There has been so much going on within our family lately that I have steered clear of the blog just to make sure I kept some necessary things to myself until the time was right to share. But since we made our announcement to church this morning and later on to the rest of the staff, I have been given the green light to share with all of our dear friends who peek in on us from time to time here. But let me start at the beginning... this goes way back!
Before we were even married, Josh looked at me one night and told me that he felt like God had put it on his heart to plant a church. I know I've shared bits of this story on here before, but I feel like it's truly the start of this journey. At the time, I looked at him like he had three heads. I didn't even know what that meant, had never heard the term "church plant," and could only relate it to some sort of cult. Clearly I was not ready for that. It was only a matter of months that he stumbled across the Crossroads campus pastor job, applied, and we came up to Small Town, Illinois to interview. I can't say that I fell in love with Small Town, Illinois right away, but I did fall in love with the organization and the people. When we met some of the folks that were trying to put a campus in their town (the town we would be moving to), I could see the pleading looks on their face. They knew that they needed a life-giving church in their town, for themselves, their families, and for future generations. There was a hunger and a burning for Jesus that I had never seen before, and I was moved. I told Josh that we needed to do whatever it took to be a part of putting that campus in their town.
Over the past two years, we have ministered in Small Town, Illinois, seen hundreds (literally) of people commit their lives to Christ, marriages become restored, addictions overcome, and filled the seats with folks who had not stepped foot in a church for years, if not ever. Between this Easter and last Easter, over 150 people publicly stepped into the waters of baptism to celebrate their commitment to Christ. These past two years have been nothing short of amazing.
With that being said, similar conversations about the desires of my husband's heart and his visions of planting a church would sometimes come up over these past two years. In true Kim fashion, they usually continued to be met with a panicked look that would fall across my face. In my mind, this dream of his would definitely happen and be something that I would be supportive of, but it would probably happen five or ten years down the road. That sounded comfortable enough. That worked for me. So imagine my surprise when I didn't balk at the idea when he brought it up to me this spring. There was a tug in my spirit that I couldn't explain and for the first time, I actually had an inkling that the time was near. Fast forward to just a week later when at the end of one of our messages, a pastor that we have looked up to for a long time was featured in a video because he had given his last message the week before at the church that he pastored. He had been battling cancer and knew his time was incredibly near. The message moved me to tears and struck a major chord with me. He had definitely lived a life of significance, pastoring people and founding an organization that has seen and funded hundreds of new church plants across the country. This man was making sure Jesus was being introduced to these hungry communities. And he reminded us that when there is a call on your life, you really need to listen. There will never be a good time, so what are we waiting for? Obedience truly is a learned behavior. Later that night I told Josh that the time was near... God was definitely calling him to do this, I knew he had the gifts and talents, and I was ready to go wherever He was leading us. It was truly a turning point in this adventure.
Over the next month, we thought and prayed about what this would look like and where this might be. We knew God had big plans and it was only a matter of time before He revealed them to us. Josh started feeling like Kentucky was our next move, and although I had similar feelings of my own, I was hesitant to consider them too closely. My sister and her family lives in Kentucky and I did not want to feel like maybe I was feeling like that was the right place because I would love to be closer to them. I wanted to make sure I was listening to Him and not to my own selfish desires. I think I mentioned every place around Kentucky without mentioning Kentucky itself. Josh continued to feel strongly about it, however, so we decided to go visit and just get our eyes on the place. We spent three days there, met some people from my sister's school, and drove around Lexington, Georgetown, and Paris. We spent the majority of our time on the north fringes of the city and found that there was definitely a void. Hundreds of new homes were everywhere, but very few churches. Hundreds of families, but not many places to go. When we met my sister's teachers friends and just mentioned that we were considering a church plant in that area, I saw that same desperate look- those same pleading eyes. It brought me back to the moment when I knew our move to Illinois was what God was calling us to do. I had the same tug on my spirit, like a hand gently pushing me in that direction. Well, it was more like a shove, which is probably what a stubborn gal like me needs from time to time.
