After visiting the OM Ireland office on Tuesday, I got a ride to Roscommon town, spent two hours wandering around, and then caught Bus Eireann for the 6+ hour journey to Cork.
I finally arrived around half-ten (10:30 for the Americans) and began walking from the bus station down the main thoroughfare to the house where I would be spending the next three nights. Arriving at the downtown home after a 15-minute walk, I rang the doorbell and the door swung open to reveal dozens of students from the local college.
This night was the weekly gathering of the Christian Union, Ireland's equivalent to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Students were talking, playing various games (Dutch Blitz!), and making music. There was a fantastic energy to it; a great sense of welcome.
My host offered me some pizza and introduced me to several of the students. I immediately hit it off with Abigail and Dominic, talking with them for quite sometime before heading upstairs to the piano room, where Joel was playing Like a Lion, a song that's been on the Christian radio station a whole lot for the past few months.
Somehow, we got on the topic of politics, and several of the Irish students were happy with my intention to vote for Romney. "I mean, how can you vote for a guy who hasn't done anything the past four years?" I now recall this moment with a sense of irony.
Soon, the students went home, and I went to bed.
The next day, I wandered the city, walking along the river out to University College Cork and back through the English Market, where I purchased a delicious sandwich and some strawberries as well. Then, hiding from the rain, I found myself in a small cafe with Naomi, a girl from Singapore who recognized me from the previous night's gathering. We talked about culture and faith a bit, and then traveled on. I noticed then that the house in which I was staying was just across the street from where I had stayed 3 years earlier on a study abroad weekend at the Cork Jazz Festival. Funny how these things work out.
Much of that afternoon was spent reading Tim Keller's Reason for God and N. T. Wright's Surprised by Hope - both very thought-provoking books.
Instead of going out for Halloween - whether the usual revelry or the alternative Christian Union party - I had the privilege of praying for the city of Cork with my host family. We prayed for all those out on the streets, in the clubs and bars: that fights would not break out, that no one would fall in the river (as has happened), that they might know God's love for them. It was a joy to pray with them and witness their love for the city of Cork and its people. They told me of the Street Pastor ministry, in which church members stay up until 4 AM on weekend nights, helping people make it home after a night in the club, giving flip-flops to girls who can't wear their 5-inch heels anymore, talking to whoever might be lonely or angry. Christ's love, Christ's light still shines.
The next day, I was off to Cobh (pronounced Cove), a small town just a half-hour train ride away. It was from this town that the Titanic set sail for its one and only voyage. The pier at which it docked is still there, though in severe disrepair.
I wandered this little town for several hours, even venturing a few kilometers outside town to visit a nature reserve and have a good-natured conversation with several geese and muskrats.
Back to Cork I went for more time with my wonderful host family - dinner, conversation, and reading. Another night of sleep, an early morning, and off on the bus again.
Off to Donegal, where my ancestral clan once lived.