The past three weeks have been a blur of goodbyes, hellos, and paperwork. January 20th I preached my last sermon at Community Evangelical Free Church where I have served as a lay elder while at ABWE International HQ, and that Tuesday my sons and I boarded a plane with a one way ticket to Fremont, CA. The boys started school on the 28th–the same day that Tara arrived after finishing the packing at the house and wrapping up her work responsibilities at Linglestown Life.
While I have technically been on the team at Redeemer Church of the Silicon Valley since December, there is nothing like having boots on the ground. While our church launch team is small (30-40 people), there is real work to be done in getting to know them and how I can best serve. Besides adjusting to the weather (we missed the polar vortex by a week), the kids are adjusting to a new school, and we all are adjusting to a new time zone As anyone who has made major transitions could tell you, transitions are exhausting.
One thing that has stood out to me during this transition, is the indispensability of the Body of Christ and more specifically the local church. We have felt the fellowship of the saints and gifts of the Holy Spirit in tangible ways through each tearful hug goodbye and and each welcoming embrace. There are at least 3 specific ways that we have experienced the essential blessing of being a part of Christ’s church:
- The prayers of God’s people. This move was a logistical nightmare. We had a car being shipped, we had children entering a new school district before we even had a permanent residence, we had stuff that was being packed and shipped after we had already moved, we had a pet to transport, we had a house to rent in PA and no house yet in CA, and that was only about half of the details that needed to be sorted out. And yet through all of that there was a peace we felt that was hard to explain. Every detail was sorted out. The boys entered the largest schools they had ever attended and there were no problems–not even one. There was a spiritual battle raging and the prayers of God’s people were effectual. One of my favorite examples to God answering the prayers of his people came about during our send off service in Harrisburg. I preached in the morning services, and the elders came around us laid hands on us and prayed over us as we were being sent out. One of the elders specifically prayed that we would find a renter for our house in Harrisburg. This had been one of our biggest stressors. We wanted to find a Christian couple who would care for the house and continue to minister in the city. Immediately after the service a young couple approached us about renting our house and this week we formalized the agreement. That was one of the most immediate and explicit answers to prayer I have ever seen. The prayers of God’s people are powerful.
- The gifts of God’s people. I am amazed at the way God uses his people to accomplish his will. God gifts the Body with a diversity of people with different spiritual gifts. In our last days in Harrisburg we were so blessed. Our friends threw great parties and gave thoughtful gifts. Other friends gave sweet words of encouragement. One young lady helped Tara pack, another friend drove Tara to the airport at 4 a.m., a friend and neighbor met the moving truck and made sure the house was taken care of, another friend went the police station to pull parking permits for the moving truck. The notes, gifts, and memories will be with us forever. The same gifts were seen on the other end of the move as well. God’s people gave generously to provide us with the easiest moving experience we’ve ever had, one new friend encouraged us through the school enrollment experience, another family stopped by with groceries and flowers, there was thoughtfulness even in giving us the space we needed to get established in those first days. Over and over again we saw the gifts of the Spirit at work through his people.
- The love of God’s people. It is a great gift to be known and loved. Sometimes you don’t know how much love you’ve received until you leave. God’s people have been such a blessing to us. Through our pastors, friends, small group, youth group, colleagues, and neighbors we experienced love that we don’t deserve. As we gave each hug goodbye, we could feel God’s grace in our lives. We went to Pennsylvania under difficult circumstances. We had left Wisconsin hurting, broken, broke, and confused. While there were many trials and heartaches during our time in Pennsylvania as well, we had also been loved so well by God’s people during those trials. We experienced community through our small group that helped us through some of the darkest times. It was a true and unexpected gift to receive care and wisdom from a group of young adults in their mid-20s. It was a gift to have elders who walked with us from the beginning of this venture and believed in the vision and sent us out to their own hurt. It is a gift to work for an organization like ABWE that supported my calling and found ways to bless and encourage my family even though it was a disruption to their own day to day administration. We have also experienced the love of a church that is barely formed and that barely knows us. It is a humbling thing to walk into a building of people you’ve only just met and feel their love and acceptance from the beginning.
The Christian life was never meant to be lived as a solo performance. While God calls us each individually, we are baptized into his Body–the Church. It is through the community of the saints that we experience the living Christ. Over the past weeks my family and I have seen firsthand the beauty of Christ–not through his sudden appearance in a dream or vision, but through the everyday prayers, gifts, and love of his people. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.