored ceramic bolts fill empty holes in the walls to mirror the beautiful, colorful, fragile human beings that hold the place together.
Every element of the spectacular modern building is symbolic. After almost two weeks of visiting high churches, cathedrals and monasteries, I was struck by the connection between those ancient places of worship and this modern industrial-style building. The symbols woven into Skainos’ building point to Christ just as much as the beauty of swinging incense, stained glass windows, and high vaulted ceilings. Through conversations with clergy of every denomination, I am gaining a greater appreciation for different expressions of worship.
In the afternoon, we heard an engaging lecture from Dr. Gladys Ganiel of Trinity College’s School of Ecumenics. She discussed the role of Northern Irish churches in reconciliation after the Troubles. In the evening, we met with local university students for pizza and traditional Irish music. We finished the night by learning a classic Irish Ceili from our new friends, and returning the favor by teaching them to swing dance. By the time we walked back to our hostel, the rain had stopped. We enjoyed the warm winter air and anticipated a time when the people of Belfast will fully clear their dark and overcast community.
Entry 12 continued- summary reflection, hopes, and prayers (Kate)
During our time in Belfast, we have taken in a fast and intense amount of facts and ideas encompassing the subjects of the Troubles, peace, and reconciliation. The more I have learned about these things, the more questions and complexities arise in my mind. God is stretching me to consider what it means to be a peacemaker. In our fallen world, division is a constant factor—relationally, racially, economically, etc. As Christians, we are called to reflect God’s image to the world, and a facet of this calling is to pursue peace. But how?
The organizations and individuals striving to build a better future for Belfast have inspired me to wrestle with this issue and I am beginning to connect a number of ideas based on their example. I believe that the starting point is to prayerfully discern what specific walls of separation are present in our lives. Then, we can begin the challenging process of critiquing our own positions and beliefs in order to root out and repent of our errors. Redemption will only be attainable when we stop dwelling in the past and instead focus on common goals for the future.
I ask that you would pray for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as our group continues to process and connect everything that has been poured into us. God has blessed each of us with this unique opportunity to learn—pray that we would be good stewards of this gift.
We send our love.
Honors Ireland 2014
Entry #11, Monday, January 20, 2014
(Written by Mitch Mays)
Dear Family and Friends,
I am happy to inform you all that God again has been gracious to us with good weather! Rain, clouds, and even most of the cold held off and allowed for a beautiful sunny day! This weather was especially nice since our big event of the day was visiting Giants Causeway.
The morning was spent on the bus ride to the Causeway. Most of us were relaxing and reflecting upon the talks we had heard in the past few evenings, it was nice to have some time to think. After arriving and eating a quick packed lunch, we headed off toward the Causeway. We were given handheld audio guides which explained the Irish legend of the significance of Giants Causeway.
After hearing the history of the place it was even more enjoyable to see it. The formations of the volcanic rock made hexagon shaped pillars which stretched a large portion of the coast. Everyone spent a while capturing photos with the beating waves in the background. We then trekked on and followed a steep path leading us back to the visitor center. While walking Dr. Moeschberger pointed out that Scotland could be seen on the horizon.
On our way back from Giants Causeway, we stopped at Dunluce Castle. Inside there was a place for the boats to port and unload material into the castle. There were a few nice spots to view the ocean from inside the castle. One such spot was covered in slick grass and about four of our crew found themselves getting a nice view from the ground!
Overall, the day was a breath of fresh air, full of time to clear our heads and contemplate the things that we had heard past few days. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we have been loving our time here and are excited to see what the next few days have in store!
Thanks for still being our family and friends,
The Honors Guildians
P.S. In a brutally close final game against Kate and Beth, Gabby and Emily claimed tonight’s Euchre tournament victory
Entry #10, Sunday, January 19
Hello Friends and Family,
After a wonderful experience at Clonard’s Saturday night mass yesterday, we were all excited to worship with their partner in ministry, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, this morning. Fitzroy is conveniently located just around the corner from our hostel. The pastor of the congregation, Reverend Steve Stockman, has been a friend of Taylor for years, and the church currently has an intern that graduated from Taylor in 2012. We were warmly welcomed by the congregation and enjoyed service together.
The message this morning blessed my heart and was very relevant to our studies on peace and reconciliation. The sermon was entitled “Rivers of Living Waters will Flow” and was focused on scripture from John 7. In this passage, Jesus cries out “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). God poured out living water through Jesus into believers in the form of His Holy Spirit, and in turn, we have the water of life to give to others. Reverend Stockman related these flowing waters of life to rivers. Rivers shape the landscape as we have seen firsthand on this trip with the flooding of the River Shannon. The living water of the Holy Spirit should be shaping the landscape of our lives, and we should simultaneously be shaping our surroundings.
The message was a great encouragement after the heavy day we had yesterday. All that is needed to change the landscape of this city and consequently our world is the Holy Spirit flowing through us and the power of commitment to Him. The power of the Spirit of God has been very evident to us throughout this trip especially in our times of worship together at Greystones and Clonard.
After the service, we talked with members of the congregation and enjoyed tea, coffee, and biscuits (cookies) which have quickly become a staple in our diet. We then had the wonderful opportunity to go to host homes for lunch and were blessed by the hospitality and kindness of our hosts. Pete, Elma, and Marie Greer hosted Sean, Rachel K., and I in their home in East Belfast. We enjoyed a delicious meal of orange chicken, potatoes, roasted peppers, fruit salad, ice cream, and lemon posset. I am convinced that we had the best host home (although I’m not the only one to make this claim) as we were graciously given dinner and a show as Pete serenaded us with a beautiful guitar that he made by hand!
The afternoon was spent back at Fitzroy listening to two staff members, Janet and Jonathon, speak of their experiences in the Troubles and their attempts at reconciliation between the Catholics and Protestants in Belfast. We then had a light dinner and free time at the church, and some our musically inclined cohort members found themselves fighting for a turn at the piano. We ended the day at Fitzroy with another Four Corners Festival event; Professor Roddy Cowie from Queen’s University spoke on “The Psychology of Peace in the Sermon on the Mount.”
Our evening was spent back at the hostel, and I am sure you will all be relieved to know that we were able to watch the Broncos defeat the Patriots. Scout bravely donned her Patriots jersey for the second time on this trip and then graciously endured mild mockery as our Colts fans experienced sweet revenge! In all seriousness, we have been so blessed with beautiful community and much laughter on this trip and are all deeply saddened to realize that our time together is quickly coming to a close.
Sending our love,
Taylor University Honors Guild
Entry 9, Saturday , January 18, 2014
(Written by Jessica Schulte)
Dear Family and Friends,
You’re in for a long update, as this was the single most challenging day of the trip so far. I hope you’ll read it through and get a bit of a taste for where our hearts have been over the last 24 hours.
