Irish Rain3:35 PM
These days, I have been asked numerous times, why on earth I am moving half way across the world to work in a church I know hardly anything about, with no particular job title, located in a city known, primarily, for its extreme, religious terrorism. I suppose this would sound crazy to someone who doesn't know Jesus. It often feels quite crazy to be in my own skin these days. But I can honestly say that I have never felt the call of God so strongly in my life. It is near useless to resist the summons of a king. Six years ago I visited the "Emerald Isle" and the impact it left on my life has never left me. Recently, I found a story I wrote about the time I was there, and one very important person I met. This person is the reason that I long heart and soul to return to Ireland. In him, I have found God's heart for the Irish people. So, in the interest of a good story, I will post it here.
As I sat alone on the top floor of the centuries-old Anglican Rectory, I watched the rain streak down the window of my tiny room. It was a dreary day in Belfast, Northern Ireland with nothing to do but peek outside and pray for the sun. The room was at the top of three steep staircases. Neatly tucked into a corner, it was reminiscent of the turret of a castle in some far off fairy tale. A gargoyle with snarling fangs perched outside the window like a demonic sentry. I sniffed the musty damp air as I noted the dust collecting on the trinkets of an old battered desk. It was apparent that this room had not been lived in for at least a century. The cold soaked into my bones causing me to huddle closer to the pathetically useless floor heater. Sighing quietly, I looked out into the gloom as I thought back to the day I had arrived in Ireland some two weeks before.
Full of hope and excitement, I had stepped into Dublin International Airport and into the country of my dreams. Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of Ireland. Growing up, I had heard the legendary stories of my great grandfather, the Orangeman, who had married outside of his Protestant beliefs to the Catholic love of his life. This revolutionary decision caused them to move to America, where the church of one’s choice was not shrouded with hatred and violence. And here I was, in the country where my own family had lived and moved and breathed a mere century before.
I was here to accompany my two best friends who were pastor’s daughters. Their father had come to Ireland at the request of an Irish rector who wanted ideas for his sadly dwindling parish. This pastor soon found us in the airport, with our six-foot high pile of luggage, looking helplessly lost and confused. He could hardly suppress his shrieks of laughter at the sight of these ridiculous Americans who looked as if they had packed for a long term move to Ireland, rather than a mere two weeks. As he led us outside to the cars meant to drive us to Belfast, we exchanged looks of dismay at the tiny vehicles, which would do very nicely for a small family of rabbits. After the traumatizing episode of squishing ourselves and all our belongings into the child size vehicles, we made our way out of the airport and into the lush, Irish countryside.
The green earth was inhabited by a few pretty dairy cows that mooed contentedly as they chewed the brilliantly colored grass. Not a bad place to be a cow, I thought sarcastically. There seemed to be no human in existence beside ourselves on this deserted isle. Hedges that served as boundary markers proved that at least one lone inhabitant was about. Coming from a town only an hour north of Los Angeles, I could not fathom how this picturesque place could be virtually uninhabited. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but still and silent at the same time. Ireland has a mystery all its own. It is almost as if the spirits which warred for Ireland during the days of Patrick and the druids still battle on its isolated moors. It is a far cry from cunning leprechauns and happy old Irishmen doing jigs on small hearths without a care in the world.
This much I concluded, as I sat in my lonely little room with the gargoyle outside the window, waiting for the rain to stop. Suddenly, I heard a knock downstairs. My friends and I were alone in the house, without any adults, in a foreign country, and truthfully, more than a little nervous about strangers coming to the door. We quickly scampered down the long staircases like three mice caught in the pantry. Slowly we peeked around the corner, then drew back quickly. The door had a glass pane that was almost impossible to see through. We strained for a glimpse and could just make out the shape of a man standing hunched and shivering in the rain. He pounded louder, as I stealthily crept toward the door. My friends whispered excitedly for me to get back into one of the rooms, but I merely resumed my cats crawl toward the entryway. By the time I got there, he had turned and left.
Opening the door, I saw, walking sadly away, an old man bent and aged with the years. His skeletal frame was hunched pitifully in the rain. I called out and asked if there was any way I could help him. He turned around and revealed a wide set of blue eyes, that gave me the feeling I had opened the door to a stray and meowing cat. His cragged face opened with a smile, as he politely asked for the Reverend. I was impatient and cold. This man I had never met before in my life was making me freeze and letting in the draft. I was slightly resentful at his taking up my time. The cold air swirled around me sending a chill up my spine.
I replied curtly that the Reverend was not in, but I was sure he would be back soon. With that I began to close the door in his face, when he quickly stuck a small envelope in the door. I opened the door again and took the envelope, hesitantly. He asked me in a quaking voice, that betrayed his over 70 years, to give the envelope to the Reverend when he was in. I thanked him as he left the door with a series of small bows and “thank you ma’ms.” Turning back inside, I smiled at his typical Irish gentlemanliness. Carefully, I looked inside the tiny package, only to find many British pounds stuffed neatly inside. It was a tithe envelope for the church and the amount was surely above his means. He had walked some distance, in torrential icy rain, simply to give a tithe. I had never met anyone with such unswerving devotion to his Lord. Tears came to my eyes, as I thought of the widow’s mite, and how Jesus had called her gift the most precious of all. This little man gave proof that her spirit lived on in the hearts of all who would give all they had for their Creator. Surely a loving God smiled down from heaven at one of his most humble, yet faithful servant, who now walked away in the pouring, Irish rain.