Dec
29

Part 5: These Boys

This is Part 5 in a series of update posts!  If you haven’t read the previous ones, please click through the links below and do so before you read this one.  Things will definitely make more sense that way!

Part 1: Happy Tuesday!

Part 2: Wednesday

Part 3: A New House

Part 4: Shawn

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In the last part of this update, I mentioned a neighborhood boy named Shawn – once an enemy, now (through “the incident”) a friend.  Here’s the second part of that story:

A week or so ago, in the midst of our church moving into a new building and the Lord providing a place for our own sudden move, I was driving into town with the boys.  They’d spent a couple hours playing outside with Shawn and had even brought him inside to hang out for a bit.  Now in the car, Silas says from the backseat, “Mom, I’m really happy!”

“Okay, why’s that?”

“Because Ethan and I just prayed with Shawn to ask God in his heart!”

“What?!”  I almost stopped the car.

“Yeah, we were talking to him about God, and he kind of figured out that he’s not actually a Christian, even though he’s a Catholic.”

“How did he figure that out?”

“Well, we asked him if he thought he was going to Heaven, and he said he thought so, since he hasn’t done anything really bad, like murdering someone.  We said that that wasn’t really how it worked, that you couldn’t get into Heaven by just not doing something terrible.  You had to ask God into your heart.”

I was honestly blown away listening to him!  The boys have been in services with alter calls before, and they’ve both prayed the prayer of salvation themselves, but we’ve never trained them specifically for evangelism.

“We asked him if he wanted us to pray with him to do that.  He said ‘Yes’ so we prayed, and he repeated the prayer after us.  When it was finished, I asked him if he meant it, and he said ‘Yes!’  I told him if he meant it, that God did come into his heart and he could go to Heaven!”

I kept glancing up at them both in the rear view mirror.  “I’m so happy Mom, and I think Shawn is happier too!”  Their faces really were happy; they’d been praying so much for their friend.

I told them how proud I was of them, and that even if that was the only reason God had moved us to Cobh, it was okay that we were leaving now, because God accomplished what He wanted to do.  We said a prayer for Shawn and threw a little party in the car as we finished making our way into the city.  What a gift, for God to let us see this little harvest in our neighborhood after such a hard year with these kids.  And Shawn – we are praying and trusting that the Lord will continue the work He has started!  Praise God!

Dec
29

Part 4: Shawn

This is Part 4 in a series of update posts!  If you haven’t caught the previous ones, you still can!  Click through the links below and read them before this one.  They aren’t super long, and things will make more sense, I promise!

Part 1: Happy Tuesday

Part 2: Wednesday

Part 3: A New House

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I mentioned before that the few friendships the boys have in the neighborhood have been hard fought. You don’t really know what challenges you’ll have when you move to the mission field (or anywhere really).  Leaving Colorado, pastors and other missionaries kind of gave us some ideas, but every situation, every country is different.

One thing I don’t think we anticipated, was how difficult it would for the boys to make friends here.  They’re both well spoken, enjoy doing normal, active things, and usually make friends pretty easily.  When we moved to Cobh, one of the things that seemed so awesome about this neighborhood, was how many kids, specifically boys, live here.  No joke – between our street and the two neighboring ones, there are probably close to 20 boys, all around Silas and Ethan’s age!  We thought about how great it would be for them – instant friends!

But from Day 1, it seemed like a struggle.  Kids excluding them because they aren’t Irish, LOTS of bad language (really normal for Ireland actually, and quite shocking out of even the littlest kids’ and oldest granny’s mouths), physical aggression, and a big lack of parental monitoring from most.  Now a lot of this is normal “kids will be kids” behavior (though still sin), and our homeschooled kids struggled partially because of their lack of exposure, but even the moms and people from church here (two of which are public school teachers) have said this is worst than normal.  I think it’s been harder too, because Silas and Ethan left friends behind and, before we arrived, consoled each other with thoughts of making new friends when we arrived.

