A Day in Dublin

In Dublin’s fine city,

Where girls are so pretty,

…..and that’s all I know……

But Dublin is a fine city for sure.

We arrive at The Ashling Hotel in northwest Dublin….sort of away from all the pub noise. Our room is ready early-we are in luck again!

Our friends are slowly gathering and one couple  has just arrived albeit a bit weary. We say “Rest! We are all on vacation.”

Mike and I walk down the street to Nancy Hands, a typical pup with a lively bar and plenty of lunch traffic 

Don’t you agree that storefronts are charming? Fish and chips, salad and sandwiches fortify us for the afternoon. 
We walk off lunch heading northwest into the Dublin Phoenix Park, the largest public park in Europe.  And though we covered only a small portion we admired the simplicity and beauty of this place. 

We regroup with rested friends and hop on the hop-off bus for sights of the city. Of course, the rain comes, but only creates a spirit of fun adventure as we meander toward Trinity College and Graftin Street. I am so glad the one on the right did not exfixiate himself while trying to get the hotel poncho over his head!

Tonight we walked up the street to Ryan’s for a taste of Irish whisky and an amazing dinner of fresh oysters and steak. 

 Busy days bring early nights but we cherish these friends who appreciate flexibility, go with the flow, and love the spirit of the moment. 

Tomorrow…. a little history,  more sight-seeing and last minute tickets to “Once” at the Olympia Theater. 

So here we are….. and look at our view!


If every day can be like today, but we already know the rains do come…….. We arrived safely, on time, at the Portmarnick Hotel. Feeling amazingly good (probably excitement), we charged full steam ahead, asking our taxi driver to wait for us while we dropped bags at the hotel. He drove us into the seaside village of Malahide and we toured the castle, glad we had decided on an indoor activity as the rains poured steadily. We timed it perfectly for our walk through the village, admiring fish markets and pastry shops and pubs.  Catching a taxi we returned to the hotel and decided to walk 9 holes on the Portmarnick Links, just outside our door and photo above. The golf, as Mike says, was the appropriate introduction to Irish links golf, intermittent rain teasing us with wind and sunshine. Lovely course.

Today, Dublin!

Ireland – Let’s Go!

We’ve been making plans – seems like ages – for the next great golf trip! Three couples taking off soon and I make the fourth golfer in the group.  I love my men friends but am a little wishy-washy when the girls are discussing cooking classes and hikes and the like. But this is Ireland, the country of memorable, famous, and challenging golf courses.  I’m delighted to know I’ll be having my caddy along to carry my bag, hand me my club, clean my club, and most of all, point me in the direction of the pin.

We’ll be playing some of the well-known courses – Doonbeg, Lahinch, Ballybunion, Tralee, Waterville, Olde Head. Is that enough for two weeks? We’ll spend two days at Doonbeg, four days in Killlarney, two nights in Knsale and three nights in Dublin.

Dublin promises to be fun for the six of us as we visit the Book of Kells,Jameson, St, Stephens Green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Staying along the River Liffey, we hope to catch a glimpse of this beautiful city before heading through the countryside of southern Ireland.

I’m prepared for all kinds of weather – sun (please, God), wind, rain, and fog. It’s one of those climates where they say you can have four seasons in one day.  I’ll try to post from all of our destinations, typing fast trying to highlight the trip. Come along and travel with us.

Reflecting God’s Love

Guest Writer Karen Riddell blogs about Friday & Saturday

At the church service commissioning us, the children’s choir sang, “Small deeds done with great conviction; each one wisely planned; touched by truth and beauty; guided by the hand of God. I may never be like Noah, and build a mighty ark, but I can light one candle to drive away the dark….I can give the gift of love to people one by one.” And that has truly been fulfilled. We have had a week of hundreds, no probably thousands of small deeds, each one done with great conviction, each one wisely planned, and each one carefully and lovingly delivered by God.

Our events Friday were events of hospitality and service. We began the day with a breakfast for the wives of local pastors and leading women in the nearby churches. We were excited to have a third opportunity for connection with the women from one of the two churches we painted. We sang together, “I Want to Follow Jesus” in English and Spanish. In our time together we blessed them and they blessed us.


Next we welcomed the teachers from a school we visited last year for a few hours of lunch and fellowship. Along with bags filled with supplies and new uniform shirts, we pampered them with manicures and shoulder massages. The men loved playing ping-pong and pool, many for the first time.





Before our evening event, we gathered on the shaded porch of the house where the missionary leaders live to hear more about Murray’s personal journey, which was highly inspiring. She also shared with us how the $28,400 profit from our fundraising art auction is carefully being used to significantly further the mission of Piñas de Paz.

Our final hospitality event was hosting the families of the farmers and staff that run Piñas de Paz. As Marcia described in her post, we came together through fun games, dancing and sharing a meal. The children loved the glow sticks and blinking rings!







Saturday started early with a breakfast for local widows who arrived standing in the back of open air trucks. For those of us returning, it was our joy to reunite with some of the dear women we had become close to last year.