This morning dawned to the realization that there were 32 students and 3 Graduate Assistants in this hostel (24 of them girls), and only 3 showers. Of all the team challenges we’ve faced thus far, this test proved to be the most revealing in regards to the strength of our communal bond. We pulled through alright, and even managed to avoid overwhelming the friendly hostel staff by eating breakfast in 20-minute shifts. On the bus Dr. Moeschberger warned us that because our week was so fully scheduled, this morning would likely be our last opportunity to shop in Belfast. Needless to say, we scattered like rats across the damp city streets (in groups of 4 or more, of course). During that time I saw the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream of getting a tattoo.
When we met back in the bus-sweet-bus at 12:30, cheerfully sharing stories of our escapades and/or embarrassing American behavior, the drizzle settled into a fog over the city, and with it came a bone-chilling gloom because we were headed to Falls Road. In overly simplified terms, Falls Road was the heartland of the Republican (Catholic) and Loyalist (Protestant) struggle during The Troubles. Peace Walls, the barriers erected to discourage the violence between adjacent Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, line the street. Some of these walls are decorated with murals bold in color and in theme. During The Troubles these murals were used to intimidate and even terrorize members of the opposite side. Since the cease-fire in November, 1994, those murals have been covered by less violent images, but equally passionate messages. A fairly consistent theme of the murals I saw today was anti-oppression both locally and internationally. Brian and Gladys, our local tour-guides, informed us that in many cases, one side of the struggle will pick a side on a political or global issue simply because the other side supports the opposing view. I was shocked to see how closely we follow on the heels of those dark days. Under the shadow of the walls we visited a museum and several cemeteries filled with stories of betrayal, confusion, tragic protests, heroism and injustice. The lines between socioeconomic goals, civil rights, religious ties, familial loyalty and politics seem hopelessly tangled – but that is why we’ve come: to learn about the challenge of forgiveness and reconciliation that can untangle the snare, and to see that the process has already begun.
As you can probably imagine, this was a very heavy day for our group. We were given a very graphic, raw, personal confrontation with the events of The Troubles, and the aftermath that still exists in Ireland. It is all so much more complicated, conflicting, and ultimately grey than any of us could have previously known or imagined. But just when you thought we couldn’t get in any deeper, there we were, sitting in a meeting with two Fathers of Clonard Monastery asking uncomfortable, though crucial, questions about the rift between the Protestant and Catholic churches today. Sitting in that meeting, hearing the hearts of these two Catholic servants of God, I realized that issues I thought to be crystal clear were just as tangled and broken as those that surrounded The Troubles.
Father Jerry Reynolds and Father Ed Peterson work very closely with the Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast to promote religious and social reconciliation in N.I., and shared with us their dream wherein all members of Christ’s Church are united as they ought to be. This dream campaign has begun grow in the form of a movement called, “The Walls of Separation do not Reach to Heaven.” One important piece of this movement involves a group of Fathers from Clonard Monastery visiting and participating in other non-Catholic church services. The one stipulation is that they cannot partake of communion, but instead walk forward to receive a blessing, a ritual which (because we are not confirmed Catholics) we must perform tonight during their celebration of Mass. Sitting in the back row of that meeting, I suddenly began to cry. For the first time in my life, I was in a situation where I was not free to participate fully in a celebration of my Savior with fellow believers.
The Fathers had expressed the desire of their hearts for a truly loving, unified body, as well as the reality that when it came down to it, their hands were almost powerless, so of course I understood. But my heart was broken. My heart was broken for the past: families torn apart in The Troubles, for the weak and the helpless, for the passionate and the lost, for those disenfranchised by the Church because agents of hate and power perverted its influence to terrorize minorities and majorities on both sides of the conflict. My heart was broken for the present: a divided people, a lingering anger and insurmountable loss, and for a divided Church. My church background is predominately non-denominational, and I have had close to no interactions of this nature with Catholics before. As I participated in a conversation and a Mass such as I’d never imagined, some things to which I’ve clung so tightly in pride began to seem less and less important in light of our common identities as believers. I believe I speak for many of us in saying that we left the conversation with many more questions than we came with, and you, our dear families may be in for some robust conversations upon our arrivals home from Ireland. J
What a trying day! I can just hear my mom telling me to let it all out then get a good night’s rest. (Unfortunately, by the time I finish this blog post…J). But I truly believe that today’s intensity was designed by God to challenge and grow us all as believers. How can we understand what it takes to reconcile when we aren’t willing to hear the stories of the people who suffered? And how can we comfort others when we shy away from our own wounds? Today I discovered how deeply I love the Church by experiencing the pain of feeling isolated from it. I ache and long for the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17, and this is why in the end, I was thankful to receive the blessing; thankful that godly men and women were taking steps, led by the Holy Spirit, towards reconciliation. I approached the altar with a heavy, hopeful heart, knowing that where it really counted, we were in fact united in Christ, and one day we would be perfectly and eternally One.
I will end this lengthy post the way the night ultimately ended, with joy. After the service, we all gathered in the empty sanctuary to sing “Jesus, I Adore You,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and the doxology. Our voices rang in the rafters, clear to the Heavens, swirling around the brilliant blue and gold tiles and red candles, and the presence of God made it all spectacular. His heart is broken for the dissonance of His Church, but also overjoyed that a group of Freshmen students from Taylor University are experiencing the fullness of His grace in every moment, and learning more and more each day how wide and long and far and wide are His mercy and His love. Oh, and did I fail to mention that one of our number (I will let her remain nameless) was one second short of drinking the Holy Water? And also, I didn’t really get the tattoo – Sam did. (See disclaimer below)
Blessings to all! Please keep us in your prayers as we emotionally process all we heard and saw today, and also for the health of our entire group. To my family: I love you and miss you!
TU Honors Guild
p.s. Just kidding about the tattoo, Mr. and Mrs. Peterson, she put me up to it
Day 8, Friday, January 17, 2014
(Written by Ellie Williamson)
Hello, parents and other friendly readers!
Today we wrapped up our week in the Republic of Ireland and hopped on the coach to travel from Greystones to Belfast. We were all thankful for a later start this morning than we’ve had in recent days. After loading the coach, we spent a few last minutes on the beach to admire the gorgeous view, spend some time in the Word of God, and reflect on our trip so far. It’s hard to believe we’ve already passed the halfway point!
Saying goodbye to Greystones, we shouldered our backpacks and hit the road. We stopped briefly to see Murdoch’s Cross (a beautiful high cross) at Monasterboice. A few minutes after leaving there, we stopped again at Mellifont Abbey, the first Cistercian Abbey built in Ireland. There we climbed down and explored the crypt. We also found some beautiful stone arches in the middle of the ruins and had a spontaneous photoshoot under them. (Photos will be posted soon!)