Over the last fourteen months, there have been lots of tears and talks about sin and God’s heart for the sinner, how He has loved us and calls us to the same love.

One particularly difficult situation was a boy named Shawn.  He’s big, like Silas’ age and nearly twice his size.  He comes from a broken home (which is less common here as divorce was only recently legalized and still invokes that kind of “shocker” reaction) and shuffles back and forth between parents weekly.  He’s known among the neighborhood kids as a liar and a bully.

We asked Silas at some point, maybe a few months after we moved here, how things were going with the kids outside.

“Most of it’s okay right now,” he said, “except for Shawn.  When he doesn’t get his way, he just hurts everyone.”  We didn’t realize that it had turned into an actual fearful situation for Silas until he was sharing more details while we were hanging out with another family from church.  The other dad offered to show him some self-defense moves.  Outside they went, both dads and our two boys.  They came inside half an hour later trying to find all my pressure points!  But Silas seemed encouraged.

A few weeks later, I asked Silas how things were going with Shawn.

“Oh, he doesn’t bother anymore, not since the incident.”

I tried to hide my sudden concern.  “What incident?”

“Oh,” he said, as if he was sure he’d already mentioned it. “One day Shawn was mad at me.”  I pictured the large boy pinning Silas to the ground.  “He charged at me!”

“Mhmm…then what happened?”  I was still trying not to seem worried.

“Well, Mr. Alex (self-defense dad) said it would be good to make it funny, so I evaded his attack by moving out of his way, which made him fall.  Then I sat on him!”

I actually laughed out loud when he said it!

“All the other boys were there, and they all started laughing!  And then Shawn started laughing too, and I knew it was okay.  Yeah, he hasn’t messed with me since.”

I was so proud, and thankful that “the incident” hadn’t ended another way!  Shawn did seem different afterwards.  And Branden and I made an effort to be intentional with him (and the other neighborhood boys) when there was opportunity.  We’d take him along when walking into town, offer him something to drink anytime he was playing with the boys, and pray lots for him and his family.

One of the days we walked into town, Shawn came along for ice cream.  On the way back, he and Silas were walking together, and Silas called out to me, “Mom, Shawn says he thinks he’s a Christian!”  I knew they’d been talking to the neighborhood kids about Jesus and Christianity.  Talking about Christ is honestly taboo here, at least among adults.  Many people think Christianity is some kind of extreme cult.  It’s actually illegal for an adult to talk to kids in a public setting about Christ, or to invite them to church.  But kids…praise God…such laws do not apply!

“What does being a Christian mean?” I asked Shawn.

“It means you believe in Jesus and you live a good life,” he answered.  The boys chatted the rest of the way home.  Later, Silas and Ethan began praying about giving Shawn a Bible.  They’d asked him if he had one.  He didn’t, and wasn’t sure his mom would let him keep one.  Prayers for this young, one time enemy, now friend, began going up on a regular basis.

Dec
29

Part 3: A New House

This is Part 3 in a series of posts!  If you didn’t catch the first two, click on the links below and read them first.  I promise they’re not very long :)

Part 1: Happy Tuesday!

Part 2: Wednesday

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I had been looking at house listings every day since the landlord had dropped by, just in the background of everything else that was happening.  We did feel like we needed to move closer to the city, where the church and most of its families resided (Cobh is a 25 minute drive to the church).  The problem was, just inching towards the city made the rental prices skyrocket.  Also, the amount of space you could get for the money seemed to shrink dramatically.  We wanted to be wherever the Lord wanted us, but we did have things we were hopeful for – a yard, for one.  Also, space enough to have people stay if they visited from the States, more than one bathroom (not a given for Irish homes), a room we could allocate for school, and space for Branden to work and build.

