I know processing what God is doing and all the emotions that come with it, can be overwhelming. I am very thankful for all those individuals who may have questions that contact me directly. Please know, I would be glad to speak with anyone who has any questions about what God is doing in our lives. A church member and dear friend emailed me with some questions and in answering her questions I shared a brief testimony of our call to NYC. That testimony now edited for the blog is below:
I want to try to answer your specific questions as well as I can and give you as clear of a picture of my calling as possible. First let me begin with our calling. When Susan and I got married in September of 2004, I joined her in New Bruswick, NJ right outside of NYC to work with a church plant that she had helped start. I also got to work in Manhattan a couple of days a week. During this time we heard about the strategic nature of NYC in God’s global purposes and were blown away. Of course we were amazed with the glitz of NYC like most people, but were gripped that there are 20+ million people in the NY Metro area. We heard that there were 8.5 million people in NYC and 66,000 people every square mile in Manhattan. We heard about the more than 170 languages spoken in NYC…and we got to experience and live among the millions of people loved by God that live in NY Metro area. My heart was sold from day one on why it is incredibly strategic in reaching the world for Christ, to engage NYC. When we returned we shared with Bill Graham that we wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up there. He was excited, but I still had seminary and was in no hurry and had no specific calling. By God’s good providence He opened a door for us to begin travelling back and forth to preach @ FBC in the contemporary service. God has put a deep loyalty in our hearts to our home church. We were excited to be an agent of rebuilding during a difficult time. Our work was filled with great joy immediately! We then came on full time. I consider it a rare and high privilege to get to preach to the people who taught me how to walk with Jesus. Wow! Last October (as I was in the crunch of trying to finish Hebrew) my mind became consumed with NYC. I thought it was an escape mechanism to try to get away from Hebrew, but I couldn’t focus, so I started journaling. During this time, I had the privilege of hearing my Mom give her testimony at MOPS, two days after her reconstructive surgery. (She should not have been giving a talk.) I did not realize how I would share in her victory that day. She ended her talk by saying “I am a breast cancer survivor!” When we moved to Clarksville, Mom had just had her double mastectomy and was beginning Chemo. It was great medicine to her bringing our new born baby boy to Clarksville. But when she gave that testimony, God whispered to my heart that Mom is going to be okay now, whether I am here or not. A few days later my grandmother entered the nursing care facility. This was a huge personal chapter in our life coming to a close, as every Thursday night we had been staying with Grandma at her house. She has Alzheimer’s. These two things were small personal chapters in our life coming to a close. Fast forward about 6 months, and I get an email from a missionary friend in NYC asking if I could preach for him this summer some time. He later shared his intention that he was hoping to “kick the tires” from some talks we had had in the past about doing ministry in NYC with them, so we began to talk. I had lots of questions about the nature of the work he was interested in us being involved in. Shortly after this, I was at a conference listening to wonderful men of God preach. (I’ve always heard about people saying, “God gave them a verse” and half the time I thought that was bogus, and half the time I’ve thought, “i wish He’d give me a verse.”) Well at this conference God applied Phil 1:6 to my heart in a powerful way. He told me that it was His promise for FBC and that His work in FBC was not contingent upon me and that it was arrogant to think that it might be. I didn’t know to what or when God was releasing me, but I knew as He applied that to my heart that if/whenever he calls me, I can say yes. I don’t think without that clear of a word from the Lord I would ever have left FBC, because I love the people there so deeply. We continued to explore the NYC possibility; we spent time praying, fasting and seeking counsel. I flew up to Philly and met with my missionary friend from NYC to explore what God may be doing. I still had lots of questions. Conversations continued as I continued to seek the Lord. I took another trip, this time to NYC June 17-19th. It was shortly after this trip that God confirmed for Susan and Me that He was calling us to be church planting missionaries in NYC with the Gallery Church of Manhattan. Once our call was confirmed and clear, I shared it with Brother Roger on June 24th. Later that day we contacted Susan’s doctor to see if she was clear to transition at the first of October. This was an enormous step of faith for us, because it entails raising our initial salary for 3-5 years. It has been quite providential that we’ve been preaching through Hebrews and landing in chapter 11. I have desperately needed these meditations on faith. So though the timing made no sense to me, I was meditating on and preaching about when God asked Noah to do something that made no sense, and when God asked Abraham to do something that made no sense at all…and though I did not and do not understand, he has helped us say yes to Him. This is not the timing that I would have chosen for FBC or for my family, but this is the timing I believe that God has appointed for us. I am grateful for the promise that He gave me for the people of FBC from Phil 1:6, otherwise, I don’t think I could have ever said yes to his call, for my love for the people of FBC.
I hope this is helpful for some who may have questions on “where did this come from?” There have probalby been hundreds of other nudges from God to bring us to the place that we are able to leave the comforts of family, friends, and FBC. The nurturing love of FBC has helped us trust the love and sovereignty of God so deeply, to be able to say yes to Him today. Please do not hesitate to give me a call. I’d love to share with you more about what we believe God is going to use us to do in NYC!
One last beautiful (and critical) piece about this whole thing is that my precious wife Susan who is pregnant with twins, due December 15th has been on board with this 100%. We had this confirmed in our hearts together. I’m sure very soon she’ll be posting her personal thoughts over on our family blog.