I keep telling myself, I have been through this before. I am not new to church planting. This is the third church plant that Jason and I have been a part of helping to start. During the first, in Oakville, where we lived and grew up, we learned and watched others pour their lives into their new community. We loved what God was doing and joined in. After four years, God began to call our hearts to Milton and we left that church that we loved and moved our family to a new place to share with others what we had found. For the next six years we worked with our friends, Jim and Joy to plant another church. We love our church in Milton and so when God began to work in our hearts for Hamilton I wrestled with God. I stomped my feet. I reasoned. I cried. Having done this twice now, I knew what it took to plant a church from nothing. To find a new house, to get a house ready to sell, to help kids leave their friends and get a family settled in a new place, to leave my friends and my safe church family, to go without a salary and financial security, all the while never losing sight of God. But the burden for the people of Hamilton got stronger. Finally, my fears and concerns began to pale in comparison to the fact that I did not want to miss God. I surrendered.
So nine months ago, we moved into our new house, in our new city. I have been through the honeymoon stage of discovering my community and the amazing things of living in an urban centre. Having only one car in our house I love the freedom of being able to walk everywhere. We met lots of neighbours on our street and everyone seems to know one and other. It didn't feel like a big city and actually reminded me of a small town where people borrow sugar or milk when they run out and the egg man delivers right to your door, bright and early on Wednesday mornings. In the warmer weather, people sit on their porches and watch the kids play in the streets. Our kids made friends and declared they love it here. Jason started to meet people, build trust and have spiritual conversations. God began to provide for our financial needs in miraculous ways. We began to see again how He is never late. Sometimes right close to the wire but we have never missed a mortgage payment! Those first few months were full of discovering, learning and responding in joy to God.
The fall hit and homeschooling started. We opened our home to a Korean student and my days were filled with laundry, making meals for seven, schooling kids from ages 6-16, teaching our new student English, helping her to feel at home here in a new country, explaining to her who Jesus was and trying to help and support Jason to plant the church. The new year brought another student from Korea to learn about Jesus and English. Eight living in our house plus our two crazy dogs. Even for me this was a crowd. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I was running until I fell into bed at night. I felt like I could never catch up.
In the fall, I knew we were through the honeymoon phase and I was missing my family, my friends, my church family and Sunday morning worship in Milton. We spent and still spend Sunday mornings trying to meet people out and about in the neighbourhood. I missed gathering together as a corporate body (larger than our family) to open God's word together and to sing praises of thankfulness. The pendulum was swinging and all I could feel was the darkness of our new city. I was and still am overwhelmed by the poverty, addiction, mental health issues and homelessness of those who just live a few streets over. There is a 20 year difference in life expectancy between my neighbourhood and the one in the next postal code. How is that possible? I cannot forget about the people who come in the middle of the night and pick through my recycling bins to look for bottles and cans to return. Or the people who aimlessly wander through the streets having no place to go. I have no experience with any of these poverty driven issues that affect so many of our neighbours. I grew up in the suburban safety of a middle class Christian home with parents that were cheer leaders for everything that I tried to accomplish. I have nothing in common with those on the margins of society and in comparison my life has been perfect. Why didn't God call someone more qualified?
To others in our city, Jesus is a bad word used only by crazy fanatics who want to push their fundamental agenda on the rest of society. Some people looked at us like we were uneducated and just didn't understand real life. They were polite but I could feel their pity and their immense disapproval. Their firm belief that churches are exclusive and closed minded overshadowed any conversation that we would have. I was feeling like a square peg in a round hole. What was I doing here? The small victories, the start of our first house church and the quiet way God was moving was being crowded out in my heart and mind. The immensity of the task that we have been given was crushing my spirit. How can one family proclaim Jesus and bring His best to our city of over five hundred thousand?
"For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens." Ephesians 6:12
I knew in my mind that this was the battle that was being fought but my heart....oh my heart is still slow to learn. What do you do when your heart will not recognize the unseen? When your mind knows that God is faithful, that He equips the called, that He works best when we lean into Him and can not rely on our own ingenuity. My mind knows that I need to be less and He needs to be more but my heart...oh my heart is slow to learn, it is often distracted and discouraged and forgets easily. And so I keep reading God's word, I memorize Jesus instructions, they are becoming my mantra when I can not see the unseen. I stay on me knees, recognizing that I need Him in every moment, big and small, and everyday I look intentionally for His gifts. They are always there and have always been there I just need to look.
The pendulum is swinging back again, more to the middle. God's joy is bubbling up around me. My eyes are seeing the unseen. Jesus is moving in people, changing lives and making Himself known. Even in the exhausting business of our daily life, His light is breaking through the darkness. And even on days when my heart is still slow to respond, I know that God is working, still faithful in the work that He has begun in me and through even this has given me something to share.