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.