Northern Ireland is an area not unfamiliar with conflict. The political debate from those who support an independent Ireland pitted against those still loyal to the British crown tore the country apart over the last century, especially over the last four decades. One of the hotbeds of conflict was the city of Derry/Londonderry. A small city of around 107,000 people gained a big reputation when, in January of 1972, they were catapulted into international headlines because of a clash known as “Bloody Sunday”. Fourteen people were killed, and more were wounded in a confrontation between protesters and British soldiers.
The lines were clearly drawn, and an entire generation was raised under this cloud of infamy. Though relations have been thawing slowly in subsequent decades, one church in the city is determined to step in and make a difference.
Five years ago, Cornerstone City Church began a summer youth outreach that has since grown into a large, targeted effort to love on their community. They call it IHeartDerry and they are making an impact. Their Pastor, Brian Somerville, calls it a “Kiss and Tell” strategy. If an environment dictates behavior, Cornerstone wants to improve the environment. They want to invest in the latent value and life of the city, and show the people around them how to love where they live.
Partnered with Convoy of Hope Europe, the primary objective of iHeartDerry is to show love regardless of political or religious affiliation. Over one hundred volunteers traveled from the U.S. and Europe last year to join with church members in this effort to create unity out of the divided. Three teams went into different schools, hosting a “SuperSchool” for hundreds of elementary students. A team of “Mobile Medics” performed basic checkups for people who might not have the resources to see a doctor on their own. Cornerstone also built a playground for neighborhood kids, and hosted a soccer tournament in which 16 local clubs participated. This year, in 2015, they plan to expand even further to include local businesses, performing minor repairs and assistance where they can.
These activities are the “Kiss” part of Pastor Brian’s strategy. The “Tell” part follows, because people invariably ask “Why?” Why spend the money, why spend the time? The answer is that Cornerstone and Convoy of Hope Europe are working to bring unity to a community only familiar with conflict. It’s part of reaching Europe physically, socially, and spiritually. The goal is to bring unity to the divided, love and advocacy to the forgotten, service and hope to the broken.
iHeart Derry 2015 will take place 06-12 July. Convoy of Hope Europe has teams from the United States signed up to help out before, during, and after the event. It promises to be another resounding success, and we are so excited to be a part!