Whew! What a few weeks! We have been meaning to write this post for the last 14 days but have simply not had the time. Two weeks ago we came back to Raleigh from an amazing week in Auburn. We were so excited to get back to our church family and to participate in the international missions festival at Providence Baptist Church. This post shares a few highlights of what happened that weekend.
Our Home Church
We love our church. For the last seven years Providence has not only been our home church but also the place of our ministry. Thomas was hired aa the College Pastor at Providence in October of 2011. These last seven years of ministry at Providence have been so good for us. We have grown in every way. Pastoring college students has taught us more of what it means to have faith in God and to serve others. October has always been a sweet month for us because it’s a time of looking back, remembering, and thanking God for the grace to be in ministry for another year.
Two weeks ago we participated in the international missions festival at Providence. The annual missions festival has consistently been one of our favorite weekends at Providence. This is a special time where we get to hear stories about what God is doing through the ministry partners of Providence around the world. This year was no different. We heard stories of an underground house church movement in China, people who are seeing the unreached become reached, and stories of people who went on mission trips for the first time.
The missions festival weekend involved a Friday evening dinner, Saturday morning fellowship and breakfast, Saturday evening dinner and worship time, Sunday morning share times, and Sunday evening prayer and worship. It was a full and fun weekend.
The highlight of the weekend for us was on Friday night…
Our Friends Are “IN!”
Friday night of the missions festival was special for us because our dear friends - Daniel and Paige Evans - shared publicly that they are in for coming over to plant their lives in London to help plant this church. Friday night, during the dinner, we went on stage with the Evans to share a brief update of what God is doing in this church plant already and Daniel shared about the Evans journey to join us in London.
We love the Evans! Our friendship has been growing deeper and deeper over the last four years as we have met regularly for small group on Wednesday nights. Their sweet kids (Hannah, Eli, and David) are practically brothers and sisters to our own children. We love them. God has been so kind to bring us together.
Two years ago the Evans joined us in Toronto to help lead a mission trip. Together, we led a team of college students in supporting one of our church plant partnerships: Trinity Life Church. The experience in Toronto did a lot to open up both of our hearts to the possibility of doing ministry together. In the months after the trip we began dreaming if God might lead our families together in ministry, somehow.
God continued to interweave our stories, sense of calling, and desire to reach the unreached. God did this through community and routinely meeting together. We’ve learned that calling like this is rarely a big, one-time, conversation or decision. Instead, God calls, draws, and binds people to himself and one-another slowly and surely over time.
We could not be more excited to be headed to London with the Evans. Thomas will serve as the lead pastor of this church and Thomas and Daniel will be the paid/staff elders in the church plant. Thomas and Daniel complement each other so well in their giftings and our families enjoy an easy chemistry with each other. Expect lots of stories about the Evans and even more time of getting to know them in the future. For now: WE ARE SO EXCITED!
Bittersweet: The flavor of the month.
This October has been especially bittersweet. We are so excited about how God is clearly revealing himself and his desire to see us move to plant this church. The financial investment from churches and individuals has been substantial and yet we still have a long way to go. God has already provided a third of our needed funds for year one of ministry. The Evans are officially and publicly in. We had over 200 individuals come to our interest meetings on Sunday morning at Providence. Others are reaching out to express interest and join the team assessment process. These are exciting times!
And yet, there is a distinct bitterness to the sweetness. It’s not easy to think about transitioning out of college ministry at the end of the year. It’s not easy being away from our students and others we love so much in order to cast vision in other places and explain our needs to investors. It can be tiring to talk through everything all the time. We are feeling the wear-and-tear in some unavoidable ways. With this, it’s not easy to think about transitioning away from our close friends at Providence, transitioning out of Raleigh, and transitioning away from support systems that serve us so well. It’s bitter as much as it is sweet.
Why go through all of this?
We’re learning that all of this is necessary. There’s no way to live deeply in one place and not feel the sting when being called out. There’s no way around sharing your life and planning for the long-haul and not also being willing to GO wherever the Spirit leads. Gospel goodbyes are bittersweet. It’s a bitter thing to anticipate the transitions away but it is also a sweet thing to look forward to the transition towards lost and hurting people, into areas of need, and tighter in on the narrow Way of Jesus.
The gospel sustains us. We remember that all of these good things first passed through our Father’s loving hand. We also remember that every feeling of “loss” doesn’t compare to what will be when we experience life in the Kingdom forever. Jesus knew the bitterness of loss and the sweetness of looking ahead. We remember Jesus.
Stay tuned for some exciting updates in the week ahead. We are headed somewhere special and we look forward to sharing more about the journey with you.
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. // Philippians 1:3-6