What part of the gospel resonates most for Donegal? Every culture, city, or person has its own fears, wounds, and hopes and we know the gospel addresses each one.
Christian & Elisabeth Arnold went on a vision trip in February to Donegal, Ireland. They came back with a sense of the unique way the gospel is good news for Donegal.
Our family recently traveled to Ireland to the town of Donegal to see if this was where the Lord was leading us to work and do youth ministry. When Elisabeth and I were praying about a location to serve two years ago, we prayed that God would show us a place that was overlooked. We wanted to serve in an area where there were evident needs, but not enough workers or even enough awareness. God then drew us to Ireland, and more specifically to Donegal. The more time that we spent in Donegal, the more God reminded us of our conversations about serving somewhere overlooked.
Throughout our planning trip, one of the questions we kept asking ourselves was: “What is good news for Donegal?” The word “gospel” in the original Greek language simply means “good news.” So, what we were trying to ask was, “What part of the gospel resonates most for Donegal?” Every culture, city, or person has its own fears, wounds, and hopes and we know the gospel addresses each one.
Reflecting on the history of Donegal and some significant moments during our trip, we noticed a pattern in our prayers and observations. Donegal’s nickname is “The Forgotten County,” because geographically, the county is isolated from the rest of the Republic of Ireland, and historically there have been political tensions that have added to this isolation. We noticed this even more when we met with church leaders and youth in Donegal and were continually asked, “Why would you want to leave Florida to live in Donegal of all places?” During one of the prayer meetings we attended, we heard one of the local ministers pray this prayer: “Oftentimes we in Donegal are forgotten, but we know that with You, Lord, we are never forgotten.”
The night before we left Donegal all of our thoughts and prayers about forgotten-ness came together in a small, unexpected moment in a Papa John’s of all places. After attending a contemporary worship service and prayer night that evening with Christians from different backgrounds, Elisabeth walked into the restaurant to pick up a pizza. Two of the Christian young adults we met that week saw her and came over to talk. The girls were so excited to see Elisabeth again and wanted to say how much they were praying for us to come and the visa applications to go smoothly. It was a significant moment of encouragement to know that these girls weren’t just being polite, but they are waiting expectantly for us. Before leaving, Elisabeth told them how delightful it was to meet them and hear from them and said, “You all are the reason we were coming.” The girls were very surprised that we would come all this way around the globe just for them and for the youth of Donegal.
In that small moment, God made it clear: this town and these youth are overlooked. Donegal is by no means the most glamourous town in Ireland, and Ireland is not a place most think of when you say the word “missions.” But that’s what draws us more faithfully toward this ministry, and that’s what gives us the confidence to ask friends and family to partner with us in this endeavor.
After our initial time in Donegal, I think we have a starting point for the good news that we want to proclaim to Donegal by moving there: even if everyone else has forgotten you, God has not. Jesus not only sees you, but He came to die for you, and he desires you to follow Him.
All throughout Scripture, time and time again, God uses people and places that are overlooked, such as the town where Jesus was born:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
If God can use the little town of Bethlehem in his plan to transform the world, then He can certainly use Donegal, “The Forgotten County,” to transform Ireland.