Coffee, Sheep Vandals, And Connection For A Lifetime

In celebration of Wonder Voyage’s 25th anniversary, we are sharing stories of people who have impacted our community or have been impacted by a pilgrimage with us. Today’s story comes from Kelly and Susan Curry of An Tobar Nua in Galway, Ireland.

What’s the history of your ministry?

In the 1990s, Kelly worked in the corporate world, and Susan was home with our two girls. Neither of us planned a lot of traveling, and ministry was nowhere in our minds. Just as God usually does, He worked with us differently.

Deuteronomy 11:7-12 stirred Kelly’s heart. Separately, Susan received a vision of a thatched-roof cottage. The two separate encounters worked together as confirmation that the family should go. In obedience, we headed to Galway in 1998, unsure how long we would be there or what exactly “there” meant.

How did your ministry in Ireland start, and what does it look like today?

Initially, we felt the Lord leading us to have a place of contact through a coffee shop. It could be a place to reach out to youth by giving them a hangout venue. While there, we could build relationships and share Christ. Our cafe became a platform for building Bible studies, counseling, and eventually working with high school students.

Twenty-five years later, we bring one-day retreats to high school students, as well as offering a six session video and discussion program. In the 2022-23 school year, we challenged nearly 54,000 secondary students through these.

How does your ministry connect with Wonder Voyage?

Shawn had been leading Wonder Voyage teams to the east coast of Ireland, and he wanted to explore leading groups into the west of Ireland. A friend gave him our name, and since Kelly was traveling through Dallas, they met at the airport. A friendship was birthed that only the Holy Spirit can put together.

Through the years, we have found that our journeys coincide with Shawn and Cheryl. They have been a great encouragement to us, and as iron sharpens iron, they have challenged us.

Jason Wendel, Molly Wren, and Ken Janke led or co-led trips during those years, and we also became close to them because of those early encounters.

As Kelly says, in the Christian life, we always seek opportunities to disciple and be disciplined, which comes through interaction and relationships. That is the same ethos for Wonder Voyage.

Each team and each person we encounter is an opportunity that the Lord brings into our lives to morph us more into His likeness. A heart set on pilgrimage will welcome those encounters readily.

There’s one story that lives in Wonder Voyage lore about the painted sheep in your neck of the woods. Can you share it?

In one of the early years, Shawn trained young leaders for an incoming group. One leader asked what the “paint” was on the backs of sheep that wandered freely in the countryside of Ireland. Shawn and his fellow jokesters convinced her it was sheep vandals.

According to their newly invented legend, these vandals were so bothered by the farmers sheering the wool from sheep that they spray-painted them to prevent the harvesting of the wool. This leader shared this story with the pilgrims on the trip, and the pilgrims shared the story with our cafe team.

Someone finally told her the truth that the shepherds do it to “brand” their flock, so when the sheep wander freely, the color swatches identify which flock the sheep belong to. The leader was quite a good sport about it, but she was teased mercilessly by Wonder Voyagers and our Tobarites.

The story of the Sheep Vandals lives in infamy in our part of Ireland. If you’re lucky, on a quiet night, when the moon is full and the clouds part to allow it to light the countryside, you just might see those Vandals creep out of the bushes with paint in hand to mark those vulnerable sheep, to keep them from being sheered.

 

If you have a story you want to share about your experience with Wonder Voyage, we’d love to hear it.

Jamie has been involved with Wonder Voyage for over 15 years. Her passion is connecting givers with worthwhile project as our Legacy Director.

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