Let me give you some perspective on what has been going on in our life the last five months. I will share these things with the hope that you will remember to pray for us (Naomi and I understand more now then ever how much we need prayer partners for the work He has called us to do) and so you can fully rejoice with us in coming weeks as we share about what is going on.
The spiritual warfare has been off the charts…at least off my previous charts I should say! It’s been five long, emotionally demanding months and I am not the same man I was when we moved into “the cave”. The plan was very simple…we would move into this shell for a few weeks while the bank finished up the loan process and by the end of the summer the work will be done. Oh how wonderful are our plans, aren’t they? A few days before the church was to close on the small renovation loan we got the call that it was suddenly being turned down. Great…this was going to set us back a couple more weeks…or so we thought.
We tried several other banks and everything always looked “great” until the last moment and then it would fall apart. That takes a toll…because this whole time we’ve been living in a cave with high speed internet, cable TV and a finished bathroom…that’s it! And friends…I’ll be posting more pics later this week…the word “cave” is the best way to describe the parsonage this whole time. No carpet or flooring, exposed walls and the lights don’t turn on in half the house! The roof was a disaster when we moved in and up until about three weeks ago when we were able to hire a crew to replace the whole roof, water would just pour into where my office will be every time it rained! All we could do is tarp that part of the roof and we kept that door closed! Of course things got very exciting for about a week when the weather started to get cold and the furnace had still not been replaced! So I had an electric heater in the basement near the pipes and one in our “bedroom” at night when we slept for about a week. Excitement galore! Thank God we were able to get a brand new furnace (95% efficient!) and a brand new wood burning insert into the fire place! While not as exciting…the heating of this home is no longer an issue!
The first week we had no water and therefore no toilet, thank God for the gas station around the corner! After a week a toilet was going yet we still could not shower here for another three or four weeks…Naomi slept at her grandparents for at least the first month and I slept here with the dogs! I had to drive twenty minutes to shower and twenty minutes back every day for a month! That sure kept the day from dragging!
Of course after all of that…about a week after the water system was installed and the shower was usable…and Naomi had starting sleeping here…the house was broken into while I was at lunch (broad day light) and all the copper plumbing was ripped out and stolen from the basement, our brand new TV was stolen and all our stuff was rummaged through. SO…the insurance company did pay for the repairs to the pluming and put us up in hotel for the week it took to repair the pluming…but what a hassle! I sent Naomi back to her grandparents and I stayed in the hotel with the dogs! Oh, believe you me…it was great fun! Remember…the whole time I’m still running my legs off preaching all over the place and being the pastor at Southside. I hate to admit it…but much of that was in my own strength and God showed me how quickly He can evaporate ones emotional reserves. Thank you Lord.
Keeping my weight under control has been very difficult…I struggle with gluttony. Please pray for me. You see…it’s been five months with no kitchen…just a small microwave. We’ve had friends offer to lend us hot plates and other tools used basically for camping…but the problem is that we don’t have a reasonable way to do dishes. So it’s been microwave meals, paper plates and plastic forks, fast food and restaurants for five straight months…that adds up both in $$$ and in calories when you’re not careful. And the last couple months have been much harder for me to be careful…I’m really struggling especially now that it is cold and there is not as much outside work to do to burn off excessive calories…so please pray for me.
To top all of this off, I will not get into even the most remote of details…but Naomi and I have now twice dealt with the severe pain of losing close personal friendships in the ministry, right in the midst of all this craziness we’ve been going through in “the cave”. I guess I’ve let the stress of all of this get to me and my frailties have been more obvious to those people most close to us. I’m ok with the lack of grace I feel like has been extended to me…because grace is after all, not deserved. But it upsets me how these broken relationships have hurt Naomi so much. She didn’t do or say anything wrong.
Why, you might ask, in the WORLD are you guys there (or still there, maybe)? Because, God called us to start a second church right here and He told us to move into this parsonage and to not leave till our part of the mission is complete. That’s it…I can’t explain it any other way. Of course when we finally acknowledged God was calling us to this, Southside was not finished yet and nor is it finished now. (In fact during ALL of this Southside has been rediscovering and better understanding our calling and I will be shortly making a very cool announcement regarding the next chapter of Southside. Stay tuned.) But I’m a firm believer that the principles set in the early days of a church will have long lasting effects in the future and it was the vision from day one to plant a church that plants churches. Southside was also planted with the vision of being a risk taking church and a church not abounding in comforts…so we just dove. Of course I wish I had taken this jump more seriously and been more intentional early on about prayer…and boy have I learned that lesson the hard way. I guess I can’t learn my lessons any other way…that’s been the story of my life it seems. But I praise God for the back of the woodshed…He must really love me.
So now you can imagine the joy that filled our hearts when…FINALLY…after a last minute scare (a whole other story for another day)...on behalf of ‘Eastside Baptist Church’, I signed the paperwork for the loan which will pay for the renovations in both the parsonage and church building! We’ve done every “cheap” or even “free” project one could imagine these past five months but NOW the big projects have started! We are going to have a KITCHEN soon…and room by room this one hundred and fifty year old cave is going to become a beautiful one hundred and fifty year old home! As we the living room and family room done all our furniture can be moved from the church building and into the house…which will then allow us to rally all the churches who have assured us volunteers to get the church building remodeled…and, Lord willing (trust me…mapping this mission out on a calendar has been a fools errand thus far), we will finally be able to invite the neighbors over, begin Bible studies and activities in the early spring of 08! Who knows…maybe we’ll be celebrating the public launch of Coram Deo Community Church in the fall of 2008?
I will finally say that I truly praise God for Naomi. She has not simply tolerated the madness of the calling God has on me…and the way “I” get in the way and complicate already hard situations…she has encouraged me every step of the way. I think all she would have had to have done is complained once or twice and I would have totally questioned everything and easily justified getting the heck out of here. It wouldn’t have taken much from her to get me to turn everything back to the Association…after all…I have to take care of my wife, right? But she is in this 100% and would be mad if I suggested leaving! She is as sure and as committed as I am! She’s been through all of this AND has a career of her own! Naomi is tuff, she complains very little…and she gets up every morning like a female gladiator and fights! But her fighting style is very unique...she is always goofing around, smiling, telling jokes and is just plain pleasant to be around. The girl has had health problems yet never misses work, ever. Her crazy preacher husband has her living in a cave and she does not complain. She trusts me and honors me and encourages me. I love her so much…and I respect her even more.
NOW…when we have our “open house celebration” you all BETTER be here and see this thing when it’s done!
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 niv