Repost: Our story of coming to N.C (world’s longest blog) =)

I decided to repost this.  This is one of my very first posts.  Many ask why we planted a church and how did we know God called us to this.  So I decided to type up what was in my prayer journal. Here is the post:

i get asked a lot why we moved and why north carolina. well here it is, and not in a nutshell, more like a novel because i could not leave out any amazing details. well for about the last decade we have been doing youth ministry in Yucaipa, California. we have been trying and hoping to teach, mentor, and guide teenagers (junior high up to college). and we have absolutely loved it. we loved the unannounced visits to just hang out, the many youth trips, serving alongside these guys, and so much more. since we loved it so we really had not anticipated changing what we do. jeremy and i always joked that he could be a youth pastor but let’s NEVER do the senior pastor thing teaching adults, being the head church guy. we had also joked that we would definitely NEVER EVER church plant. that may sound like an odd term but it means to start a church somewhere from scratch. not like a cult or our own religion but a church that seeks to follow Jesus and emulate his life by loving and serving others. so since we had both already thought we established those rules for our life we found it very odd when feeling lead to do exactly what we said we would never do. a complete testament that this was not our plan at all but God’s leading. i remember when jeremy came home from church one day and he told me that he felt like God may be calling him to church plant. i was definitely shocked just as he was. we wanted to make sure this really was from God and not our own hearts’ desire (cause it definitely wasn’t our desire). The call was very shocking and scary. i even documented it in my prayer journal. my prayer journal has been so wonderful in my life. it is where i pour out my heart to God. i date and write down the things that weigh heavy on my heart. it is the tool i use to pray. because otherwise i tend to fall asleep with my eyes closed and that much silence so i write it out. sometimes it is long and sometimes just a few words. i could do a whole other blog about the pages and pages of answered prayer and how God has worked. let me know if you want me to share. anyways (tangent) i wrote back on october 29th, 2005, “i do not know what You have in store for us. but i’m excited. i pray for wisdom and clear direction. church planting?” that was after he shared that with me. i noticed a few pages back on 10-12-05 i had wrote, “i don’t know if it is me or You or both God but i feel like we won’t always be in Yucaipa. prepare us for/if You take us to a new location.” this was in 2005. we currently had my two teenage siblings living with us so we felt that we could not move until they had graduated high school (which the youngest would graduate in 2008). they had moved from michigan and we did not want to put them through another school change. so we knew we had to stay put for a few years. which was fine by us because we needed more time to pray and think about something as crazy as this. we decided to tell no one at least for two years and just pray about. i told God =) that He was gonna have to make it so stinkin obvious and to really confirm this call on Jeremy’s life before we could do this thing. we had only told our moms because we wanted them to be praying for us as well. and of course they said they knew this all along and were just waiting when God would call us away. thanks for warning us moms.=)

the first major confirmation came about nine months after we started praying for direction. jeremy had kinda formulated a list of names of people he would want to join us on this adventure of church planting. it wasn’t like he was telling God what to do but maybe trying to make a deal. he, he. =) like hey God, if i am gonna do this i can’t do it alone so could you send some with us? anyways at the top at that list was a close friend of his. but jeremy had not seen or talked to him in six months. he was overseas in thailand on a mission. they had spent many late nights dreaming and talking about their vision for what church could be. many times jeremy wanted to share his leading to plant but chose not to. we did not want to tell anyone because we did not want our youth group to catch wind of it and think we were leaving yet. and we did not want them to hear this news from anyone but us. so we had to keep a lid on it. anyways one afternoon jeremy gets a call. it is this one friend, but it is in the middle of the night in thailand. he had been laying in bed for hours not being able to sleep. he was really feeling like God wanted him to call jeremy. the thought, “call jeremy, call jeremy” would not leave him. so finally around 2:00a.m he conceded and said, “okay God if i call him will you let me sleep”. he asked jeremy what his plans were a year or two from now. jeremy was still hesitant, wanting to be vague and not let the cat out the bag too soon. so he said, “well, you know we are happy where we are, but if God calls us elsewhere then we would be open to that too”. jeremy sensed that was not clear enough for him because he wanted to know what his plans were. so his friend said, “i feel like God is calling me to do something with you.” that convinced jeremy to share that he was feeling like God was leading him to plant. his friend eagerly responded, “oh good, because i really feel like the Lord is telling me that i will be working with you”. whoa- crazy. God had used someone half way around the world in the middle of the night to confirm jeremy’s call on his life. it was really the thing that got the ball rolling for us. it gave us hope and courage to pursue this crazy dream that was put on his heart.
