Missions -

U.S. students raise funds, take trips to bring events to Ireland —

By Chris Roberts

Engraved on a massive rock in the middle of the Tollymore Forest in Northern Ireland is a quote: “Stop, look around, and praise the name of Him who made it all.”


As CIY’s efforts to expand the ministry to Ireland and eventually throughout Europe continues to take big steps forward, there continue to be increasing opportunities to help young people do exactly that – to stop, look around and praise God for the amazing things He has done through CIY and its ministry partners in Ireland.


CIY’s Engage program has already taken four groups of students to Northern Ireland this year, with another six trips to the Emerald Isle planned for this summer. Of the more than 300 participants on Engage mission trips this year, 179 of them are visiting Northern Ireland or Ireland. Much of the surge of attendance on trips to these countries can be attributed to CIY’s challenge to students in 2017 to help the ministry expand to Ireland. And tens of thousands of U.S. students have answered that challenge by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for CIY’s global ministry efforts. Part of that response includes students not just giving their money, but also committing to learning about the culture of Ireland first-hand by joining Engage on mission trips.


Elly Johnson, for instance, is one such student who went to Northern Ireland over Spring Break earlier this year. She said she continues to remember that quote from the rock in Tollymore Forest as a point of inspiration for the life lessons God taught her while she was in that country.


“That sentence has become my life motto following the trip,” she said. “One of my biggest flaws is my inability to ‘stop doing.’ I constantly go full speed, often wearing myself out and stripping myself of the ability to minister to others. Jesus has been breaking me of this, and I have been striving to seek Him and glorify Him in all that I do. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have gone on this trip, which has allowed God to continue to shape my life for Kingdom work.”


While in Northern Ireland, team members work alongside ministry partners from places like Revival In Our Town, Salt Factory Sports, Summer Madness and Streetreach. While in Ireland groups work alongside Elevate Church. Those ministry partners are long-time friends of CIY and integral in creating experiences for U.S. students to not only see how God is working in other countries, but also what Kingdom work looks like in other countries.


“RIOT and I are incredibly thankful for the love, care, leadership and vision of our Engage teams,” said Richie Shilliday, RIOT director. “Those groups are always prepared and always have the right heart to hear, and God uses that humble beauty to do amazing things. RIOT and CIY love to pour into and fill students – to always listen and hear from God to speak into loves with knowledge, love and understanding. We love to challenge teams to really go life-long into evangelism. Mission is a lifestyle and not a weekly activity. Lessons learned and walked out on the mission field can be transferred to everyday life in the U.S. I can say with all honesty and integrity that RIOT is a more rounded ministry because of the help and support of CIY. The proof is in the connection with our young folk, adults and volunteers connected with RIOT. We all think so very much of the wonderful folk at CIY and the brilliant ministry they share around the globe.”


The best examples of how CIY’s partnership with in-county ministries is impacting students comes from the students themselves. Even years after young people join CIY for an Engage experience they are living out the principles they learned in amazing ways – sending out ripples of effectiveness to all corners of the world.


“I went on a mission trip to Northern Ireland with CIY Engage in March 2018, but that statement is not about me,” said Olivia Portwood, a student from Milledgeville, Georgia. “If it were about me, I would tell you how Northern Ireland went on a mission trip to me. That’s the nature of mission trips: finding yourself in impossible selflessness.


“I spent seven days (minus two days of traveling) learning some of Northern Ireland's history and culture, which helped me understand and communicate with its people. Every night we returned to the (RIOT) youth center and we talked, played games, worshiped and shared our personal, unique journeys to faith with the students. To be honest, I didn’t think my story would resonate with anyone, because it was neither very good or very bad. I didn’t have a story of powerful, joyful faith like some of my teammates, and I didn’t have a story of overcoming difficult obstacles to find peace in God like others. I just had a confusing, twisted story-line, with no clear beginning or end. But the moment I finished sharing, I felt a strong hand grab my wrist and pull me down onto the sofa. A tentative girl sat across from me. I had spent the past few nights chatting, playing cards, and building a new relationship with her. She finally worked up the courage to ask: ‘So . . . how do you get to know God?’


“This experience was about her, and every single person there that we had the privilege to share encouragement and friendship with. Mission trips show that no believer is alone in the entire world, because we are willing to support each other from different countries, denominations and political beliefs. Mission trips show that if you are willing to put that much effort into reaching someone, they are going to want to know why. Perhaps, if we had never gone, that girl on the sofa would have become curious about God through someone or something else. But there is an urgency to our calling to be disciples, and we cannot assume that the next person won’t pass up the opportunity to spread God’s illogically beautiful joy.”


Find this article and more June 15 in the next issue of the Kingdom Worker Connection magazine.