The details of this post have been “out” on Social Media (Facebook and Twitter) for a few months, but in the spirit of catching up “the Blog” with what’s going on in our lives and trying to keep everything in order - I wanted to write out all the details here too. This will be the most information you’ll be able to find on this subject - without talking to us directly. On a personal note, I also wanted to write out the details of this post so that I can look back and remember the Lord’s faithfulness to us in years to come.
Oh and you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t read this post (haha just don’t be surprised if I direct you here if you ask questions that I’ve answered below!) :)
A bit of history to catch you up:
June 2011 Brad calls Noel Heikkinen, pastor of River View Church (Riv) in Lansing MI, to see what the gospel is doing in his home state. He learns about the Residency Program and hangs up the phone feeling encouraged about what Jesus is doing in Michigan and wondering if we would ever be apart of that work.
May 2012 After a friend met Noel at a conference, Brad started thinking about the Residency Program again and set up a phone call with Noel to ask more specific questions regarding the program.
After this conversation, Brad and I realize the Residency Program might be a good fit for us - providing us a way to relocate to the mid-west (a desire of our hearts), leave Harvest Bible Church (HBC) in a godly way and enable us to receive some further training before planting a church - something we’ve felt pulled toward since we started dating.
Pray, pray, pray.
Brad sets up a phone conversation with Noel to let him know we are interested in the Residency Program.
Pray, pray, pray.
August 2012 While in Michigan for a wedding, we visit Riv - hear about the church’s history, learn more about the process of the Residency Program and visit with he and his wife over lunch. They were very clear that this was an initial “Meeting” and if they felt we would be a good fit for the program we would continue with the application process. But they were going to listen to some of Brad’s sermons online and would get back to us about their decision.
Pray, pray, pray.
We received a phone call a few weeks later saying they would like Brad to fill out some Q and A paperwork, take a personality test and meet with them when we are in Michigan in October (for another wedding) to have a more formal interview.
Pray, pray, pray.
October 2012 (While in MI for another wedding) We meet with Noel and two other pastors from Riv for a interview and to go over Brad’s Q and A paper he filled out. All three pastors were very concerned with how we would leave our current church and asked us a lot of questions as to the health of HBC, if it would further the gospel if we left or if it would cause ungodly pain.
Side Note: Their concern for HBC helped me feel so comfortable - throughout this whole process our prayer has been to “Leave Pampa Well” and the fact that that was important to the leadership at Riv too was so encouraging to me. I could see that the Lord was involved in the whole process.
We received a call the next day saying “You’re in!”
Pray, pray, pray.
Brad told the Elders at HBC soon after we returned home. They gave us their blessing and together we began praying as to how to best tell the church and how to go about this transition.
Pray, pray, pray.
January 2013 We told the church body at HBC that we were going to be moving in the summer but wanted to go about the process in a godly way and would not leave them without a shepherd to care for them. Brad wrote a letter that he published online to answer any questions and inform those who may not have been in attendance on the Sunday we made the announcement (to read the letter, click here)
The church’s response was so encouraging - we received overwhelming, “Thank you for going about this in the right order” and “We are so excited for the way’s God is moving in Pampa and in you!” I was holding it together until I was kissed on the head by one of our elders - and then I fell apart. I could not have asked for a better elder team to lead with my husband, protect me as a pastor’s wife and serve along side us. We love the people of Pampa and are so sad to leave. Moves like this are very bitter-sweet.
I'm so thankful that Jesus' work here in Pampa isn't tied to us but will continue long after we leave.
What is the Residency Program?
So what is the Residency Program? It is a salaried, year-long training/equipping program that will prepare us to plant a church. The leadership at Riv will walk with us through the process of confirming we are the "Type" of individuals who CAN plant a church (Personality profiling, spiritual gifting ect.), they will help us choose a location, build a core team and raise support.
80% of Brad’s work load will be “directed study” for the first 6ish months. They will give him books to read, papers/church documents to write, tasks to complete - and allow him to supplement 20% of his time with things he feels are important for his training and the future church. Over the course of the year those percentages will flip-flop as he takes more initiative for what he does in preparation and they take a supporting role.
This fall begins year 3 of the Residency Program. Riv has had 2 planters in the program each year. There has been a church planted in Philadelphia, PA, and a supporting pastor sent to a church in Chicago. Currently there are planters headed to Flint, MI, and St Pete, FL at the end of this summer. We have connected with the other family we will be training with this fall and are excited about meeting face to face and learning along side them.
Where do we want to plant?
There are a few options, Riv has encouraged us not to make a final decision until we can be in Lansing and process these things with them. Not only for our sake but for HBC’s sake too - allowing us to remain focused on what the Lord has us doing NOW, here in Pampa.
Option #1: Michigan somewhere - vague I know. ;) Riv wants to see churches planted in Michigan. They have a clear desire to see the gospel take over the people of their state. With that information in mind, we are VERY open to Michigan. Brad grew up there, he knows the people and let’s face it - Michigan is beautiful. :) We like the idea of the Grand Rapids area - we know a number of people from school who are living in the area who might be interested in joining us. Brad’s parents live about 45 minutes away and the idea of having family-support is very appealing to us (we feel we’ve been family-starved for the past few years). We’ve thought about Detroit too, the idea of being a part of what the gospel is capable of doing for a city that is so beaten down is exciting. We’ve also thought about other suburban-feeling communities, we simply just don’t know and can’t know without being there.
Option #2: We have a very special place in our hearts for Chicago. We’ve lived there and see the need for the gospel to transform lives. We also have a number of friends in the city who have expressed interest in joining us, if we do plant in the city. These individuals would be part of our core team - and we would SO appreciate their help. We have other connections in Chicago that we feel would be helpful, but are unsure if this is simply where WE want to go - because it’s a cool place to be and we know a bit more what to expect - and want to confirm that this is where the Lord can best use us.
So to answer the question, we don’t know yet. We are trying to be open to where the Lord leads, seeking wisdom and working on thinking through all the details. Would you pray with us that we would find a location that “fits” us and where Jesus can use us to spread his gospel?
Our plan moving forward:
Our house is on the market, we’ve listed it with a realtor after working hard to finish projects and get it updated. (I have LOTS of house-updates to share in the next weeks!) Pray our home sells quickly? If it sells before we are ready to move, we will put the majority of our stuff in storage and move into the church “apartment” we lived in for a few months when we first arrived.
After months of prayer and conversations HBC announced today that Brian T. and his family (who are amazing - but that’s an entirely different blog post!) will be stepping into the pastoral role at HBC. The T. family has been involved in our church for almost a year, they have past ministry experience and are passionate about the Word of God, people knowing and loving Jesus and the church having an impact on their community. There is unity among the elders and excitement about what the gospel can continue to do through Jesus’ people in Pampa. Brad and Brian are going to work together over the next months, to make the transition as smooth and seamless as possible.
Our hope is to arrive in Lansing early to mid July. Riv has recommended we move early enough to settle in as a family before Brad begins work on August 1st and we hope to do that. We plan on renting for a year in Lansing and buying another fixer-upper wherever we decide to plant - Part of me looks forward to a year with no house-projects, but I know I’ll be itching to DIY again once the year is up! :)
Well friends, that is our update. If you have any questions - please don’t hesitate to ask! We are so excited about the future and are encouraged by God’s faithfulness to our family and to His church.