Campus Life

Go Encounter: Ireland

Jordan Weddle would not have been able to tell you last semester that he would be chosen as the student leader for Ireland Go Encounter trip or that he would end up dancing in the streets of Ireland with a man dressed in a tiger suit.

On Grafton Street in Dublin, the anomalies abounded: a man danced in a tiger costume, mediocre musicians played while great musicians arrested attention, and people pretended to be statues.  Lauren McBay explains that Weddle’s dancing outburst captured their entire attitude throughout the week, “carefree and fun.”

Emily Brenneman was asked by Encompass employee John Ward to lead the trip, making it Emily’s fourth time to Ireland and third time leading the GoEncounter Ireland team. Kyle and Emily Brenneman lived in Ireland during the summer of 2010 to fulfill their cultural discovery in their Master of Intercultural Studies program.

The Brennemans took nine students with them on the trip: Carrie Fawcett, Dave Ferrier, Colin Horne, Rachel Jensen, TJ Lynch, Lauren McBay, Stephanie Medlock, student leader Jordan Weddle, and Colleen Yoder.

The Grace faculty and students explored the cities of Belfast, Dublin, and Galway. They participated in tours to the Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher, and the North Coast.

The History of Ireland 

Carrie Fawcett explains that Northern Ireland only recently ended a civil war. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was known for its violence which included the use of bombs and gunfights. The primary conflict came between the Nationals and the Loyalists. The Nationalists desired independence from England, while the Loyalists wanted relations between England and Northern Ireland to remain the same.

Fawcett was surprised to find that some of the people she encountered in Southern Ireland were not aware of the war. Fawcett elaborates, “It’s like having Michigan in a civil war, and Indiana didn’t even know about it.”

Northern Ireland’s Belfast is divided by a large wall which was built to prevent the Nationalists and the Loyalists from fighting.  Murals depicting Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, and the slogan “Free Palestine” cover the wall.

Weddle is glad that the Brennemans prepared the group for what they would encounter in Ireland. Weddle believes that it‘s “wise to understand the brokenness about the country. It’s very easy to be in awe of the beautiful landscapes and not see the brokenness.”

Fawcett explains that the Irish people are “funny, sarcastic, and really nice, but it’s a mask to hide the pain of what’s going on behind the surface.”

Spiritual Atmosphere

Rebekah Becker, Roy and Holly Angle are believers involved in ministry in Ireland. Rebecca Becker is a counselor who works with kids. Irish children encounter smoking, drinking, sex, and the issue of homosexuality at an early age.

Fawcett, McBay, and Colleen Yoder are all counseling majors who were impacted by Becker’s job experience. Yoder said of the experience, “It broke my heart to hear about domestic and sexual abuse.” Fawcett was encouraged to hear that the Irish people were open to formal counseling. McBay was about to switch her major from counseling to history education, but “meeting with Rebecca Becker re-sparked that desire for being in counseling for me. She put that face to it.”

The Angles are missionaries in a country where the people are disenchanted with Catholicism. Emily explains that the Irish people have a “bitter taste in their mouth when it comes to faith and Jesus. What [Roy and Holly] are seeking to do is to show these people who Christ is versus who they think he should be.”

Medlock cites Holly Angle as an inspiration. Medlock sees herself in a ministry similar to Angle’s. What Medlock wants to do is “get to know people and have them talk about spiritual things with me.”  Emily Brenneman’s hope “is that the group came back with a general understanding of Irish religious and political history, a glimpse of the challenge of ministering in a post-Christian country, and a love for the beautiful land.”

Mary Ellen Dunn | Staff Writer |
Photos Contributed