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Saying Farewell…

March 9, 2020

At the end of this month the Gilmores’ time serving with Global Ministries comes to an end.  Since July 2011,  I have been working at East Belfast Mission, an experience that has included grace, wonder, and difficulties that have shaped and changed us in many ways.  I will always remember arriving into Belfast airport on a drizzly morning almost 9 years ago – with Ellie (6), Emily (4) and nearly 30 weeks pregnant with Jake who would be born that October.  We came with 4 suitcases and much uncertainty about where we would live, whether the girls would get a place at school, and when other items would arrive that we had shipped.  We also wondered how we would fit into EBM and bridge cultural differences and mindsets that so often can divide and tear apart.  Would we connect and feel at home despite missing the ache of what was familiar back in Florida?

A question that has lingered with me over many years is: can I find joy and meaning in life despite challenging circumstances, especially if the circumstances do not change?  Can I flourish where I am planted even though it is unsettling and broken?  EBM is rooted in the ideal of forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s rooted in being part of the redemptive story of God’s grace.  Yet in the fabric of EBM and the lives of the people I have worked with each day, this has not always been possible.  Even though my circumstances didn’t change, the gospel is knowing that we’ve not yet arrived but there is hope in the journey as we move from this barren world towards something more beautiful and lasting. IMG_6072

Our kids are avid readers and Jake and I have just finished (again!) the Chronicles of Narnia.    The last chapter in the last book says that the children, “{for them} it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”  Britt’s 4 years at EBM and my 9 years have been one where we have experienced new chapters of healing and growth and change in people’s lives.  EBM, in all its messiness, is a unique place where people walk in off the street and find extraordinary welcome and acceptance.  It’s a place that is part of God’s healing story.  What has been a learning curve for me as a counsellor is that not all healing occurs in ways hoped for or expected.  Forgiveness doesn’t always happen, and reconciling is certainly tough, if possible at all.   Sometimes a person gets to a place of coping with their anxiety or depression and they sit for a while.  Maybe that is why the story may never be completed in this place, but a new chapter unfolds with different people and experiences.  So even when traveling through particularly stormy seasons, we trust that working for reconciliation and hope is worth the risk.

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Travelling buddies

Our time with Global Ministries has taken us to Berlin, Atlanta, New York, Mississippi, Philadelphia, and all over Florida.  Our journeys have included delays, almost missing flights, iced tea and hot tea, video link ups and recordings, and warm and inviting homes filled with love and support.  I’m blessed to know people like Gary Mason who gave us the nudge, and David and Eileen Kerr who have journeyed with us as people and parents at EBM.  We have met many faithful supporters of mission work, including my first contact, Judith Potter from Punta Gorda and Dorothy Collins from Pasadena who were always so kind to our family.  We’re thankful for the communities at our former home churches of First UMC, Orlando & St. Lukes, the great folks at Grove UMC, and Bishop Carter who taught me about praying for ‘healing people’.

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There are so many pulpits we were allowed to share from and luncheons and cakes bestowed in our honour!

Along the way, we have also been blessed by missionary colleagues, people from all over the world who embraced our children at gatherings and made them feel important.  To have Bill and Gwen Gibson, Missionaries in Sengeal offer communion to a small child was a transformational lesson to me about an open table.  The leadership of Thomas Kemper was always admirable, especially when he took a 2-year-old Jake in his arms, marched us through streets in Berlin, ordered us sausages, rice and beans, and then sat with us sharing a meal.  How humbled I was by his servant heart and non-fussy ways.  The teams who worked on our behalf like Rachel, Dan, Mary, Emily and Jay.  Sometimes miscommunication and frustrations arise in working together but we found the arms of grace many times.  The story continues.

IMG_7480The ending is a natural one.  Global Ministries were very kind to allow my contract to be extended this far until EBM was financially more secure.  The Counselling Centre at EBM has been a place of light-bulb moments, laughter, highs and lows.  I remember moving into the new space and a client taking the plastic cover of the chair, surrounded by paint pots and a step ladder as he shared his story of alcohol addiction.  I’ve “managed” a team of 6-8 part time volunteers and students, made things look beautiful from IKEA and always had candles and tissues on hand.  The staff are dedicated and faithful in their aim to help create a place of safety and be that healing person as I mentioned.  I’ve grown so much in my counselling role and have ached with the clients pain and humility to trust me.  I carry many secrets and stories of good things,  I’m filled up and privileged to have been allowed to work with this service.

The future of us is that Britt continues to serve with the Irish Methodist Church for now, where he was appointed to Knock Methodist 5 years ago.  He has a sabbatical beginning in May during which he will begin a professional doctorate with Wesley Theological Seminary.  We will take the kids to America in July to be with their grandparents.

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Waiting for the bus in Dublin after 24 hours of travel & sickness

Ellie who turns 16 later this year, Emily who will be 13 in June and Jake who is 8, have been exposed to many cultural opportunities and many plane journeys and if you know our children, that has involved a lot of sick bags!

At certain times they ask, when are we going back to America?  This is usually during cold winters in Ireland and after visits to theme parks.   We don’t rule that option out.  So for now, we keep crossing the Atlantic, Skyping and loving well.  However, it’s not always been easy to be a Gilmore.  A mum who asks, “what is going on in your heart?” and a Dad for a Pastor who models nothing but humility, and grace, we hope they know their own value and worth and will flourish where they are planted so that the story continues.

The picture of our family at the beginning was taken on a Mission Trip to Romania this summer.  The job of finding joy, discipling and raising these great kids continues wherever that may be.

EBM hopes to secure finances to employ me in August.  This all looks to be good.  However, if you would like to be a part of that financial boost to the Mission please contact: Rev Brian Anderson – Brian.Anderson@ebm.org.uk for further direction.

We recently sang the following in church that drove me to praying for my own family and those in need:

“Freedom give to those in bondage,

life the burdens caused by sin,

Give new hope, new strength and courage,

grant release from fears within:

light for darkness; joy for sorrow;

love for hatred; peace for strife.

In the streets of every city

where the bruised and lonely dwell,

let us show the Saviour’s pity,

let us of his mercy tell.

In all lands and with all races

Let us serve, and seek to bring

All the world to render praises,

Christ, to you, Redeemer, King”

(Hugh Sherlock)

With that, I end.  Thank you for your partnership and cards that always came through the door at the right time.  I leave loved, richer, wiser if not a little wearier, but the heart of serving and counselling is what I continue to love.

In Him who is able to do the impossible,

Love Ally and Britt {Ellie, Emily & Jake} xo

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