From Mellifont Abbey, we crossed the border into Northern Ireland and arrived in Belfast. Here, we will be staying in a hostel. Our rooms are certainly cozy; there will be plenty of opportunities for intentional community! It will be quite a different experience staying here than we’ve had so far, but we are ready for the adventure.
We’re already squeezing as many of us as possible in these rooms. Only a few moments ago Evan had a packed audience enjoying his interpretation of the Cowardly Lion in room 13.
After a wonderful Italian dinner, we attended a session of the Four Corners Festival of Belfast in Stormont Estate, where Parliament meets. The festival is devoted to peace and reconciliation between the different sectors of Belfast. We heard several politicians share their stories and their visions for the future of Belfast and Ireland.
Today has been a day of transitions. We left the quiet coast in Greystones for the city of Belfast, the spacious YWCA for the cozy hostel, and the Republic of Ireland for the United Kingdom. We look forward to learning more about the changes happening here in Belfast as it transitions from a city at war to a united community.
We’ll keep you posted!
Your favorite freshmen (and a sophomore and a senior and some grad students)
Entry 7, Thursday, January 16, 2014
(Written by Sean Maynor)
Dear Friends, Family, and everyone else too,
As my most recently introduced colleague has so aptly pointed out, the percentage of male representation on this reputable and honorable publication has been less than impressive. I, therefore, have the privilege of sharing with you a small sampling of the illustrious history and modern culture that we attempted to take on today in Dublin.
We started the day by reenacting the Flood.
We boarded the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) two by two – as our tickets were for two people – and headed off towards Dublin. After a quick zip down the line, we took a walk over to the one and only Trinity College. We have been learning a lot about the development of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the development of the early church in general. With all of this historic learning freshly minted in our minds, we went to see the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells, housed at Trinity College, is one of the best examples of an early artistic manuscript of the Gospels. It is a beautiful and large book made of velum skin with intricate drawings and crafted calligraphy.
The craftsmanship with which the Book was made is unparalleled. To fill you in, we got to see the process by which the leather cover was wrapped and backed, the way that the passages’ leading letters were embellished, and the care with which the different scribes performed their duties. The intentional value with which the people of the church looked upon the recording of the Gospels said a lot about the ascetic and monastic lifestyle that they led, which – no doubt – Dr. Harbin has explained through his lectures.
The Book of Kells was almost small time fun compared to what lay stretched out before us, as we all left the Book of Kells and walked into the Long Room. This library is so exclusive and illustrious that you could not even use it as a student at Trinity back when it was first opened without first getting special permission, and second, reading Latin. Language barrier aside, we gawked our way down the long hall, glancing at original drafts of works by Handel and others in the special seasonal display case in the center of the room. Flanking the cases, the two sides of the room held the lengths of book cases sorted by genre, and then by book size, which struck some students as peculiar. I am sure the sages at Trinity were a little more intentional and informed than us, a couple of college students, but I digress.
We took the rest of the day at our leisure, though we did not take much time for rest, as there was much to see and learn throughout the modern day, buzzing megacity of Dublin. Some people grabbed tarts and pastries that they shamefully held to be better than their grandmothers. Others, seeking to stuff their minds, chose to run over and look at original first drafts of William B Yeats. The city life in Dublin was exciting; it was welcoming. For the most part, everyone had positive and receptive experiences in the many and various stores we shopped in. We were building up our group dynamic to a level higher than it was before. After last night’s powerful group worship service, today came with a fervor and passion for one another and God’s purposes here for us. The general consensus was that today took what had already seemed like a fantastic group of people, and made it something more – something that we will not forget.
As we filed back onto the DART in our pairs, we knew we had seen the best of Dublin, with the best of friends. We look forward to tomorrow and our travels to Belfast. We pray that our learning and understanding of the early Irish church and the ensuing conflict between the Protestants and Catholics will grow and flourish, finding fertile ground to take root in in our minds. We also pray that, as a group, we will build each other up even more, and bring glory to God in a country that has seen so much conflict. Thank you for your time, and keep us in your hearts, as we keep you all in ours.
From the wetter side of the pond,
Sailors of the Ark.
Day 6, January 15, 2014
(Written by Julia Oller)
Wow. What an adventure we have had over the last six days. I’m pretty sure that by the time I’m able to fully grasp being across the Atlantic, it will be time to fly home. We’re all in awe of the rugged beauty of this country and each day seems to top the previous one.
Flexibility is the key to any trip, especially one with 40+ people in a foreign country known for its touchy weather patterns. We headed out this morning to visit Glendalough, a monastic community founded by St. Kevin in the 500s. By the time we arrived, it was freezing, drizzly, and miserable. While the Irish are used to these conditions, our tour guide didn’t even wear a raincoat, we Americans weren’t hearty enough to withstand the rain for long. Everyone snapped a few pictures of the bell tower and “Kevin’s Kitchen,” the church on the site, and then drove back to Greystones.
After a few hours learning about the Celts with Dr. Harbin, the sky cleared and we took a trip to Powerscourt, a British palace and garden from the 1500s where parts of the movie The Count of Monte Cristo were filmed. The gardens looked like something out of a painting; one area even had roses in bloom. Near the end of our time there, I took a quiet moment to reflect on the creation surrounding me. I read Psalm 24 which begins, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”
I have been continually reminded during this journey that all of the beauty heaped on beauty I have witnessed thus far is a treasure from Christ. When I didn’t think the day could get any better, we were blessed with an unexpected opportunity to grow closer to each other and to Jesus. Late this evening, two students led the rest of us in an hour of worship and prayer. As I watched the focus with which my peers praised the “High King of Heaven,” I couldn’t stop smiling. The same God who expressed Himself in the Cliffs of Moher and gardens of Powerscourt was reflected in the faces of the 30 students worshipping His majesty.
With one week left to go, please continue to pray for energy and refreshment in the midst of a jam-packed schedule. Please also pray that we will continue to feel God’s presence in our midst like we did tonight. May you all have a blessed day. See you soon!
Your favorite globetrotters
Entry 5#, Tuesday , January 14, 2014
(Written by Evan Miyakawa)
Dear Family and Friends,
I’m glad to be able to represent the male portion of the group, since there have been no previous guy writers. Rest assured, we are having a grand time in Ireland too.
Today was a very simple day. We arrived in the town of Greystones last night, which is south of Dublin, and began our several night stay at a small campus were Taylor students often stay when studying in Ireland, whether for several weeks or a whole semester. After breakfast this morning, we all gathered in a classroom to spend a good portion of the day hearing about the history of the church in Ireland from our dear professor, Dr. Harbin. It is absolutely mind-blowing to see all the ties he has made between the development of Irish Christianity and things such as church history, Celtic traditions, features of land, and European politics and warfare. Instead of simply feeding us information to memorize, Dr. Harbin has strived to help us make connections between what we see and what we learn in class that ultimately make our experience here so much more well-rounded and impacting.
