A "RIOT" in Northern Ireland
by Millie Norwood, Northern Ireland Team Leader
Wow! So much has happened over the last few years that truly reminds me how blessed I am each day. This past December I finished my doctoral degree in Learning Organizations and Strategic Change at Lipscomb University. This has been something I have always prayed about doing, but never did I realize that I would complete this journey at the age of 27 and at my one and only alma mater, Lipscomb. I recently finished my 5th year of teaching 7th grade Math at Oliver Middle School, where each day brings new challenges that have taught me so much more about myself and influencing the lives of others.
It is such a blessing to see God work in places all around the world. Being involved in missions has touched my life in numerous ways. Our greatest blessing as a community is the chance to be in relationship with a loving God who gives us opportunity to love others. Should the size of a community affect the quality of a community? Often people accept the fact that smaller communities have less to offer their residents. But why should the residents accept less?
The past six years I have had the privilege to go to Northern Ireland through Lipscomb Missions and serve with “Revival In Our Town” (RIOT) ministry. RIOT’s mission is to build up the village of Dundrum, Northern Ireland from within. Northern Ireland is a gorgeous part of God's creation here on earth, yet the people of Northern Ireland are even more beautiful. The residents deserve quality community support and a place of Christian care and community. Unlike many parts of America, only a small percentage of the Irish population has an active walk with Christ. Few Irish teens claim to be Christians. The lives of Irish youth are characterized by boredom and apathy and this results with the experimentation of drugs and alcohol at such an early age as an outlet. Youth in Ireland can be very straightforward, blunt, and honest about where they are at in life. Some might consider them to be sharp or a little rough around the edges. Many of them hang around outside with no direction, discipline, or anywhere to go. They lack Christian mentors to show them the right way to do things, and live. Although we see this in America, it is a much larger issue in Ireland.
The RIOT youth center gives us a platform to do our real work – sharing God’s love with Irish kids and teens. RIOT provides alternative activities for local youth while showing them that Christ is better than any high the world can offer. While at the RIOT youth center we can spend many hours playing soccer and football, introducing the American game of cornhole, hanging out with some amazing youth, enjoying tea-time, listening and even playing music, but most importantly, be in the presence of holy people and the Holy Spirit. Everyone has that hunger for more, for God, but it might not be clear or apparent. These youth might want to be Christian, but they just need a little help - a little push. The Lord is visibly working on their hearts. They want to know more about who Jesus is and what is so different about a life with Him. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and bewildering. But after one day with the youth at RIOT, Christ can be seen in the small things. The questions about why we pray, and curiosity of why we came to Ireland from America, why we are different, how does one stop drinking, what is love really about, etc. – all of these questions are the beginning of a quest, a search for the truth.
While with the youth we strive to equip and empower them so they can rise up as God-fearing leaders in their community, and eventually impact the country and world around them. As said in Philippians 4:8, "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Throughout our time we use fun games, youth group times, and intentional one-on-one talks to drive it home. Each summer comes with great excitement as a team from Lipscomb University is able to return and rekindle relationships with the youth in Dundrum and show them the amazing love of Christ in daily example and work. I am passionate about bringing the gospel to teens so they can know Christ deeply and start to walk with Him. If they begin to trust Christ at such a young age, their faith can move mountains and change the world.
If we never get out of our comfort zones, we can’t grow into the places God has prepared for us. I am confident that God called the 13 members of our team this year for a reason and pushed them to get out of their comfort zone to serve more of His people in what was an unfamiliar place to them. While working with the youth in Dundrum, team members were able to share the impact that Christ has had on their life to a society where Christianity is rarely reflected by a change in lifestyle. Although each person’s experience during the day may have been quite different, they were all profoundly moved by God’s work. Team members’ gestures of deep trust and vulnerability to those from the outside were bold. God continually calls us, loves us, and directs us. A “RIOT” is at hand!
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”
- 1 Corinthians 16:13-14