Following the breakfast we headed off on the bus to Granada. We quickly toured a cigar-making shop and took a boat ride to feed the monkeys on an island. Next we headed to the art gallery to express our appreciation to the gallery owner who graciously donated the 43 pieces of art for our auction, and then proceeded to the local market where we purchased items to sell at the church gift shop (and yes, we managed to add a little extra fuel to the Nicaraguan economy during these stops!).


On the way back to the farm, our bus encountered a truck heading in the other direction. Unfortunately it was only a one-lane road with trees and brush sloping upward on either side. Edging as far as possible to the sides, the vehicles began to climb the sloping sides and tip toward the center-and each other-until they were actually touching. We feared we were stuck, so we began leaning all our weight to the outer edges! Miraculously the two parted by inches and very slowly passed each other! Murray said in all her time in Nicaragua, she had never seen such a close call!

When we arrived back at the farm we were greeted by a fabulous dinner feast served in traditional, decorative clay pots-the equivalent of our Thanksgiving meal! And we were also treated to a special dance by our dear staff members wearing local costumes. It was the first time they had ever done this, but it was wonderful.



Throughout the week we felt inspired to follow up on specific needs we encountered. For example as we mentioned earlier in this blog we are funding the deaf student Ellison’s transportation and tuition. We made plans to take turns reaching out to him monthly. We also decided to send additional food and supplies to the eight homes we visited. We are funding 100 chairs for the hospital. We are getting medicine and counseling for a few individuals who are sick and suffering. We are sending supplies to the “flower lady.” We are funding a vacation bible study for the wives’ ministry at one of the churches we painted. And finally, we funded a year of college fees for the daughter of a staff member. We are also going to investigate potential surgical solutions for a child we met who has a facial deformity. All of these good works were possible because of the generosity of supporters, travelers and the power of the US dollar.

As we boarded the bus for the airport in the dark, Sunday morning hours, we said our goodbyes to Piñas de Paz. We went to create connections and reflect God’s love to those we came in contact with. This objective makes our trip an unusual mission trip – less about work with our hands, more about work with our hearts. We learned that we are the only group that Piñas de Paz hosts that focuses on forging relationships in this way. The hospitality we extend to the deaf children, the teachers, the widows, the pastors wives, the hospital patients and families, lots of children, and others weaves unique threads into the overall fabric of the Piñas de Paz mission to support and contribute to their rural, impoverished community. Although we did do some impressive work with paintbrushes and rollers, our best work was done with our praying voices, our hugging arms, and our loving hearts.

Early Departure

Two of us must make an early departure to return home. We’re glad that we have stayed as long as possible to be with our farm families for their gathering with our group.  They arrive with their beautiful children for a few hours of fellowship and dinner. We throw the frisbees and beach balls and  the dog outruns all of us. We blow bubbles and catch them to see how long we can keep them in the air. We play “Pop the Balloon” and laugh and act ridiculous. (Going to suggest this at our next Sunday School party:)  We hold the babies so the mothers can enjoy their pizza dinner. 

We celebrate with these twelve families who have made a commitment to come to work on the farm for a chance of a better lifestyle for their familiies. The men are learning English. One by by, they stand to introcude themselves. The are so proud to say, “My Name is___________.  Then they continue to tell us through the translator how many years they have been at the farm and the opportunity to be part of the program with Robbie and Murray. Some work the fields. Some are gardeners, cooks, and guards.Their lives have changed. They give God the glory. To leave a job making one dollar a day to $14 a day is a big pay raise. They are grateful. We are touched and celebrate with them. Unfortunately there is not time to clean up before departing.

The bumpy ride to the hotel is almost comical as we bounce our way to the interstate.  It’s Friday night and people are walking along the dirt roads. Young men and women, arm in arm. Young boys on bicycles. As we move closer to town, the city is alive with street vendors. I try to take it all in before our dusty car (and feet) pull into a luxurious hotel. Its always a bit of a shock to transition back to my way of life. Good water pressure, 400-count sheets, down comforters welcome me back. And I want to cry.

I think it’s part of a mission trip. We go to help. We go to try to make a change for good. We go for many reasons, all of them worthy, but coming up short in so many ways. Maybe it’s the early departure, but once you go on a mission trip, any departure seems way too soon. I haven’t done enough. I needed more time to make a difference. I wish I had learned more Spanish. One more big hug from a smiling child.  One more morning devotional with my sisters.

But depart we must. I remember the words of the missionary I sat by on the way to Nicaragua. It’s not what you do on a mission trip. It’s what you do when you go home.  And I must ask myself if I will take an early departure from my compassion? Will I depart from morning devotionals? Will I depart from praise and worship just because i don’t have a mountain of pineapples to view as the sun comes up? Will I be too busy for meaningful conversations and time for quieit prayer? 

I suppose this is one time a delayed departure might be welcome. 



Touching Hearts with Hope

Blogger Karen Riddell writes about our day. The photo was taken in the library of the deaf school.

 Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This was the scripture painted above a multi-colored cross that greeted us as we entered the chapel at the school for the deaf children. This positive message of optimism inspired by faith radiated from the bright, smiling faces of the children and the teachers. They were happy to see us again. We reconnected with hugs over scrumptious donuts and coffee. We toured the school, learned about how it was founded and how it has grown, and we delivered greatly-appreciated supplies to the teachers. We got to know each other better, prayed for each other, and we sang to them: “May The Lord bless you and keep you,” off-key at points perhaps, but heartfelt from start to finish.

While there were many moments of connection today, without question one of the most special involved a 15 year-old boy named Ellison we had met the previous day during our time with the deaf school children at the farm. From the moment he got off the bus to the time the children left on Wednesday he blessed each person he encountered with a broad smile. Although he could not communicate with us very well, Ellison managed to convey infectious happiness. A teacher at some point confided to one of our leaders that Ellison has a very lengthy commute to school that, coupled with the cost of the monthly fees, has become too much of a financial burden for his family. As a group we decided to donate the money to fund the next year of Ellison’s education and transportation. Today, when he learned about the funding, he managed to beam even brighter. It was a beautiful example of God’s promise in Jeremiah of a plan for a future.

Next, we headed to the local hospital. It is hard to imagine a place like this unless you have experienced something similar. The only fledgling air conditioning is in the two intensive care wards–all of the other wards are open air and stifling hot, and all of the rooms are over-crowded with very sick patients patients and worried family members. We were told the daily ER receives 800 patients a day but only has plastic chairs for 250. We saw many broken chairs kept upright by rope tied to a pipe or neighboring chair. 

Many patients are receiving chemo, many are experiencing long waits for test results, many are in pain from illness and injury and the conditions are far, far from anything we will ever encounter for our health needs. We visited bed by bed, learning about each patient, delivering fans, toiletries, crosses and prayers. We also visited the long term shelter across the way, where patients can live and receive treatment over long period of time. These patients cook over a fire in a fenced-in, dirt area. They sleep in a filthy, concrete room of cots. There are two outhouses for everyone there. In the hospital and in the shelter we shared God’s promise in Jeremiah for hope. 

We ended our day at an evening worship service at one of the church’s we painted at the start of the week. It was so special to praise and sing together-joining our voices and our hearts–in thanksgiving and fellowship. 

It is clear that The Lord has had a plan for our days here to be full of hope and goodness, and we are grateful. 

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

  Sometimes a bouquet appears in the least likely places. Today the women in Nicaragua made home visits to the women in the community.  This enterprising woman, with an ill husband, children to feed, and a small store to run also is a “sharecropper” on the piece of spartan land where she grows a few vegetables and raises chickens. Her smile was bright and her hospitality delightful. 
The flowers are made with the tops of plastic bottles. She cuts and shapes them and paints them assorted colors. She says she can’t sell them because no one can buy such things with their hard to earn money. As we were leaving she pulled some off the wall and gave them to us. 

Each of our groups had similar experiences. Too many to tell on this full day of events. But I must tell you Leslie brought Carrie Underwood with her to devotional a this morning and we lined up across the plateau overlooking the mountains and worshipped singing How Great Though Art. Moving to say the least. Leslie shared her clinging crosses and suggested we might try to return home more like Jesus than ourselves. Food for thought. 

Pray for us tomorrow. We visit the hospital and see sights that will cling to our hearts for a long time. We’ll take washcloths and love. We’ll probably cry. 

Heart Labor

One of our teammates described our work before we left the states. Labor of our hearts as we experience our first day in this glorious land of our God. Hearts are touched today as we have labored beside the Nicaraguan people to improve their homes and their churches.

But our morning was rich in preparation as Nancy reminded us that we were to be the reflection of God in our work. She brought a mirror and challenged us to not look at ourselves so much, but to be a light that shines for God’s glory. How do we do that? We demonstrate mercy and forgiveness to the poor, the needy, and the marginalized. We sing “This Little Light of Mine” and I think as I sing, “Oh, God, my light is so very little. I pray that the spark can ignite as i work this week.”

And so we divided ourselves into two groups and headed out into the countryside to work alongside the poor, the needy, and the marginalized. We took our little lights and began the task of painting part of a church, and a new home for the pastor and his wife of a second church. Interesting, Charlotte said they put the roof on the parsonage last year. This year they will get to move in. This year one family will no longer have their bed and hot plate in the back of the church. This year a young mother can have a place to call home. A place where the baby can take a nap. A place where a table can be set and maybe a picture hung. This year will be better.

It’s amazing how much work 18 women can get done. From 9 in the morning until 3, we painted walls, beams, trim, doors, baseboards (ouch!) and anything else that called for turquoise or white, a standard color for churches in the country. 

Did we make their life better?  Maybe. I sat by a missionary on the plane coming down and he said it’s really not so much about the work we do, but the friendships that are formed and the mindset we bring home with us. I like to think I made a new friend today in this lovely pastor’s wife. I like to think that the one-on-one conversation we had through our translator will be remembered long after the paint has dried.

I wish I could do more.