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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Another visit, done and dusted.

It has been a busy few weeks. I've intended to post something along the way, but have not had a moment to do so. I sit in the Dublin airport, preparing to board a plane to head homeward. Thanks to our early arrival and a bit of a delay, I can finally put down a few thoughts!  This year, for the first time, we brought our kids on the FUSED mission trip. This was amazing and so much fun, but where there's normally a bit of space in the day, there was none. Sara and I got to help lead the American Team over, then participated in the outreach in a variety of ways. Of course, my bride spent the better part of her mornings preparing some amazing lunches for the team of 50. The afternoons were planning, shopping, and making sure things were ready for the next day. While also juggling the girls and connecting with old and new friends. For my part, I planned to teach twice, but wound up with six opportunities to teach people of all ages, in small and large gatherings. The opportunity to facilitate worship and lead group times abounded. I also got to play silly songs and worship tunes for a few wee ones. As always, my passion for discipleship was woven throughout. I had the honor of attending a discipleship group led by someone I have discipled over the past year. It was cool to see the investment moving onward. One on one conversations abounded and God is doing some great things in people's lives. Prayer moved mountains. Young people came to faith. We celebrated these new lives in Christ and left them with prayer and resources to help them begin to grow. I'm thankful for all the people who have supported us through prayer and finances. It has been a fantastic year for the FUSED summer outreach.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


This is my final blog post from my journey to Northern Ireland. I’ve just cleared US Immigration on the Irish side of the Atlantic. I caught a lift to the airport with a great friend and enjoyed the two hours to chat along the way. It is rewarding to have developed so many friendships over here. When I suggested I would take a bus to Dublin, the response was, “I wouldn’t hear of it…”

How can I process what I’ve experienced over the last two weeks or so? I came into it knowing a bit about my gifting and strengths but was assured by a couple of godly friends I was coming here to learn. So what did I learn? And what am I learning?

I was allowed to live into my gifting here. A gifting which is varied and diverse. I’d describe it as “good at many things, great at none of them.” Teaching, helping people who teach, caring and pastoring, leading worship, worshiping, cleaning dishes, vacuuming floors, making my bed daily. But gifting is one thing. Calling is another.

I also felt I lived into my calling, which is to encourage people in ministry through conversation, prayer, paying attention to what God is doing in our lives, talking about what God might be doing next, and more prayer. As I lived into this gifting, I believe some people received new, encouraging direction from God. Others seemed more closed off, but I am confident God spoke some things to them nonetheless. And if God spoke, it will continue to resonate. I’m thankful the pressure is not on me to make things happen. Just to facilitate the process of paying attention to what God is doing. It’s all about Him.

Still I skirt the issue of what I’ve learned. Perhaps I’ll get around to it. Perhaps I don’t know yet. I learned, deeper than ever before, that Northern Ireland is a place filled with human beings doing everyday life in a place which, while foreign to me, is less and less mystical, more and more normal. I learned sometimes God takes us around the world to connect with someone we might not have at home. Even though they’re from a place not far from my home. Sometimes even from my hometown. I learned not everyone believes the same way. I knew this already. But it was supplemented by the fact the Bible isn’t interpreted in the same ways. And the way we interpret it comes out in what we do, how we speak, how we express or withhold love. I learned controlling tendencies are a cancer. I learned anew that God gives favor and, without it, we cannot bear abundant fruit.

Those are just a few things. Most of you who are reading this will be people who get to be in on the overflow of processing these things in the coming weeks. And for that I’m thankful. Thank you for your love and prayers. May the Lord bless you all.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

New friends and old friends.

It's been a great week, easily sorted into time with new friends and old friends. Not elderly friends, necessarily, but sometimes they are! There is a wide spectrum of ages - young, new in ministry and senior adults, mature saints. I love the seniors and their passion for the work in this town, their investment of time in prayer for the young people - both the ones engaged in ministry and those who don't yet know Jesus.

It's been an interesting experience being here for the eighth time (if I'm counting correctly)... Each time I visit here, or receive a visit back home from friends hailing from Norn Iron, the sense of friendship and belonging grows. I feel at home with these people, whichev
er side of the Atlantic I happen to be located at the moment. I took a prayer walk yesterday to redeem some down time and, as I returned, there was an old friend ambling up the other side of the street. A hug and a hello turned into an hour or so of catching up at their beautiful back garden over a cup of coffee. Unplanned meeting. Welcomed time of worship through conversation.

So, it's less an exotic location these days, Northern Ireland. It's more a community of believers who have embraced a partnership and friendship that spans an ocean. God is doing some really cool things in the church and among the leaders. He seems to be focusing on deepening discipleship all over the place. He has even connected me with a couple from America who have been living here for a few years and just started dabbling in the discipleship material we've been investing in for the past two to three years at Southland. It's been fun to see how that connection is blossoming, spending considerable amounts of time talking about the simplicity of the tools and the intentionality of following Jesus while making disciple-makers.

I've missed my girls a bunch, but God has given us grace for these few weeks. Technology is such a blessing. WhatsApp texting and Skype have kept us in touch regularly. I'm so thankful for this provision from God that's helped us through the days. Sara is juggling air conditioning repair, taking care of the girls, High School Ministry, and mowing the lawn. I'm so thankful for friends who are contributing to each of these efforts! Thank you for your continued prayers and for your friendship everyone!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Full week gone; Full week to go!

