March 26, 2017

Learning curves

Greetings from… Dublin! (So excited to finally be able to say that!) I’ve been here for 3½ weeks and am in exactly the overstimulated state of disorientation and discovery that you might expect.

Some initial observations:

  • I’d forgotten the utter mental exhaustion of being in a new-to-me country where every single action and life activity requires deep thought. Every. Single. Action. How do I turn on the heater in my apartment? How do I open the windows? How does the door key work and what are these other keys for? How do I get myself a phone number? How do I wash my clothes? Where do I take the trash? Where do I buy ‘X’? Which direction do I look to cross the road? How much is each of these coins worth? What do I say to the check-out person at the grocery store? Where is ‘Y’ and how do I get there? How do I pay for my bus ticket? How do I know what stop to get off at? Every hour, every day.
  • Irish people are really fun. And chatty. And welcoming. This may be the most fun new country I’ve ever moved to. Or it may be that the fact everyone speaks English (of a sort?) means I get to enjoy more quickly the friendliness and welcome that language barriers can conceal in other places I’ve visited. Either way, I’m having a great time meeting new people.
  • Ireland’s political and religious landscape is very complex. The more I see and begin to learn, the less I think I’ll ever understand. But I’m determined to be an open-minded learner.
  • It doesn’t rain all the time.
And here’s what I’ve managed to do in the last few weeks, with the much-appreciated help of my Serge team:
  • Settle into my small apartment, with amazing views overlooking Dublin Bay
  • Visit historical sites to start learning more about Irish culture and history
  • Meet local residents through events for group dinners, coffee, walks, etc. Trying – and continually failing – to remember all the new names: Aoife, Bronagh, Siobhán, Dermot, Róisín, and multiple Patricks...
  • Begin attending Dún Laoghaire Presbyterian Church (pronounced ‘dun leery’), including a weekly home group and a women’s Bible study. Feels like this is a going to be a great fit.
  • Make initial connections with the leaders at Irish Bible Institute, including getting a library card (that’s a big deal resource for me)
  • Plug away at my usual sorts of teaching tasks: examine a PhD dissertation in Germany via Skype, submit a chapter for a book on non-western approaches to theological education, register for European academic conferences this summer, and prepare to teach New Testament Introduction online to 27 Fuller Theological Seminary students starting tomorrow.
So… I’m here, and it feels right, and I’m exhausted, and I sense this is exactly where God wants me for now. Thank you, generous partners, for helping me get to this point. And now please pray with me that God shows us what he wants to do in and through me in this place over the coming months!

Why it takes me two hours to shop for groceries in an unfamiliar country. 

An annotated tour. 

I just want oatmeal. Normal oatmeal. Which one is normal oatmeal?

I want brown sugar to put on my oatmeal. Demerara sugar? Light muscovado sugar? Dark muscovado sugar? Light brown soft? Dark brown soft?

Mature red cheddar. Mature white cheddar. Mature Irish cheddar. Extra mature white cheddar. Mature Irish red cheddar. Vintage mature white cheddar. Organic mature cheddar. Medium red cheddar. Mature Irish cheese lighter. Mild red cheddar. Mild white cheddar. Medium white cheddar. So much cheddar.


Glad to know I can get the generic goose fat rather than the name brand. (And then what am I supposed to do with it??? Roast some potatoes, evidently.)


 Plenty of brandy butter if you need it.


 Me: "Where can I find roma tomatoes?" Clerk: "We don't sell 'em." Wait, yes you do, you just call them something else.

Long interlude reading all the countries on the fruit and veg packages. Corn from Senengal, coconuts from the Ivory Coast, grapes from South Africa, blueberries from Spain, oranges from Egypt, potatoes from France, broccoli from Jordan, kiwis from Greece, tomatoes from Morocco.

Which is best, smoked haddock or smoked coley? And what exactly is coley, anyway?

Best find ever. GF chocolate Hobnobs.

Let’s just buy cookies and go home.

February 26, 2017


Just one last quick note from Charlottesville, VA, to say that three days from now I'll be in Ireland! I'm in an adrenaline-fueled whirl of cleaning, sorting, packing. Tomorrow I leave my house, Tuesday I fly out of Washington, DC, and on Wednesday morning I arrive in Dublin.

Here's how I visualize myself starting this new ministry:

Here's what it will probably really be more like:

Either way, I'm thrilled to be launching. Thank you to the many of you who have prayed, encouraged, and given. God is good, and I'm grateful for the significant ways he is using you to make this work happen.

As I mentioned last time, while I'm in Dublin from March to August, I hope to:

  • Start getting oriented to Ireland, personally and culturally
  • Make initial connections with local churches and theological training programs
  • Make initial connections with European theological education networks
  • Help with Serge’s short-term missions training in June
  • Travel to Serge fields in Europe to explore theological education needs and opportunities
  • Teach an online course for Fuller Theological Seminary (this income counts toward my missionary support)
  • Continue long-term support-raising
The Serge team in Dublin has asked me to serve with Dún Laoghaire Presbyterian Church (pronounced 'dun leery'), a 12-minute walk from the apartment I've sublet for March-June. I'm looking forward to being part of this fellowship, reaching out to Irish neighbors.

Then for September I’ll be in Bangalore, India, teaching hermeneutics again at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS). Then back home  to Virginia until this ministry as international Theological Education Specialist for Serge and EPC World Outreach is fully funded and I can return to my Dublin home base while I serve Serge's church-planting work in Africa, Asia and post-Christian Europe.

But for right now, I'm mostly just excited to be on the way again. Thank you so much for being part of this with me. Join me in praising God for his faithfulness. And next month... I'll update you from Dublin!