Aside from the several hours of classroom time, most of the group chose to take walks in the area during the afternoon, giving us a chance to immerse ourselves in the beauty and culture of Ireland even more. There was a small rain most of the time, but the experience was definitely worth it. After dinner, we all had discretionary time which we used to hang out, play games, write our journals, or go into town.
Since today was pretty straightforward, I’ll now take some time to reflect a little bit on our journey as a whole, explaining how I have processed everything we have seen and experienced so far.
One of the main observations I’ve made Is how much the history of the Irish church really matters to this day in Ireland. Unlike America, which has only been around for officially over 200 years, Ireland has a rich church history, full of significant symbols, books, and structures, all of which tell the story of how Christianity has developed over the ages. I have been amazed by the dedication of the Church to keep all of its sites and artifacts in good condition, despite all of the invasions from other people groups over the last millennia.
Along with the satisfying educational experience we are receiving, we have also really bonded as a group in many different ways. Having a group of around 30 allows us to split into smaller groups easily to hang out, while still letting us feel united as a whole. I can speak for many others in our group when I say that God has really blessed my relationships with others thus far. There were many good, deep conversations that happened over the past several days, which made me really begin to see how God is using our friendships here to work in our lives in ways we didn’t even expect. I’m very thrilled to see how He will continue to change and transform us while we are here.
On a final note, it has been so incredibly obvious to me that the Lord is working on our journey here in Ireland. Please pray that He will continue to do so.
(To my family: Don’t get too hot in Thailand while we are still experiencing a real winter here)
The one and only Taylor Honors Guild
Entry #4, Monday, January 13, 2014
(Written by Gabby Trudeau)
Dear friends and family,
Today has been an incredibly growing experience! We are only four days into our Irish journey and already the experiences we have had far exceed previous expectations. Today was a day of transitions as we made the trek from Galway to Greystones with a couple stops on the way. We will be staying in Greystones at the YWCA (home to Taylor’s Irish studies program) for five nights.
It was hard not to feel melancholy about the change in location since most of us became rather attached to Galway during our brief stay. However, rain or shine we loaded up the bus this morning and were on the road at 8:45. Most of us passed the two and half hour trip to our first stop asleep and were woken up by our arrival at the castle Cahir.
We took a tour of this impressive castle from the perspective of soldiers attacking it. Our tour guide took us through each line of defense showing us the function of the design of each structure and opening in the castle. It was amazing to me how many features of the castle had a purpose in creating a virtually impenetrable defense system. Had I not been on the tour I would definitely been critical of the tight staircases, low doorways, and uneven steps. However, it turns out that the stair cases made it impossible for attacking soldiers to use their dominant right hands in the attack, making it all too easy for defending soldiers to push them back; low were meant to take away visibility when attackers rushed into the building; and the uneven stairs were to trip up the soldiers and take away secure footing. Needless to say we were all pretty impressed by the ingenuity that went into the castle. Yesterday Dr. Harbin pointed out that often we equate technology with intelligence. This castle was a prime example of extremely intelligent individuals creating impressive works without what we would consider good technology today.
Our next stop was The Rock of Cashel. Unlike the name implies, The Rock of Cashel is actually an impressive fortress on top of a hill. As we drove up to it, the gigantic spires and structure dominated the view from the bus. We were able to spend significant time here admiring the beautiful architecture and the impressive size. It was truly easy to see why the presentation we watched called this a “fortress of the faith”. We probably could have spent days there examining the carvings and admiring the remnants of paintings on the chapel ceiling.
We end this long, exhausting day in Greystones. We are looking forward to the next few days we get to spend in this beautiful place and are so grateful for the Ellis family and the wonderful welcome they gave us upon our arrival. Today we learned that the hymn Be Thou My Vision originated in the Irish church. It continues to be so humbling to stand in the places where thousands of believers have stood in past church history and to be contemplating the same God in all of His glory. It seems that the more we learn about Ireland the deeper our understanding of our Creator becomes.
TU Honors Guild in Ireland
Entry #3, Sunday, January 12, 2014
(written by Kat Smith)
Dearest friends and family,
We spent the Lord ’s Day in the best fashion I could ever imagine. We started in an Anglican church, which was an adventure in itself. I found myself really enjoying the whole experience, regardless of the differences. (This trip, three days in, has already been an experience of unity in diversity.) The liturgical service involved more crowd participation than I was used to, but I found myself reading all the words and actually focusing on their meaning in my life instead of just repeating the same old songs I’m used to. The sermon itself couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes, but it floored me. Mere minutes before, we’d been praying, and I had been focusing on my current “life struggles”. Without getting overly personal, I’ll just say that it was nothing incredibly profound or difficult in the grand scheme. The sermon reminded me of how limited my focus is and how long I have to go to reach the full potential of my life that God has for me. How much suffering and real issues will I face to truly follow Him? Life shifts from the childish black and white skirmishes to the muddy gray of young adulthood, full of unanswerable questions.
*Sidenote: Being an active part of communion was also different for me. I come from a PCA background, so the idea of walking up to the table was odd. However, and I found this incredibly ironic and humorous, I did have my first ever alcoholic drink in Ireland…but not in the friendly pubs of yesterday, but the Anglican wine. We went pubbing, and no drinks, but that first church we walked into got us. I chuckled. Alright, I will quit boring you and head back, because after church we went to the Cliffs of Moher.*
Along the way to the Cliffs, we saw a castle in its decaying form. We passed through seemingly endless green and sheep. To quote Grant, the drive was, ”a whole lot of absolutely beautiful nothing”, and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. The scenery is so untouched by the deadly influence of our culture and sin. The constant need to photo shop and perfect every ‘imperfection’ is unnecessary. Each ruin we pass is breathtaking in its own destroyed way.
The Cliffs were a sign to the Irish that there is a God. Nothing else could have created that kind of aesthetic excellence. The amount of cameras out today was astronomical. The Cliffs look so untouched by the hands of humans, and graced by those of God. The steep drop off has apparently been known to lead some astray, but we all (barely) stayed behind the fence. (They told us before we arrived that Ireland causes people to turn into monkeys and have an inerrant desire to climb EVERYTHING. So for those of us that were already part mountain goat, we’ve had a few temptations and it’s only day three.)
After our adventures, we had a long bus ride full of wonderful conversations and relationship building. I’m always a little blown away with where our conversations end up, and mildly humbling with how intelligent some of the people here are. We all split up for dinner, and my group found a delightful little Spanish restaurant, and we had a blast. Not really your typical Irish dinner, but we regret nothing. Once again, the time spent in fellowship was uplifting and enjoyable. We then treated ourselves to the local McDonalds for a wee little bit of wifi to make sure all our parents and roommates were managing without us.
