Monday, December 13, 2010

How We Got To Salt Lake City...

 Our new community Missio Dei  in SLC

edited from a post written on Dec 13, 2009

Not long before we moved to Portland, Kyle told me he was feeling his heart shaped to being part of a church plant.  It was a slightly surprising thought to me, mainly because I didn’t feel like we had enough experience.  But it also made sense that this was something God would call us to do somewhere in the future, so I allowed myself to remain open minded about the timing.  We really only knew how to do church one way and a large part of coming to Portland was our desire to live out the Gospel differently.  Part of that difference was the desire to enter into an intentional community where those same values were being lived out. We had all these ideas, pretty radical ideas - ideas we felt were Gospel inspired and that God had been placing in us and shaping us with over the previous few years.
So we followed God and moved, anticipating what He would show us.  And as God does, He answered our prayers beyond what could have ever been expected with a new church family at Imago Dei Community.  From the start we were given humble and hardworking volunteer groups to serve with, loving pastors and staff to meet with, tightly knit home communities to visit and participate in, strong leaders and teachings that challenged us, vision and mission and core values that genuinely guided and artfully were woven into every ministry that was birthed out of the church.

And the people!  All of the people and friends and best friends and community who’s love and total dependence on Christ their Savior was so raw and beautiful, that it poured out and into our lives in a way that only God could provide - all of these are just a glimpse of the what and who God gave us in Portland.  In the midst of two of the roughest years of our lives surrounding the loss of my dad and dog, these were two of the most wonderfully filling ones I can imagine.

So when Kyle told me that one of our best friends from Vegas had felt led by God to tell Kyle about an upcoming meeting in Salt Lake City to discuss future church plants, my feelings were a little rocked.  Because of his background, Kyle told me he was only going to give perspective on the area and just be open to what God might, in the smallest chance be calling us to, and I agreed he should go.  So starting that night, I told him I needed to get out all the reasons why I didn’t want to leave Portland, just in case.  I wasn’t verbal with my fears, anxiety, and confusion when we moved to Portland, so I wanted to do it differently this time. I have learned that the more honest I can be outside of my head with everything going on inside of my head, the more healing and forward progress seems to occur.  God seems to bless my honesty, transparency, and vulnerability with his Truth.  Not just knowledge of his Truth, but the actual feeling, believing, and indwelling of his Truth.  So Kyle went to the meeting and after the fact it didn’t seem like anything was happening.  We prayed through it, but felt uncomfortable and no leading to move forward. 

So on an afternoon walk in Lents park by our house, Kyle and I discussed all of this for a final time and felt the great sense of relief believing we were going to stay in Portland.  But it was far from final time, as later that day Kyle got a call from Paul.  He had met Paul at the SLC meeting a couple month before and had told me when he got home how he had resonated with Paul's philosophy and personality.  Paul happened to be the president of the Orchard Group, a church planting organization from the New York.  He told Kyle he’d really like us to consider partnering with them and leading a plant in Salt Lake City, or wherever we felt God was leading us to go.  So just hours after what we thought was the decision to stay, we both decided we needed to start praying about going.

So we prayed and that led to us feeling like we needed to bring our church leaders into the praying with us.  We had shared it from the start with a couple close friends in our community and the coming response from our church leaders was nothing short of God’s work.  They had been building up Kyle from the start to plant a church, and although we all thought that would be in Portland, it made no difference to their support that it would be in SLC. 

It wasn’t surprising to me that they would respond in this way given the way they had lived their faith out to us in the previous year, but it was still amazing and did not go unnoticed. Our church has been closer than family to us, and so the love, protection, and guidance they gave us, was exactly what we desired.  

We believe that Jesus is the Light of the world, and He commissioned the church to also be that Light, and so practically to have them journey along with us in the searching and seeking of God’s will was a picture of this Light lived out.  And so we journeyed.  We prayed and we read and we talked and we continued to feel like God was leading us more and more to SLC.  The Orchard Group came out to meet with our Elders and it went better than well. There were so many places this all seemed to have the potential for stopping, like in this meeting, but instead it just launched us forward.  

We continued to pray as we enjoyed one of the best summers of my life in Portland, and amongst the summer concerts, beach and mountain hikes, and the PSU farmers markets, it became crystal clear and undeniable that God was indeed calling us to Salt Lake City.  I continued to mourn the loss of this city, and felt the need to tell everyone just how much I loved it here.  I’m an intensely loyal person, and when a city has felt more like home to me in 2 short years, compared to the city I lived in for 29 years, it’s got my heartstrings attached. Portland is my people.  But so far more than that is my desire to follow God.  I came to terms with that fact that staying in Portland would only be to gratify myself, and moving to Salt Lake City to plant this church is what God was asking.  And if He was calling us elsewhere, than He would provide all that He was asking for and would bless me so much more than what I could get ever from Portland alone.

In September we prepared and went to a church planting assessment center in Baltimore, MD.  It was grueling to prepare and we had only 2 weeks to do it.  Preparation encompassed two 175 question psychological tests, a personality test, a spiritual gifts assessment, a behavioral test, and 15 pages of long essay type questions (that’s 15 pages of questions before the answers) that got to the core of your beliefs, your issues, and all the stuff in between.  And meanwhile I had the stress of putting my two weeks notice in at work because they wouldn't give me the time off.  But somehow we completed all of it and I felt confident God would provide for us despite the loss of my job.  When we got there, our first meeting was with a psychologist and the following days were completely packed from about 8am to midnight+ with group activities where we where we had assessors watching our every move. My personality lends itself to always being up for a challenge; so grueling as it was, I loved it. And the affirmation we received from people who didn't know us and didn't owe us anything - assessors and others being assessed with us - was incredible.  

I never expected to be given so much encouragement, support, and confirmation through these folks.  Along side this, I was also surprised by a shift in my own heart.  Earlier in the summer, Kyle had read me an article about Tim Keller, pastor in NYC, who's wife professed she had no love for that city when they felt God calling them to plant a church there.  But they followed God and soon after the move, God changed her heart to love it and now they couldn't imagine loving a place more.  I resonated with that feeling and was cool moving to Salt Lake City without loving it.  I know I can't manufacture feelings, especially the kind of love God wants me to have/give, so I was content in the prayer for it, knowing he would change me when it was time.  But a few weeks before assessment, I started getting excited. Really excited.  I didn't feel like I had to defend my love for Portland anymore.  I was being poured into by a God who faithfully answers prayers, prayers for joy, and I thought it was hilarious when I would find myself smiling while I was alone - literally grinning ear to ear - while doing the dishes or some random chore.  I began to feel an awesome anticipation of what God was doing in SLC - what he had allowed us, chosen us, and designed us to do for Him.  I started tasting God's heart for the people in SLC.
The last few months have literally been a whirlwind here in Portland.  I remember the last day in September that it was warm enough for me to be sunbathing outside, and thinking that Christmas was almost here.  We've visited SLC (me for the first time since we decided to move), found a home (crazy story), got a job (working at Imago) and have been flown to churches in Texas and Arizona, who's people and leaders have committed to partnering with us.  We have watched as God has called our friends - 30 adults and children - from our church body to join us by moving to SLC and being part of the core team.  We have been humbled and awestruck so many times, it seems slightly unreal to express the full picture of what we have witnessed God doing and calling His people to.  And He has continued to use all these things to shape us and those around us more into His likeness, and all for His Glory, as we continue to move forward. 

So that's the story for now...much much more to come.  Thanks be to God. 

Imago Dei Community in PDX

Video about Missio Dei Community in SLC:

1 comment:

  1. It's so fun to hear the details of how God led you two here!


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