Jul
11

Visa Update + Summer

Hi Everyone, It’s been a while since our last update/newsletter, and I know I’ve left some things up in the air, especially concerning our visa situation. There’s so much going on here, and I’m not doing a great job sharing it with you all. Please forgive me!

Okay, in an attempt to fill you in, let’s start with the visas. First a (hopefully) short recap. At the end of last year, we went in to apply for our next visa (for this year) and were told that many of the regulations regarding our particular visa had changed, and if we wanted to stay in Ireland, we’d need to file for an extension. The immigration department would review our paperwork and situation and decide if we’d be allowed this special permission.

That information was really unexpected and we were a bit shaken at the thought of the possibility of being sent back to the States suddenly. It was a good opportunity to lean into the Lord! We applied for the extension and waited for a decision.

In really dramatic fashion, and what we considered to be a miraculous intervention, the Lord sorted out the extension and we were not only granted permission to stay in Ireland for another year, but also able to go on two international trips that we’d previously planned! You can read more about that here if you want to know the story – it’s a good one!

After the extension was granted, we learned that we wouldn’t be able to apply for that particular visa again. After talking to other missionaries and doing some research, we found out that we qualified for a different immigration permission called the Minister of Religion visa. The extension we received won’t expire until the fall, but to ensure we’d have enough time to plan, especially if we needed to appeal a decision, we decided to try to apply as soon as possible for next year’s visa.

Looking into the new visa, we learned that it had also been revamped and that the number of documents required had tripled. In addition, we were told specifically by the immigration department that if we wanted to get a visa we’d never held before, we needed to apply as if we didn’t have a visa at all. We’d need to go back to the States, send our documents from there, and wait for their decision. This could take up to two months. We emailed back and forth several times, trying to explain how difficult this would be, but the immigration department here in Ireland was adamant.

So, we began to make preparations. Gathering documents, doing research, sending emails and talking to various people and departments, booking tickets and making arrangements to go home, and at the same time, continuing ministry here in Cork and just mentally trying to settle into the fact that we had no idea what the future held. We could easily be denied and sent home. Something that I’m so thankful for is that, when the Lord called us to Ireland, He was very clear. And the calling was to be without reservation. We have no plan B, no “what if,” no car or house or security in the States, no imaginations about what life would be like away from Ireland. The idea of not being able to stay was scary and heartbreaking.

In the spring, we took our furlough. Four states within the first four weeks, six weeks total! Ireland is our home, wholeheartedly, and we pray earnestly that we’ll get to stay here for a very long time. But there’s also something really special about going back to your first home. You don’t live there anymore, but it’s familiar. You know where everything is, all your food cravings are fulfilled, conversations and interactions have deep roots. I’m learning that “home” is more about people and experiences than location. The month and a half away went by both fast and slow; it was refreshing and exhausting and good!

While we were there, we finalized our paperwork and submitted our application for the Minister of Religion Visa. Soon after, we got an email saying the immigration department in Ireland had received our documents, but that there wasn’t a need for us to have left the country to apply. The person we were emailing with now was saying the opposite of what we’d been repeatedly and adamantly told before. At this point, we were frustrated, but it was just another thing to trust the Lord with. We were doing everything we could, and the realization that things were completely out of our control was well established. The Lord had a plan, and we could trust Him. That’s what we knew. And we were with family and friends that we hadn’t seen in a long while; there was a lot to be thankful for.

We finished our time in the US and headed back to Cork. When we arrived home, we discovered a letter from Immigration that had been waiting for us for a month. It stated that our current visa, which we’d gotten for the extension, was the Minister of Religion Visa, and that if we wanted an answer for next year, we’d need to apply again before it ran out in October.

We’d spent all that time and money, going back to the States, all the paperwork and original, signed documents. Now they were saying our current visa is something it wasn’t. And we still had no answer for after October.

It took me a couple of weeks to stop being upset. But in my time with the Lord, He reminded me of a verse He’d given me from Psalm 37:39-40…

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
    He is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in Him.”

He has our answer in His hand. It’s not in the hands of anyone else. If He wants us here, nothing will be able to take us out. And if His plan means leaving, then it will still be a good plan. He reminded me about the work in front of us – there’s so much! The Lord is doing so many things in our church, in our city! We were about to head into the busiest time of the year ministry wise, and we could not afford to be distracted or have our heads in two places. Hand to the plow. Whatever the answer will be, it will come from the Lord.

Somehow after that, I was able to focus again. It’s like I’d been driving in heavy rain. Blurry vision, windshield wipers racing, the pressure of keeping everything going. But I could let my heart rest a bit now. He was doing His part, and we needed to be faithful with ours.

