May 5, 2018

Hello from Ireland!

Greetings from… Dublin! At last! Well actually, Dún Laoghaire (pronounced 'Dun Leery'), the harbor town just south of Dublin where I’ll be based for the foreseeable future. Let me catch my breath for a moment and I’ll tell you what’s been happening in the month since I got here.

After just exactly the sort of frantic scramble you can imagine getting my house in Charlottesville ready to sell and packing up to get on the plane, I arrived in Ireland on April 4. Apartment hunting generated a massive case of sticker shock. Evidently I parachuted right into the middle of Ireland’s housing crisis, with low supply and rising prices being the lead item on the nightly news. (You can read about it here and here.) But God is good and found me a lovely apartment at what’s considered a reasonable price for the area. Since then I’ve officially become the IKEA queen, unboxing and building bookshelves, tables and beds. I’ve also been prowling the local charity shops looking for bits and pieces to fill my kitchen. I now have at least a functioning place to live and am happy to move on to the real work.

It’s been wonderful reconnecting with the Serge Ireland team and friends at Dún Laoghaire Presbyterian Church. Have you ever had that experience where you were deeply disappointed about something and had to go to Plan B, but then later found out it was God’s Plan A? That’s how I feel about coming to Dublin last year for only six months because I didn’t yet have the missionary support I needed to stay long-term. I was frustrated and felt that God’s plan for my life wasn’t moving forward as fast as I wanted it to! But now I’m enjoying the bounty of those six short months. So lovely to arrive to familiar faces and places, to know where things are and how to get around, and to have a basic understanding of how to do life in Ireland. It’s always exhausting to adjust to a whole other country, absolutely, but a good bit less so this time because the Lord arranged for me to have that preview last year. Please remind me about this the next time I’m complaining that God isn’t conforming to my plan!

As you know, I’ll be traveling frequently as international Theological Education Specialist for Serge. My first trip is May 19-24, to Poland for the European Theologians Network meeting at the European Leadership Forum. Sounds a bit grand, but it’s really just a chance for me to find out who’s doing what in theological education on the European continent, since my previous experience has been in Africa, India and the British Isles. Please pray for ‘divine appointments’ in terms of who I meet and have opportunities to talk with, since I’m going into this meeting knowing hardly anyone.

One of the joys of being based in Ireland – besides it being just a great place to live – is the chance to connect with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. I’ve been asked to co-lead this year’s Accredited Preachers Course, a monthly training cohort for lay leaders who serve as pulpit supply in the denomination’s under-resourced churches. APC met for the first time last weekend and I fell in love with our diverse bunch of nine enthusiastic participants. My part is to take them through the story of the whole Bible over the next eight months, while my pastor Chris Kennedy teaches them how to preach it. The PCI has also asked me to mentor one other lay leader who wasn’t quite ready for this course. Liz and I met yesterday for the first time, and I think we’re going to have way too much fun together.

Serge Ireland’s summer program for college students, called Encounter, starts June 7 and we’re all in a flurry getting ready for that. It’s a partnership between Serge and CUI, the Irish counterpart of Inter-Varsity. We’ll have 20+ students from the US, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland – that in itself a significant intercultural experience for all of them. I’ll be teaching some of the cross-cultural training the weekend they arrive, then leading a daily Bible study through Galatians during their two-week discipleship course before they go out in small teams to help local churches. Lots of prayer for the students, and for me and the other staff, please! We're completely dependent on the Spirit's work in the hearts and lives of these young people as well as our own.

Other than that, I’m teaching my New Testament Introduction course online for Fuller, trying to calm down from the adrenaline rush of an international move, and looking forward to having guests. Two young friends from Virginia are coming this week, then daughter Caroline and son-in-law Will will be here the first week in June on their way to a summer break in the US from teaching in Rwanda.

Thank you so much for the prayer and financial support from so many of you that make it possible for me to be here. I am very grateful to God for this opportunity to serve, and very grateful for your partnership!


First session of the PCI's Accredited Preachers Course last Saturday. And my first time teaching
in an Irish context. So excited to be here!


Before...


During...


...and after. Still a bit spartan, but definitely liveable. Thank you, IKEA!


And thank you, CUI friend Louise Hacking, for helping me wrestle the pieces of that day bed together.
 

 Ready for guests!

March 23, 2018

On my way to Ireland!

Exciting news!! God has done it! As of this week 100% of the financial support I need to leave for Ireland is in!!

And the Lord did it through so many of you. I am the grateful beneficiary of 16 Presbyterian churches and 58 families and individuals giving regularly (monthly or yearly) to this global theolgical education outreach, plus many more of you giving as you can. Along with those of you who've been faithfully praying to get us to this point. I feel stunned, humbled, thrilled, and yes of course, blessed. Thank you so much!!

So what happens next? I have my ticket in hand to fly to Dublin on Tuesday, April 3 – just about 10 days from now. Can’t wait to start my new role as international Theological Education Specialist with Serge and EPC World Outreach, helping train emerging global church leaders for Christ-centered, biblically-informed, grace-driven ministry. From my new home in Ireland I'll travel out to teach in theological institutions alongside Serge's church-planting outreach in Africa, Asia and post-Christian Europe.

But first I need to get my house in Virginia ready to sell. It goes on the market this coming week. So right now my life looks sort of like this:






Well maybe not exactly. But I’ve been cleaning, scrubbing and polishing so hard that my phone doesn’t recognize my fingerprints anymore. Evidently I’ve scrubbed them off!

The big moving-downsizing yard sale is done, but there’s still the final sorting and packing. And then getting on the plane a week from Tuesday. And once I get there, finding an affordable apartment in the Dún Laoghaire area just south of Dublin (probably my most urgent prayer request right now). And settling in. And listening for what God wants me to do next in this work. I definitely need your prayer! Thanks!

Please pray also for my sensitivity to the spiritual needs of Irish people I meet, and for the Lord to open doors to friendships in my new home base. See below for a reminder of some of the social changes and challenges to gospel faith in the Republic of Ireland.

So excited – and honestly also a bit daunted – to be at this point in the journey. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Ps 126:3)!