“What about Ireland? What about Europe?”
Understandably, I’m asked these questions all the time. My burden for the spiritual climate of Europe was placed on my shoulders by God when I was seven years old. Ireland (Republic) became more central in my view when I was offered a missions assignment there in 2011. I’ve never even been to Ireland or the region of Europe as a tourist, but my heart has long been moved with a deep compassion for the sorrows of people there, admiration of their culture and much of the history and victories, and what has often felt like a physical burden on my back regarding the general turn toward ‘post-modernism/post-Christian.’ Even when I was preparing to come to Australia the first time, and again when I was fundraising to return, I was often asked about that burden. My own plan was to stay in Australia just a few months in 2013, then head for Ireland. Then it was, stay in Australia one year, then head to Ireland.
Europe. Am I still going?
First I have to tell you a story. In February the Macedonian border was overwhelmed with war refugees from the Middle East; they’d landed in Greece and were now pressing on toward Germany, Sweden, and other countries. The chaos was heartbreaking, especially when seen through the terrified and miserable faces of refugee families caught on camera by journalists. I brought up a map of Europe and marked the place where they’d started – Greece – and then marked the destinations – Germany, Sweden, others. The space in between could be covered, by a lucky few, via airplane or other transport. Others would be walking. That space in between point A and point B is where the vulnerability increased.
There’d be increased vulnerability to being trafficked. There’d be increased vulnerability to being recruited into working as a trafficker. Countries like Greece and Italy are already fraught with trafficking thanks to their Mediterranean location.
As I thought about these problems, I experienced such a strong reaction. All I wanted to do was drop everything, whatever the consequences, and go there to do what I could. Sitting there and praying about it, I quickly remembered that I have been given the opportunity to serve in Australia and New Zealand as gifts to care for. I know from my experiences here that you can rarely jet off to a crisis, jump in, and actually be of use to the people there. There needs to be some kind of connection, organization, some thought put into it. I also knew that God was doing things in the southern hemisphere that needed attending to, and He’d called me to do it. I could not abandon my ministry here even though, in the heat of the moment, that’s all I wanted.
In prayer, sitting there at my friend’s dining table where I’ve had multiple epiphanies over the past three, now nearly four years, God spoke to me. He put it bluntly.
“Even if you go now, you can’t do it all yourself.”
It was a necessary blow to my pride. Quickly, I realized that if two, three, five, or more people went in my place, that’s 2x, 3x, 5x the amount of work I could ever do alone. It reframed an old dream, a life-long burden for a place I love but have never seen, into something more humble and effective.
While I still pray that one day I will go to Europe and in particular Ireland, serving in whatever capacity and learning from the people there, I have a new dream. As long as I am in Australia and New Zealand – as long as I am anywhere not Europe – I want to mobilize people to go in my place. Not only to work with human trafficking prevention, which is my priority of course, but as missionaries of every sort.
As my HOPE61 teammates in Australia and New Zealand have strengthened and grown over this year, I look forward to encouraging continued growth from them and to putting into place a mobilization strategy. We need Australians and New Zealanders to serve here and overseas. And I keep praying that I can send many workers to Europe to serve better, longer, and in greater work that glorifies God in a way I could never do on my own.
What about Europe?
Everything, I hope.