In short, this trip has been incredible and eye-opening, and I keep forgetting that we haven’t lived here for a few weeks. Time is so elongated here, and I will be truly sad to leave, except I’m allergic to wool, so it will be nice to be able to stop crying every time I go into a store. But there are no regrets.
(To my own family: That drink at communion can hold me over for forever. I have never been so upset about the lack of grape juice in my life. I love you guys, and I’m enjoying myself. I was just kidding the other day…I’ll probably come home, even if it’s just to dry off.)
See you tomorrow!
Irish Honors Guild 2014
Entry #2, Saturday, January 11, 2014
(written by MacKenzie Bedor)
Dearest friends and family,
Today has been an AMAZING day in Galway!! We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and NO rain (surprise surprise ;))!!! Our hotel, Jury’s Inn, is right around the corner from downtown, so we began our day by doing some shopping and walking around the city. It was so fun seeing all of the shops and venturing into the market. The town is so full of vibrant colors and friendly people…SO MANY friendly people! J We also explored the stone” Spanish arches” right across from our hotel, where the Spanish merchant ships unloaded their cargo from the canal. (Which, by the way, is the most insanely crazy rushing canal I have even seen…due to recent flooding!)
A couple of us were shopping for rings in the market when we came across a merchant who was helping me find the perfect size…she never stopped looking through her products until she found it! This simple act quickly grew into a lesson that I love to be reminded of…never fail to do things with all your heart, no matter what the task! The lady even told us: sometimes the simplest things are the most important. Whether it be our studies, our relationships, or finding the perfect size ring for someone…we need honor God by giving 100%, 100% of the time.
After shopping and exploring downtown Galway, we walked to the coffee shop An Tobar Nua (which means “A New Well”). This is the café where many TU students come to study for a semester. It is a ministry within the community that serves by creating relationships with the locals. They also teach Bible classes such as New Testament, Old Testament, Bible Survey, and courses focused on certain books in the Bible. They also do “retreats,” where the local teens come to learn the truth about sex, drugs, alcohol…and most importantly, Christ! This ministry is an incredible example of serving Christ wherever He has placed you in life. We should simply be “sharing Christ by building relationships,” not just trying to force others to come to Church with us every Sunday (but definitely not discounting that!). A local man named Mike shared his story and how Christ has changed His life in drastic ways. He really caught my attention when he emphasized that we should try to connect with Christians of different views/backgrounds, working together for the Kingdom…I feel like we put so much emphasis on denominations that we forget we are ALL on God’s team!
We then had some class time (in order to make up for our snow days J) hearing Dr. Harbin lecture. I’ll tell you what, I LOVE THIS GUY!!!!! He is SO knowledgeable, yet SO humble! Let’s be honest, learning about Carbon-14 dating and tombs…not everyone’s cup of tea…but we were all engaged, asking questions, and curious, much thanks to the efforts Dr. Harbin put into teaching. Those 2.5 hours flew by!
After our class time we got to hang out with some students from the local university. In small groups, we learned all about their life and culture. My group was really interesting because we had a Galway local, a girl from 1 hour south of Galway, a girl from Virgina USA, and a young man from England! It was SO fun to hear their perspectives on all different things! (Most hilarious thing…the British guy loves American accents!!! Tell that to all of those 1 Direction fans out there!) ;) It is incredible that you can find so many similarities with people halfway across the world, yet be so unique at the same time!
For our night out on the town, I went with a group to The Crane Bar (Pub) to experience some true Irish culture. We listened to live music (a group of instrumentalists just jammin’ together) and drank some Irish NON-alcoholic concoctions (I got a Rock Shanty, tasted like Sprite with a lime kick to it). J It was the perfect way to wind down such a fun day!!!
Hope everyone is doing well and having a great weekend!
(Family: LOVE YOU LOTS!!! Dad…totally saw a dentist office that was right next to The Crane…don’t worry, I took a picture ;))
Entry #1 (1/11/2014)
(written by Katie Schantz)
Hello family and friends!
We are pleased to say that God has blessed us with very smooth and safe travels over the last 30 hours. We arrived at Chicago O’Hare with copious time to spare; our flight was on time and smooth; we landed in Dublin on time; and our bus ride west to Galway was pleasantly uneventuful, and a wonderful opportunity to admire the iconic green grass, fluffy sheep, and legendary beauty of the Irish countryside.
As planned, we stopped at the 1500 year old monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise, which happen to be almost the midpoint between Dublin and Galway and overlook the flood plains of the river Shanon. This monastic complex once held more than two thousand people (the same size as our entire university!), but today stands as a collection of beautiful stone echoes of centuries of progress in literature, art, and most importantly our Christian faith.
By the time our team made it to dinner at the Italian restaurant in the heart of charming and picturesque Galway, everyone agreed that our collective cognitive abilities had greatly diminished and our perception of humor had exponentially increased, both as a result of varying levels of sleep deprivation. Needless to say, we very much enjoy each other’s company. We are here at the Jurys Inn, and everyone is looking forward our cozy beds, warm showers, and another fun day ahead of us tomorrow.
Your continued prayer are greatly appreciated by all, and on behalf of all my fellow students, I wanted to say thank you to all of you for the varying ways that you all (our families and friends) made this experience possible. We appreciate your support and love so much.
(To my own family, I love you guys and miss you)
Until next time,
Honors Ireland 2014 J
Introduction: January 2014 Honors J-term Trip
This year the Honors Freshmen have the unique opportunity to travel to Ireland/Northern Ireland during the month of January 2014. The students will be participating in a Historic Christian Belief course taught by Dr. Michael Harbin. For the same cost of being on campus during J-term, these students will be fully immersed in a study abroad experience at no further expense. Be sure to follow this page for updates from us during January.
To prep for our trip in January, we have some suggested blogs to read:
Below are older updates from the previous Honors January 2013 trip to the Bahamas.
Here are the pictures from our trip to the Bahamas!
To see the blog posts from the Bahamas J-Term trip, please see the Lighthouse blog site: http://tulighthouse.wordpress.com/bahamas/
(Posts below were written in Jan. 2012)
In January 2012, the Honors Guild Interterm team traveled to the country of South Africa and had an edifying experience learning about the culture and the community in light of the theme of “Restoration of the Other.”
For this upcoming January 2013, the next interterm team will be traveling to the Bahamas to study small island sustainability on the islands of San Salvador and New Providence.
We’ve begun to wrap up our time here in South Africa, but don’t worry, we still had a jam packed day full of art, history, and learning. This morning we awoke at an early hour and enjoyed a lovely breakfast cooked by the ever faithful sisters of Koinonia. After that, we packed up our cameras, our notebooks, and pens and headed out to Pretoria.
