A Christian Teen In A Land Divided


Haylie Henning spent 12 days of her summer vacation crusading in a land divided by faith -- the Northern Irish city commonly known as "Derry" by Roman Catholics and "Londonderry" by Protestants.

"We did a kids' crusade trying to bring Catholic children and Protestant children together in one place to try and teach them about the love of God," Henning said.


Haylie Henning (right) with Carissia Parker and Christina Agulilar (left) pose beside a mailbox.

Each day Henning and 130 youths from around the world would go into neighborhoods to promote peace and fellowship between elementary school-aged children of opposing religious belief systems.

"Kids there were so violent," Henning said. "They'd just go up and punch each other. And it was crazy how much football -- soccer -- divided them, too."

Yet some Irish children listened to what Henning and the other young missionaries had to say as they proselytized in public parks and shopping malls, estate grounds and city streets.

They invited children of both faiths to join together for a three-day youth rally of song and praise held in the Millennium Forum.

"When we picked the kids up on the bus, the Catholic children were singing Protestant hate songs and vice versa," Henning said.

Yet, the message of love thy neighbor reached a peak of 700 Irish schoolchildren.

Henning was one of the singers and dancers on stage, as each day they taught a new part of (Biblical) David's life.

The rally was the eighth such event hosted yearly by Cornerstone Church and the Cross Community Schools Project. Youth missionaries were 16 years and older. Henning got involved through her uncle, a pastor in California.


The walls of Derry/Londonderry are filled with murals. This one commemorates Bloody Sunday. On Jan. 30, 1972, 26 civil rights protesters were shot by members of the British Parachute Regiment. Six of the protesters were minors.

"I definitely think we made an impact," Henning said.

The fights on the bus lessened.

When we came back to places, such as the mall, children would come up and say "Hi Haylie!"

One little boy, Christopher, followed Henning everywhere and always wanted to sit beside her on the bus or when she was not on stage.

One day, Henning and her friends were having fun painting animals and flowers on the children's faces.

Henning painted "tribal" art on her own arm and soon had a line of children who wanted the same thing. She obliged.

"My friends said Haylie, what are you doing, but it got the kids connected," Henning said.

Though Henning feels her friends have looked at her differently since she returned, she made new friends on her mission trip.

She was "just chillin'" one afternoon with Jamie from Londonderry, who tried to explain why a silent group of men walked to the music of bagpipes toward the town square.


Members of the Protestant Orange Order march.

"It was a Protestant march to show the Catholics they were boss," Henning said. "They were getting ready to celebrate July 12, when the Protestant King defeated the Catholic king. There were British flags flying and painted on the sidewalks. I didn't really understand it."

Henning trip spanned failed car bombings in London and Glasgow. Terminal four at Heathrow Airport was evacuated and 108 flights were canceled July 3 when a suspicious package was discovered.

"It was scary," Henning said. "The airport was on high terrorist alert and we had to get our bags checked twice."

Despite this obvious divide between adults, Henning said she was most touched "seeing all the kids be able to get along."

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