Mandy and her husband Jason have lived in Galway, Ireland, for almost 10 years. They moved there to help start an evangelical church and develop a church leadership training program. Their church, Galway City Baptist Church, began meeting in their colleagues’ living room in 2000, then in a nearby hotel in 2005, and in 2009 moved into a local primary (elementary) school. It is their dream to see the church established well with strong, godly leaders and an Irish pastor. Mandy and Jason have four children who were all born in Ireland.
How did God call you and Jason to Ireland?
Jason and I married soon after graduating from college, and Jason began his seminary degree a couple of months after the wedding. We went into seminary knowing we wanted to church plant, probably in the northwestern part of the U.S. But as the Lord would have it, He brought a seminary professor and a missions-minded church into our lives.
After a missiology course in seminary and a few mission trips to Russia and Europe, we began to sense the Lord leading us outside of the U.S. Once we narrowed down the organization we wanted to work with, we began looking to serve in a post-Christian part of the world (our hearts were drawn to people in those cultures). This led us to Western Europe. Our organization had just started a work in Ireland and was looking for young people to go to Galway, a city where half the population is under the age of 25. Galway also has two major universities, and with our ministry experience with young single and married adults, we felt like it was a good fit.
Tell me about adjusting to life as an international church planting wife. What were those first few years like? What did you learn about yourself and about God in that period?
Jason and I had been married six years when we moved to Ireland, and we had our first child a year after that big move. The first few years were not only spent adjusting to being a church planting wife and living in a another country, but also being a mother. I definitely wouldn’t advise starting a church and a family at the same time! However, the Lord knew I needed to learn to solely depend on and trust in Him.
Not only did I need energy to care for our young children, but I also needed energy, brainpower and patience to teach Sunday School, lead Bible studies and host ministry events in our home. I had to learn to ask for help and sometimes say “No” to requests for my time and energy, which is not in my make-up!
And when you are starting a new church and all hands are required to be on deck, it can be difficult to step back from responsibilities. I still struggle with this and the feelings of guilt for either making ministry a priority over my family or vice versa. The Lord has brought encouraging words to me, though, through sermons, Scripture, friends and supporters, our children, and my husband. I’ve learned that I’m not going to get it right all the time, and the Lord is still on His throne doing His work in the hearts of man, whether or not I’m directly involved.
I also learned pretty quickly into our ministry that my ways are not the Lord’s ways. Within the first couple of years, we had a small group of believers meeting together, and they were all from other countries. The church we were planting didn’t look like the Irish church I had pictured in my head. The Lord was telling me that He was building our church His way and not mine. Through connections with their Irish co-workers, schoolmates and neighbors, the Lord was using our non-Irish congregation to reach far more Irish people than Jason and I could have ever reached on our own.