Saturday, December 17, 2016
Church Planting Wife - Journal Log: Six months in
I wanted to share with you from the perspective of a church planters wife...which, is the same and yet different from that of Joel, the official "church planter". Of course, this journey - as have all our ministry journeys - is both of ours, and even our kids. As I look back over the past 6 months - I see moments of joy and success - I see moments of discouragement and disappointment - and I see many many moments of learning!
Let's begin with a brief run down of where we were, where we have been, and where we are.
June found us finishing up our time of ministry at FBC Levelland Texas with Vacation Bible School, completing the last of the packing, and preparing for Joel, Hannah, Tyler and I to head with the moving truck to Colorado while Kestra and Malachi went with the youth from Levelland to camp. It was a whirlwind to say the least! The goodbyes were hard, the unknown lurked before us, and the excitement and anticipation kept us moving forward! We arrived in Delta on June 24th and unloaded some mattresses and the basics for the night - the following day, we would unload the remainder of the truck into our home and the journey would begin!
July found Joel beginning as a night stocker at Wal-Mart, meeting my extended family in Silverton for the fourth of July, and officially getting settled into our new home. Also, in July we would begin forming some key relationships with our now sending church, Calvary Baptist Church here in Delta. Probably the biggest thing for July would be Joel coming down with pneumonia and unexplainable severely low blood cell counts that resulted in two nights in the hospital, a week off of work, and lots of prayer from so many everywhere! This was a definite low for us - a time where we had to sit back and wonder "God, what ARE you doing here?" Yet, through it all God WAS moving and working! As a result of his illness, Joel was able to go to the management at Wal-Mart and ask for a different position that was less physically straining, had better hours and would be better all the way around - he was granted a Sales Associate position in the Sporting Goods Department! Go God!!!
With August, we found Joel beginning to build some very key relationships with the employees at Wal-Mart that would then lead to members of our new church plant! August was also when we made a presentation to Calvary Baptist Church in regards to being our sending church - that presentation would fall on the very Sunday that a single mom who had not been in church for awhile would decide to come to church - she would also become a key member of our church plant! Also in August - I, Ronnie, would be offered and accept a position at Vision Charter Academy here in Delta as a Special Education Paraprofessional - working with kids with special needs - couldn't be happier!!! The end of August would bring our three youngest beginning at Delta High School and Hannah beginning work at McDonald's. It would also ring in the beginning of softball season!!! We also would do our very first outreach project which was to provide school supplies to 35 elementary students in the community!
September found all six of us adjusting to our new "normal", building friendships and relationships, enjoying Kestra playing softball, and would also be the first "official" month of being North American Missionaries meaning that all paperwork was in and we had a sending church!!! Joel continued to build and develop relationships at Wal-Mart, I continued to adjust to going back to work, the kids acclimated to their new school and Hannah settled into working full-time! Another high point in September would be the official start of regular weekly meeting times for Church Without Walls - our church plant!!!
In October we enjoyed a week of Fall Break where we met with my mom's sisters in Silverton and my Dad came to visit for a few days! Kestra finished her softball season as a swing player between JV and Varsity! I enjoyed getting to know my co-workers and students even more resulting in the decision to pursue the possibility of an alternate teaching certificate - which I am still in the process of pursuing!
With November came several big changes. Joel was offered and accepted a part-time position with Vision Charter Academy as IT Assistant and resigned from Wal-Mart. He enjoyed the work and relationships at Wal-Mart but the hours were not conducive to ministry and made family time difficult. I was offered, and accepted, the opportunity to move from part-time with Vision to full-time bringing an increase financially and more responsibility! Hannah was able to finalize plans for going to Australia as an Au Pair/Nanny with a family and will leave January 31. In addition, our church plant did their second outreach project in providing meals to families in the area for Thanksgiving! We celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a mom and daughter from our church plant and just enjoyed the quietness of the day - which was a welcome time as it was our first without my Mom.
December finds us sitting back and reflecting on the first six months of this journey.
We have seen incredible highs: having a weekly meeting time just 2 months in when the average church plant doesn't do this for a year or more, a high attendance of 23 on one Sunday night service, the beginning of marriage mentoring meetings with a fantastic couple, the financial ability to provide Thanksgiving meals to four local families here in the area through the church plant, and more and more meaningful conversations being started with potential members of our church plant. We have seen our kids adjust and complete their first semester at a new school, our Tyler is reading more and more each week, and Hannah has overcome so much to find favor at McDonald's and even got a raise!
We have also experienced some lows or times of discouragement: families that we believed would be leaders with us in the church plant have backed out for various reasons, others have come only once and not come again, we have been working on building a team of 300 prayer and/or financial supporters and are only at approximately 40, we have had some meeting times where no one showed up, times where we desperately missed friends and the comfort of the "known" of traditional church ministry, times of sadness wishing we could share this experience with Mom/Mimi, etc.
For me personally - I have had to revisit and remind myself of the calling to this church planting journey multiple times. To be honest - it is hard. When you don't know from week to week who, if anyone will show up, when your home is also the church and so this often means cleaning on a Sunday afternoon rather than relaxing, when you don't have those friends you can call for a "night out", when you and your daughter have to plan for the child care and yet have limited resources and funds, adjusting to a different kind of church that most likely means noisy children in the middle of the floor while you meet, etc.
Yet - I wouldn't go back, I wouldn't change it, I LOVE IT!!! I love that the people that walk into my home each Sunday night are here because they WANT to be, not because it is expected, I love that they are hungry and are seeking and asking and growing, I love their GIVING hearts - when they give to others even when they don't have themselves! I love the sound of children in every part of my home because this means young families are being reached and ministered to. THIS is what makes the hard - so so worth it!!!
I have learned some important things these past six months:
1.) LOVE goes a long way! Simply by loving on people, they will come and hear and grow.
2.) FLEXIBILITY is a must! Plans change, what's normal isn't any more, the unexpected happens, and you have to learn to go with it...those little ones tromping through the middle of church - they are the source of energy and excitement!
3.) MISSIONAL MINDSET! Of course, as believers we are supposed to always live a life that reflects Christ but when you are in a community to start a church and people hear and know this - everything you do is a reflection of ministry! You begin to look at the cashier at the grocery store different and become intentional about reaching out to them, his name is Dennis by the way! That person at the gas station - could be the next person you need to share the Gospel with!
4.) JOY IN THE JOURNEY! You have to find the joy - even in the hard! The joy that you are on the ground level experiencing something NEW. The joy found when those you reached out to are now coming to you asking how to reach out to others. The joy found when no one shows up to church and you get to spend time in prayer instead.
5.) PERSEVERANCE because it is worth it! Yes - there are times that I have wanted to give up, throw in the towel and go back to that known paycheck, those guaranteed volunteers and leaders BUT when you see even just ONE person begin to grow in Christ and "get it" or you see that one person who wouldn't come to a traditional church come to your church - then you KNOW it is worth it to keep on even when it's hard!!!
So - as we look at where we have been, where I have been, where I have grown and been stretched; the most logical thing is to look ahead to where we are going!
For me personally, I am looking at being stretched in the area of evangelism! I have been reading "The Un-churched Next Door" by Thom Rainer and it has me being challenged BIG! In the next several months, I am praying and seeking opportunities to meet and invite and invest in those around me!
For the church plant, we are looking for double the growth - bringing our regular attendance to 20, we are looking for a regular meeting place outside of our home, we are looking for other leaders to join us in ministry, we continue to look for our team of 300, we are looking forward to Joel officially preaching sermons.
I believe God has BIG things in store over the next 6 months for myself personally and for Church Without Walls! I eagerly anticipate all that He will do!