I remember In 2007 I was a student at Calvary Bible college in York England. I was standing in the fellowship hall talking to my friend Casey O'Keefe about something, I can't remember what, when suddenly I felt I heard God speaking to me. In a still small voice, I heard him say "One day you will go to Ireland."
I started talking to Brooklynn and praying with her about it (we weren't even dating at the time! Just bffs harboring secret crushes on one another.)
Over the next 10 years many things changed. We fell in love and got married, went through several different jobs and life situations, and began down a long and amazing path together of serving youth in vista in the Jr. High and Highscool ministries. However, one thing didn't change: this sense in the back of our heads and heart that one day Ireland would be in the picture.
In 2010 our friend and the pastor we served under, Trevor-Lindsay O'Keefe, helped lead the youth group to Ireland on a missions trip! However, we were unable to go because we couldn't get the time off work. It was frustrating because the door seemed closed and it seemed to contradict what God was showing us!
We met Mike Neglia from Cork and had many wonderful chats over the years but nothing seemed to happen or open up. The answer was always: wait, be patient, not yet. So we threw ourselves completely into youth ministry and loving kids and students, and mentoring young disciples the way it was modeled to us by the wonderful leaders and pastors who came before us.
We were so blessed to see a community of young Christ followers forming all around us, and seeing kids we mentored when we first started out growing up, getting married, and becoming volunteers themselves in the youth group! We were family.
Fast forward to the end of 2016 and we were starting to feel like maybe we dreamed up the whole Ireland thing. Maybe God never said that? Maybe it was all in our head? We sort of stopped praying about it. That's when God spoke to us and said: start praying again.
I began teaching a series on prayer to my students and started trying to develop my own prayer life through talking regular prayer walks.
One week I was walking and praying and I said: "God, if you really want us to go to Ireland, I need you to make it clear. Please show us!"
That week while praying and walking I ran into a homeless man who wanted me to buy him food. We were talking and eating and I noticed his accent, I said where are you from? He said "Cork Ireland!" The man revealed he was a believer and prayed for me!
Days later I met another homeless man. He refused to tell me his name but instead told me "They call me the Irishman!" And then proceeded to show me his tattoo of the map of Ireland on his chest, and the word "Ireland" tattood on his hand.
Our minds were blown. We were wondering if it was God or coincidence. We asked God for another sign, turned on the Tv before bed and were shocked when the characters on the show started talking about, you guessed it... Ireland.
I brought all this to my father who in the past had shown reluctance to the idea of us leaving and had warned us about how hard missions work could be. When we told him about these signs he was shocked but also very encouraging. He told us that we were right to think God was doing something.
We stared to plan a trip, the goal would be to spend time in the country, visiting the many Calvary Chapel affiliates in Ireland and offering aid, support and service. After a brief stop in York England, the place we first met and fell in love, and then serving at the Creationfest outreach, We would spend almost 2 months going from town to town in Ireland, sharing the Gospel and getting to know the cities, churches, and people and the potential for ministry and missions work we could do there.
During the planning stages my dad very practically sat down with me and started going over the cost of the trip. Travel expenses. Rental cars. Lodging. Food. He reminded me "you will have to pay rent on your house in America as WELL as find places to stay in Ireland. This trip will be expensive and you need to be ready for that."
I started to panic and doubt. I've never attempted anything like this in my life. I came home worried and thinking "this was a mistake. God didn't really say this. He doesn't want us to go. It's not financially possible."
That night, My wife sent me to the store to buy some toilet paper, since we ran out. Right as I left the store a homeless woman came up to me, put her hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said with a huge smile "boy, we gotta get you down to Ireland!" I nearly dropped the toilet paper in shock.
After sharing this with my old youth pastor and friend Evan Wickham, his advice was "at this point if you don't go down there you are being straight up disobedient."
My wife and I both felt that what he was saying is right. After months of us both being on the fence, we had a sudden confidence that God was in this.
So that brings us to today. We are 11 days from heading out there. God has been providing in miraculous ways. Funds from unexpected places and people. Places to stay with fellow Christians in Ireland. Good prices on lodging in cities. And many new friends from Ireland who are excited to meet us in person and allow us the privilege of serving alongside them.
We don't know what the future holds, but we know God does.
Our stance right now is holding our life completely open handed. Our life is not our own. We want God's will. We are willing to go and do whatever He wants, whether that means eventual long term missions work in Ireland, or simply a two month trip that produces a ton of fruit but ultimately ends with is returning to our home church we love so much, Calvary Vista.
No matter what happens, we are excited for the future. We just got back from camp and were so blessed to see our students not react to this news with dismay, but instead surrounding us with prayer and love. I'm so proud of my students and volunteers because I know they are so filled with the spirit, and that our group will thrive because of that even in my absence. We've never felt so encouraged and affirmed in our calling. We are so thankful for a church family that is willing to come behind us as we take risks for the Kingdom of God.
Please pray for us that God gives us wisdom and shows us exactly what His will is, and that God would show us how to be a blessing to the missionaries and pastors who are currently in the town. We want to come alongside them and bless them as much as possible. Our heart is to be a burden to no one and a blessing to all. Pray for divine appointments and for the Lord to remove all fear and anxiety. Pray for us to have courage.
We love you all. Thank you for partnering with us as we take a step into the unknown! We can't wait to come back in 2 months and tell you all about it.
For Christ and His Kingdom