A New Chapter

Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we headed?

Good questions! Let us do our best to answer them.

Where we’ve been

After we left the ship in September we traveled to Antwerp to help launch a Mercy Ships Exhibition.

Mercy Ships Belgium collaborated with Stephan Van Fleteren, a famous Belgian photographer, to set up a pair of exhibitions in the city of Antwerp.

One exhibition featured Van Fleteren’s portraits of Mercy Ships patients inside a restored ship in the maritime museum.

The other exhibition was based inside the Port of Antwerp, which is a pretty unique building.

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After months of work of planning and designing the exhibition with our friend Ruben it was a huge joy to finally see it launched. The exhibition featured banners, panels, posters, and videos introducing visitors to the the volunteers, patients, medical trainings, and ships of Mercy Ships. Josh provided video and technical support and Katie designed most of the printed pieces.

We spent about a month after the exhibition launch in Antwerp, working in the Mercy Ships Belgium office to support their marketing and communications efforts.

One of the perks of being back in Europe was getting to connect with friends! We traveled up to Utrecht, Netherlands to spend a weekend with Ruben & Mirjam. Really this meant great friend time combined with good beers, cheeses, stroopwaffles & windmills!

Another treat was the opportunity to spend Katie’s birthday in Ireland with friends & family – her dad even flew over from the States for the celebrations!

 

Where are we headed next?

Overall this past year has been full of adventure, exploring new places, connecting with friends and a whole lot of growing. We’ve lived in 6 different countries, 7 different cities, crossed borders by plane, train, car & ship.  We’ve stayed in houses, apartments, manor homes, guest bedrooms, ship cabins, hotel rooms and more. The answer to the question, “Where do you live?” is “Out of our suitcases.” We’ve been constantly on the move. It has been amazing to see so many places and get to travel for work, but we are ready for a change.

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So with the desire for more permanence, a place to call home, and a community around us, we have made the decision to leave Mercy Ships and move back to the US. We have been incredibly blessed by our time with Mercy Ships; we have experienced things we never could have dreamed of; and we wouldn’t have met each other if we hadn’t made the leap to go serve on a hospital ship overseas. But that season has come to a close.

After about 6 years of nonprofit work for each of us – constant busyness, extra stressors, always traveling, never settling, making new friends and saying unending goodbyes, we are tired and worn down. So we are making a change. Beginning a new chapter. Starting something new together.

What is that thing? We have no clue. Not yet.  We have to make some major life decisions like where to live and what jobs to pursue next in our careers. For that we need time.

Now you’re wondering what the answer is to that second question…

Where are we now?

This blog post has been drafted over the course of a cross-country road trip from California to Tennessee. By the time we have finished our travels we will have journeyed nearly from coast to coast.

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After spending a few weeks with Josh’s family in Auburn, California, we packed up all of our belongings into a car and embarked eastwards. Along the way, we visited family in Flagstaff, a Mercy Shipper in Albuquerque, explored National Parks, saw friends in Dallas and slept at a couple hotels in between. We will soon arrive (and possible already have as you are reading this) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to spend the Christmas season with Katie’s family.

In January we will fly to Colorado Springs for a week and a half to participate in a debrief for overseas workers & missionaries. From there we will briefly return to Tennessee and then drive to Columbus, Georgia to stay for a month or three in a cottage in the backyard of some of our good friends.

There we will wrap up our gradual re-entry and take some time to begin to develop the  picture of what this new chapter will look like.

Stay tuned here for more on what is next for the Callows … once we know what it is!

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Where in the world are the Callows?

That’s an excellent question–I’m so glad you asked.

Currently, we’re in Dungarvan, a small town in Sunny Southeast Ireland. But we’ve been a few places in the last few months, so let me back up a bit.

When we left Benin, we took two months to rest and spend time with family before making decisions about what to do next. When it came down to it, we didn’t feel like we were done working with Mercy Ships. The need for surgery is staggering–five billion people lack access to safe, affordable surgical care. Even though we were done serving on the ship, we knew we were still called to work with Mercy Ships to help transform lives and nations.

So, in February, we joined the Mercy Ships Global Association International Creative Team (MSGA ICT, or just ICT–we like abbreviations around these parts). In a nutshell, we get to work remotely with a talented group of creatives as internal freelancers/consultants for our 16 national offices around the world, supporting their fundraising and recruiting efforts.

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International Creative Team (ICT)

For this season, as part of our jobs, we’re serving as “Special Teams” within the ICT, traveling from office to office to provide direct creative support to their fundraising efforts.

First, we spent two months at the main Mercy Ships base in East Texas, covering some marketing department needs. While we’d both visited before, we enjoyed having more time to interact in-person with people we’ve been collaborating with for years.

Personal highlights include:

  • Living in our first apartment together
  • Milking a cow (a life-long dream)
  • Making new friends at Mercy Ships
  • Exploring East Texas
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Caddo Lake in Uncertain, Texas

Our next stop was Lausanne, Switzerland for our annual ICT retreat. Since we are all remote workers, this was a key time for us to connect face-to-face and plan for the year. The highlight of the week was hiking up to Lac de Taney for Easter.

While our teammates returned home, we stayed in Switzerland for six weeks to support the Geneva Cargo Day Ball, an event celebrating the efforts of the shipping & trading industry to raise funds for Mercy Ships. The event was a rousing success, kicking off the next edition with more participants than the first.

Personal highlights include:

  • A weekend trip to Paris to visit our friend, Jay
  • Enjoying the beauty of Lake Geneva
  • Living in a 195-year-old stone house

So finally–Ireland. We have about a month between in-person assignments (plus visa complications), so we’re working remotely from the “Home of my Soul.” I lived in Dungarvan after college and still have good friends here. One in particular is an American missionary who is spending the summer in the States, which opened up space in her apartment. This little interlude couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve been running at a pretty hectic pace since January, and as much fun as it is to explore new places, the constant change can be draining. We’re enjoying being in a place that I at least know well, with built-in community from “my” church.

Personal highlights (so far) include:

  • Introducing Josh to people & places dear to my heart
  • Josh’s first Guinness in an Irish pub (it’s better here)
  • Evening walks through woods and by water
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Colligan Woods with our friend, Gladys
  • Catching up with old friends
  • Quiet moments in Holly’s sweet, sun-drenched apartment

We’re in Ireland for a couple more weeks, before meeting the Africa Mercy in the Canary Islands. We’ll spend the summer covering for the Communications team, who will all be training at the base in Texas. And after that? As per usual for this season, TBD…