Huston Apr 2021 - Ireland
"Stone Walls do not a Prison make, Nor Iron bars a Cage;"
These immortal words were written by the Cavalier poet Richard Lovelace in his poem "To Althea, from Prison." Lovelace was literally imprisoned for his support of the deposed king during the English Civil War when he wrote this in 1642. While his words appropriately describe his physical confinement, his intention is more metaphorical as he instead seeks to describe the inability to bind a conscience. While his love is a patriotic sort and I am focused more on a higher love, I do find some mutual agreement in the truth that love has no bounds. I also hope if any of my former English students are reading this, they don't have PTSD flashbacks to my classroom, but this poem has kept coming to mind these last few months on my occasional outing for necessities.
Ireland has been described as having the harshest covid response in the western world and one of the ten worst in the world. For the better part of a year we have been limited to a 5k radius, essential businesses open only, no religious gatherings and no mixing of households. Outside of a 5 day reprieve at Christmas, this week marks the first time since early fall we have been allowed to venture beyond our 5k limit. We are now allowed the county and can meet one other household outdoors. Still quite limiting and we still long to gather physically as a church. We wait with hope. But "Covid restrictions do not a prison make nor Lockdowns a cage." Though they may feel it, we have found ways to love long distance.
We have been blessed to find new avenues of serving in our church. We have recently finished taking a group through the Alpha Course and are looking to follow this momentum into creating a new small group ministry out of that. It was an amazing Spirit-filled journey, and we are so excited to see where it will lead next.
We have also joined the tech team helping to run the media and sound for our Sunday virtual gatherings. A little bit of a learning curve, but it has been a joy to join the couple of staff members at the church building to run the services.
I (Justin), have also gotten more and more involved in working with the youth. The youth pastor and I are now taking weekly walks together to chat and pray. That relationship has been an answer to prayer. Next up is helping create the program for our next eight weeks as we walk through Acts seeing the church "On the Move." Pray for the Spirit to really move in the youth during these coming months and that by the end we may even be allowed to see each other mask to mask.
Sadly, we have been forced to cancel our Summer internship program again. Restrictions remained too high and the US is now on the list of almost 60 countries required to do a mandatory hotel quarantine upon entering the country. It just makes it impossible to run our program. It is heartbreaking for us, as it is our third year in a row to cancel what would normally be a highlight of our year. It is heartbreaking for the interns who had patiently been waiting for news only to find the worst confirmed. Please pray as we lament this loss, and turn to renew hope for next year.
Lovelace finishes his stanza saying:
Stone Walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage; Minds innocent and quiet take That for an Hermitage. If I have freedom in my Love, And in my soul am free, Angels alone that soar above, Enjoy such Liberty.
The discipleship course we teach during our internship is entitled "Free to Love." It is a truth we must not forget especially when so limited in our abilities by things like pandemic. Love knows no bounds. So, we are still empowered and still enabled to love as our Saviour has and as he does still. Pray with us as we continue to look for the strength and grace to do just that here in Dublin!
As we rejoice that God's love cannot be hemmed in by stone walls or iron bars, we also rejoice that neither can his provision. His abundance, blessings, and goodness know no bounds. We have experienced this first hand as we began support raising this year. In what seemed like no time at all we had new supporters join the team, current supporters had upped their giving, a church we didn't think could ever give more has, and one generous family had provided for our first six months of need in one lump sum. And we just received a new phone for Justin (his old one wouldn't connect to cellular any longer) for free! There are so many days, especially given the harsh lockdown, when we wonder what we're doing and why we're doing it. But being on the receiving end of God's provision reminds us of his calling. There can be no doubt we are in the will of God when he so bountifully supplies all we need to continue walking in it. We started out needing $2,000 more per month and already we are down to needing $800 more per month. Over half in such a short amount of time! Please join us in celebrating the truth that nothing can stop God from providing for his children. Please continue to pray he will provide the remaining amount.
Please also pray as we begin to look for a new house here in Dublin. Our current house was a miraculous answer to prayer for these past two and a half years, but we feel it is time to look for something a bit larger. Our lovely 800 sq. ft. has served us well, though! We are praying for a house with ample room for hospitality (and Lord willing, children) while being in an accessible location. It's a big ask in Dublin's very tough housing market, but we are trusting in a God that does miracles.