Sunday, July 31, 2011


It's a good thing I forget how difficult reentry after a Mission Trip can be.

Anger is one of the emotions. I wont specifically vent here. It's not appropriate. The specifics are not my point. I just want to say that there is something about going cross cultural that opens your eyes up. You see things you've either been totally blind to or putting effort into ignoring. Something about getting away and seeing other places do things differently and are getting better results leaves you with a level of frustration that is impossible to ignore. Especially when you remember that not everyone was on the same trip you just came back from and their perspectives haven't changed one bit. There is a breaking down process that happens on these trips that few other experiences allows for. I am asking God to keep the anger from turning to bitterness. I am asking God to give me loving responses when I get close to "hot points" in my culture. I'm hoping that I do no harm with the anger that is sometimes within me.

Sadness has been another strong emotion. I could have burst into tears most of Thursday afternoon. I had two good nights of sleep so it wasn't all about being tired. I had to focus on work. So when I got home I processed with Dave for a while and then gave myself a break from my to do list and spent time praying. I was sad because... the "flip the switch process" from working with a group of people, all working towards the spread of the gospel to...BAM now I'm making sure I got the checks posted to the correct expense account. Well it was just to fast and hard for my soul to take in. (Why God gives us these passions and then limits the resources to pursue them is on my list of heavenly questions.) Once the sadness was named, it was easy for me to discover devotions and verses that brought comfort to me as I have prayed about all that was stirred up in my thoughts and emotions on Thursday. I am doing much better now. Frankly, now I am grateful for the sadness. Sadness always motivates seeing under the surface for me. God has met me there in very encouraging ways.

Okay enough of the hard stuff... because by far there is way more encouraging stuff.

One of the things I have figured out about myself is that I have been put on the planet to care about and encourage leaders. It was not an accident that I was placed on the Nenagh team. I mentioned in a previous blog why it was good for both Pastor Matt and I to spend time together. But it was also timely that I was matched up with Nev. Nev is 24 years old. From all I gathered, his leadership skills are being developed at a pretty rapid rate. There were so many similarities in how we engage with God and with engage with other people serving God. I think I was placed there to say, on a few occasions: You are on the right track. Keep trusting what the Lord is doing in your life. And here's why I am saying that to you based on my own history with the Lord. Here's what's fun about the time spent with these two gentlemen. When I applied to go on this trip neither of those relationships was on my radar of possibilities. For those of you that know anything about the Desires and Longings Map that I walk through with people, you will understand how significant this realization of purpose was for me on this trip.

Which brings me to the sermon this morning. Pastor Mike spoke about Mary. He shared the story from Luke 1. The time when Mary is doing the daily dailies and an Angel shows us up and says... by the way, you will be the mother of God. The title for the sermon was: The Model of Discipleship. Mary had a willing and receptive heart. Preparation had gone into that moment. Preparation had been done on both sides. God prepared Mary's heart to receive the message. Mary invested with her community in knowing who her God is so well that she was able to quote back a passage from 1 Samuel in response. Mary said yes to God. It was not an easy thing to say yes to.

When friends first asked me, do you plan to apply to go to Ireland, three quick reasons for why "no" was clearly the right answer rolled off my tongue on several different occasions. The Still Small Voice convicted me that I had not actually prayed about that and asked God if He wanted me to be on the trip. The more I prayed about it, talked with others who would help me make the decision and other events in my life the more I realized that there was a sense that I should be willing to go. And, I got to the place where I really wanted to go. I'm grateful the Lord made it possible. My life would be far poorer if I had stayed with my three quick reasons for not going.

It matters, that it is possible for the Lord, in his grace in mercy to increase our sensitivity to his voice and to follow wherever He leads us. I believe this with increasingly clarity. I understand the dangers here. I know that part of my life purpose is to help people as they learn to be more responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. To God and God alone be the glory.

There is a lot involved in Reentry. It is not easy work. I haven't even discovered the half of it yet. Our team will continue to work through by reading The Celtic Way of Evangelism. I'll be reading with Dave on the road trip to Colorado this week. I'm really looking forward to it. Brent and Charlie tell me I'll like this book. I may have more to share after this week. That's it for now. Thanks for listening.

First pic is of Matt and Nev.
Second pic - Nenagh Team
Third pic - Team CBC

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Planning is wee bit overrated!

Nothing goes as planned...

Our week here is Nenagh has been a week of rolling with it. I think it has been good for all of us. It's been a great week to practice listening and responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It's also been a good week for simply paying attention to who is responding to us and enjoying them.

That list of people is quite interesting:

The team members interacting with one another which include our fearless leaders Nev and Dave. As well as Keith, Jacki, Vanessa, Nicole and myself. And last and certainly not least the pastor we've come to help Matt.

20 plus church members

Random people on the street who know Matt and his wife Jules as we pass out fliers all over town. 3000 addresses will be covered in 4 or so days.

2 members of the "Tidy Town" civic group and a couple of youth doing community service. One of the Tidy Town representatives is Martin. He is a bit of a town historian. So while cleaning up the grave yard in the center of town he told us stories on break and asked us about our project. We hope to catch up again with him later in the week.

Nev has gotten to play football (soccer) with Matt and his team for two nights and may get invited to play in a game on Friday night. We plan to go watch and cheer them on. Hopefully we'll get to interact with some others on the sidelines as well while we're there.

Vanessa, Keith and Nev did Questionarres on the street today... If you had one question to ask God, what would it be? We may incorporate some of what was learned in the Sunday Coffee Bar conversation.

