Monday, May 23, 2011

One of 40 Million

They say that 40 million Americans trace at least some of their ancestry back to Ireland.  I'm one of 'em.  Juli (and obviously Ashlyn) are two more of them.  It wasn't until a few years ago that Barack Obama (or is it O'Bama?) discovered that he has Irish roots as his great, great, great grandfather Falmouth Kearney originated from the small town of Moneygall in county Offaly.  Today my President came home and met some of his distant cousins including his 8th cousin Henry Healy (or is it Henry the VIII?).

A few years back my first cousin, Johnny Smith traced my dad's side of the family back to Ireland through at least two lines.  One of my ancestors, Matthew Wallace came from Raphoe, in county Donegal.  Another one of my ancestors, John Smith (also my dad's name - quite original, eh?) came from the north of Ireland.  I've not located the exact location of John Smith's origins, but I have been to Raphoe (a tiny little village between Donegal town and Derry) a couple of times and spent the night there in a quaint little B&B. 

Before President Obama spoke to a throng of thousands upon thousands of enthusiastic Irish well wishers, Taoiseach Enda Kenny introduced him to the crowd and then invited the other 39,999,999 to follow the path of their President back home to the emerald isle.  Based on our conversation 3 months ago in Galway, Taoiseach Kenny should have remembered that he only need invite 39,999,997 because 3 of them are already here. - Shay


Monday, May 16, 2011

Iron Sharpens Iron

Craig and Merschon Hutson, Scott Karnes, and I just got back from Sheffield, England last night where we attended the house party, a church planting seminar put on by The Crowded House.  TCH is a collection of gospel communities whose focus is to live out the realities of the gospel in all its glory as well as all its messiness by sharing life together in small house based groups and by intentionally living their lives with a missional focus.  Presently, TCH consists of 9 gospel communities in Sheffield, 4 in Loughborough, England, and several more in formation, scattered around the world.  The four of us and 5 others from England and Romania spent several days observing and participating with these communities as they engaged in mission through their natural rhythms of life.  We experienced a lot and learned much from those experiences.  Once we have a couple of days to process what we saw we plan to figure out how what we learned might be useful to us here in Dublin.  As iron sharpens iron, so one church planting initiative sharpens another! - Shay

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Dying Danish Church

The Smith family arrived back in Dublin on Friday.  We had an amazing 10 day trip to the UK and Denmark and were able to experience some of the sights and sounds that my grandfather and grandmother did 66 and 87 years ago respectively.  It was great to visit the old American airbase near Bury St. Edmunds where my granddad was stationed in WWII.  Many buildings at the base are still standing and have been turned into a museum. 

Unfortunately, the house and barn my grandmother's family used to own near Gelsted, Denmark were torn down about 2 years ago.  We stayed in a house only 10 minutes walk from her old farm and though some things had changed, a lot had remained the same.  One thing that has definitely changed in Denmark is the religious climate.

In most rural areas the people are more religious than in urban areas.  If that's the case in Denmark, then the Danish state-funded Lutheran Church is dying, if not already dead.  We were able to worship at the parish church my grandmother was Christened in some 92 years ago and if it weren't for the priest, the organ player, and 3 teenage girls recruited to sing in the "choir", there would not have been any Danish people present under the age of 70.  In fact, there were only a handful of elderly people there and most of them had been bussed in from a local nursing home.  After worship Juli asked the girls if any young people ever attended church.  "No", they replied.  "What about families, do they ever attend?"  "Never", the girls responded.  It would have been a rude question to ask, but I have a strong premonition that if the girls had not been recruited to sing in the choir, they wouldn't have been in the church that Sunday either. 

Denmark is leading Europe's secular parade and it won't be long until other European countries have as little religious fervor as Scandinavia.  But thankfully, Denmark's story isn't complete and there is hope that there may be revival in the future, if only in small numbers (who am I to doubt the power of God...maybe there will be a revival in big numbers?).  A friend of mine in Dublin did mission work in Denmark over 30 years ago and he said that it wasn't known as Europe's spiritual icebox for nothing.  God bless the work of those whom he may send in the years to come.  And for those of us engaged in Christ's Kingdom work in other parts of Europe or North America, visiting Denmark is a good reminder that the work we do may be the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death for many individuals, if not entire nations. - Shay