Ronan Swift, teacher at St. Columb's College, Dublin, has volunteered globally with Habitat.
Recent images on the news of violent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh brought memories of Armenia crowding in. Preparations for our school’s eighth Global Village build had not been straightforward. With our enthusiastic team of pupils and staff assembled; plans to travel to Romania suddenly had to change. With time marching on (and no solid destination country in place) some team members wavered and wished us well. Keep preparing. Strengthen the team. Have patience and faith that things will fall into place. But not faith alone - you’ve got to keep chipping away at the totals and targets, both personal and collective.
The chance of Armenia was mentioned. No direct Ryanair flights to Yerevan...a couple more jumped ship. For me though this ancient land and its proud people seemed a perfect fit. The longest unbroken Christian tradition on the planet. Surely a fine place to galvanise our sense of humility through service? The closer our time came the greater our sense of intrigue and expectation. And to feed this we did our homework. A history of greatness but also strongly of loss. A former Soviet Republic. An earthquake-stricken land.
The long prepared for work did not disappoint. It drew us into the bosom of an Armenian farming family whose culture of hospitality seemed like what we imagine of a bygone Ireland… The warmest temperatures I’ve ever experienced, refreshed by the apricot harvest.
Every Habitat trip is a learning experience. Every part of it is. The fresh eyes of homecoming, the wide eyes of arrival but just as much (if not more) the focused eye of expectant preparation.
God we pray for those lands in our world in the midst of conflict and tension. We thank you that you are a God of peace and be with all those who work tirelessly to bring peace into often volatile situations. This Advent may we await with ‘expectant preparation’ just like your followers over 2000 years ago. Amen.