Nicole has been creating art all week. We will be leaving behind some of it for the church.

That give you a taste of what it has been like. We have had plans for each day but if someone shows an interest in interacting with us the plan gets scrapped and we go there. Much of that is work that only God knows about. We hope Matt becomes more aware over time if any meaningful seeds were planted in the lives of those who do not yet believe.

In many ways the trip has been about the encouragement of believers. Matt and his wife Jules have been doing the church plant here for 9 years. That is a long time. This is slow work. It makes a difference for teams like us to come in and provide much needed boost of support, encouragement, a listening ear and appreciation for so much that gets done that does not get recognized. I've been walking this journey with my own brother back in the States. I could not be more delighted about being put on a team sent here to encourage a church planting pastor. We talked for over an hour today. It was helpful to both of us.

Young Nev. He's 24. He's dubbed me the Mum of the group. And rightly so. I'm even older than the pastor. :) Nev and I share a lot of similarities in how we see things and how we approach ministry. It has been good for us to work through the decision making process together on a few occasions on this trip. He is very open about his faith. What he has learned and what he is in the middle of learning right now. It has been a joy to both listen and throw in a few words of encouragement. I do not know what all God has planned for this young man. But God has rescued him from a lot! He knows it. There joy in his soul to match. It's contagious. He is truly the most joyful person with gift of evangelism I have ever met. I'm praying that God will allow Dave and I to host him in America in some form or fashion. We'll see if that is God's plan or mine. :)

So we've got three more days to roll with it and see what happens. That will include a football game, a hurling game and a football fun day, attending a local children's play, Sunday service and whatever else we get surprised with.

For those of you praying for us, a great big thank you!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Falling in love with Ireland

A friend has asked to hear my thoughts so far on being in Ireland. There are so many that I struggle to know where to start. I'm certain they will come out in random ways here. I have thoughts about the students... the country... the leaders... my own walk with the Lord.

I tried to express this to Dave on the phone the other night. I have been studying and praying about compassion and the need there is in the world to reach out to other people in very meaningful ways. I've thought about the connections to that mindset and to the worship of God. I've thought about my resistance to communicate the gospel in the form of a proclamation. I don't know if this is going to make sense to anyone else... but I find myself living and breathing in the collision of all these things. They are not ideas. They are not thoughts. They are what we are living in community. And it is overwhelmingly beautiful to me.

There are many similarities to our culture and to Ireland. The differences that I have picked up on so far are very subtle but very real. It seems very risky to try and explain any of what I see because I have been here such a short time and I'm very open to the idea that I do not really understand what I am seeing yet. One thing that I find myself thinking about a lot is this: there is a history here of combat between two sides. The combat has taken place at all levels. It has happened with words, with fists, with guns. Those two sides want peace and they are trying to figure it out. They have succeeded in many ways. But what they still struggle to work out continues to shape their culture. There is conflict in all cultures. But what the conflict is and how God helps one person to develop a heart of compassion for the person they were once told to hate is very personal and very complex. Loyalty and allegiance to family and religion against an enemy is a great deal to let go of. What is so exciting for me to see in yet another culture is that Jesus Christ is excellent and making a way for all of us to let go of how we perceive others and see them through God's eyes instead and to love them as God loves us. This is a miracle.

The particular project that I am on is a good match for me. There are seven of us on our team. We have two leaders and one young adult that are all from Northern Ireland. We have three of us from Texas and one from Colorado. We are joined up with a baptist church plant in southern Ireland. We are in a county called Tipperary. A town called Nenagh is our location.  The population is around 8,000 people. We believer there is only one evangelical church in this area and they are it. They are suspected by many to be a cult, so the people open to God are not open to them. Then there is the other problem that I have heard so much about in Western cultures which is that there is a  very high percentage of people who are not interested in anything to do with religion. On Thursday I read a four page newspaper article ( I mean four full pages) on matters related to protecting children from the church. So our mission will be to interact with people in this community. We will attempt to show them what it means to be a Christ follower by how we treat them and how we treat each other. It will hopefully have nothing to do with religion. It will have everything to do with how much we know God has loved us and how much we know God loves them. We hope that any curiosity about who we are and why we have come will lead them into relationships with Pastor Matt and others at The Hatchery.

I wish I could say more about my worship experiences here than I will be able to do. I am very afraid anything I would attempt to say would take so much away from what actually happened in my soul. I will say that it is an honor, a privilege and a humbling thing to be invited into a vision or a mission that has been long sought and earnestly prayed for before your arrival. The leaders here are passionately hopeful about what God may do through Project 32. Their prayers and teaching and their worship through song reflect that passion well. It has made an impact on my soul. Other members on the team have acknowledged this out loud to me as well.

On a very personal note the Lord has given me glimpses of why I am here at this time in my journey. Saint Patrick and I seem to have a lot in common. When Ken Castor from Crown College was speaking on Friday night, I was reminded of this. Patrick is a contemplative prayer that I have taken note of before. St. Patrick has written a prayer that is often quoted and it goes something like this: Christ above me, Christ below me, Christ to my right, Christ to my left... It goes on. You can look it up if you'd like to read the whole thing. But basically Patrick was persuaded that if he chose to abide with Christ in prayer that God would help him to reach the people of Ireland. It turns out that leap of faith was correct. For the next seven days I will pray as often as God graces me with the ability to do so and watch God work through me and the rest of the team. It will be one of my greatest joys.

I have serious doubts I will have the time I have had this morning to write again while on this trip. But know that I plan to share more when I can.

Pray for God's Spirit to open the eyes of the blind to his love for them. Thanks.