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.
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!