One of the things I shared during our message this Sunday was how this whole “move to Dublin” process got rolling. It has been a pretty wild ride, but we have strongly sensed God’s leading throughout. Today I wanted to let you in on how Liz & I got started on this journey of thinking about church planting in Ireland, and then tomorrow we’ll talk about how we moved to “Wow, we are really doing this!”
Last summer, as you may know, we were in Ireland for 5 weeks, as part of a sabbatic. In the spring of last year, prior to going to Ireland, Liz & I went to a pastor’s sabbath retreat run by VineyardUSA. It was amazing in so many ways, but one of the things that came out of that time for me, was deciding to take some time while we were in Ireland to ask God, “is this (leading the Ithaca Vineyard) what you want me to do with the next 20 years of my life?”
Before we left for Ireland, I explained that to our church council and some other pastors, and always followed it up with, “I’m pretty sure leading our church is what I’m supposed to do…but I know I’m supposed to ask.”
After being there for a couple of weeks, one Sunday we are driving from Liz’s family farm, up to Belfast to attend a church there. Everyone in the car was sleeping, so I was just praying while I was driving, and I started to get a really strong sense that we were supposed to plant a church in Ireland. [I’ll write later this week about the very strong desire I had for years to never plant another church]
And although church planting was not something I ever wanted to do again, I started getting excited…until I mentioned the idea to my family…that did not go so well. The next few days of our trip everyone was mad at me. I’d walk into a room and they would all glare at me.
After a couple of days I suggested, this is a big decision. Let’s all take 6 months, & pray about it. If at the end of 6 months, we aren’t all in agreement that this is God, we won’t go. That went over okay & everyone was talking to me again.
We got back to Ithaca, and we focused on selling our house and moving to Trumansburg. At the church, we continued working on moving forward and specifically shifting our focus more and more to an emphasis on spiritual formation. We spent a great deal of time revisiting our vision and values. As we went through all of this, it seemed more and more like Ireland, if it were to happen would be “down the road,” after the kids (at least the 3 oldest) were out of school.
In December/January I asked the kids if they had any direction from God about Ireland. One kid apprehensively said, “yes, I think we are supposed to go.” But to her relief, her sisters said, “no…nothing.” So, in all of our minds, it was settled, and in January, we began house hunting in Trumansburg. In fact, we made a purchase offer on a house we loved, and that’s when things started to shift for us.
This was a house that had been on the market since last fall, but after a price drop, we contacted our realtor, went to see it, & decided that we were going to buy it. We made the purchase offer. The only problem is that someone else visited the house that day, and they also made a purchase offer. Even though our offer was higher, the other offer was cash. The sellers were in a hurry & took the cash.
By itself, that would probably mean nothing, but we’d been looking at houses for about 8 months prior, in a market where houses were not moving fast at all. On the day we officially sold our house, there was a house that Liz loved and had been on the market for 6 months. We are in our realtor’s office, finishing the paperwork on our sale, and getting ready to make an offer on this other house. That is when our realtor gets a call and was told that the house just sold.
A few weeks later there was another house that was a bit “funky” but quite nice…again, it been on the market for months. One night we are out to dinner, and I tell Liz, I think we should make an offer on that house. I open the email program on my phone, to write to our realtor…turns out she had just emailed me to say the owner just accepted another purchase offer.
It got to the point where our realtor asked us if we would be willing to make offers on other homes she was trying to sell, because even with the market as bad as it was, the one thing that seemed to get houses sold, was us wanting to buy them.
We had two other strange house experiences, so after this happened again in January, I was frustrated. I emailed a few people and asked, them to pray about what was going on. Just to be clear, Ireland was not in our thinking at that point. I was thinking maybe we’re just not supposed to own a home. But I had no idea what going on. This simply got us to pray, and ask others to pray for us. Ireland was off the radar.
As we started praying and trying to figure out what was going on with our housing adventures in early February, after about two weeks of wrestling with this, the idea of Ireland came back full force, just as strong as that day I was driving to Belfast.
You might remember that, not only was Liz pregnant at that time but there were some pretty serious complications with her pregnancy. On top of that, she had injured her knee, so she was bedridden, which meant I had a captive audience as I started working through what God seemed to be doing in our lives concerning Ireland.
And as we were working through this, Liz still wasn’t “yeah, let’s do this,” but rather, “if God is doing something here…I don’t want to miss it, or resist it.” About 2 weeks later we decided to talk to our church council….but that story will have to wait until tomorrow.