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And that brings us to the summer! I honestly love summer so much! There’s the possibility of consistent sunshine (although the sporadic sun in Ireland makes us grateful and flexible – you have to change your plans and go outside when there’s Vitamin D to be had!). There’s a well earned break from school for all of us, and the calendar is full of both ministry and family time.

If you’ve made it this far in the post, I’d love to ask you to pray for the things we have going on! Each month in the summer, we have at least one church family event. This year they include a Father’s Day BBQ and a bonfire at the beach in August! We’re also gearing up to begin a small group study for the teenagers in our church in the fall, so we have monthly Youth Group events on for the summer! Please pray for this new, exciting ministry!

The biggest event is definitely our Holiday Bible Club (aka VBS) which is set to happen at the end of this month. The Lord gave us a vision to write one ourselves last summer, and we’re doing the same this year. There’s also a team of 13 coming from the States to help serve – which is incredible! That means that parents and our normal Sunday morning volunteers will get a rest, and the entire church is served!

We have some cool family things on the calendar as well, and we’re making the most of the summer months with sunshine and no school routine!

Please pray for us as we continue preparing for the team and Holiday Bible Club. I would be lying if I didn’t say there has been a fair amount of spiritual warfare already. That coupled with just the normal pressure of putting on a big event – there’s a lot going on! Please pray for the team as they get ready to come, for all the logistical things that happen when 13 people travel, and for what the Lord wants to do in and through them in the ten days they’ll be on the ground here. And most of all, please pray for the kids that are coming to the club! Pray that they will have an amazing time and experience the love and hope we have in Jesus!

I’m excited about the Gospel going out, for God’s Word to be shared, and that we get to be a part of what the Lord is going to do in those three days!

Would you pray too, for our visas? The earliest we can reapply is the third week of August. At the moment, we have peace and are able to focus on the things in front of us. But it has been a very long and difficult process so far, and I know that as we get closer, we’ll need reminders to rest, to trust that God has a good plan.

Thank you for reading and praying and being a part of what the Lord is doing here in Cork! We’re greatly humbled and encouraged that the Lord would use us here, and that people would partner with us, to see the the Gospel go forth and the work done. Jesus has incredible things in store – what a blessing it is to co-labor with Him!

One Year!
Oct
17

One Year!

I started reading the Gospel of John again.  His narrative is so full, and I’m finding I still have to read each line multiple times, mining in God’s Word.  At the end of the first chapter, Jesus calls His first disciples.  First, two followers of John the Baptist begin to follow Him.  Jesus asks them what they seek, and they inquire about where He is staying.

“Come, and you will see.”

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Later, Jesus decides to go to Galilee and finds Philip.

“Follow Me,” He says.

Philip finds Nathaniel and tells Him about finding the long awaited Messiah, that His name is Jesus, of Nazareth.  Nathaniel is skeptical, asking, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

“Come and see.”

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I remember the Lord using this passage when we were first thinking about Ireland.  Jesus made no promises to these fishermen about security or comfort, not even a pitch about how great the adventure would be.  No brochure or video about the healing or miracles they’d witness, no warnings about the heartache and persecution.  He only asked them to follow.  To come, and see.

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And though these men were waiting for this promised Savior, they did have lives – jobs and families and communities they were a part of, security and control over their day to day.  It may have seemed like this sudden decision to follow Jesus was irresponsible, irrational even.  Why would they leave what they knew, the path they could see, and trade it for the unknown?

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The thing is, they did know one thing.  And this one thing, if true, warranted this incredibly high risk.  Somehow they knew – this was the Christ.  Jesus was the Messiah.  And it didn’t matter what excitement or darkness lie ahead, the cost of staying was greater than that of following Him.

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The Bible doesn’t say these men took time to weigh out this monumental decision.  No pros and cons list, no lengthy discussions with family recorded.  Maybe if we could see Jesus Himself, hand extended, inviting us to come with Him, we wouldn’t hesitate either.

For our family though, that wasn’t the case.  It took what seemed like a long time to decide to come to Ireland, much longer for Branden than for myself.  The Lord told me right away, that he was calling us here.  He didn’t tell Branden as quickly; He was working out so much in our hearts.  And so Branden talked about every risk, every possible consequence of taking such a big leap if it wasn’t from the Lord.  And though my heart was already on the island, I could understand what he was saying.

We would give up all we knew, any security we thought we had, proximity to family and friends and the community we loved, and go.  We would have to say, like the disciples did, that Jesus – who He is, no promises of more and guarantee of nothing less – is enough.

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Well, it’s been a year on the mission field in Ireland, and the overwhelming feeling is of gratitude.

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There have been challenges absolutely, days of feeling the distance from family and friends and home.  We’ve dealt with health issues, being overwhelmed learning to live in a new country and still functioning some in the other, just growing into this unique place of being missionaries.  But the Lord has been incredibly gracious and good to us!

