Well friends, we had our last day of sightseeing and adventures in Ireland today! The past few days have been filled with a lot of reflection time. We did another night of poetry on Sunday! This time we set it up very “coffee shop open mic” with dim lights and everyone had to wear some form of head gear/hat to present their poem. The students have really come to enjoy these times of vulnerability. It is fun, and draws them together in a totally different way. Some are real and reveal deep hurts, concerns and fears, while others are very positive about growth reflection and aspects of life that they are thankful for. As we did last time, a few of the poems are below.
I clench the stone with a sweaty palm
I raise my voice, I’m past staying calm
My head is spinning, my thoughts are skewed
While the cinema of your past is being viewed
Judgement and furry runs in my veins
Wiped clean? Please I’ll show you your stains
Where is my kindness? Did it fall?
I treat you as if I don’t care at all
I call you sister, I call you friend
But I type up hateful words and press send
No hesitation, not even a flinch
I condemn you and make life sound like a synch
I look at others and blame them too
She’s your daughter! You have a job to do!
I point at her cuts, surely she’s sick
Send her away don’t be so thick
Her daily fits have become too much
She’s now using alcohol as a new crutch
Dad you too? Sure take another drink
Still holding a stone I scream what I think
You screw ups, sinners, burdens to me
Accept the truth it will set you free
You drive me mad I’m done with you
You guys never listen to me that’s true
My tears have been shed plenty of times
I’ve tried to express it in several rhymes
I turn to escape and run as planned
But when Iook it’s me on the stand
the light was bright my eyes did burn
The cuffs on my wrists said its now your turn
A soft voice spoke, spoke with such sage
There was much power but no rage
“my child why? Why do you hate?
Our differences are things to celebrate
You do have cuts go check your heart
Quit tearing your sisters and brothers apart
Speak with LOVE not any anger
Don’t put any of my sheep in more danger
Look at her life a beautiful display
Of how I show grace and love everyday
She’s perfect, lovely an amazing design
And also your father they’re doing fine
They’re wrapped in my arms, you’re scared? Forget it.
You continue this destructive path you’ll surly regret it.
They’re my creation, my very own pride
You all fall short and your sins do not hide
You’re all imperfect but in me
I gave you my son, the perfect key
Now go my child, try yet again
To love all your friends, and especially your kin
I gave you all the tools now use them well
But live it out right act don’t just tell
I’ve said enough now let the hate cease
You feel the stone, now quickly release.
- Link Year Female, age 19
Daily I’m growing
It’s causing change in my life
because I want Christ to be showing
When I’m broken He mends me together
the fact that He died for me
He loves me forever.
Our relationship is deepening
but the distractions are sickening
learning about myself through Him is hard
Satan tried to defend, but God is my guard.
- Link Year Female, age 18
Yesterday, Monday, we started the day with some solitude where the students were asked to spend time in with the Lord in prayer and reflection and draw, yes draw, what they felt like the Lord has put on their heart to work on. We are working through what it means to be disciplined spiritually and the different ways to experience silence and solitude with the Lord. That day the focus was art. After the time of silence, many of the students shared their drawings with us. Once again, it was a very neat vulnerable experience with the students.
In the afternoon we went to St. Anne’s Cathedral here in downtown Belfast. Here is what our well studied student had to say about it….
I am Luke Miller and I presented the Link Year class to St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast today. We got to spend over an hour exploring all that it has to offer. A few designs that stuck out to me were the historical memorials throughout the cathedral for Belfast citizens. The cathedral is also known as the Belfast Cathedral because of how much it has to do with the city of Belfast. It has what is known as the “Spire of Hope” which is a 50meter tall spear like object that is centered on the roof, allowing it to go into the chapel and about 25meters above the roof. The spire is illuminated at night and can be seen from miles away. On the side of the cathedral is Northern Ireland’s largest celtic cross which consumes the entire height of the cathedral. Lastly this cathedral has the largest pipe organ in all of Northern Ireland and is used daily. If you ever get the chance to visit Northern Ireland or Belfast, I would highly suggest visiting St. Anne’s Cathedral.
