Dec
29

Part 4: Shawn

This is Part 4 in a series of update posts!  If you haven’t caught the previous ones, you still can!  Click through the links below and read them before this one.  They aren’t super long, and things will make more sense, I promise!

Part 1: Happy Tuesday

Part 2: Wednesday

Part 3: A New House

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I mentioned before that the few friendships the boys have in the neighborhood have been hard fought. You don’t really know what challenges you’ll have when you move to the mission field (or anywhere really).  Leaving Colorado, pastors and other missionaries kind of gave us some ideas, but every situation, every country is different.

One thing I don’t think we anticipated, was how difficult it would for the boys to make friends here.  They’re both well spoken, enjoy doing normal, active things, and usually make friends pretty easily.  When we moved to Cobh, one of the things that seemed so awesome about this neighborhood, was how many kids, specifically boys, live here.  No joke – between our street and the two neighboring ones, there are probably close to 20 boys, all around Silas and Ethan’s age!  We thought about how great it would be for them – instant friends!

But from Day 1, it seemed like a struggle.  Kids excluding them because they aren’t Irish, LOTS of bad language (really normal for Ireland actually, and quite shocking out of even the littlest kids’ and oldest granny’s mouths), physical aggression, and a big lack of parental monitoring from most.  Now a lot of this is normal “kids will be kids” behavior (though still sin), and our homeschooled kids struggled partially because of their lack of exposure, but even the moms and people from church here (two of which are public school teachers) have said this is worst than normal.  I think it’s been harder too, because Silas and Ethan left friends behind and, before we arrived, consoled each other with thoughts of making new friends when we arrived.

Over the last fourteen months, there have been lots of tears and talks about sin and God’s heart for the sinner, how He has loved us and calls us to the same love.

One particularly difficult situation was a boy named Shawn.  He’s big, like Silas’ age and nearly twice his size.  He comes from a broken home (which is less common here as divorce was only recently legalized and still invokes that kind of “shocker” reaction) and shuffles back and forth between parents weekly.  He’s known among the neighborhood kids as a liar and a bully.

We asked Silas at some point, maybe a few months after we moved here, how things were going with the kids outside.

“Most of it’s okay right now,” he said, “except for Shawn.  When he doesn’t get his way, he just hurts everyone.”  We didn’t realize that it had turned into an actual fearful situation for Silas until he was sharing more details while we were hanging out with another family from church.  The other dad offered to show him some self-defense moves.  Outside they went, both dads and our two boys.  They came inside half an hour later trying to find all my pressure points!  But Silas seemed encouraged.

A few weeks later, I asked Silas how things were going with Shawn.

“Oh, he doesn’t bother anymore, not since the incident.”

I tried to hide my sudden concern.  “What incident?”

“Oh,” he said, as if he was sure he’d already mentioned it. “One day Shawn was mad at me.”  I pictured the large boy pinning Silas to the ground.  “He charged at me!”

“Mhmm…then what happened?”  I was still trying not to seem worried.

“Well, Mr. Alex (self-defense dad) said it would be good to make it funny, so I evaded his attack by moving out of his way, which made him fall.  Then I sat on him!”

I actually laughed out loud when he said it!

“All the other boys were there, and they all started laughing!  And then Shawn started laughing too, and I knew it was okay.  Yeah, he hasn’t messed with me since.”

I was so proud, and thankful that “the incident” hadn’t ended another way!  Shawn did seem different afterwards.  And Branden and I made an effort to be intentional with him (and the other neighborhood boys) when there was opportunity.  We’d take him along when walking into town, offer him something to drink anytime he was playing with the boys, and pray lots for him and his family.

One of the days we walked into town, Shawn came along for ice cream.  On the way back, he and Silas were walking together, and Silas called out to me, “Mom, Shawn says he thinks he’s a Christian!”  I knew they’d been talking to the neighborhood kids about Jesus and Christianity.  Talking about Christ is honestly taboo here, at least among adults.  Many people think Christianity is some kind of extreme cult.  It’s actually illegal for an adult to talk to kids in a public setting about Christ, or to invite them to church.  But kids…praise God…such laws do not apply!

“What does being a Christian mean?” I asked Shawn.

“It means you believe in Jesus and you live a good life,” he answered.  The boys chatted the rest of the way home.  Later, Silas and Ethan began praying about giving Shawn a Bible.  They’d asked him if he had one.  He didn’t, and wasn’t sure his mom would let him keep one.  Prayers for this young, one time enemy, now friend, began going up on a regular basis.

