Today’s recap was written by Luke Witvliet:

Day 3 began with us saying goodbye to our host families. We had such a wonderful time with them – they were extremely hospitable and kind. The goodbye was hard, but that means our time together was good! Our group assembled at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church, where we did devotions and engaged in a few sessions. During devotions we read Acts 10, where Cornelius invited Peter to meet with him. Peter was wary of Cornelius, a Gentile, but was astonished with his kindness once he got to know him. We were challenged to observe throughout the day who might be our Cornelius: someone who we might categorize as “the other” but broke down our stereotypes through the love they exemplified.

David Campbell led us in a session entitled “How We Got Here” that explained to us the history of Northern Ireland, beginning one thousand years ago with Norman raids and extending through the 1960s, when The Troubles began. His session helped us understand the complex layers of conflict encompassing language, culture, government, and religion.

After David wrapped up, Grania from the Wave Trauma Centre came to the church to lead us in a session about traumas associated with The Troubles. She helped us understand how the damage of the conflict went beyond physical injury and death. She emphasized that their work involves advocacy but is non-political. Historically, they have served people on both sides of the conflict.

After eating lunch at the church, we loaded our bags onto the bus. Our first stop was at Stormont Parliament Buildings. Michael Potter, a friend of the Campbells who works as a government researcher, explained to us the political system. Though Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, they have their own local government to make decisions pertaining specifically to Northern Ireland. Afterward, we met with Marina, a guide and educator who works for the government. She explained the state of the current political climate and the reasons that the government has been shut down since April 2022. Then, we met with three politicians: one nationalist (an advocate for a United Ireland), one moderate (neutral on the conflict), and one unionist (an advocate for Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom). The conversations with these politicians helped us understand how Northern Ireland’s history has shaped the political discourse of today.

After leaving Stormont, we took a 90-minute bus ride to Bushmills, a lovely town near the North Coast. We settled into Bushmills Youth Hostel and prepared dinner for ourselves there. At night, we walked to the beach to reflect on the day and discuss our chapter from Reconcile in small groups. The North Coast is incredible! Day 3 was packed with learning, traveling, exploring, and scenic views. We are so grateful for everything we experienced today, and there’s no doubt that most of us slept well at night.