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We have found another home in Ireland, a place with sweet fellowship and community with like minded believers, many with a hard fought, undeniable faith and a genuine love for God’s Word.  There is a need here in ministry and the Lord is using us to be a part of discipleship and reaching kids and families with His life changing Good News!  And He has been faithful.

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Jesus never said to follow an idea or philosophy, a set of rules or group of people.  He said to follow Him, which means He intends to be with us.  And so He has been.  And perhaps that’s what shuts the mouth of fear, when what’s unknown seems to grow and skew our perspective again.  He is with us.

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And the future?  Well, I’m convinced, it will always be in the “Come, and see.”  One and then the other.

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Sometimes I’m like Nathaniel, skeptical of Him and so sure of whatever else I know.  But if I come, with a willingness to see, Jesus will show me – great things, things I would never see otherwise, but even more, Jesus reveals Himself!

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And truly, what could compare to that?

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You might be tempted to think it’s different for you and me, that we’re here and not where you are.  But the call is the same for us all, and so is the promise.

Follow Him.  Come, and see!

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Photo Credit: Timothy James          Post Work/Editing: Ernie Treu

Hope
Mar
10

Hope

We could hear the muffled voice of a woman speaking into a megaphone.  A large crowd was gathered on the pavement outside Brown Thomas department store, some holding posters and signs above their heads.  An occasional cheer erupted as the woman spoke with conviction.

“What’s going on Mom?” Silas asked.

“I don’t know.”

It was Monday, our family day.  We had made breakfast, gone to a playground, eaten lunch at our favorite place in town.  Now on foot, we’d finished up with a few errands in the city center and were walking back to the church where our car was parked.  As we approached, we could see a symbol on the signs we didn’t recognize.  There were garda in reflective jackets standing amongst the crowd.  In front of the woman with the megaphone, there were several others holding a long banner.  This was a protest to repeal the law banning abortion in Ireland.

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The area was wide, but we had to walk through the crowd to get to where we were going.

“What’s going on Mom?”

There was a sign that said, “Warning: Graphic Abortion Photos Ahead.”  The boys were holding my hands, one on each side as we walked.

“Mom, what’s happening?”  Their voices sounded concerned now.

“Don’t look at the pictures.”  Ethan buried has face in my sleeve and I wrapped my arm around Silas to cover his eyes.  We walked quickly, Branden right behind us.

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There was a woman arguing with a man on our right.  As we passed, he said, “But there was no baby here.”  “Yes, there was!” she was almost shouting.

I couldn’t help but look at one of the large banners.  They were labelled with the number of weeks of gestation.  A graphic image filled each one.  Parts and pieces and medical utensils.  Children.

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We got through the crowd and kept walking.

“But Mom, what’s happening?”

I felt my face get hot, my eyes blurry.  I was looking down and buried my face in the front of my jacket.

“Mom, why are you crying?” Silas asked.  “She’s crying,” he turned and said to Branden.

Branden stopped me.  “Are you okay?”  I couldn’t really answer.  He put his arm around me.

“Lord help us.  This is where you have us.  This is how You feel when You see our sin.”  He contained to pray for me, for our family, for this country and the people we are called to love and serve.

People continued to pass us, walking around our little family huddle, past the protesters and giant banners.  I sobbed into Branden’s coat, still holding each of our boys by the hand.

The next hour was spent answering questions about abortion, what it is and why people are talking about it, about God’s heart and this broken world.

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There have been a couple of really sobering experiences that have taken place this week, and we’ve found ourselves  overwhelmed, feeling almost helpless.  In this world where sin and its effects seem so inevitable, how do we stand?  How do we disciple and train up our children?  How do we advance the Kingdom?  How do we love those in front of us?  My heart echoes Branden’s prayer – Lord help us.  This is where you have us.  This is how You feel when You see our sin.

A friend of mine said recently, “Where there is prayer, there is hope.”

Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

He died in hope.  Rose in hope.  Believing and being joyful in anticipating that this broken world be brought back to Himself – broken and scarred, but reconciled.

So we pray, and bring our hearts to His own.  And we have hope.  Because the Lord’s love is greater, and if He allows us to be a part of this pursuit, this ministry of reconciliation, then He’ll give us the wisdom and grace to co-labor with Him in it – for our own children, and for those wandering all around us.

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Thank you for praying with us, for being a part of what God is doing here in Ireland.  It is still illegal to abort a child here, except under extreme circumstances.  Currently there is a lot of talking/protesting/media coverage, but we know this is a heart issue and pray for the Lord to draw this nation back to Himself.  Please continue to labor with us in prayer.



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