July 2017 marks the 5 year anniversary of our move to Dublin. Over the next few months I’m writing a few posts to share about that journey. You can keep up with all posts in this series here.
Liz and I felt that if we were going to Ireland, two groups of people needed to be on board. I wrote yesterday about what that process looked like with our daughters. Today I wanted to share about a second group that was involved in this process with us.
Around mid-February, after talking to each other, and a couple friends who were also pastors, we decided to talk to the council members at our church…Bill, James, and Steve.
These were three guys (at that point they were guys…just saying:-) that I had worked with, trusted and considered friends.
Just a month before, I’d gone to them to say Ireland was off the table. Now I’m telling them what Liz and I are sensing and I asked them to pray and fast over the next month.
I told them,
“Please don’t pray that God would make it clear to us. He already seems to be doing that. Pray that he would make it clear to you. And if after a month, you don’t sense that this is God…we won’t go. But if you sense it’s God…we have no choice.”
So, why did I keep giving other people veto power to decisions that impacted our family? The kids, I’ve explained already. If they had been younger, I probably wouldn’t have…but at the ages they were, it was the right thing to do.
But why our church leaders? There were a few reasons.
- We felt this is what the Father was leading us to do,
- As I’ve shared, the last couple of years in Ithaca had been hard. I knew there was a possibility that I was using Ireland as a reason to get out of Ithaca. These guys had gone through most of that with us, and could bring a different perspective to this decision.
- The third reason had to do with our view to what it means to be part of a church. We believed that being part of a church made us part of a family… part of a community. And as such, we were mutually accountable to those who were part of it with us. Our church council not only served that role as individuals, but also as representative for the whole church.
When I was a university fellowship pastor, I would often speak at churches on days when the pastor was out of town, or wanted a week off. Usually I would be scheduled weeks in advance. Occasionally, I would be asked to fill in at the last minute. When that happened, I knew the pastor was getting ready to leave and go to a different church. That always bothered me. If we were going to go, our church was going to be part of that process with us. We weren’t sneaking away.
They agreed to pray.
That was a long month.
In mid-March, St. Patrick’s Day interestingly enough, they invited Liz and I to dinner. They shared that initially, they thought this was about the challenges of the past couple of years, and that we should stay in Ithaca. However, once they prayed, the overwhelming sense they received her and over was, “Send them.”
And they blessed us to go.
Up to this point, it always felt that we would continue in Ithaca. But this was a tipping point. Previously, unless something pretty major happened, we were going to be in Ithaca. Now, barring something unforeseen, we were moving to Ireland. This was a key point for us in getting to Dublin.
The next day I was in the office by myself, and spent most of the first couple hours crying, before deciding to take the rest of the day off. The church had been a huge part of our lives…we spent the previous 12 years planting and leading it…and now we were going to leave it. I never cried again through out the process…but I did that day.
That was huge for us…The hard part was still ahead.