Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This Is It

This is it - all the time we've been preparing for, at least 18 months, is upon us.

This is it - all the prayer that has gone into a huge life transition has been fulfilled.

This is it - all the conversations about "our future in Portland" are over because the reality is we are IN Portland.

This is it - we have uprooted from many loved ones, many loved places, and many loved memories in order to follow the call of God for me to continue my education.

This is it - all my optimism about school, about studying, and about diving into the community of seminary are going to be put to the test to see if we will really go for it.

This is it - there are many uncertainties that only God knows and we need to trust that He has not only prepared us for the move itself but for our entire experience we are going to have.

This is it - my aspirations about seeking the Lord in a new place, and about loving my wife well while we experience this together is real.

This is it - I'm not sure what surprises are around the corner, but that's the thing about corners... you NEVER know what's around them!

This is it - God is good, He is with us even now, he will provide both the resources for me to finish and the relationships we need to grow, and he will surprise us along the way.

This is it. And not in the Michael Jackson movie kind of way, but in the Chris Ritter kind of way (whatever that means!). We are supported by the prayers of people all over the place, and especially in California. Right now some of them may wish we will come back soon and some of them are thinking this day couldn't have come soon enough. But either way, we are covered in love and are feeling it strongly. We know we will prevail, even though there will be suffering, because we have a God who always makes sure we do. We'll stumble, we'll fail, we'll succeed and we'll rejoice. But whatever the outcome after this, I must say that I'm happy this time has come and God has really made this all happen. I'm immensely grateful for this opportunity and I'm sad to be gone from so many wonderful people all at the same time.

We love you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Sitting in an airport and waiting for a flight always reminds me of two things about our world: it is incredibly diverse, and it is amazing that I'm about to fly. I think airports show you the most interesting and unique people you'll ever see all crammed into one place with nothing to do but wait. Directly across from me is a family with 3 kids, for example - one looks to be about 20, another maybe 15, and another about 12. I just found out (because I can hear them talk) that they are with their grandparents. Where are they flying? Home? Vacation? Visiting relatives? The options are endless. As people walk to and fro, I wonder what they are thinking about too - are they excited to go home, bummed they are traveling for work again, glad they get to leave their kids for a few days, flying to a funeral? Again the options are endless. Then there's the part of the game that is slightly more judgmental... trying to figure out what they do for a living, how much money they have or don't have, and what their interests or talents are. I don't always go there, but usually Noelle and I will if we are waiting together; but, alas, I'm flying alone for the first time in years.
Second, I think about the amazing reality of flying. Have you ever looked up at a plane flying overhead and realized there's maybe 150 or more people in that thing? What looks like the size of your fingernail is actually huge, heavy, and somehow flying through the air at an incredible speed. For most of human history nothing like that has been seen flying through the air (unless you believe in UFO's, in which case you'd say it's been happening a while), but for the past 100+ years it's become more and more common, and now we can't imagine life without the ability to fly. I mean, I'll be flying to San Diego, 530 miles away, and will get there in just over an hour. An hour! Ridiculous. Awesome. I love flying.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Endings and New Beginnings

Leaving things you love is remarkably difficult. Knowing that the decision is the right one doesn't make it any easier, though this is the situation I find myself in. Four years ago I was given an opportunity to begin a youth group at a new church, a church that I knew very little about except that they were excited to just have someone be the youth pastor of their kids. So we started out with a handful of kids, quite a bit of prayer, and an adventurous spirit. What has transpired since June of 2006 has been a miraculous journey filled with friendships, salvation, reconciliation, joy, and some heartache mixed in as well to be sure. But all along the way it has been worth it every moment.
I was 22 when I took the job at Providence Bible Church, feeling quite youthful as a recent college graduate. I was also very hopeful that I'd be able to see some quick growth in the youth group... you know, somewhere in the 40-50 student range. Funny thing was, that wasn't what God had planned and it honestly wasn't at all what I needed. Those first few months were filled with quite a bit of anxiety, as I was unfortunately equally as interested in being cool in the kids' eyes as I was with honoring the Lord with what kind of ministry was happening. But slowly, given some time and patience on the part of the Lord, I grew. And with me, my wife, the adult volunteers, and the students. That first year we saw quite a few new faces, and by God's grace many of them stuck and became foundational moving forward. The Regans, Shelnutts, Jackie, Stordahls, and more were added beyond the original students at the church, all of whom God used in my life to encourage and strengthen me. Losing that first batch of seniors was far more difficult than I thought it would be. After just one year, I was shocked at how attached I'd become to these kids - I'll never forget just flat out breaking down as I was trying to talk at their graduation party.
The youth group continued to gain momentum over the next couple of years, as we had just one lone senior in the group in '07-08. That was a phenomenal time in the ministry - kids maturing, inviting friends to events, thinking of ways to serve, establishing a student ministry leader team, and so on. It was a pleasure meeting with kids one on one, or in groups, or however I could - going to football games, school plays, and the like. The Lord was so faithful to provide adult leaders who loved the students as well - whenever one good adult leader would step down for whatever reason, we'd see another one or two take their place soon thereafter.
As I look back on this past year, I really see the fruit of the past 4 years mixed in with the seeds planted for the next 4. Students who were 10 when I arrived are now entering high school; 7th and 8th grade guys from that original junior high group are now juniors and seniors. I'm blown away at the unity of this group and the way it has come to mean so much to them, and so much to Noelle and I. Even though we believed God was preparing us well in advance (He knows our dependency on some forewarning with these things!) for the next phase of our lives, we loved the students deeply and wanted to see them continue to grow. We've seen new families plugging in just like what was happening in '06, and now they have a great new leader in Steve to have their kids pastored by. I'm eternally grateful for the work God has done, the way we've been loved, and the send off that is happening even now.
No, it will not be easy to leave, even though we know the timing is right. But God is moving at PBC and is not going to stop doing so once we're gone. Truth be told, I believe the influx of new couples, families, and leadership is only going to spark more mission in the church and more unity in the body. It will be beautiful to hear about how things are going, even if from 600 miles north. We will not leave without tears and aching hearts. But we will leave hopeful for our lives that God is leading and the life of this great family at PBC.