And the journey begins....

A visit to Northern Ireland

Monday, June 13, 2016

Graduate education student Nena Houston is currently in Northern Ireland as preparation for next summer's Graduate Education trip. This post is the first entry in her travel journal.

Journey: (n) 1.  the act of traveling to one place or another, peregrination; 2.  a long and often difficult process of personal change and development.

We made it!  Dr. Connie Matchell, Dr. Richard Ellis, and I set off from XNA on Friday, June 10, 2016, connected through Chicago O’Hare, and survived the seven hour flight to Dublin, Ireland. We landed Saturday around 8:30 a.m., but our bodies were telling us it was 2:30 a.m. However, that didn’t discourage us one bit.  We hopped the bus to Belfast, and the adventure began!

Once in Belfast, we met up with Billy Stevenson, our guide for the week. We started our journey at the famous Europa Hotel. Billy informed us that is was the most bombed hotel during the Northern Ireland conflict. It is a symbol of the strength of the people of Belfast, because it was rebuilt each time in the midst of the terroristic threats. After tea, we began a day of discovery the rich history of Belfast. In the pictures above you will see the Belfast City Hall. In front of City Hall, there is a memorial with the names of all those that perished on the Titanic (top picture). Also, there is a monument and plaque honoring President Bill Clinton for the part he played in the peace agreement of the 1990s between the Protestants and Catholics that resulted in a “power sharing” government (middle picture). As we continued through the day, Billy pointed out many historical places, as well as places that are important to the every day workings of the wonderful people here in Belfast. The places we visited told the story of the difficulties and hardships faced by the people of Belfast and reflected their strength as a community striving to continue to grow and overcome the past.

This trip is also connected to a graduate level course, Christian Foundations.  As a student, I am intentionally looking for ways that I can connect my experiences with this course. I have selected the theme of “journey” for this trip. I physically traveled a long way to see this wonderful place. I will spend many hours each day visiting iconic places, listening to the stories about C.S. Lewis and St. Patrick, collaborating with local school officials to discuss a partnership for our Graduate Education program, and participating in activities with the locals. That is one part of my journey. But already, I can feel that I will be like the perigrini (those on a journey or pilgrimage) described in Tracy Balzer’s book Thin Places (2007). These travelers knew that it was more about the journey, than the destination (p. 89), as they intentionally journeyed for the purpose of drawing closer to God and drawing others closer, as well.  I look forward to reporting how I am being changed and transformed during this wonderful journey!

Well, that is the end of Day One! Join in for updates throughout the week.  Sunday we will visit the childhood home and church of C.S. Lewis. We will also be experiencing a special service in honor of the Queen’s birthday! Then, we will be visiting three public schools and Stranmillis College and meeting the school officials. This collaboration is in preparation for next year’s trip. Start planning now to be a part of this wonderful experience!

Enjoying the journey,
Nena Houston



Blog HomePosted By: Nena Houston - 6/13/16 7:45 AM

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