I believe I’m a writer at heart. I express myself best– clearest and most open and thoughtful– through writing and that’s always been true. I was a note-writer in elementary and middle school. I always excelled academically, due in large part to my ability to write clear, well thought-out papers and essays. I think in stories, in scripts. I’m an introvert in a family that doesn’t really know how to express themselves verbally, so things have always been more easily said in writing than aloud. I’m making progress in expressing myself out loud, thanks to my amazing husband, Chad. But writing is still more natural and easy for me, especially when I’m feeling a lot. And right now, I’m feeling a lot, so I figured it was finally time to start writing in a more meaningful, intentional way.
For the past two and a half years, I have had the amazing privilege of helping establish a satellite campus planted by my church. Coming from a church where the regular attendance is hundreds of people over three services, starting this new campus, at an elementary school, with about 30 committed families was a big change. But it was the right change at the right time for Chad and I. This new campus would be only a couple miles from our home and would be a much smaller community than the one we were coming from, where we always felt a bit lost and disconnected. Most importantly, it was a mission that needed us.
Having church in an elementary school means bringing in curtains, carts, and equipment from a trailer, setting the entire church up, from worship team equipment to children’s ministries, to projectors and screens, to hospitality and information stations, hosting a complete worship service with ministries for nursery, preschool, elementary children, and a youth group, and then tearing the whole place down again at the end of the service. It was intense and we did it each week with the purpose of filling a need in the community: providing a place of worship and reaching more families further east from the main campus.
During these two and a half years, some families who had committed for a specific time returned to the main church. And we hadn’t really grown as much as was hoped so there was no one to replace those that left. The attendance was decreasing and those of us who were left, although still deeply committed, were few. I understand the prayerful and difficult decision that was made to end our ministry, but I met it with grief and heartache, as many of my friends did.
What did happen in those two and a half years was an intense community of people served together week after week. Chad and I went to this campus not really knowing anyone else who was coming with us. But now, those people are the ones who I rely on for support and stability and friendship and laughter and comfort and wisdom and compassion. It happened subtly as the weeks went by. You served next to someone and got to know them, to know their families, their struggles, their joys. We watched babies be born, children grow, and helped each other through the suffering of funerals, emergency surgeries, and the emotional pain that comes from lost jobs, struggling marriages, and unfulfilled plans.
Many of us are confident that our relationships will continue. We built something incredible from the ground up and that bonds us. We became a committed group who served together, struggled together, and looked out for one another. A group of people who stayed committed when they were tired, who showed up early even if it was raining or snowing (on the rare occasions it did), who made things happen even when the plans kinda fell apart, and who learned what it mean to be church, not just attend church.
We welcomed visitors, watched out for each other and each other’s children, prayed over each other, reached out to the poor, became a part of the community, and shared meals– and our lives– with each other. All while worshipping a mighty God.
There are stories from these two and a half years that I will write about later on, because they are important, because, like the stories of the Bible, they are full of love and faith and commitment to Christ. For now, I continue to grieve as we transition back to our home church, a place that honestly is no longer home for many of us, including Chad and I. But we will continue to seek God, follow his Word, and love those around us in His name, because this mission was His work and it made me better, and it gave me another family. A family that took me in and loved me because they saw in me the image of our awesome God. And I saw it in every one of them.