J. M. Richards' items Go to J. M. Richards' photostream


There and Back Again

Whew! Well, I'm back in Pittsburgh. What a whirlwind of days it has been for me!

First, let me thank you for your prayers. It couldn't have happened without them.

Second, I'd just like to say that I loved Ireland. It was beautiful there--and we had fantastic weather!! Now, granted, some parts of Ireland looked a lot like parts of Western PA, and much of Dublin looked relatively like any other big city in the world. But then you'd see a sign in Gaelic, or see some ivy-covered ruins in the distance, and you'd know you weren't in America anymore. Not to mention the driving on the opposite side of the road thing.

I actually took over 2,000 pictures--but don't worry, I won't make you look at them all. A hefty chunk of those were more for me, and many of them are multiples of the same thing, just me trying to get the best shot possible. I truly had a blast taking pictures; it was one way I could express my love of the beauty of Ireland. I'll be posting my favorites to flickr when I get a chance.

So, now to answer the big question: am I going back to Ireland?
I believe so, yes.

I'm trying to take this slow and not get too ahead of myself. But I spent a good amount of time on the shore of the Irish Sea last week, praying and listening. Our last evening at the conference was a time of prayer, response, and communion. Before I went to that service, I felt God saying, "Go."

Let me just try to contextualize this for you a little. Many other times in my life, I have opened myself up to God, asking Him to use me and send me however he wanted. In those days, I would never have thought of Ireland. I just knew I wanted to serve Him, somewhere. Where there was a need, where I could be used. And though I always felt my time would come someday, each time I would ask God, I heard a "No, not yet."

But there I was, having heard stories from God's people who have been toiling in Ireland; and after hearing about the kinds of things they have been moved to do in their communities, I felt stirred, deeply. God has been moving in my own heart in the same ways--to desire relationship building over hit-and-run evangelism, and to reach out to the people of the community right where they are and meet them in their need, not waiting for them to come through the doors of the church. And it was in those moments, when I heard those stories, that I most deeply felt a sense of calling to join God in the work He is doing in Ireland. I heard, "Yes, Go."

I don't know exactly what this will look like; Ireland is going through a time of tremendous immigration and as a result they are beginning to write new laws. One of them that has just been passed is affecting some of the work of World Harvest missionaries there. They are unable to stay more than three years--so the people leading the program I was looking at might not be in Ireland next year.

At first that was discouraging and disheartening; but after I had a few conversations with people and let them know how truly interested I was in Ireland (and not just anywhere), they seemed willing to try to work things out. So that's where I am--preparing, beginning to move forward in faith, knowing this will be challenging, and NOT knowing exactly what shape it will take...or when it will happen.

Thank you again so much for your prayers...my trip to Ireland (though at times exhausting!) was exhilarating and beautiful. And inspiring.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art...
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.


Hello From Ireland!

So now the five of us are in Dublin.

We made it here with no difficulties whatsoever, even a relatively smooth flight. Customs, immigration, even baggage claim was a breeze--which Jen tells me NEVER happens. I feel that that's thanks to you and your prayers!!

It's been crazy busy here!! And not many places have wifi...we are out now but have to go soon, or we'll be locked out!!

Just know that we've been having fun, and seeing lots of sights. We also learned a lot today about Irish history.

Hopefully I''l get more time to blog later. Check out a few pics on flickr--link in the side column. Thanks for all your prayers!


Alert and Always Praying

Something that's been impressed upon me from the beginning of this endeavor to go to Ireland is the importance of prayer, and the awareness of Spiritual Warfare.

Right on the front page of the packet of info we got from World Harvest they spoke of spiritual warfare, and to be aware of it. Last weekend the team was prayed for by Pastor Dean (and Betsy!), and he mentioned it also. When we go to do God's work, and when we go to pray for a people and a nation being restored to God, the enemy doesn't like that!

I've been long indoctrinated about the presence of spiritual warfare. When I was younger, it was those Frank Peretti books, "The Present Darkness" and "Piercing the Darkness." More recently, it's been the writing of John Eldredge, especially in his book, "Waking the Dead." Except WtD is not fiction. It's about being aware of what is really going on around you. He talks about the reality of warfare, and says he knows it comes across as rather drastic. I know how he feels--I always get a mixed reaction when I mention spiritual warfare.

