On Thursday I received a call that Family Christian Stores in Portage, Michigan (where my wife and I are looking to join others in beginning a new church movement) wanted me to come in for a job interview for an assistant manager. Granted, it would mean selling pink pens with Jesus' name on them, but since I've been praying about whether or not I need to be bi-vocational as a church planter I took this as something I at least needed to check out.
Portage is about an hour or so away from Holland (where we currently live), so any trips there need to be strategic since gas prices are what they are. A month ago my family and I popped down to look at a few houses and apartments for rent, just to get a feel for the area. We didn't see much that would work, and have been wondering how the timing would all pan out. Since we've been itching to honor our goal with my in-laws (whom we live with) that we would aim to move out after the end of April, we've been praying about whether or not that means moving to Portage before or after our official assessment process (May 8-10) with our district/denomination.
My ingenious wife found some great houses for us to look into throughout the day, including one in particular that we felt especially drawn to. Its price was reasonable, not to mention the fenced in yard for our dog (whom we are currently not able to have live with us), plenty of play room in the basement for our kids, three bedrooms plus office space for me, and it's location in Portage. The real estate agent showing us the home really seemed to like us and gave us an application to fill out for rental. Since the house had just gone on the market the day before, we knew we'd have to act quickly. Everything hinged on my interview with Family Christian Stores.
And so the interview went well... sort of. I wasn't convinced that it is what I'm supposed to do. At this point, I can only imagine... well, being a church planter. But it's been a year... a year of my family waiting on God, not to mention needing to rediscover its own identity. And so I gave it some space for prayer and contemplation. Either way, though, I won't hear back if I got it for another couple of weeks.
Which brings me back to the house. Katie and spoke a bit about our finances and how it just wasn't possible to do the lease. Since the house market for rentals go quickly, waiting two weeks for a job and hoping the place was still available wasn't possible. In light of our current finances, it meant giving up the dream of the day.
And so I picked my wife up and shared the situation, bringing both of us into the reality that it just wouldn't work for us to move at this time. That meant giving up the house and settling back into the reality of being stuck in "no answers" land a bit longer. As we began the drive back to see the real estate agent, we found ourselves on a very heavy journey... wondering if God was messing with us or not, not to mention all the questions that go with that.
"Can we see the house one last time?" Katie asked.
"Sure," I said, pulling down the street and taking us over to where it was. We prayed in front of it, as Katie asked God to help us feel released from it if we need to. Otherwise, he'd have to provide (in her words) "a miracle."
A few minutes later we headed over to the real estate office. I don't know when the idea actually hit me, but somewhere just before it just did. I didn't want to tell Katie about it, though, just in case her hopes would get up one more time about something impossible. As we pulled into the parking lot and headed in, I rolled the dice through some quick prayers.
Steve, our agent, met us and was enthusiastic to get our application. I mentioned that we needed to chat first, and so he found a place for us to meet. Sitting across the table from him and with my unsuspecting wife by my side, I began my Donald Trump-ish sales pitch.
"Steve, I want you to know what our situation is. I don't have a guaranteed job at this point other than the possible church planting option I told you about earlier and the local business I interviewed with today. As we've looked at our finances, we have enough money in our savings combined with a few opportunities in our future to afford only a few months worth of rent. I know the house just went on the market yesterday and this is all highly irregular, but I'd like to ask you to consider renting the house to us for three months."
I felt my wife's head spinning next to me, and yet I continued.
"It's a good move for you in that we will be incredible tenants in the next three months. If it works out that we stay in the area, we will more than likely continue renting. If not, it will be August 1st and still the beautiful part of summer. I'm confident showing the house to new people wouldn't be an issue at all. Would you consider this?"
Steve pulled back from the table... the wheels in his head were turning. I don't know what he was processing, but as a seasoned agent he probably went through years of experience in a snapshot. After a few seconds, he said something quite unreasonable. "Okay... yeah... I think I can do that. Sure."
I couldn't believe it and began smiling as I looked over at my wife. Her head had stopped spinning (thankfully returning into its normal position). Her amazing eyes, on the other hand, were as wide as Frisbees.
And so we're moving to Portage. A real estate agent made a very bad professional decision to rent to a family without any job but seem to have this dream for a new church in the area. Even though he'd shown the house to two other people the first day it had been listed publicly, he gave us the green light. I mean, that just doesn't happen, does it?
Nice story, huh?
By the end of the day, an outside source that God clearly worked in and through provided us a check for the exact amount of our first three month's rent.
(Please read that last sentence again.)
On Sunday after I was done preaching I had two families in the church provide us with financial support. Enough for moving expenses.
Gets even better.
Today I received an email about a family in Portage who is looking for a church. Turns out the mom has heard me preach at GCC and wants me to call on her kids. Also, during our psychological assessment last week (which I'll blog about later - for now read Steve Thompson's summation) we learned of a family who is also looking for a home church and can't find one. Then my wife found out that there is another family moving to that area soon... and they are looking for a connection.
And so whether or not we get approved to do the church plant, all I know is that I've seen the hand of God. It might be foolish because I have yet to be approved by my district/denomination for the project. But hey... if faith is required before the miracles Jesus performed in the Bible, then maybe I need it, too.
Imagine a dream that is so big the only way it can succeed is if God is in it. And so the journey of chasing down the daylight continues... prayers totally coveted and welcome.
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"
When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
"Yes, Lord," they replied.
Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"