By Louise Hacking
(From the January - March 2017 issue of VOX.)
Last summer was my seventh summer at Encounter… “Get a life!” I hear you say. I first came to Encounter, the joint Serge-Christian Unions Ireland (CUI) summer internship, as a Northern Irish music student in 2009. I didn’t really know what I was walking into, and to be honest, I didn’t think I really needed Bible teaching or that I needed to be discipled. I was proved wrong, very quickly.
I was coming from a very “together” kind of lifestyle, or so I thought. I soon realised I wasn’t living a life of freedom but a law-abiding life of constantly trying harder, trying to prove myself and to earn the respect of those around me… because obviously that’s what matters, right?
I was living like someone who hadn’t let the grace of God flow deeply in her life. It wasn’t until we started to walk through the “Free to Love” course that I saw I had missed the point completely! My life was about so much more than trying harder, or doing better, or proving myself…
Three words describe what Encounter is about: discovering, serving and growing.
Exploring the transforming power of the Gospel with a mentor and my peers from around the world is one of the main avenues of discovery at Encounter. We spend the first two weeks grappling with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We learn what it means to be a ‘sent one’ - a son and daughter of our King, fully adopted into His family, finding our confidence in God as His beloved child and maturing in our faith.
We look at what a life in the Spirit is about, what forgiveness looks like, how to deal with conflict in a loving, constructive and life-giving way and ultimately that it is God’s grace that propels us forward to live a life mapped out by the one who creates us! (All in two weeks—wow!) Mixed in with that, we spend time praying in small groups and in big groups as well as having time to worship.
We then split up into outreach teams and go on an adventure of serving local churches and ministries around Ireland! From Cork to Belfast to Dublin to Ballymena, our teams traverse the entire island.
These are amazing opportunities to come alongside ministry leaders in Ireland and share the Gospel with the people we meet. We may find ourselves handing out leaflets, cleaning toys, running kids’ clubs, hanging out with teenagers, playing football, painting walls, leading prayer meetings, or speaking in churches, all the while eating, breathing, sleeping and generally living… alongside one another! It is two weeks of really doing life together!
So why have I returned summer after summer? Honestly? I crave community! We spend time during our orientation weekend talking about culture and how we, as a team, want to create a culture that is safe, unique and beautiful - including different people in a loving and caring community.
“Dying to self” sounds horrendous at first. But slowly, we discover the beauty of what it means - to die to your own wants and desires and to allow the Lord to have His way.
Why would we want to leave our comfort zone for this internship? It is a die-to-self sacrifice, and that is what God calls us to. All of the interns are responding and surrendering to God’s direction and have the opportunity to discover, serve, to love and be loved along the way! These few weeks in the summer, are an opportunity to leave our comfort zones and come on a journey of learning.
Louise Hacking, originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, has just completed a two-year apprenticeship with Serge in Ireland. She has now started working with Christian Unions Ireland (formerly IFES Ireland) and is a Christian Union Staff Worker in three of the universities around Dublin: Trinity College, Dublin Institute of Technology, and Maynooth University.