Pretoria is a predominantly Afrikaans speaking area of South Africa. On our way to Pretoria, our tour guide entertained us with Zulu legends and tales of the Voortrekkers, which refers not to Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise, but the original Afrikaaner settlers. More on that later. Our first item on today’s schedule was a lecture from Gwen Miller and Celia de Villers. These women worked as lecturers (professors) at the University of South Africa and were involved in social activism as well. The mission of these women was to empower the unemployed women in the townships by teaching them craft (embroidery, sculpture/jewelry making out of recycled trash) as a trade. The women brought samples of some truly amazing embroidery they had created. Some of us students even got the chance to purchase these works, and a few of you lucky parents may be receiving them as gifts (not you mom and dad so don’t get your hopes up.)
Afterwards, we headed to the Voortrekker monument located on Monument Hill. This was a gigantic towering structure which inside contained marble friezes of the major battles of the Afrikaaner settlers. It also had 174 steps that we laboriously climbed while chugging our inhalers to reach the top of the monument which overlooked Pretoria. The asthma attack was completely worth it—I’ll never get tired at looking at the South African landscape, green, lush, and punctuated by blue mountains rising majestically in the distance.
Finally, we visited Freedom Park. This park was established in remembrance to all South African heroes who had sacrificed their lives to ensure the freedom of others. The park incorporated important South African elements of spirituality and nature, and it was a very natural and serene place to visit. The names of those who gave their lives were carved into the walls of the main building and walls surrounding it. There were about 750,000 names, and it was overwhelming when the realization hit that each of these names represented an actual person, not just a hero or a martyr, but a father or a mother or a son.
South Africa has been amazing. The landscape and the nature have been absolutely beautiful, but this beauty is surpassed by the displays of forgiveness and reconciliation in the aftermath of darkness and corruption. Talking to the people who lived through incredible persecution, seeing the townships firsthand, and viewing the psychological effects of oppression in South African art work has made everything that happened in the Apartheid “real”. You can read as many facts and figures as you’d like on the Apartheid, but until you see the faces behind it, it’s almost impossible to comprehend. Although this sounds depressing, the more you comprehend the ugliness of racism and injustice, the more you realize the amazing beauty of reconciliation and forgiveness.
It’s been an eventful day, and we’ll be turning in early tonight because tomorrow, we’ll be playing tag with the lions. But don’t worry mothers and fathers, we’ll be home safe and sound in a few days!
This edition brought to you by: Sarah Cook
South Africa is still warm and beautiful! Today we had our second and last full day in Johannesburg. After another early morning we had a busy day exploring the fine arts. Heading back to downtown near the Market Theatre (where we saw Yellowman) was Artist Proof Studio, a program focused on providing opportunities to artists who could not go to the tertiary educational institutions. They primarily use printmaking, and everyone learned a lot about it I think. One additional point of interest was watching them film “Top Chef: South Africa” right next to the studio in the building.
After this we were treated to seeing Diane Victor at a gallery at the University of Johannesburg. Her recent works have been groundbreaking in experimenting with media such as candle smoke and ashes as drawing materials. We talked about the symbolism in this, and how it reflects the fragile and temporary nature of human life. As a Christian I thought about this brokenness and the need for redemption and healing in ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth. Our lives are so short, “a vapor”, a wisp of smoke, that we must not waste any moment.
Following a packed lunch picnic outside, we went to the Johannesburg Art Gallery. This was especially cool as the museum was not normally open this day, and we got a special tour. We got to go down into storage and see other works not on display, as well as William Kentridge videos. His works were especially cool as they were made by taking photos of a drawing which he erased and changed for each frame. This leaves marks left by the previous frame, giving an ethereal record of the past. In a way I think this reflects the situation we have encountered in South Africa. Although the situationhas changed and improved with the end of apartheid, the past historyand wounds are still present in a way and linger on.
Back at Koinonia we had dinner and a small birthday celebration for Maddy and Katie, including cake and song.We are thankful for everyone and the blessing of life.
We ended the night with a discussion of the books our groups have been reading over the trip. Most of us are pretty tired now and taking advantage of any time for rest, but with just a few days left we are determined to make the most of them. Excitement about the game drive at the reserve is growing (if that is at all possible!) There was an intense game of limbo that happened tonight and the group continues to bond together.
Please pray for continued strength and safety in these last few days.
This edition brought to you by: Joe Kasper
Greetings once again from South Africa!
As you have heard, we have successfully reached our home in Johannesburg, a Catholic guest house called Koinania. The sisters here have been the definition of hospitality as they prepare our food, open their well-equipped lodgings, and wash our (very) dirty clothes.
Compared with the westernized sectors of Cape Town and Stellenbosch and the rural beauty of Volmoed, Johannesburg is a distinctly foreign place. The newness of our surroundings has brought with it new questions, new discussions, new aggravations and fears, and new answers from new perspectives. I’ll be the first to admit that the sheer intellectual volume is a bit much to handle at times.
As we have made our way from the coast to the heart of the country, the red-brown color of the soil has intensified. In Johannesburg, this color seems to have seeped out of the dirt as it permeates the walls of buildings, the streets, and the city itself. We encounter the red-brown dirtiness of the city everywhere we go. We see it on rusted razor-wire atop walls and corrugated steel roofs, we see it ingrained in the soles of our shoes. We see it trod into buildings along with trash from the street. We see it dripping down windows, the residue of long-dried rain. It would be impossible not to see it.
The city is dirty in more than just its color. Here, crime is justified by the corruption that governs over the criminal, and the most basic human needs are sought at high costs. And this city that cannot take care of its own population has become home to many thousands of refugees, intensifying the stark contrast of wealth and poverty that still perpetuates here despite the destruction of apartheid. We have heard it said that the unemployment rate is as high as 50%.
This morning, we visited a Methodist church located towards the very heart of Johannesburg. The service there, as many students remarked, was quite remarkable. Approaching a staggering 2½ hours, the service had us into and out of our seats constantly, moving and singing with the rhythm of Zulu and Xhosa syllables that we can only sometimes sound out, let alone understand. This church, which was very predominantly white under apartheid, is now a poignant example of the inner-city population shift, with hundreds of black and 3 white members. Despite our obvious minority status, we were welcomed warmly into the sincere worship of the congregation. We even sang “Happy Birthday” to Maddy Trudeau and gave three cheers of Hip-Hip-Hooray. This particular celebratory jubilation was a testament to the exhaustiveness of the congregation’s marathon service.
The Bishop offered a strong message wrought with themes of social justice and call to action, and following the service we were fortunate to have an interview with him. In this time we realized that the remarkable man’s message was more than just words; the church facility itself has housed as many as 3,000 refugees at a time. Tonight as I write to you, the very sanctuary we worshipped in is bed to hundreds of women from Zimbabwe. As you can imagine, this kind of use takes a toll on the church, and the way it has been opened is challenging and inspiring as it shapes our notions of the uncomfortable nature of Christ-like openness and hospitality. The irony of this particular situation is that kaddy-corner from the crammed church-turned-hostel is an empty hotel 17 stories tall, a shadow of apartheid and an image of current injustice and corruption that is hard to swallow. It is clear that although great strides have been made in this nation, there is still work to be done, and many of the places we have visited so far are stabs in the right direction.
