The Other Side of the Tracks
learning to live as a disciple outside my Christian comfort zone
by Sophie Fountain
Living on the Other Side of the TracksEach year dozens of university-aged people from Sword of the Spirit communities give up a year of school or career to serve in many different locations, both in one's own country and abroad, filling needed “gaps” in our youth work. Each “Standing in the Gap” year is unique. A Gap year in Costa Rica looks different from a Gap year in Mexico; New Zealand is different than serving in the United States; the Philippines differs from London.
When we gappers arrived, the Youth Initiatives staff tried to tell us everything we would need to know about living and working in Belfast. It was hard to take it all in but I learned as I lived: how to pronounce Irish names (‘Caoimhe,’ for example, is ‘Keva’) or how to speak softly even when excitedly talking on the phone (as Irish do, and Americans like me do not). I learned that I couldn’t listen to ‘traditional Irish music’ while living in a Loyalist neighborhood because what we think of as Irish is really from the Catholic side of the tracks. Wearing a Celtic cross could get one in trouble in my neighborhood, as could talking about sports like rugby or hurling (those are Nationalist, not Loyalist sports). Calling oneself Catholic or Protestant can sometimes be more of a cultural or political qualifier than a statement of faith or religious convictions."
Underestimate Teen Spirit!)
People in Belfast don’t leave their neighborhoods much. When we had a retreat for all the NUTS kids, for example, the Lagmore kids would be very suspicious of the Twinbrook kids, even though both those neighborhoods are Catholic and only about five minutes from each other.
Many of the kids start attending YI events at age 11 or 12 and keep with the program through their late teens. Often, older siblings or friends tell them about YI and bring them along.
and Stepping Up
Every child who can serve in some way is asked to. The resulting ‘ownership’ they have in Youth Initiatives is incredible. Numbers of former YI members now in their 20s have come back and are volunteering as program leaders. Some have decided on a youth workers course of study at college because of their confidence and love for kids gained in YI.
Lord have his Way with Me
Here in the States, I never needed to depend on the Lord like I did there. Here I have family and lots of close Christian friends to help me get through any challenge. I learned during my Gap year that God is enough for me.
Bubble of my Christian Comfort Zone
I am back in East Lansing, involved in my University
Christian Outreach chapter. I am living in a household with great Christian
women. In addition, I volunteer with a group of middle school girls and
continue ‘processing’ the many things that the Lord did with me during
my year in Belfast. God is good.
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