then two months later (9-17-06) another amazing confirmation. and still at this point only the one friend and the moms know. one sunday night after jeremy gave his message, a stranger came up to him. the man asked if he could pray for jeremy. of course jeremy let him. the man went on to pray things that he could not possibly know. the man did not know jeremy or the plans he had in his heart. he prayed that jeremy would have wisdom in the near future in making big decisions. he also prayed that jeremy and his wife would have unity in making these future decisions. i can’t remember the rest but that definitely shocked us, because this man prayed exactly what jeremy needed.
During these couple of years God continued to confirm this call. a particular verse in the Bible kept coming back to jeremy over and over. it was Genesis 12:1,”The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land i will show you.” God continually brought this verse to jeremy to the point it became comical. We had to laugh because He was making it so clear that we were going to have to leave Yucaipa, leave our comfort zone and go far away. jeremy was born and raised in Yucaipa. It didn’t matter what jeremy was reading or listening to, the verse kept returning. so many podcasts, sermons, and books. there are 66 books in the Bible, a whole lot more chapters, and even more verses so this continual pattern was no coincidence. so now we knew we were going to have to leave. that naturally caused much anxiety and fear. we have such wonderful family and friends. of course God knowing our fear He began to bring another verse to jeremy over and over. But this time he also brought this verse to me as well. it was joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” while jeremy took 20 youth and adults to south africa to serve i stayed behind because i was prego. anyways i volunteered to help in vacation Bible school. and why don’t you guess what the theme verse was. i laughed when i called jeremy in africa to tell him. God knows we were and still are scared. to leave your hometown and all your friends and family is not easy. the future is scary but also exciting to see what God has in store for us. we trust that God is gonna work mightily. this whole thing was his idea and we trust He will build his church and that it does not depend on our abilities to do so.
my sister was going to graduate june 2008 and after that point we would be free to move. so we felt that at the end of the summer we would move to North Carolina. So january of 2008 jeremy decided to share this dream with his senior pastor, Ron. he was very supportive and encouraging. we were then encouraged to go to this thing called a church planters assessment center. it was a week long trip to wisconsin. Prior to this trip we prayed and prayed that this assessment week would be a time of confirmation. either seal the deal or shut the door. we were there with four other couples who were also interested in church planting. then there was a huge team of assessors (i want to say at least ten men and women). some of these are pastors who also were church planters and also psychologists. it is basically a week long interview with these people dissecting you and intimately looking into your life. prior to coming and while there we completed several personality tests. the data was analyzed. we had group sessions where they wanted to see how we interact with others then there were also couple interviews. the assessors prayed a time for each of us. it is their desire to find our strengths and to see if church planting would be a good fit for us. All week long the comments from peers and assessors really affirmed what we had been feeling. one particular test revealed that Jeremy is a take-charge leader who could not not lead, like he was compelled to. his mom also affirmed this saying his whole life he had been a leader and peers had asked him to lead. during all the church planting exercises (where they role played and problem solved as church planters), Jeremy would leave so energized and received such satisfaction from it. yet another confirmation that he had been designed by God for this very thing. at the end of the week there is an exit interview where they share whether they believe you are cut out for this. this is no simple thing. these assessors fervently pray all week long over these couples. they assess hundreds of couples a year. our exit interview was so affirming and encouraging. the confirmation on our hearts this week was overwhelming. i guess God wanted to make it so obvious. i am glad because I asked Him to make it so clear. the Lord knew we lacked the confidence in ourselves. he showed us that He can and will use us even though we don’t feel worthy.