Following the service, lunch, a relaxing afternoon at Koinania and a succulent Chicken dinner, Charles Nkomo, a professional semi-abstract painter from Zimbabwe presented to us. He showed his impressive works, and explained why and how he paints the way he does. His paintings are an interesting combination of the western-influenced semi-abstract form and style with African subject matter, shape and color. The talented artist fielded questions from us about the current unrest in Zimbabwe as well as on the inspiration behind his work and his past. His presentation was to our betterment on a multitude of levels, levels which we are beginning to tease out and draw connections between as our time here races towards completion.
We continue to find South Africa a rich, nuanced culture, a harbor to both natural and human wonders, and a great place to follow the class theme: Art and Ideas, and the honors guild theme: Truth and Reconciliation. We are continually grateful for the hard work on the part of the trip leaders that is making this tremendous experience possible.
This edition brought to you by: Davis Meadors
Today, we bid farewell to Leticia, the owner of St. Paul’s guest house in Cape Town, and to Hugo, our bus driver. I think the whole group has really grown to appreciate both of these people and the effort that they have made to make our experience worthwhile. Both asked us to return to South Africa (fingers crossed!), and Leticia commented that she considered it a pleasure to cook for us every morning. We have been truly blessed to have them for the first part of our trip!
After an early breakfast, we loaded up for the airport and flew to Johannesburg! It’s been very interesting for me to see another side of South Africa, especially when compared with the luxurious side of Cape Town and its surrounding townships. We are lucky to have a tour guide (Jacques) with us for this part of the trip, to give us more information about the city of Johannesburg. We met him at the airport and took the bus to Koinonia House, where we will be staying until Wednesday. Again, we are very fortunate to stay in a hospitable, safe, beautiful environment.
After lunch at Koinonia, we went to the Apartheid Museum for the rest of the afternoon. Although we’ve been learning about apartheid since the beginning of the trip, visiting the museum was still a powerful experience for me. I really appreciated seeing video footage of the uprisings and riots that took place at the height of apartheid. Seeing the videos, reading the stories, and revisiting the photographs helped me see apartheid as a very real. It was a strong reminder that the atrocities and murders of that time period were not just dates or names, but painful realities. Overall, I’ve been amazed to see how far this country has come in the reconciliation process.
We then returned to Koinonia for dinner before going to see Yellowman, a play at the Market Theater of Johannesburg. The play related the lives of a couple growing up in South Carolina, and the social problems created by their skin tones. Two cast members (a man and a woman) carried out the entire story, changing between characters when necessary, and powerfully telling their life stories. I was very impressed by the raw emotion in their acting, and their ability to convey the problems of growing up in a society that determines your worth based on your skin color. The man, Eugene, is a light-skinned black man and struggles to find his place in society as a result. The girl, Elma, has darker skin, but struggles with the abandonment from her light-skinned father, who considers her worthless and ugly because of her skin tone. The play had strong undertones of the South African apartheid system of racial segregation. Just as people were classified into white, coloured, and black in South Africa, in South Carolina blacks were classified based on the lightness of their skin.
Overall, today was a tiring but fulfilling day! I’m looking forward to seeing more of Johannesburg in the coming days!
This edition brought to you by: Sarah Topp
Greetings from the beautiful land of South Africa!
Today was one of our more relaxing days on the trip so far. Volmoed retreat center, where we have been last night and tonight, is incredibly picturesque. When I step outside my room I feel as if I am living in an image from a postcard. I woke up this morning to a host of baboons streaming down the rocky hill outside my window which made me slightly nervous to walk to breakfast, but the allure of yet another handmade South African breakfast was stronger than fear that I might have to fight off a few primates to receive said breakfast. The morning then was free for us to choose what to do. Some of us attended one of the daily prayer services held here while some more adventurous souls explored the grounds (or caught up on homework, but we’ll just say they were exploring). Before lunch we met with world renowned theologian John de Gruchy. It was incredible to interact on such a personal basis with someone with his wisdom and experiences. His sharing about the church and his own personal life in South Africa was fascinating and at least for me inspired more questions rather than answers which was unexpected, but challenging in a good way.
After an “American” lunch of cheeseburgers and French fries prepared by our hosts, we were able to go to a beach nearby on the Indian Ocean. I felt I was in a scene from the old Disney classic Swiss Family Robinson on the long white sandy beach with mountains behind us and the Indian Ocean before us. Sufficed to say, we just had a little fun jumping in the waves and building sand castles, and other such beach activities .(Don’t worry mothers, there were no great white shark sightings) We returned back to the retreat center and worked on our group readings some before dinner. We had dinner and then watched a South African film called “The Wooden Camera”. It was a great way to finish another day here in the Southern Hemisphere.
We are enjoying each other, the sunny and hot weather, and all the amazing opportunities we are having. It is tough to have perspective as we rush from one thing to the next, but as I look back over the last week, I realize it has already been the trip of a lifetime. We have been privileged to meet key figures in modern South African history; people that had a direct influence on the amazing change this country has experienced. This truly is a country of juxtapositions still though. We continue to be presented daily with incredible ugliness and beauty, life and death, wealth and poverty, hope and despair, injustice and reconciliation, and continue to be challenged in our response to these things academically and spiritually. One thing though has struck me as we have travelled though: God’s hand is evident here, in the physical beauty and the beauty of the people that live here. We ask for prayer in the next week for guidance and strength from the Holy Spirit as we continue to engage the people, art, and ideas of South Africa in all their human beauty and imperfection.
This edition by: Andrew Whitworth
The days have been an amazing combination of fun times, tough life questions, and moments in absolute awe of God’s majestic creation. Today especially we were able experience these in unique ways. We began our day with a wonderful breakfast in Cape Town and said goodbye to our grown up tree house, at least until we return in few days.
Later that morning we met with Johan Horn who was himself an Afrikaner (his ancestors have lived in Cape Town since the first Dutch Settlers came in 1652).He taught us about the ministry that he leads for developing leaders called ALICT. Furthermore he taught us about the history and art of the Dutch settlement named Stellenbosh. Johan really encouraged us to dream big and not be comfortable with the difficult circumstances that were going on in our lives; but to have a vision of a better life and see it through.
