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…

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4,810 Miles Later

At the end of November, we walked down the gangway of the Africa Mercy. It was the second time for Josh to “leave,” but the first for me. I’d left before to go home for Christmas, for training, to get married. I’d left knowing I wouldn’t be back to the same dock, but would return to the same ship. But this was the first time I walked down the gangway not knowing if I’d walk up it again.

It was the end of a hard, stretching, fulfilling, beautiful 2-year season. It’s amazing what can happen in two short years; I feel I’ve only begun to process it all.

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After years in the field and a particularly challenging fall, we decided to take two months to recover and rest before deciding what to pursue next. We started with a couple-day layover in Amsterdam before traveling on to Tennessee.

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We spent three weeks in California catching up with the Callows. Highlights included a low-key Christmas, the second annual Star Wars family viewing (Rogue One in IMAX), plenty of Callie cuddles, multiple trips to the Bay Area for Mercy Ships and family reunions, and our favorite–a just-the-two-of-us trip to an Irish pub-style inn near Muir Woods.

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For January, we headed back to the Keegan’s in Tennessee, where our days were full of nephew cuddles, bedtime stories, fire-building lessons, and sewing projects. Our highlight was meeting our newest nephew, Noah, born two weeks after we left for Benin.

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We spent much of the two months in limbo, with ideas of what was coming next, but no concrete plans. Of course, God’s timing is better than ours, and while we were resting, He was working. The last week of January, we got our marching orders. The first week of February, we boarded a plane.

BNA-DAL…