Sorry for the delay in posting. I've been going from daybreak to midnight every day this week. It has been a rewarding and exhausting week. I've gotten to live into my strengths of one on one conversation and prayer a number of times, both in planned and unplanned ways. I've met with pastors, church leaders, volunteers, and a group of elderly disabled individuals. Leading worship for a group of 4-7 year-olds was a highlight on Thursday. Friday was a five hour conversation with a great friend and worship leader while we walked up a mountain.

I have enjoyed the time I've gotten to spend with Adrian and his family. He is at the center of some pretty significant ministry in this area: Alpha for searching pre-believers, Night Light for people struggling to get home after a night of pubbing, and Cheers for those seeking to leave life controlling addictions behind... among other things. God has gifted this man significantly with relational capital that others just don't have. And He is using Adrian's gift to impact the entire community. I love walking down the main street with Adrian and seeing how many people know and love him. He is Christ in his culture and people see the love of Jesus through him. It's an honor to serve alongside him.

I miss my family big time. I'm super proud of MC going on her mission trip to Cincinnati with Southland's Middle School and High School Ministries. EG and Sara have had a fun week together. Funny story - I got a text from Sara saying she didn't think our cat would be alive when I returned home. I sent a prayer request out to a bunch of people and they called Sara to check on her. Only to find that Sara was saying she was going to kill our cat if he woke her up at six o'clock in the morning one more time... :) Ooops.

Thanks for checking in. Please continue to pray for us all! Thanks friends!

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's the plural of "Faux Pas"?

What's the plural of Faux Pas? Because I'll need to know... I committed two of them in the past two days.

The first was among friends. At a cookout the other day, one of the local Northern Irish folks was having trouble conceiving of the fact my name is Will. I said, "I'm William the Second," thinking nothing of it as their eyes grew wide. I'm thinking, What?! My name is William Glen Briggs II. I'm WIlliam II. Apparently this was good old King Billy to the Norn Irish and a person of quite hostile contention between the protestants and catholics in the 17th century. Fine. Right. Good. Sorry folks! My name is Will.

The other one was a bit more obscure and yet potentially serious. I had decided to walk down to one of the local churches where one of the teams were putting on a kids club. Having been here plenty of times to know all about the colors, religions, flags, political affiliations, and conflict there-betwixt, I have NO idea why I did what I did today in choosing my wardrobe. But I didn't notice it until I walked onto a street which was emblazoned with red, white, and blue flags, banners, and other paraphernalia. I naturally knew I had walked into a protestant-claimed area loyal to Great Britain.

It was only then I noticed the colors I was wearing. It was a green Hurley shirt with gold writing under which I had a long-sleeved white shirt. I was wearing the complete colors of the Republic of Ireland's green, white, and gold flag. The colors of the Catholics who tend to stand for union with the Republic further south. I was also to learn later that Hurley is the name of an exclusively-Catholic sport much like hockey. The distinction between the political affiliation of these games here is that a catholic would see picking up a hockey stick as sacrilege and vice-versa. Oops.

I picked up my step and prepared my best, clearest American accent but thankfully did not encounter anyone on that particular street. My slip up did, however, explain some of the odd looks I had received from people on the street today. I'll be a bit more thoughtful in planning my attire over the next few weeks...


*My bride may tell you at any given time that I'm "touched"... as in touched in the head or perhaps more clearly stated: not quite right. As a point of clarification, that's not what I'm talking about in this post. :)

Yesterday I came across an unexpected, refreshing experience of God's Spirit. I remember hearing someone say when asked why they didn't come back to church Sunday evening for the later worship service and replying, "Because I did it right the first time." At Southland, of course, it's essentially the same service, but here in Northern Ireland an evening service of a simple message, prayer, or worship is offered. Last night it was hosted by the Methodist Church, which, in the six years of being over here, I've never even stepped foot in...

Of all the ways to run across an open door for the Spirit of God to touch my heart, I found an American couple in a European church... The gal was simply-spoken and refreshingly honest. Her husband played guitar as she sat at the piano. The lyrics grabbed my heart. The rough harmony at the beginning slowly transitioned into a beautiful lilting interplay of vocals as the got warmed up. I was touched by the sense of the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts present. Tears dimmed my eyes as they sang. They sang for us, or to us. We didn't sing along. It was as though God was simply singing over us.

This experience set the tone for an evening that seemed to overflow with God's Spirit. A couple of things happened: My concern for God to reveal the people I am supposed to connect with over the coming weeks met with an answer as my calendar began to fill up for the week. Then, when I traveled across town to pop in on the end-of-day processing at Ardaluin House, I was humbled - absolutely humbled - to get to lead worship for the Fused Team again last night at the last minute. God was simply moving. The team sang out and, even as I lost my voice as the tears came, the song was carried effortlessly by the gathering of about 50 young leaders.

I am excited and hopeful for the week. I'm missing my family but excited for MC as she heads off for her first mission trip today. She's in Cincinnati all week helping fix up a daycare center. I'm praying for my family and friends back home. Thank you all for continuing to lift me up to the Father.