REACHING OUT TO OTHERS
Molly Deatherage hopes her voice never betrays her. Deatherage,
who grew up in La Grande, is a student at Union Theological College at Queen's University in Belfast. There she is studying to become a Presbyterian minister in Ireland or Northern Ireland.
Deatherage has lived in Northern Ireland for a year and still speaks as she did after graduating from La Grande High School in 1971 and Eastern Oregon State College in 1975.
Her American accent is intact. She hopes it remains so.
"They (the Irish) like American accents so much that I want to retain it,'' she said. "They think it is fun and interesting to listen to.''
Deatherage's accent has helped smooth her transition to life in Northern Ireland.
"They love Americans. I'm not sure why,'' Deatherage said.
The people of Ireland have a sense of inferiority when it comes to their land, one that has posed obstacles for her.
"Ireland has low self-esteem as a nation,'' she said. "I think a lot of them are amazed. They can't imagine me wanting to come there and settle down to live.''
Deatherage said that when she applied for admission to Union Theological College, she experienced some skepticism from officials evaluating her application.
"Because I wasn't born and raised there, people think I have a hidden agenda,'' Deatherage said.
Anybody who knows Deatherage's life story realizes that her only agenda is to reach out to others. There is nothing hidden about her efforts.
Deatherage came to Ireland after helping raise about a dozen orphaned children in Ulanbator, Mongolia, for about 10 years. All were homeless. Some could have moved people to tears when they first came in.
One 5-year-old boy weighed only 25 pounds. Another boy had a terrible skin condition after living on the streets for two years.
The boys, like all the children Deatherage took in, rebounded into healthy, lively children. The boy with the skin condition developed a gregarious personality. He would tell Deatherage that she was lucky to have him.
Taking in orphans was not the only way Deatherage made a difference in Mongolia. She also helped found a head start-style program' for Mongolian children. The school serves children ages 3 to 7 whose families cannot afford public preschool and kindergarten.
The school, which had at least 35 students, was a major success. It was so well received that it is continuing to operate in Deatherage's absence.
Deatherage left Mongolia in 2002, a difficult step.
"It's hard to leave something that's important to you. I'm still grieving. It helps to know that they (the school and its children) are in good hands,'' she said.
Despite the pain of leaving, Deatherage knows that she made the right decision.
"I was so tired. I needed to get out. My time had come to an end,'' she said.
Deatherage, who has an education degree from Eastern Oregon State College, came back to Oregon and tried to find a job as a teacher. But she had no luck because of a recession and because she lacked teaching experience in the United States.
She moved on to Ireland where she had friends. She enrolled at Union Theological College in a three-year program, paying her own tuition the first year, and did so well that the college has agreed to pay all of her tuition for her second and third years Deatherage hopes to invigorate the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and Northern Ireland as a minister.
"I would like to see more life brought into churches. They are a very traditional people, yet so many people don't see how church is relevant to their lives.''
She wants the church to focus more on addressing issues that are directly relevant to the lives of people, like jobs and relationships.
"The Good News should never be boring. The Good News has words for everyone. It should be relevant to everyone's life,'' Deatherage said.
Deatherage is in the midst of the third major international venture of her life. She was in China four years from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. She taught English to university students north of Beijing. She was in China in June 1989 when the government violently suppressed a student uprising in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. She did not witness the uprising but said that being there at that time influenced her outlook on life.
Deatherage's experiences in China and Mongolia will serve her well when she becomes a minister, providing excellent material for sermons, she said.
"I always have a story from Mongolia or China I can share.''
In Ireland, Deatherage enjoys weather far less severe than that in Mongolia, which is known for its frigid winters. She enjoys Great Britain's temperate climate.
"There are two kinds of weather Â— it is lovely or it is raining,'' said Deatherage, who returned to La Grande this summer and is now back in Northern Ireland.
Her mother, Helen Deatherage, and sister, Meleah Sheehy, live in La Grande.
Deatherage believes she is answering her true calling by becoming a minister.
"I have always loved God and the Bible,'' she said.
The course of her life continues to be filled with unusual twists that she welcomes.
"I wake up in the morning and thank God for the adventure that has been my life.''