The appeal, the announcement, the Albanians, the arts, and the adventure continues.

Spoiler alert, we are not in Ireland!

The Appeal

On December 10, we were notified that our application for long-term visas to serve in Ireland had been denied by the Irish National Immigration Service (INIS). Both Jo and I were given several reasons for this decision, some were the same, but some were different. We were given 6 weeks to appeal by submitting the additional paperwork they required. Initially, this was very frustrating because we had already submitted most of the documents they said they needed. As we communicated our situation with our OM team in Ireland, we discovered that everyone (9 people) who applied to join the OM Ireland team was denied. While this gave us comfort that it wasn’t “just us,” it also caused us concern that the issue might be outside of our control.

We gathered as much of the extra documentation as we could and submitted it prior to the deadline with minimal hope that it would be approved. One of the items they requested (twice) was copies of my (Dave) previous passports. I explained to them that they had been destroyed, but they insisted that I provide them copies; I applied for copies through the US State Department, which never arrived.

We had no idea when we would receive a decision, but if our visas would be approved, we needed to be prepared to leave the US within two weeks. However, if they were denied we would need a plan for staying in the US. Part of us wanted to be pragmatic and make a backup plan, the other part of us wanted to be faithful and let God work through the INIS process. To say the weeks of waiting were challenging would be a gross understatement.

The Announcement

On January 27 (still no word from INIS at this point), we were hosting a lunch date with our oldest daughter, Lindsay and her husband Caleb. As soon as she walked into our apartment, she said “I’m pregnant” followed by Caleb announcing, “and it’s twins!!” That is a moment that will be forever etched in our memories. Obviously, the dominate topic the rest of the day was “the babies.” One comment of that day from Lindsay caught us off-guard; she said “I really don’t want you to leave now.” FYI, twins are due in mid-August.

The Acknowledgment

One thing that Jo has said over and over is “when grandkids come, we’re done serving overseas.” I have always laughed at her for this “unspiritual” attitude, but I did know that it would cause us to think differently about living abroad. However, when I heard Lindsay’s news, my very first thought was “there is no way we can go to Ireland now.” For the next week, Jo and I wrestled with our new reality. We knew that our visas could be approved any day and that Ireland would expect us to arrive quickly. We also knew that if we got on that plane, we would be sacrificing our family, again.

We had made a commitment to OM Ireland and we knew they had been holding our roles for many months. We also knew they were losing other workers because of the visa situation and their team was diminishing. We also felt very strongly that we needed to change the trajectory of our family’s relational history by being near-by.

Jo and I are both the youngest of our respective families and there are many years between us and our siblings. Additionally, we have always lived far from our extended families so our girls never had the opportunity to have close relationships with their grandparents, aunts/uncles, or cousins. Jo and I felt that if we returned overseas, this trend would continue with the next generation and we didn’t want that. We also knew that we would not be able to fully engage with Ireland because of the babies.

After a week of this tension, we decided to acknowledge this to OM Ireland and we requested to be released from our commitment. That was a painful conversation because we felt that we were letting the Irish team down. However, it also allowed them to move forward without us and it allowed us to start focusing on a plan to stay in the US. After that conversation, we rescinded our appeals with INIS and formally ended our plan of moving to Ireland. We later found out that all of the other appeals had been denied and we felt that our decision had been validated.

While this decision did give us a sense of relief, it also created other tensions we had to navigate; what about the belongings we had taken to Ireland from Norway (about 750 pounds of household goods), we didn’t know where we could live, what we would drive, or what we would do.

The Albanians in Kosovo

After we realized we would be staying in the US, I started looking for a new role with OM USA. Several roles were offered to me and I took some weeks to decide what I wanted to do. In the meantime, I was asked to lead a Heart Sounds International (HSI) short-term mission team to Kosovo to work with a local Albanian church. The HSI team would host a worship music writing workshop to help the Albanians write ethnically Albanian worship songs in Kosovo. HSI engages with people groups in least-reached parts of the world who have little or no indigenous worship music in their own language, using their own instruments, and based on their own styles of worship. They do this through ethnomusicology (Google it). My role was mostly administrative, but I did get to use my photography skills to capture the trip in images.

The local church that invited HSI to Kosovo hoped to write 4 children’s songs and 9 adult worship songs during the 1-week workshop. When we finished, 39 songs had been written in total. The church was very excited because there had never been a single Albanian children’s worship song written in Kosovo before that workshop.

Dave with the team in Kosovo

The Arts

As I said earlier, I was offered several roles associated with the OM USA office. While I was trying to decide on what direction to go, I was given an invaluable piece of advice: determine what you DON’T want to do first, then it will be easier to determine what you DO want to do. After 6 weeks of interviews, job descriptions, clarifying questions, and searching my heart for what I could honestly say “yes” to. I accepted a role with OM Arts, yes that’s correct, Arts! People who play, sing, dance, draw, sculpt, and in general, create! OM Arts mobilizes and sustains artists in mission. My roles will be recruiting and mobilizing artistic people into missions as well as mentoring those who are already in ministry. Jo has been considering a few different options as her next area of service, too, and expects to make a decision within another week or so. Stay tuned for more information on that in our next update.

The Adventure Continues…

For now, we will continue to live near our OM USA base in Tyrone, GA, so that we can be connected to the team here. Our roles will allow us to work remotely, but we still like the interaction with the other folks. We plan to rent for a year and then buy a home between Atlanta and Chattanooga in the summer of 2020. We are looking forward to our new roles, both in ministry and as grandparents.

The Epilogue (doesn’t start with A, but it needs to be said)

Remember our church in Norway and how I took one of the pastors to Ireland, and how he wanted to start sending Norwegians to Ireland to join in the ministry there? That church has taken a giant step forward in this direction. In February, the church sent three people to Ireland on another vision trip. The church and our OM team in Ireland thought it would be a good idea if I was there to ensure the relationship got off to a good start. So, I flew to Ireland and introduced my Norwegian friends to our Irish team. We visited three different churches and they saw many opportunities for involvement in Ireland. As a result of this relationship, the Norwegian church has decided to partner with OM Ireland by sending yearly teams to participate in evangelism and practical work on the OM base. This was a perfect way for us to end the Norwegian phase of our ministry. Even though we are saddened to not be joining the Irish team, we are very happy that we were able to add to their list of partnering churches. Additionally, while I was back in Ireland I was able to have our household goods picked up and shipped to the US. Win-win!!

Dave introducing the Norwegians to an Irish church

Other notable items

• We have re-engaged with the church we were part of before we left for Norway
• We have joined a new small group
• We have been invited to participate in a weekly house-church meeting
• Dave’s photography business is gaining traction
           and Instagram: davemckissick
• We really enjoy spending holidays with our family again

Our first Christmas together in 3 years

Prayer Requests
• A long-term rental within our budget starting in mid-July
• Wisdom for Jo as she decides on her new role
• Wisdom for Dave as he starts his new role.
• Lindsay and the pregnancy

To be continued…