I have so much to say I don't know where to begin. I'll begin by saying: Ireland was fabulous! The people were friendly, the food was good, the places were beautiful, the services were Spirit filled, traveling was fun...as everyone else has been saying, "It was a life-changing trip."
Not only did we get to see beautiful countryside and amazing places but we met some amazing people. My most favorite part of the whole trip was establishing relationships with the people. Most of the friendships are with people from Mark and Deanna Mander's church. But I also met many wonderful people in the churches we sang in.
One person in particular to mention would be Andy. Andy was our bus driver every day of the tour. He's originally from Scotland but moved back to Ireland, his wife's home country, about a year ago. Andy quickly became someone I would call family. Having his kind and loving spirit around made our trip all the more wonderful. It was such a pleasure to meet him and get to know him. The night we sang at his church he wore his kilt. It was the neatest thing to see him in his traditional attire. He told me that he usually only wears it for special occasions. It was humbling to think that the GBS choir singing at his church was a "special occasion."
Andy's son was another special person we all got to know and love. His name is Philip, he's 22 and he has down syndrome. He and his mother, Eileen, were fortunate to make it to more than one choir service. Philip loved us just as much as we loved him. Every service they went to he took the same choir program with him. We gave him some CDs and Eileen said that night Philip slept with them under his arms. Sunday evening we gave him a progrom that we all signed. He absolutely loves that program. Eileen told me that since then he carries that thing with him everywhere and shows it off to everyone. Andy has laminated it so that it won't become worn. What an honor it is to be used by God to make an impact in the life of even one person.
Here are the McLellans: Eileen, Andy and Philip
Another precious family we met are the Stewart's. Wesley Stewart was our sound man. He came to every service, set up his sound equipment and managed it for us. He was a joy to have around! He was always so cheerful and encouraging. His wife's name is Lorna, and they have two daughters named Rebekah and Hannah. They were also able to come to more than one service. It was so nice to see them sitting in the audience, smiling and enjoying the presence of God.
The Stewarts (clockwise from left): Lorna, Wesley, Rebekah and Hannah
A dear couple who helped us out a few days of the tour was Rev. Eric and Yvonne Stewart. They are actually Wesley's parents. Rev. Stewart is the former senior pastor of Coleraine Independent Methodist Church, the church where Mark Mander is now the senior pastor. Their love for Jesus shines from their faces. Simply glancing at them during our services would give me an extra boost of energy to continue singing.
The Stewarts: Rev. Eric and Yvonne
Overall, the people were wonderful. These are just a few of whom I was able to establish relationships with. As we passed through each church I was able to meet many more wonderful people. It was so encouraging to sing to people who were hungry for the Lord's presence. Everywhere we went we were greeted with anticipation; almost as if we carried the presence of God with us. It makes me sad to think that many we sang to have never experienced His presence like they did during the services. Our expression of worship was very new to them.
I must say that there is nothing special about the GBS choir. Everything we do, we do for the glory and honor of God. We are simply instruments used by Him. I hope that we were able to effectively carry out the message of the Gospel through our singing. And I also hope that the people know that we aren't the only ones who carry God's presence with us, but that they can too.