After returning from Ireland, last winter I expected to move to Ireland permanently in a span of a few months. God had other plans; he always does. At the end of last summer, I began what my team and I have come to call “The Plan.” As a brief reminder, The Plan was developed in response to changes made to Ireland’s immigration regulations especially with regards to a Minister of Religion visa, which is the visa I hope to obtain. My team and I decided the best use of my time would be to stay in California while I worked and trained for qualifications that would give me the best opportunity to receive the visa. The ways I’ve been working, and training include enrolling in Graduate studies at Barclay College online as a Pastoral Studies student, working as an intern at a local Asian-American church, Gateway Friends, participating in a rigorous discipleship training program, The Lab and meeting regularly with a coach who helps me to integrate all the pieces of The Plan. I am happy to report that the last year has been one of growth, challenges, joys, fierce honesty and community building. Unfortunately, the global pandemic has made applying for a visa to Ireland impossible. Ireland seized accepting new visa applications at the end of March. We have re-evaluated The Plan in the past few weeks. I will continue interning at Gateway Friends Church. I will continue meeting with my integration coach. The Lab has finished up for the year. I’m on summer break right now but will begin classes again at the beginning of August. Please pray for me as my team and I continue to walk this unknown road, to trust that God is in the midst of all of this.
One of the most important things that I’ve been learning this year is how to hold grace and truth together especially for myself. In almost every area of The Plan, God has revealed to me that I do not need to be perfect to be loved by Him. In fact, God loves me because of my brokenness, not in spite of it. The perfectionist tendencies I have manifested in my internship at Gateway Friends Church when I realized that I expected to be best friends with enough people right after my first Sunday on staff as an intern. I had not defined what enough people was or what best friends meant, but this self-imposed pressure loomed. They materialized in physical tension and awkwardness during conversations with members of Gateway’s congregation which meant that I came home from Sunday morning physically and emotionally exhausted. One of the pastors sat down with me and asked me how it was going after a few weeks attending Gateway. We chatted for a moment about my anxiety and he said something so simple, “You don’t have to prove yourself to us.” I felt the weight of perfectionism and unmet expectations fall away. He went on to say, “The only expectation we have of you is to fall in love with Gateway.” I felt such relief in that moment. The truth that I learned in that moment is that I am loved and supported by what were almost complete strangers at the time. The grace I learned to have with myself is to work towards believing that truth.
In the midst of this pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult for me to have grace and truth with myself. I struggle with the nation re-opening when there still isn’t a vaccine. I want to keep all my loved ones safe, but I also want to see those loved ones in person. The Lab traditionally ends with a weeklong prayer retreat in the wilderness of Utah. The prayer retreat was scheduled for the end of May. We wrestled together as a community about the wisdom of keeping that trip on the calendar. My anxiety was especially at a maximum and I chose to investigate why that was instead of acting from a place of anxiety. After sitting in my backyard, because that was the only outside place I was allowed to be in at the time and listening to how God wanted me to make this decision, I heard the words grace and truth from my Heavenly Father. I needed to have truth which meant that I needed to know about the virus and how it spread, what the CDC guidelines are and what the state of California was allowing its citizens to do at the time. Since the beginning of stay-at-home orders, I had been avoiding the news because it was very grim and depressing. I began educating myself about the virus and especially about our state’s different phases of re-opening. Holding grace for myself was a little harder because I needed to remind myself that I was doing enough to keep me and my family safe. I washed my hands, I wore a mask when I went to the grocery store, I stayed at home and I became a Zoom meeting expert. I learned to hold grace and truth for myself. The Lab decided as a group that a road trip to Utah in the middle of a pandemic was not the best way to keep us all safe. When the stay-at-home orders were relaxed, we began meeting in the Amavisca’s backyard so we could physically distance. We held grace and truth together throughout that decision making process.
How do you hear God calling you to hold grace and truth together? The world and our country are at a turning point on several different fronts. I’d encourage you to make time to listen to how God is speaking to you in the midst of these turbulent times. Thank you for continuing to journey with me, the path we are taking could have never been predicted and I am grateful for your prayers, encouragement and support.
Preparing to Qualify for a Minister of Religion Visa for Ireland