Dec
29

Part 3: A New House

This is Part 3 in a series of posts!  If you didn’t catch the first two, click on the links below and read them first.  I promise they’re not very long :)

Part 1: Happy Tuesday!

Part 2: Wednesday

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I had been looking at house listings every day since the landlord had dropped by, just in the background of everything else that was happening.  We did feel like we needed to move closer to the city, where the church and most of its families resided (Cobh is a 25 minute drive to the church).  The problem was, just inching towards the city made the rental prices skyrocket.  Also, the amount of space you could get for the money seemed to shrink dramatically.  We wanted to be wherever the Lord wanted us, but we did have things we were hopeful for – a yard, for one.  Also, space enough to have people stay if they visited from the States, more than one bathroom (not a given for Irish homes), a room we could allocate for school, and space for Branden to work and build.

The list seemed impossible for our budget, and filled with extras that we’d probably have to do without.  You know that place where you trust that God will definitely take care of your needs, but you’re tempted to feel like He’ll only give you the bare bones?  And that you’ll have to just trust and be thankful?  People always say that God will give you something better.  But what does that mean?  Better like bigger and shinier and covers all the things you might not really need but want?  Or better like He’ll make sure you don’t starve and you’ll learn a lesson in contentment?  Because maybe He will, and it will be good, right?  And we should be happy with that.  We’ve been in both situations before, and God has been good in both.  Being in that place where you have to wait on Him, trust, look at Him and not get consumed by all the what if’s – it can seem like an emotional roller coaster sometimes!

The week after the church move, we decided to start trying to view houses.  The other thing we were really praying about was, somehow being able to move in January instead of December, because we didn’t want to (and couldn’t) pay double rent.  Another seemingly impossible request, since most landlords would obviously want someone to start paying rent right away.  And the market here has been crazy, especially near the city, for a few years now, so landlords don’t have to be super accommodating (as our own landlord has proven).

Starting to make phone calls made it real.  We were getting ready for Christmas and simultaneously thinking of the craziness that would ensue immediately after.  Walking into another house meant the possibility of living there.  It was exciting in a way (at least to me :) but also an exercise in faith.  What did the Lord have in store?  How would we afford being closer to the city?  I couldn’t imagine finding a place closer and still having much a yard for the boys.  I was also conscious of Silas and Ethan, that dragging them to house after house might be upsetting.  I just had to entrust these things to the Lord.

I made a few calls.  Either real estate (or letting, as they say here) agents couldn’t meet when we could meet, or they signed us up for a group viewing scheduled to happen in the near future, where we’d awkwardly shuffle around a house, hoping we’d get it instead of the other families that were looking at the same time.

Finally, one letting agent was able to meet us to view a property.  We met him that afternoon, praying on the way that if this was the house, God would just make it really clear.

We got there a little early.  Driving onto the property, Ethan says, “I want to live here!”  The house was impressive – it looked spacious, obviously older with lots of character, and it sat on a small piece of land.  The agent arrived a few minutes later, introduced himself, and showed us inside.

The house was old – 200 years actually!  The owners had made some upgrades, but kept all the original floors, window shutters, and built in bookcases.  It has a room for school, a guest room for people to visit, and space for Branden to set up an office and workshop (which he’ll need since the church now meets in a school).  It even has more than one bathroom, and what the Irish call an American style refrigerator (regular size for the States, but probably more than double what we have right now!)

The agent shared some info about the property and the preferences of the owners.  In Ireland, part of their job is screening potential renters.  Owners won’t entertain offers without the letting agent’s recommendation.  He asked and answered questions, showed us around, and talked about how the utilities would work (water from a well, bottled gas for the stove, and oil that’s brought in to to fill a large tank on the property for heat).

“Now if you didn’t want to move in right away, you could wait until January.”

I was surprised to hear him suggest that, or even bring it up at all.  “Would that be okay?”

“It’s December 7th.  The owners have resolved that the house will likely be empty until the new year.”  He explained that this was their family home; they are more interested in finding the right tenants than making money.  “We would just need to know your preferred move in date.”

You know when you imagine what your dream house will be like?  Well, mine is a 200 year old farmhouse!  With more than one bathroom, a place to do school, space for Branden to work and build (a very long time dream), space to host and do real, community oriented ministry, and room for the boys to run – all in the place where God has called us to serve!

The day the landlord stopped by, the Lord gave me Psalm 116:5-9:

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the simple hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

He was saying – Be at rest now, because I’ve shown you my character, that I am good and I am for you. I’ve not only saved your soul, but I care about your heart.  And I am able to keep you, for the purpose of fellowship with Me.

