Our last stop in England before we would go island hopping to Ireland, was the beautiful city of Oxford. Our dear friend Bruce invited us to see the city where he lived and the Bible college where he used to lecture, Wycliff Hall. After an intensive week in community life it would be great to be among students again. For we were hosted at Wycliff in a guestroom – usually reserved for special guest lecturers – and taken under the care of one of the students, Romala.
We had a great time sharing stories, sharing dinner and watching TV shows together. At this time we were following the Dutch TV game show Wie is de mol? which was coming to a close and one of the students, Julian from Texas, was very interested to see if he could follow despite it being in Dutch. It turned out to be very funny to watch together.
Bruce guided us through the city of Oxford, and he turned out to be a great guide, telling us all about the history and buildings of the city of which he is so proud. And, being a member of Christchurch College, he could bring us for free to the school that was starred as Hogwards School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. However, Bruce was much more interested in the real heroes of Oxford, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll, the writers of The Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland. As we are both fans of books, the highlight was a five store high bookstore, Blackwells.
To add to our list of different Christian confessions we've engaged with in our journey, we were introduced to the Anglican church, The Church of England. What amazed us was how this church is able to combine an array of different church traditions in different church services together. So even when people prefer to express their faith differently, they are still part of one community and see each other at other church events.
After Oxford, we drove to Liverpool, to catch our ferry to Dublin. No stormy cancellations this time, only a rescheduling of our ship, which meant that we got a bed, even though we only ordered seats.
In Ireland we planned to visit our friend, Iris, who was studying together with us in Wageningen, and is now working on her PhD in Cork. When we asked if she could host us, she came with a surprisingly positive response: 'I can arrange a house for you.'
Members of her church community have moved from Ireland to England, but still could not sell their old house. And because for the insurance someone had to live in this house. So, our friend offered to live as a caretaker in this house, and therefore we could live there together with Iris for the next two weeks.
During the ferry crossing Irma felt very sick. But it was not from the boat, the next day she felt just as nauseous. Though it turned out to be good news; Irma is pregnant! We have a new journey ahead of us, the one of becoming parents. As for the sickness, the two weeks that we were in Ireland Irma felt sick most of the time and had a difficult time. We felt so blessed with this lovely house to rest these days, and the little we had planned. No busy weeks helping missionaries or working in the garden, being able to cook ourselves to see what Irma could eat. This was Gods perfect planning.
Though Ireland is too beautiful to only stay inside the house. Irma loves this country and wanted to show Gideon its treasures. We went to the west coast for two days to explore the ring of Kerry and the city of Killarney. Above that, we had a beautiful walk with Iris at cliffs in the south and visited Cobh, where the Titanic last made her last stop.
It wouldn't be us to only stay in the house and we wouldn't want to be somewhere without meeting people. We went together with Iris to her bible study group in Fermoy. For two weeks we were part of a very diverse group of people, coming from different churches together. When we joined they were watching a series of lectures by Danielle Strickland.
We joined the church services of the Presbyterian church on Sundays, but above that each Sunday they hold a praise night, which we gladly joined. Gideon joined the music team, switching from piano to guitar to bass guitar. We were also invited for the valentine diner of the church, so after two weeks we had met so many wonderful people. Many mothers shared their experiences and advice with Irma, and Gideon enjoyed making music together with others.
There is no other way to end this blog post than with this Celtic blessing:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields,
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.