As for my other doubts based around whether or not we were choosing this area for the right reasons, my sister cleared that up because of one sentence out of my sister's mouth. When we told her about the potential of us moving there to start a church she said, "Oooh! We're going to have a church!" I had expected something to the effect of "You're going to live so close!" or "I get to see Jake all the time!" or something like that, but instead it was excitement that their search would be over. Her family had given up on trying to find a church that worked for their family because they just couldn't find the right fit. My heart broke. The Bible tells us that our mission begins at home, but my sister and her husband had been unable to find the tools in their area to help their family grow spiritually and live that out. By the time we packed up the car and headed back home, we knew this was the right place. We had found our next ministry and our next home.
Over the couple of weeks Josh has been meeting with the leadership of our current church and helping them set up our current campus for success long after we're gone. He and I both know that the pastors don't make people come to church, but having a good one sure does help. We know that God is bigger than that and us leaving would not cause our church to stumble in the least as long as we leave it in a healthy state and a healthy way. As an answer to our prayers, our current worship leader and youth pastor interviewed and fit the bill as our replacement. He and his wife have become incredible friends of ours and they are two of the most kind-hearted, generous, loving, and prayerful individuals that I have ever met. They truly taught me what it means to let yourself go and immerse yourself in the words of a song, and I will miss hearing his voice sing to the Lord every Sunday. Our church family here is so blessed to have them, and although it doesn't make it easy to leave, it gives us an even greater sense of peace about it. And today when we announced it to the congregation, there were a lot of tears built out of relationship, but also a lot of words of encouragement and excitement for the journey ahead for us. We know that in this next year we will have more support, love, and prayer from people in Small Town, Illinois than we could have ever dreamed of. God is really watching over us and I know His hand is all over this.
As for us, our last Sunday with Crossroads is on June 12th. We will open the doors and have our very first services at TurningPoint Church in Lexington, Kentucky in February 2012. We have a lot of work to do between now and then, as well as a lot of stuff to figure out personally, but we both could not be more excited. I tell people that I am so confident that this is God's will for our lives because of the peace I have about all of the unknowns that lie ahead; the timing for our family could not be more inconvenient. In the next nine months we will be trying to sell a house, find a new place in a new town, transporting all of our belongings, going down to one income, raising a one-year-old, and bringing a newborn into the mix. My usual self would be so stressed out by now that my head would probably explode. But I surprisingly have very little anxiety about it. I know it won't be easy, and I know that there will be some difficult and very stressful times along the way, but I also know that we're being obedient and that our Father will provide for us. I never understood the phrase "a peace that passes understanding" until now, and I am so very thankful.
For those of you here in Small Town, Illinois, please know that we leave here with such mixed emotions. We are excited for what lies ahead, but will miss you all tremendously. Our life as a married couple and as a family started here. My first real role in ministry began here, and although I know I still need to grow by leaps and bounds to be the pastor's wife God made me to be, He definitely did some important work on me while we were here. I truly have a love affair with the Midwest now... and it's not because the location itself is something spectacular but because of the hearts of the people who live here. I have never in my life met more warm, generous, friendly, and loving people anywhere else in the world and I have lived in a lot of places! You just don't find folks better than this, and I know that our friends here have helped me grow into a better woman and a better friend. I am forever grateful. I also want you all to know that we're not just going to disappear from this place. Over the summer we will be here from time to time as we take care of our personal business and will stay connected well beyond the move. This place is so special to our family and I know that we can't leave without looking back. So don't think you're getting rid of us so easily!
I know this has gotten long, and there is still so much that I probably could have shared, but our ask is that you please put our family on your prayer list. Like I said, there are so many unknowns out there right now, but we know where the path is leading us. And if any of you know folks in the Lexington area that have been without a church home for awhile, please try to connect them with us. We'd love to share our vision and our passion for what God is calling us to do.
I look forward to the first weekend of February next year when I can look back at this post and remind myself of where this next part of our journey began. What I do know for sure is that God is up to something big, and I am humbled to be a part of it. We love you all so much... thank you for the love and support you show us every day. I look forward to sharing this journey with you all over this next year.