“How are ya, darlin?” I was greeted by a local when I entered cafe #1 on my Galway visit: Ard Bia near the Spanish Arch (the actual Spanish Arch). The dark stone building built onto the quay was made bright inside from the rays of sun streaming through the windows. I ordered my pot of tea and a cake before pulling out my laptop to fire off some emails. There were unhurried locals enjoying a chat, a book and something from the kitchen. I followed their lead … and was called “darlin” a lot!
Clouds painted the early afternoon sky as I drove just out of town for cafe visit #2 in Arabica Coffee House in the national aquarium where I met with a local missionary couple. For over three years Tim and Kristina have been keeping their ear to the ground, interpreting culture and doing what they can to serve the people, the church and the city. They had quickly learnt that the last thing Galway needed was another American missionary church plant. Instead, they invite people to share their table.
The following morning I was greeted by an incredibly welcoming international mix of young people in An Tobar Nua, cafe #3. Covering their walls were resources for young people to find life in their Christian heritage, life and spirituality. “Spirituality without the morality” is how Mike, the team leader at the cafe, aptly described the young people of the city to me. He urges and challenges them to return to the church of their childhood, that place that already looks like home, where they will find God and mature in their faith.
Susan and I just dodged the patches of rain as we entered The Gourmet Tart Company in Salthill, cafe #4, for the most mouth watering croissants. She had come up from Lahinch to join me for a bit of craic in the city. Although the food was excellent it wasn’t the most warm and relaxing place to have a leisurely lunch.
Helen, originally from Dublin, met me near St. Nicholas Church before taking me to a beautiful and friendly French cafe, Javas, cafe #5. Tucked away upstairs she shared her pastoral heart for her recently acquired congregation in the heart of the city. Asylum seekers and internationals are the recipients of her teaching, leading, and care. She, too, is finding her way in the city and longing to see the truth of Jesus reclaimed from the places it has been stolen from.
The rain threatened a brief downpour and I had 20 min. so ducked into the frilly Cupan Tae, cafe #6, on the corner. I text Susan to let her know where I was and laughed when my immediate thought to share was that I was probably the only Irish person in there (good thing for citizenship!). It would definitely appeal to most people visiting Ireland and hoping for a”traditional experience.” Unfortunately, it was the most tacky of all the cafes.
We left the city just over 24 hours after arriving. It was the longest amount of time I have ever spent in Galway. In the cafes I found that the Spirit of God is moving through the graffiti-ed streets of the city. He is calling out Christians of all traditions to seek him, find him, and hide in him. He is placing in places of influence people who are not denomination-centric. Like the cafes, there are incredible followers of Christ making a powerful difference down the side streets, to the people who need to walk through their doors – they are genuine, welcoming, and look nothing like what you might want to find if you’re hoping for a stereotype.
*All photos were taken at Ard Bia.