This summer, our group of four was blessed with the opportunity to spend three weeks in Belfast, Northern Ireland on an RP Missions trip. After many ups and downs and an expected trip cancellation, God granted us this trip of a lifetime. Three of us from Southfield, MI, along with a girl studying at R.C. Sprouls’ Reformation Bible College in Florida came together to help out at the Shaftesbury Square Reformed Presbyterian Church. Throughout the first two weeks, we were involved in various activities at the church and throughout the local community with Associate Pastor Philip McCollum. We met people from several different countries and were given opportunities to share the Gospel in many different contexts and locations. For the third week, we spent our time at the RPI Senior Camp where we interacted with young adults through attending talks about heaven, having daily discussion groups, and participating in various indoor and outdoor activities.
Evangelism in Belfast
Religious identity in Northern Ireland is largely only politically based, so there is a great need to share the Gospel in Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods alike. Each morning while we were in Belfast, we went around the city distributing Christian magazines hoping to motivate and inspire people in need of Christ. Preparing magazines was also a great team-building activity for us as we had many theological and personal discussions that helped to motivate us in the distribution. While the fruit of many of these efforts are and will be unseen, we did get to interact with several people during these times. In order to talk to more people in person, we went door-to-door with the magazines one evening. Our time allowed us to talk to people around the area and get a sense of their needs and desires to know Christ, and we offered prayers for them accordingly. Many of us got our first experience facing people upfront about their faith, and so were strengthened and encouraged by each other’s experience.
International Meeting Point (IMP)
The International Meeting Point (IMP) is a drop-in center for local members of the international community. The center is a daily spot for a free lunch prepared by the hosting couple, a Bible study with local pastors, and several games such as foosball, pool, and ping pong. This was a very humbling experience for us as we met people from many different countries and backgrounds. We had many discussions about our faith and learned from new and interesting perspectives. The warm and friendly environment allowed us to make several new connections and friendships.
The IMP is run by a local Presbyterian church, so Bible study and Christian fellowship are tightly connected to their mission and approach. Different types of studies are held weekly, such as a women’s study and one strictly in Farsi. Many of the IMP attendees are from Iran, so a weekly study in Farsi would take place in addition to a translator being present at all studies. It was exciting to see everyone coming together to study the Gospel, ask questions, and pray despite language barriers. It showed us that we are all one in Christ, despite nationality, tongue, or race. The IMP is a thriving cultural experience with a God-centered focus that successfully provides Christian fellowship and service to those in need.
Service and Outreach
Along with our routine daily activities, our team also helped out at various other places around town. We visited a local community garden and helped by cleaning up, hanging shelves, and installing a gutter, among other things. We also visited the Covenanter Book Centre at the Reformed Theological Seminary and registered books for their new online archive. In addition, the team had a blast acting out the Parable of the Lost Son at a local primary school assembly. On a Saturday night, we went out around the city with the local NightLight team to help bargoers and the homeless by delivering tea, coffee, and sandwiches. Finally, we were able to give back to the congregation at Shaftesbury Square by weeding outside, planting flowers within a few newly constructed beds, cleaning for a wedding, and helping out at the weekly English class and a nightly Shaftesbury Café during the second week. The various trips during the café nights allowed us to further strengthen the friendships made in the English class as several people showed up for a city tour of Belfast, a Titanic boat trip, visiting the Stormont parliamentary building, and a Ceili night. Through these activities, we connected with more international people and were involved in various activities around the city.
RPI Senior Camp
During our third week, we attended the 2017 RPI Senior Camp at the Royal School in Armagh. Pastor Nathan Hawthorne gave talks each day focused on the characteristics of heaven. He delivered convicting yet encouraging talks about our Christian walk, evangelism, and the glory of God. Our daily discussion groups allowed for small group interaction as we further delved into the subject of heaven. In addition to fellowship, prayer meetings, and Psalm singing, we enjoyed various indoor and outdoor activities, such as messy games, football, rugby, volleyball, trips to Lisburn and the East Coast, a contest night, and a finale party. Interacting with younger members of the RP church added to the wide repertoire of people we met, and we were greatly encouraged by the unity in Christ that was experienced.
Our experience in Belfast cannot be summed up adequately in words as the four of us discovered new perspectives and met many new challenges, yet we were encouraged greatly by each other and through our team devotions. We were blessed with a North Coast trip to Giant’s Causeway where we experienced leisure time as a team and saw a gorgeous part of God’s creation. The majesty of his work in Northern Ireland, both in nature and in the people there, were simply astounding. I am sure I speak for all of us when I say we each left a piece of our hearts in Belfast. Prayers for the Shaftesbury Square RPC and the people of Northern Ireland would be greatly appreciated as we hope to see the two connected through God’s grace and love!