Long time no blog, friends! Life has been crazy over here with preparations for the launch of new products (new Seasonal Meal Planner's launch August 8th!) and of course this unexpected and fun announcement, which is....
We're moving to Massachusetts!
If you don't know, we currently live in Denton, Texas, a bit outside the Dallas area. I have lived here for 13 years and as a married couple, we've lived here 6. I went to college here, became a Christian here, had my first job in ministry here, and have seen many women and men come to Christ in this city. I've watched the penetration of gospel-preaching churches come into our city over the years and with it, bringing life and vibrancy to the community at large. I've watched our little city become "cool" and have grown in my walk with Christ so much here.
When I started out the year, planning my goals and hopes for the following 12 months, never in a million years would I ever have thought "move across the country" would be on the list. To say that everything has been thrown out the window for a new set of expectations would be an understatement! Around mid-January we got an email from a pastor at our church explaining the need in New Bedford, MA, and that him and his family were going to plant a church there. This email wasn't specific to us, and we definitely aren't the kind of people to want to move just for an adventure or change. We like where we are. In fact, we love it and would never dream of leaving, unless of course God asked us to leave. Jordan and I both read this email and immediately felt a tug to be a part of this church plant, at the very least finding out more information! It was the strangest thing yet the most peaceful thing, and all along the way Jordan and I have remained on the same page completely, which has been such a gift.
When I say we have no reason to leave Texas, I mean it. All our family is here. We live within an hour to both sets of our kid's grandparents and extended family. We've both lived here pretty much our whole lives, and we LOVE our community and lives here. We know plenty of missionaries and have never felt called to go with them. So we knew the Lord was up to something!
As we explored the possibility more, we decided to take a trip up to New Bedford and check everything out. What we saw there was heartbreaking and hopeful. The city reminded us a lot of Denton, but 10 years ago, before revitalization, fresh small businesses, and churches came into town. New Bedford is a working class whaling community, and the working fisherman boats are still in the harbor. It's a really neat place, with a ton of history, from being the birth place of Moby Dick, to the old sea captain's homes, to a rich Portuguese population. What we noticed though, was that the city lacked the vibrancy that we feel here in Denton. We believe this is because there is no group of Christians, a church, leading the way in gospel ministry for the hurting. We get the sense from all our conversations with people from the area that there truly is a "survival mode" among the people of New Bedford. It is definitely what we would consider "post-Christian." We noticed several boarded up churches, just sitting on lots waiting to be sold, some already having been turned into art galleries, museums and condos. This broke our hearts and made me cry.
We started asking God: could He uniquely use us in this season of our lives to bring the Gospel to a new place that desperately needs the gifts He's given us. Our church in Denton is INCREDIBLE. Like, not exaggerating because we are members, it really is so great. But it's a bigger church, filled with wonderfully gifted people. Though I wholeheartedly believe that every single person is needed in the local church they are in, we just started praying the question: could our gifts be better leveraged somewhere else? Jordan and I both feel a specific gifting toward evangelism and hospitality. We also feel equipped in those areas as well. I was on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for 5 years, and Jordan just isn't ashamed to ask strangers what they believe about God. We both love opening our home to strangers and friends and letting our table be the pathway to the gospel. This is something that is needed and will deeply serve the people of New Bedford. Bringing these two qualities to a place in need, we felt, would be a more robust use of our time on Earth.
New Bedford is a town of 130,000 and 79 churches, none of which proclaim the gospel. Fewer than 2% of New Englanders go to an evangelical church. And with one church for every 8,000 people, it's home to many of America's most churchless cities. With the exception of Mormon Utah, the Northeast is the most gospel-parched region of the nation, with some reports of only 1.6% of the population having access to the gospel. It has been reported that you are more likely to meet a Christian in India than in New England. We felt compelled to continue walking through the open door, and say "yes" to what God was clearly calling us to do.
Our church, The Village Church Denton, will be partnering with Grace Harbor Church in Providence, RI (about 45 minutes from New Bedford) to plant a gospel-centered church called Grace Harbor Church New Bedford. There are a few families from Texas who we are relocating with, and are praying for more to come! We will be a part of Grace Harbor Church in Rhode Island for the first year, where others will join us to begin this new church.
We will keep our jobs, and will not be on staff with the church, but rather will be members of the church and part of the core team getting this new church plant up and running. We are excited about this opportunity to leverage our lives and gifts for the advancement of the gospel as we go about living our regular lives in a new city. We know there will be challenges, because we've already experienced them! So if you think to pray for our family, keep these prayer points in mind:
- For protection from fear, anxiety and spiritual attack (this is my biggest ask!)
- For unity in our marriage as we deal with the stress of transitioning
- For the kids to transition well and specifically for wisdom in guiding Reaghan as she grieves certain losses
- For the right home to become available quickly
- For favor in New Bedford, for God to already be preparing the hearts of our soon-to-be neighbors and paving the way for a gospel-preaching church to be established
- For the other families going (including our pastors) that their financial support would come in quickly, that they would be protected from any fear, and that homes would become available quickly
One of our pastors preached on hospitality this past Sunday and something he shared jumped out at me. Her said:
"we ought to be savory salt who bring joy to God and make a palpable difference in the world." -- Dr. Lan Leavell, III
Our hope is that we would bring a savory salt to a bland land and that in the process we would bring God much glory, and enjoy Him more, making a real difference in the lives of the people in New Bedford and the world.
HELP US GET THERE
If you would like to be a part of our story moving forward, we would love for you to consider giving financially towards our moving costs. It's a big expense on our family and we are wanting to invite others into the process of moving for the sake of the gospel. Will you join us?