I looked down to see a little African girl with one hand on her hip, green shamrocks bouncing off her headband and holding an Irish flag with a company logo on it.
"I'm looking at clothes." I replied, taking my hand off the rack of sweaters I was looking through. "What are you doing?"
-"Waitin' for my momma"
-"Did you go to the parade?"
"Did YOU?" Out from behind another rack of clothing stepped another girl, identical to the one I was talking to.
-"Did you see that big red double decker bus?"
-"Yes.." They replied, sticking up and waving their flags uncomfortably close to my face.
-"Well, I was with them in the parade."
-"You were IN the parade?"
They both looked behind them to see their momma coming, and took off. But I still felt like a celebrity.
I have a few bucket list items. I keep a list in the back of my journal of things I'd like to do or see, like visit all 7 continents and stuff like that. It only seems natural that spending St. Patrick's Day in Ireland would be one of those. I'm not into the whole drinking guinness and partying business, so I guess that's why it never crossed my mind.
But, March 17, 2012 I found myself not only in Ireland, but walking in a St. Patrick's Day parade in Athlone.
The weekend started out Friday night on the Big Red Bus in Athlone Town Centre. We offered free tea and coffee and conversation. At one point in the night, I was listening to a man who had come from the pub talk about his life and what he thought God was all about. His phone rang. "Hey, yeah... I'm ... sitting on a big red ...double decker bus outside the pub ... (pause) ... no I'm not joking around! ..(pause) ... well, I'm talking to this man about my life! ... (pause) ... I'm not! Here YOU talk to him!" And he handed the phone to one of our staff.
I was on a double decker bus at one o'clock in the morning serving tea and coffee in the middle of town. Even I had a hard time believing it and I was there.
The next day, St. Patrick's Day, we got in the parade line and blasted Christian music from the bus and passed out fliers. Or "Gospel tracts" as some people would call them. A part of my job as communications gave me the privilege of designing them.
You'd think it being St. Patrick's day and all ...
The day after St. Patrick's Day (Sunday) we took the Big Red Bus to parade #2 in Ballinasloe. We carried the cross and handed out the same tracts. We ordered 5,000 tracts, and after the two parades were over, we had about a stack of 300 left.
This parade, although less people, was more fun because I got to carry a giant Irish flag.
After the parade, my housemate Andrea and I went for a walk along the beach in Galway. I felt like I was in a movie... St. Patrick's Day parade... beach walk ... we saw a wedding on the beach, and crazy students jumping into the sea.
We ended the weekend by going out on the Big Red Bus again that night. We didn't have too much activity, but a few people came back that have been there before, and one guy had read all the materials we had given him and said he wanted to pursue a faith, but he was afraid of what his friends would say. Please pray for him - he is so close!