Today, Tuesday, was our LAST day but it was such a beautiful, I mean beautiful day! The weather could not have been more perfect for the views and sceneries that we experienced. The sun was shining and everyone was all smiles ready to take on our last day. We left quickly after breakfast this morning and our first stop was at the Dundrum Castle. Justin will share a bit with you about this gorgeous castle (with an even more gorgeous view)…
Dundrum Castle was built in the early 13th century by John de Courcy following his invasion of Ulster. The castle originally stood three stories high. Ownership of the castle has changed 14 times between different families. Reasons for change of possession include a number of things. De Courcy was exiled, King John captured it by force, and de Courcy took it back. The Magennis family seized it, the Earl of Kildare and Lord Deputy Grey both captured it on different occasions. It was surrendered to Lord Mountjoy and then to Lord Cromwell, then sold to Sir Francis Blundell. The castle was then recaptured by the Magennis family, who lost control of the castle to the Parliamentarians, who dismantled the castle. The Blundell’s returned in 1660 and rebuilt the castle. The Blundell’s died out and the castle became a ruin. Ownership was passed down to the second Marquees of Downshire who placed it in State Care in 1954. The history behind the Dundrum Castle is extremely interesting and we were able to learn a lot from it.
Since the castle is a ruin, there isn’t a whole lot to be seen of the actual castle. We were able to go inside the walls of the ruin and take pictures on what was left of the walls. In the middle of the grounds there was the only remaining tower. There was a chain and a lock around the door of the tower so we couldn’t go in although a few of the students tried to boost each other up and climb through the window. From the door, we could see the stone spiral staircase leading upward to the other floors of the tower. The castle is situated on top of a hill overlooking the city and the bay. From the castle, you can see many different things from the 360 degree few. When you look east, you see the Irish Sea. When you look south, you get a view of the Mourne Mountains. And from the north and west, you get an incredible view of the Irish countryside. Our time at the castle was spent walking around, taking pictures, and exploring the trails surrounding the outer walls. When everyone was done exploring, the guys, Link Staff included, played a game of “touch” rugby.
Many parents have asked, my mom included, what we are getting out of our trip in Ireland besides a good time. We were able to see one of the most beautiful viewpoints I have ever seen in my life, and point that workmanship to the Creator. It was amazing to see, even from one point on top of a hill, just a few of the amazing things our God can do. We saw hills, mountains, farmland, forests, the beach and the ocean. It’s so great to see these things and be able to see God’s glory in just a few square miles. We serve a God who is greater than anyone or anything else in this universe and today reminded us of that.
Our next stop was the Newcastle Boardwalk for lunch and some time on the beach! Newcastle is along the Irish Sea coast…so clearly we had some people in the water! Students got to eat lunch at some of the various “chip shops” and bistro cafes, and then walk through some shops and play on the beach! The Lord blessed us with such incredible weather!
Last stop of the day: The Tollymore Forest. Emily taught us a little bit about it and she was such a fan of her researched site!…here is what she has to say about this beautiful place! Today we went to Tollymore Forest and it was beautiful! A great way to end our time in Ireland. Tollymore Forest was the first National Forest Park in Northern Ireland, before it was owned and run by the Departmen of Agriculture and Rural Development it was owned by different families. James the 1st until 1685, then the Hamilton family inherited it by marriage in 1930. It was established on June 2, 1955. Tollymore is 1600 acres at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. There are four main trails that people use ranging from 1-8 miles, it is open for: hiking, camping, horseback riding, biking, running and walking. The recently renovated state of the art outdoors center offers classes from climbing to kayak rolls and even organizes trips! We spent around 3 hours at Tollymore, starting with some time alone. Nasa reminded us of Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God, before we got there. We were encouraged to be alone and be still. That time was amazing and I know it was very beneficial for a lot of us because there is so much noise and so many distractions in our lives. Being in His creation is such a great reminder of who the Lord is and how big He is. We had a great afternoon of both quiet and adventure at Tollymore! It was one of my favorites throughout our whole trip!
Tomorrow we clean the manor and pack pack pack…with maybe a couple last minute souvenir trips…and a special night activity! The ladies leave for the airport early Thursday morning and will arrive home Thursday evening! The gents will follow their same path Friday. I am sure that students will be contacting many of you mid day on their respective flying days once we get stateside! We hope that you have enjoyed keeping up with our trip! It has truly been a blessing to spend such sweet time with our Link Year family in such an incredibly beautiful place!