It doesn't matter. I don't need people to agree with me to make it true. It's Biblical!! Jesus cast out many demons during his earthly ministry. Are we supposed to believe that there are no more? Paul writes this in Ephesians:

11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:11-20, emphasis mine)

In this spirit, I would like to ask once again for prayer--not just for myself, but for the rest of my team as well. Below is a prayer calendar I put together for the church bulletin (edited by Susan U.!)

Please add that one of our members is very sick! Several other members are going through very stressful times with jobs and finances. Please pray that those things would fade away as we leave, that we would not let the cares of this life choke us but that we would be awake and open to hearing what God is saying to us.
  • Saturday, July 12: Please pray for the team as we travel from Pittsburgh to Boston and then on to Dublin.
  • Sunday, July 13: Pray for us as we adjust to the time difference and losing 5 hours. Please pray for World Harvest Mission, the interns serving with them this summer, and Carrig Eden Theological School, who will be hosting us as well as all the other attendees.
  • Monday, July 14: As the conference begins, pray that our hearts would be open to hearing what God is doing in Ireland and what He would have us do there as well. Please pray for all the speakers who will be relating to us what God is doing in Ireland.
  • Tuesday, July 15: As we continue to learn more about Irish culture and history, pray that we understand the culture so that we can relate to and engage with the people that we come in contact with.
  • Wednesday, July 16: Pray for us as we continue learning and as we serve and observe at ministry sites throughout Ireland. We will interact with both believers and non-believers, from Ireland and America – pray that we would be good witnesses and servants.
  • Thursday, July 17: We will take a prayer walk through Dublin. Please pray with us for the people of Ireland, for those who minister to them, and for all God is doing there.
  • Friday, July 18: Pray for us as we serve at ministry sites, and for our small group times. Pray that our times of fellowship would create bonds with our brothers and sisters in Ireland, for bonds that will continue even after we return home.
  • Saturday, July 19: We’ve been hearing from speakers who are involved with various ministries and churches in Ireland, and we’ve been able to visit some of these sites. Some of us are considering returning and serving in Ireland in the very near future; please pray that God’s will and leading would be made very clear for us as the conference comes to a close.
  • Sunday, July 20–Tuesday, July 22: As we take a few days to reflect on our time at the conference and visit a few other parts of Ireland and Northern Ireland, pray for us as we prepare to bring back what we've learned and share it.
  • Wednesday, July 23: Pray for our travels home to Pittsburgh and as we adjust to being back. Pray that we would not come home unchanged by our time in Ireland and the people we encountered there.
The Ireland Team members are:
Jen Curry, James Dames, Lynne George (Leader), Chris Miller and Jessica Richards.

Thank you for praying!!!


Coming Soon....

So...Ireland draws closer and closer. Less than two weeks now. I told my mom the other day (and some other people) that I feel a little like a bride planning her wedding, in that all I can seem to do is talk about Ireland. It's practically all I think about.

Oddly, though, it doesn't seem to be bugging anyone yet. In fact, I keep getting asked questions about my trip, before I say a word. People seem to be excited for me, which is pretty cool.

I've completed and purchased pretty much everything I need for my trip (except a raincoat--I left mine in Branson!), including contacts and a camera (hence the new picture).

I saw a commercial for some upcoming movie the other day, one I was mildly interested in (though I can't now recall what it was, so it can't have been anything huge) and it said it was coming to theaters July 18th. I thought to myself, Well, that will have to wait, I'll be in Ireland July 18th. And then I let that sink in. I repeated aloud , in amazement, "I'll be in Ireland July 18th!" How crazy is that?!?

I've visited and lived a lot of places, but mostly in the States. I've never been anywhere that required a passport before now. I've wanted to see that part of the world since I was a little girl, and this is the first real opportunity that's become available to me. So maybe you can see why this is pretty much freaking me out.

It's like my very own, real live adventure. A new culture. A new country. A new home? We got a rough schedule the other day, but there is still so much that unknown and undetermined...at least for us humans. Just before we go, I'll post a prayer calendar of sorts that I made up for our church bulletin. I'm also hoping to do some mobile blogging from Internet cafes and the like, posting some pics if possible to my flickr account. We'll see.

Well, if you're not sick of hearing about Ireland yet, you probably will be by the time I'm done. Or, I suppose I could be positive, and imagine that folks will want hear about our experiences. Whatever happens, I want to drink it all in with eyes, ears, and heart wide open. May God grant me the grace until then to live in the moment and not wish away the next eleven days.