We sent an email the next day, saying we were interested in the house.  We gave our details and all our documentation for visas and work situation (always a little tricky!).  The agent recommended us to the owners, and we waited to hear back.  A few days later, they accepted us and we signed the lease last week!  We won’t get the keys and move in until January 10th (an answer to prayer!), but we are excited and so thankful for how God has shone us such compassion, His goodness, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves!

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Okay, I know this sounds like the end of the update, but it’s not!  Keep reading to find out how the Lord is using the boys in our current neighborhood, and also for details on our upcoming furlough!

Dec
29

Update Part 1: Happy Tuesday!

November 28th; it was a Tuesday.  I’m really thankful for that actually, because it meant Branden was home.  Tuesdays are his day to teach and my day to work.  I could hear him with the boys downstairs, working through a history lesson while I got my makeup on.

Door bell rings.  We weren’t expecting anyone.  I hear Branden open the door.

“How are we doing sir?” he says in his normal cheerfulness.  “We haven’t seen you in a while.”  I’m trying to listen a little bit.  A few back and forths.  It’s Martin, our landlord.  I can’t hear exactly what’s being said, then I hear the door close.  They’ve stepped outside.

Our landlord hasn’t been great, mostly hands off and non responsive to our calls and texts.  He’d left some landlord-y things undone; nothing major, but enough to be annoying.  Branden was right when he said we hadn’t seen him in a while.  I’ve actually only ever met him once in the year we’ve lived in the house.

A few minutes later I hear Branden walk back in.  He tells the boys he’ll be right back, and I can hear his footsteps coming up the stairs.  Our bedroom door opens.

“Did you hear Martin?”

“I heard he was here.  What did he need?” I admit, I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got.

“Well,” Branden was almost smiling, which made me both interested and a little nervous.  “He’s sold our house.”

What followed was a series of… words… at an increased volume.  Mostly short phrases or disbelief and bafflement.  It did seem almost comical, if it wasn’t true!

“He said we didn’t need to worry about being out before Christmas,” Branden said calmly.  He has a calmness about him when I’m…reactive.

“Well that’s good!  Since the tree’s already up!”

“But, January.”

Wow.  A few more exclamations from my end.  No cursing, I promise :)

“Okay.”

There wasn’t really anything else to say.  I was more surprised than worried.  God has shone over and over that He knows our needs and always takes care of them.  And sometimes it seems that He actually enjoys doing things in a way that completely throws me, where things are out of my control and only He can take the credit.  Anybody with me there?

To be honest, maybe I felt okay because Branden and I had already been talking about moving closer to the city.  We are living in Cobh, a little port town, famous for being the last place the Titanic saw before sinking.  It’s actually on a separate island, and not on the way to anywhere.  This had proved a little challenging during our first year in Ireland.  Many Irish people have grown up in smaller towns or stayed in the same area all of their life.  Also, the cost of owning and operating a car is relatively high here, with a gallon of gas averaging between $6 – $7.  Commuting is seen as a big inconvenience, and a 20 minute drive can mean the difference between really spending time with people and almost never seeing them.

Our lease had officially ended a few weeks before, and our landlord situation had led to some discussion and prayer about what it would look like if we hypothetically did move…someday…in the imaginary future.  Not right now, right before Christmas, and literally the week our church was also moving from our current building into a school.  Yeah, lots of transition.

Branden prayed with me then.  A very honest – we don’t know how this is going to turn out but we trust You – prayer.  Then he was back to the history lesson and I proceeded to spend the next hour praying…and looking at rental listings online.

………………………….

That afternoon we talked to the boys.  They took it really hard.  Ethan was sad, Silas angry on the outside, but really sad on the inside.  We all really like the house we live in now, and remember how amazingly God provided for us through it when we moved to Ireland without knowing where we’d be living.  It was His gift to us, not just a house, but physical evidence that God cared about our hearts, generously giving us a place to call “home” as we followed Him across the world.

Also, the last year has been a collection of losses and victories with the neighborhood kids.  Our boys look different, talk different, don’t go to regular school, and talk about Jesus A LOT!  Not something I want them to stop, and I’m super proud of them for, but it has gotten them into some difficult situations in this very religious, not open to discussion, Catholic versus Protestant environment.  The few friendships they have actually settled into have been hard fought and, after leaving many friends behind in the States, an issue that sits close to their hearts.

Later, sobbing through tears and talking about both the church move and leaving Cobh, Ethan said, “Everything we know is changing again.”

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