The list seemed impossible for our budget, and filled with extras that we’d probably have to do without.  You know that place where you trust that God will definitely take care of your needs, but you’re tempted to feel like He’ll only give you the bare bones?  And that you’ll have to just trust and be thankful?  People always say that God will give you something better.  But what does that mean?  Better like bigger and shinier and covers all the things you might not really need but want?  Or better like He’ll make sure you don’t starve and you’ll learn a lesson in contentment?  Because maybe He will, and it will be good, right?  And we should be happy with that.  We’ve been in both situations before, and God has been good in both.  Being in that place where you have to wait on Him, trust, look at Him and not get consumed by all the what if’s – it can seem like an emotional roller coaster sometimes!

The week after the church move, we decided to start trying to view houses.  The other thing we were really praying about was, somehow being able to move in January instead of December, because we didn’t want to (and couldn’t) pay double rent.  Another seemingly impossible request, since most landlords would obviously want someone to start paying rent right away.  And the market here has been crazy, especially near the city, for a few years now, so landlords don’t have to be super accommodating (as our own landlord has proven).

Starting to make phone calls made it real.  We were getting ready for Christmas and simultaneously thinking of the craziness that would ensue immediately after.  Walking into another house meant the possibility of living there.  It was exciting in a way (at least to me :) but also an exercise in faith.  What did the Lord have in store?  How would we afford being closer to the city?  I couldn’t imagine finding a place closer and still having much a yard for the boys.  I was also conscious of Silas and Ethan, that dragging them to house after house might be upsetting.  I just had to entrust these things to the Lord.

I made a few calls.  Either real estate (or letting, as they say here) agents couldn’t meet when we could meet, or they signed us up for a group viewing scheduled to happen in the near future, where we’d awkwardly shuffle around a house, hoping we’d get it instead of the other families that were looking at the same time.

Finally, one letting agent was able to meet us to view a property.  We met him that afternoon, praying on the way that if this was the house, God would just make it really clear.

We got there a little early.  Driving onto the property, Ethan says, “I want to live here!”  The house was impressive – it looked spacious, obviously older with lots of character, and it sat on a small piece of land.  The agent arrived a few minutes later, introduced himself, and showed us inside.

The house was old – 200 years actually!  The owners had made some upgrades, but kept all the original floors, window shutters, and built in bookcases.  It has a room for school, a guest room for people to visit, and space for Branden to set up an office and workshop (which he’ll need since the church now meets in a school).  It even has more than one bathroom, and what the Irish call an American style refrigerator (regular size for the States, but probably more than double what we have right now!)

The agent shared some info about the property and the preferences of the owners.  In Ireland, part of their job is screening potential renters.  Owners won’t entertain offers without the letting agent’s recommendation.  He asked and answered questions, showed us around, and talked about how the utilities would work (water from a well, bottled gas for the stove, and oil that’s brought in to to fill a large tank on the property for heat).

“Now if you didn’t want to move in right away, you could wait until January.”

I was surprised to hear him suggest that, or even bring it up at all.  “Would that be okay?”

“It’s December 7th.  The owners have resolved that the house will likely be empty until the new year.”  He explained that this was their family home; they are more interested in finding the right tenants than making money.  “We would just need to know your preferred move in date.”

You know when you imagine what your dream house will be like?  Well, mine is a 200 year old farmhouse!  With more than one bathroom, a place to do school, space for Branden to work and build (a very long time dream), space to host and do real, community oriented ministry, and room for the boys to run – all in the place where God has called us to serve!

The day the landlord stopped by, the Lord gave me Psalm 116:5-9:

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the simple hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

He was saying – Be at rest now, because I’ve shown you my character, that I am good and I am for you. I’ve not only saved your soul, but I care about your heart.  And I am able to keep you, for the purpose of fellowship with Me.

We sent an email the next day, saying we were interested in the house.  We gave our details and all our documentation for visas and work situation (always a little tricky!).  The agent recommended us to the owners, and we waited to hear back.  A few days later, they accepted us and we signed the lease last week!  We won’t get the keys and move in until January 10th (an answer to prayer!), but we are excited and so thankful for how God has shone us such compassion, His goodness, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves!

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Okay, I know this sounds like the end of the update, but it’s not!  Keep reading to find out how the Lord is using the boys in our current neighborhood, and also for details on our upcoming furlough!

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