here is another confirmation. Jeremy had shared this decision to leave and church plant with his high school staff. afterwards one of our sponsors had shared that she felt she was experiencing a spiritually dry season, not hearing from God. but after Jeremy shared she said she felt otherwise. she had said that a month ago when she was writing an encouraging card to Jeremy she heard God telling her that we were leaving!!
hold on here is another cool confirmation from God. one of our senior girls who we have grown very close to (had her since junior high) said she dreamt we were leaving about one month before we told everyone.
one month after that assessment we were sent to Charlotte, NC (what do you know, NC, crazy, huh?) for a church planters conference. we planned after the conference to stay a few days with my sister to check out North Carolina. We knew He was calling us away (Genesis 12-story of Abram to leave his home), to step out in faith to go somewhere unknown and to leave our comfort zone. prior to this i had visited NC twice to see my sister. the first visit there I had shared with Jeremy that this feels like we are supposed to be here. couldn’t explain it just felt it in my heart. Jeremy always says he feels like God speaks to him through me and that God often speaks to me first then him. so after that first time we had months and months to keep praying about it. so we felt NC was the place but where in NC. my sister lived in Raleigh. while there Jeremy visited a local church and talked with one of the pastors and shared our vision. he came home feeling so discouraged and utterly lost. when he shared our plans the pastor made him feel like he was crazy to leave CA and to plant somewhere he doesn’t know. It is crazy but it wasn’t our idea. =) after that comment, he wasn’t doubting God’s call to plant just so unsure of the where. we both felt so lost that afternoon. we both began praying that God would reveal to us the specific where, our new city. we wanted to drive around and check neighboring cities. Amy (my sister) had taken us on a drive through Cary, Morrisville, and some others. we were still feeling so lost. we then called our moms and a friend and asked them to be praying for us to find the where. then Amy’s boyfriend wanted to show us around Durham. we were going to drive separately but he really wanted to drive together to be our tour guide. during that tour I had just an overwhelming sense that this was a right fit. to the point of such excitement and overwhelmed with emotions that the tears started to come. Jeremy felt the same way. we prayed for wisdom and direction but i did not expect to receive such a clear answer. the city is pushing to restore downtown. that was awesome because restoration is a major theme for us. it is our heart’s desire to see peoples’ lives restored spiritually and to be made complete as people. another cool thing was Durham had been a city that kept coming back to Jeremy’s mind even before this tour.
Jeremy has been reading a ton on church planting. in one of the books the author shares his story but also other common experiences from other church planters. he has a chapter on signs of a calling from God:
* prayer and Bible study- people who are called often feel God confirms His calling every time they read or pray. yep, that’s jeremy. story of Abraham and Joshua continually showing up.
* Surprise- yep, that was definitely us. God intercepted our plans with a new vision. it is funny looking back because we are doing the two things we said we would never do: church plant and do the lead pastor thing.
* Burden for the unchurched– we long to see people know the hope and love of God, and the life He can give to people.
*Godly counsel- a proper call will be accompanied by confirmation of those around you. yep, having both our moms confirm this. after sharing it with church staff there was such affirmation. one of the elders had said he always knew Jeremy would. it was not a matter of if but of when.
In that book Andy Stanley (pastor) poses this challenge to potential leaders called by God: “You’re afraid? so what. everybody’s afraid. fear is the common ground of humanity. the question you must wrestle to the ground is “Will i allow my fear to bind me to mediocrity?” you must decide to walk into the adventure for which you feel God is calling you.
