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Newsletter August 2008

Giant's Causeway   Our Community is small and very friendly

Government reports say the Greater Shankill area and the Crumlin Road ward in particular is the most impoverished in Northern Ireland.  But the community has character and reconstruction is happening.

One night there was a rap on the door at 10:00 p.m. and I thought, “Should we open the door?” then I hear Ward thanking someone profusely.  Our neighbor Andrew, who drives a cab, was going out and noticed our sunroof was open.  He told us we should close it as a huge rainstorm was forecasted.  Such keen observation!  Such kindness and consideration!  Such community life. Ward visited with May Brush, who gave him a bag of cupcakes, saying they were called Queen’s cakes and they were for Marda.  I bake sweets to give away too.  I took some matzo cashew brittle to Andrew the next night.

We were delighted by Deborah’s invitation for dinner with the apology that she hadn’t done it earlier with being sick and all.  She is 30 and a single mom with loads of family in the church neighborhood. When we got there she admitted that she had never cooked a proper meal in her life and she asked her sisters and mum what to cook.  It was delicious, spaghetti Bolognese and chocolate cake with Devon cream, yum.
The second dinner invitation came from Margaret, a lady who single handedly collects for the Irish Leprosy Mission.  She and her husband John had us into the yard for tea and biscuits, then into the house for dinner, then off to a neighboring church for evening worship.  Our church ceased evening worship for two months allowing us the privilege of visiting other churches.  Margaret took us to Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, which is what the Irish imagine all American churches to be like: hundreds of people bused in and 1000s in hand clapping worship.  It was interesting, but too big for us.
The third invitation from a church member came from Barbara, a professor.  Barbara is a child of the Greater Shankill and also has a PhD in Psychology from Queens University.  She readily tells us her father is an alcoholic, served time in jail, was a member of the UVF (paramilitaries), and her mother was dysfunctional on Valiums.  When she was 14, her 11 year old brother fell from a roof and died.  She recalls two bomb blasts during the Troubles, and a militant with a machine gun in her front yard!

After four months, Eddie who comes to church worship alone came over to me and asks, “How are you getting along?”  After some conversation he told us where he lived and invited us to visit him and his wife.  So after 30 years of conflict and 10 uneasy years, the basic character of community, friendliness, and hospitality is intact.
Outside our church we received an invitation from McCall, to return as her guest to Downhill Hostel on the North coast.  We stayed at Downhill last month when we took Deborah and Carson up to the Giant’s Causeway and Londonderry.  McCall’s own immigration from Seattle ten years ago was hard and she was willing to reach out to us.  She and her Northern Irish husband, William, own a wonderful hostel and she teaches and has a pottery studio.  She is brilliant and helped me build a set of plates between their baby’s nap and play with daddy.

This is our community.

Email: wardstothers@cten.org
New Phone: (028) 90 291986  From US 01144.2890.291986.
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