I have a place in my heart for Ireland. That sounds weird doesn’t it? I’m not Irish and we never celebrated this Holiday growing up (after all its “just about luck and drinking – two things we don’t believe in”). But St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of all things Ireland, hence the soft spot now for the holiday. The only way I can explain my love for Ireland dates back to two distinct childhood memories. The first when I watched the John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara classic – The Quiet Man on TV.
I love this movie for some reason.
In the small Baptist church I grew up in, every year there was a “missions conference and banquette”. A time when a few of the missionaries that we, the church helped financially support would come visit while home in the states on furlough. During this time the missionary would “fill the pulpit” each night for a week leading up to a big banquette on Saturday night. The Missions Banquette was something I looked forward to eating my way through… I mean attending. My mom would volunteer to host a table and would be given a missionary and his country. She would decorate the table and make a dish for the buffet line that originated from or symbolized the culture.
Each night before the message the missionary would show slides, images of the country where they served and the people they ministered to. They would often invite us to listen for a calling from God to join them in a commitment to be called to serve with them in their “country”. Japan was a “popular” calling. The guy from there was older, experienced, suave and had good souvenirs. South America would bring along musical instruments and a great accent.
One evening a tired, balding, large nosed man was introduced. It was a Thursday night and many of the pews were empty. He seemed sweaty and nervous. I felt bad for him. I can still remember the beautiful pictures of Ireland from the slide show. Green hills, thatched roof cottages, sheep… it was like a movie. When his presentation ended he offered an invitation to come forward to know more about Christ or to speak to him about the country of Ireland.
Crickets…no one went forward to be “saved” and no one felt “called” to be a missionary to Ireland. I stood there in the pew with my head down and an ache in the pit of my stomach. Just when the invitation was coming to a close (I knew this because we were singing the last stanza of the third verse of Just as I am). Something inside of me drew me forward. Was it the Holy Spirit or a chubby 8 year olds sense of empathy for a fellow reject?
I received a handshake and a hug from the missionary and his wife. They prayed with me and I promised to grow up and be a missionary to Ireland. We wrote letters back and forth pretty regularly for a few years (pre email days) then the letters became fewer and farther between, eventually they stopped. To show my support and commitment I had a Snoopy waving the Ireland flag sweatshirt that I wore through my teens, but I outgrew it. I never forgot that missionary and about a year ago I found him on the internet. Still in Ireland, still serving the people there.
I think about him every year around this time and definitley when I catch the movie the quiet man playing on TBS.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everybody.
Pray for a missionary or somebody that impacted you along the way and make your family some cornbeef and cabbage.