We met with a professor from Stellenbosh University and it made me realize the real similarities between American Colleges and the colleges here. However in their arts program here they specialize in gemology which is especially pertaining to rich minerals that are found in South Africa. After the professor showed us around the university we ate lunch by a pond in the unbelievably beautiful botanical gardens. In the pond were large bright orange carp, which reminded me of my family’s giant goldfish… yes, despite all of the busyness there are still brief moments of homesickness :)
The most heart wrenching and challenging part of today was going into one of the townships. One thing that I should mention first is that in South Africa the drastic contrast of rich and poor is seen within minutes of driving. The townships are the extreme poverty end of this spectrum. Through our experience of walking around I think most of us were hit with the great challenges of having to be in a situation where we could utterly not relate. It was also encouraging to see the church working so closely with the township. We specifically learned about their film school which showed us how they were bringing hope for a way out for students in the township. Leaving the township many were discussing on the bus how it was their favorite place we have visited in South Africa, we really got to see the hardships that South Africa deals with.
We drove to our new home around four and were all flabbergasted at the beauty of the retreat center we encountered. The pond’s reflection perfectly framed the setting sun behind the mountains. Retreat is the perfect word for this place. I look forward to taking tomorrow lightly, catching up on reading, meeting with the theologian, and hiking. We are all doing wonderfully.
With warmest regards from South Africa,
The South Africa Team
Edition 4 brought to you by:
I’m writing from the beautiful Cape Town, as our adventures continue in abundance. Day Four was another great success with lots of learning with a great balance of fun. We continue to appreciate the beauty of the landscape, the growth of our team, and the kindness of the South Africans who have welcomed us with open arms.
We began the day with another hot breakfast, prepared by our gracious hosts at St. Paul’s. They have been so helpful to us and make sure we start out our action packed days fully energized. We then drove down to the waterfront, where we boarded a ferry and took a breezy 45 minute trip out to Robben Island. The island is most famously home to political prisoners, specifically Nelson Mandela, during apartheid in South Africa. We received a full tour of the island by a very informative guide, where we learned the history of the island in full. After touring the island, we had the privilege of walking through the actual jail cells guided by an ex-prisoner of Robben Island. He works alongside other past prisoners and also the ex-wardens of the prison, which is truly incredible. What an incredible example of reconciliation!
After returning from the island, we decided to do a little haggling for souvenirs in Green Square Market, a local market run by the people of Cape Town for people just like us who want to bring home memories from our trip. We had a lot of fun negotiating prices and getting the opportunity to find out a little bit about the lives of the people we were buying from. And of course it was plenty of fun just comparing deals and stories about the things we all bought. We returned to a lovely homemade dinner of pasta, made by some of our team members, and finished the night off with delicious ice cream!
In addition to the way we have grown in our learning, it has been incredible to see how our team has truly grown into a family. It is so encouraging to see the way that people have come together and that each person has reached out of their comfort zone in one way or another to make a connection. God is truly present and your prayers continue to be answered as we travel on to Stellenbosch tomorrow. We appreciate all of the time you have dedicated to the prayer for this team, and we want you to know that it is not in vain. We are learning a lot regarding art, but also regarding one another.
As we travel tomorrow, I ask that you continue to pray for the health and well-being of all the team members, as well as safety as we move on to our next location. Also, I ask that you pray for energy as we each have been challenged mentally and physically during the last 5 days. We have so much more to see and a fresh eye to accomplish that would be much appreciated! Stay tuned to continue to get updates about what’s going on here!
Edition 3 brought to you by:
Our third day in South Africa was once again jam-packed, but it was incredibly rewarding. We began the day with another delicious breakfast prepared by our wonderful host at St. Paul’s and then headed to the archives of the University of Cape Town. There we had the opportunity to listen to photographer, Paul Weinburg, discuss his experiences behind the front line during South Africa’s struggle period, a volatile time when tensions reached a breaking point just before Apartheid finally came to an end. His images have become some of the most well-known depictions of the protests and demonstrations which took place during the struggle period; they are famous around the world, and we have encountered them several times even since hearing about them this morning. (Try Googling him – I bet you’ll recognize some of the photos you find!)
After enjoying lunch at UCT, we returned to St. George’s Cathedral where we took a tour of the Bishop Desmond Tutu Memory and Witness Centre, a photographic journey through several key events of the struggle period which culminated in the Cape Town Peace March of September 1989, a rally for justice attended by over 30,000 people that sparked demonstrations across South Africa and was a sign of the beginning of the end of the Apartheid era.
We also had the opportunity to listen to Mary Burton, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). I was personally blown away by her descriptions of the TRC, which in the course of three years listened to the personal accounts of over 22,000 people who had been involved in the atrocities of Apartheid, whether as perpetrators, victims, or witnesses. The TRC was charged with weaving together the stories of these people and creating an accurate record of the events of Apartheid, such that no South African could deny that they happened. In the midst of the TRC’s work arose several beautiful examples of grace, as people who had been deeply hurt by Apartheid confronted those who had injured them and forgave them – almost in a “superhuman” way Burton said, though we might describe it more as the supernatural grace of God.
Finally, we went to Moyo restaurant, a delicious taste of South Africa complete with impala, antelope, and spring bok sausage. We were entertained by traditional African dancers as we enjoyed dinner outside on a beautiful evening in South Africa – a perfect way to end our day.
As I wrap up today’s snapshot of our South African adventures, I would ask that you pray for our team’s health and energy. We are still feeling the effects of jet lag even as our days are stuffed to the brim with a variety of activities. Fortunately we have tomorrow (Tuesday) to sleep in a few hours and rejuvenate!
Blessings from South Africa!
Edition 2 brought to you by:
After traveling for over 24 hours including 4 flights, a few quick transitions, and one big tour bus, we arrived at our guest house in Cape Town. Throughout that time we especially enjoyed the various accents and abundance of food. Exhausted from our travels we settled in to our rooms. We awoke to the aroma of bacon and after a very complete breakfast, started our journey in South Africa.
Saturday consisted of a trip around Cape Town City Center. It was in the 90’s and very sunny all day long. We went to the South African National Gallery, the Castle of Good Hope, and ended our day with a South African dinner prepared by the leaders of Youth for Christ. We enjoyed spending time talking and singing with a few of the students who are involved with that organization.
Recovering from jetlag became easier after another great night of sleep and wonderful breakfast. On this Sunday morning we attended a service at St. Georges Cathedral and were mistakenly welcomed as a group from Portugal. After the service we made our way down the coast, stopping intermittently to take in the beauty of the beaches and scenery. Many students hiked to a lighthouse which overlooked the Southernmost point in Africa. Later we had the opportunity to trek across the coast to the Cape of Good Hope. We took many pictures you’ll be sure to enjoy! We concluded the evening by attending a worship service at Christ Church and a fellowship dinner with the youth of the congregation. We have been grateful for the many opportunities, even in our first days, to interact and learn from the South African people.
Right now it’s about 90 degrees outside and there is a cool breeze making its way through the window. We can’t quite say we miss the freezing drafts that Upland has to offer, but we can say with certainty that we miss all of you. Keep an eye out for more updates from your favorite South African adventurers.
Edition 1 brought to you by:
Holly Murphy and Tamara Barrett