you are not going to believe this next part of the story. july 24th, 2008 (about one week before we are leaving CA). this is one of those “are you kidding me?” moments. jeremy had just received a message on his cell phone with the real estate lady telling us the house we had our hearts set on just got rented. even though I had been calling them all week leaving messages because we wanted to put our deposit down. so we were bummed! (but it is all good because we love our neighborhood now) so jeremy called his best friend with the stinky news but this friend had some crazy news of his own. they had felt like God was really doing something in their lives lately. after we had dinner the week before-we were both excited, like hoping they were gonna join us in Durham. they were planning to come visit us in November for their vacation. anyways i hear jeremy hysterically laughing in the bedroom while talking to his best friend on the phone and i go to see what is so funny. i had been praying for months for this family. but 4 months ago i wrote in my prayer journal- “3/17/2008- if they are supposed to join us please confirm it on all our hearts. make it obvious.” well his friend shares that he and his wife were talking about this whole thing. and they had said if God really wants us to move to NC , he is gonna have to send us a sign. He’s gonna have to give us the call. no joke, less than a minute later – their phone rings. this is late in the evening. They don’t recognize the number so they decide not to pick it up. he decided to look up the area code (by the way this is something he has never done) on the computer because he is curious to where it is from. guess where? – Durham, NC!!!!! the next day (Wed.) the same number calls but this time on the caller ID it says, “church planting.” i am so stinkin serious. i am getting goose bumps again just typing this. don’t worry the story gets better. his wife answers and there is no answer. he tells jeremy about this the very next day (Thurs.) he had assumed that jeremy had some office in NC calling his supporters. but jeremy told him, “not at all”. we don’t have an office in NC or anyone calling our supporters. so i call his wife the next day to hear her response to all this. she also gives me more info and shares how God had been speaking to her. she said, “this may sound weird but i believe God speaks to me not necessarily audible but speaks to my heart. and Brian often feels that God speaks to me first. after returning home from a run (Mon.) i felt his presence and felt him saying, “I’m moving your family on. not sure what he meant by that. then that night we had dinner with you guys and felt so comfortable sharing and felt like we were on the same page with you guys, more so than any other time.”(crazy cause jeremy and i had said the same thing to each other) anyway the next morning she was listening to a joyce meyer podcast and the whole thing was on Genesis 12 with Abraham. then the next day when she pushed play on CD player, the song was about that story with Abraham. so later that night (tues) is when the 1st call came. next day (Wed)- 2nd call. then friday i call her to hear her share all these things with me. while she is on the phone with me she says, ” hold on, i am getting another call.” she looks to see who it is and she says, “Kimi, it is the number calling!” total goose bumps, head to toe. so she switches over (i am waiting on hold) and actually hears a recorded messsage that begins, “If you are looking for a new church in your soon to be area…” our friends had been praying that God would show them the church they should go to. i figured this would be a perfect fit since our new baby church will not have all the kids programs yet. she told me their website and i looked it up. Crazy- their senior pastor got his seminary degree at the little university we went to in southern CA. let me remind you this is a church in Raleigh that is calling a home in southern California. Generally when looking to advertise your church you do not target people almost 3,000 miles away. so i am thinking, “dude this is crazy, i gotta email the pastor and let him know how their church has been involved with some crazy answers to prayers.” i explain the phone calls and then end the email asking how they select people to call with their recorded message and do they call people in southern California often? the assistant pastor emails me back saying that this is a wild story. he says that “they do not now nor have they EVER used a recorded message to call people, and we should let our friends know it wasn’t them calling but it must have been God giving them the sign they needed!” did you get goosebumps like i did. =) another crazy part of this story, when this girlfriend told her best friend about their desire to join us, her friend was totally at peace with it. her best friend was listening to a radio sermon and it was about God moving people on and she said God brought this couple to her mind and she knew they would be leaving! this was before my friend shared anything about the move with her.
when we moved out they came out too for a week to check things out. after their time here they felt it was not the right time. i don’t know what they all discussed but they feel God was saying not yet. i do not worry about it because God will continue to lead them here if it is meant to be. even if they are not with us, it was still was an amazing encouragement to us and strengthened our belief that He was leading us here.
since being here, God is doing some cool things. i have made some wonderful friends. our neighbors are awesome! the first month we were so stinkin lonely. God truly answered my prayer for friends. no joke, after a month this place really felt like home. it was as though God moved our hearts here as well and not just our stuff. i honestly did not expect it to feel like home and so perfect for our family so soon. there will be many more blogs about all He is doing here in Durham. hold on, it is going to be an adventure!
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