As we’ve settled into our routine here, we are enjoying the season of life the Lord has given us in Ireland. We are pretty used to the lovely landscapes and the grand people we meet. We are regularly enjoying watching rugby games and soccer games on TV with friends. We go on daily walks to clock more miles. We know which grocery store has the cheapest price on milk and what vegetables to buy at the market. We quickly recognize the coins and bills without close inspection. You could say we have reached a comfortableness with the Irish culture–its differences have almost become normal. But then, there are the things that catch me off guard and leave my jaw hanging in surprise.
On Friday, I got the opportunity to go to one of the local boys’ schools with Mike (the Irish director of the cafe and ministry). We met with six high school juniors. We talked about a few different things before Mike asked if they had ever read the Bible. One boy said he had opened one in a hotel once. Another guy said his granny had one but he hadn’t read it. And everyone else unabashedly said they hadn’t. I was a little shocked but the fullness of it didn’t set in until Mike passed out Bibles to each of them. He proceeded to explain how to find a specific scripture. The only reference they had heard of was from some guy who holds a poster at soccer games that says “John 3:16.”
Mike showed them the index at the front of the Bible, asked them to find what page John was on, turned to that page, and explained how to look for the chapter number first and then the verse number. Wow! I had totally forgotten that just because these kids have clothes and food and houses, it doesn’t mean they have had access to the Bible. What a huge mistake to make and possible missed opportunities! These guys read the scripture with fresh eyes as they struggled to figure out what eternal life could mean. Mike thoroughly and simply explained this important concept, and he asked me to share what eternal life looks like for me. I was able to share about my friendship with Jesus and the hope and joy he brings to my daily life and my future. They listened critically and asked lots of good questions.
On our walk back from the school, I asked Mike if he thought it would be normal that kids wouldn’t have read the Bible. He briefly told me some Irish church history. In short, because of the split between the protestants and Catholics, Catholic churches read scripture regularly at mass, but most individuals would not have had their own Bibles. Mike explained that many of the kids would be familiar with Bible stories, but they would not have read them on their own.
My eyes have been opened to the power of scripture in a new way. The book that I have taken for granted too many times is a direct line for God to speak to me. What a privilege to have personal access to the word of God! And to think that I don’t have to go to the jungles of the Amazon to find someone who hasn’t read the Bible…it could be someone who walks in our cafe every day.
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” Ephesians 6:19