I am doing a series on Sundays for the next few weeks highlighting some of my journey into youth ministry. The goal is to highlight God’s work in our life as a family. If you were not here for last week’s start to the series, I would encourage you to read that one first. (Part 1)
As I left off last week, we were in what was feeling like a never-ending cycle of waiting. In August of 2004, we had our first child and started to try to figure out, after many interviews, if God would continue to have me in a place I really never thought I would be. One thing I did realize was that I was learning contentment in various life circumstances.
Another year came and went without a solid lead on a youth ministry position. In a sense, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go. When I did finally get an interview with a church, I was not expecting it to go past the initial phone interview phase. The pastor came and met with me after work in person, which was an encouraging start. We were then invited up there for a weekend to do the candidate weekend thing. This was exciting, since I had never gotten that far in the process. After a few more meetings and conversations, I was hired.
This was amazing! We had a send off at work and packed up everything we owned in a trailer and a van to make the move. The first step was housing. We went and looked at a number of places to rent for a while until we got ready to purchase a home. After some searching, we ended up settling on renting a very large house next to the church that was for sale. The house had been empty for a long time and having us in there was going to be a help to the owners. We were excited about that since we were living in a one bedroom apartment at the time. We were literally loading up the van to leave and the phone rang telling us that the house had sold and we needed to find different housing. After some high-speed searching, we moved into an apartment building, a concession that we made in order to get started quickly. The apartment was small, but it was only the three of us at the time.
The church appeared to be a wonderful fit and we got used to life in a new small town. The town was unique in that it felt like it was stuck in the 1950s for whatever reason. Its antiquated status actually made the local stores much more charming, but also made an outsider look like an obvious outsider. The church appreciated us and things were starting to come together. Finally, I was in ministry like I was called to be.
A few months passed and we were able to purchase our first home. The whole process made us feel much more grown up than we thought we were. It was at this point, though, that things started to change at the church. I am not going to get into details of it all because that is not the point of this story. Let’s just say that there were a number of unresolved issues there that strained relationships. I suddenly felt like the people who had welcomed us, were turning on us. Now what?
This reminds me of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis and how he was sold by his brothers. This seems familiar as people who we thought were with us, showed that they were really not. God had a plan in it, but at the time I had no idea what. All I knew was that I was in the midst of turmoil without any understanding as to why.
This is a confusing place to be. I knew God had called me there without a doubt, but why? What could possibly be in this for us, or for His Kingdom? Why would God do this? This answers would not come until later and I will cover that in the next post. Let me just describe the way things changed for us.
I was ok with working through some issues. Wherever there are people there will be conflict. But, this was no ordinary conflict. It went from being something about ministry and the church to being personal. I was starting to have a hard time separating the two different areas. One Sunday after church, a man came up to me upset about some false information. I couldn’t take it anymore. We left church in a flurry that day. I felt broken and filled with a healthy dose of despair and sadness.
I resigned the next day and we left for a few weeks to visit family and get out-of-town. I remember the confusion during that time and the anger I was feeling. I relate this to Joseph again because Joseph did not immediately see God in it, but when you get to the end of the story he attributes it all to the goodness of God. He knew God had not left him. Deep down I also knew that, it just took a little more time to get some perspective on it all.
During the summer, our son got really sick. I remember one night he was burning hot and I sat with him in the living room and prayed for him while he moaned in my arms. I just didn’t get it all. I remember that night vividly because I felt abandoned and yet I felt like God was right in the midst of it. I was starting to get the sense that God was preparing me for something else and this was part of the process. I knew that He was in control and that He loved me. It was only a matter of time before these things would start to show some purpose. God is truly good and this whole experience was not an exception to that.
This story is to be continued. As I said last week, if I have missed something or if you have a question, please ask.