It has been 553 days since I was standing here last.
On May 28th, 2018 I was waiting in this parking lot holding my kid’s hands while Tom was in the garage with our van and a mechanic who was tirelessly working on Memorial Day. Our tire was close to shredded and nothing was open because of the holiday, we were still 100 miles from El Paso, had $2,000 to our names and knew three people in the city we were about to call home. The second we drove into the city we had to drop $400 to have the two, front tires replaced and then had an awful first night at a hotel we didn’t have time or money to change (we slept on top of the made bed on a spread out picnic blanket and the kids shared one, air mattress covered in beach towels we had in the van).
In October of last year Tom’s part-time work hours were unexpectedly cut in half and there were multiple months last fall we received less than half of what we expected to financially. Since last fall I have taught 1,171 classes for VIPKid our of sheer, financial necessity and Tom has spent multiple weeks traveling to complete, crawlspace jobs while interning, working two jobs and working hard to lay the foundation for the church plant.
People ask us a lot how we know we were (and are) called to work in El Paso. The honest answer is that God didn’t write it in sky, it’s just that this city is where our desire to be working and the clear needs of the area intersected. We’ve doubted many things since we’ve been here but I can honestly say we’ve never doubted IF we were supposed to be here. Since we’ve come El Paso has found its way into the news for a myriad of heartbreaking reasons that have confirmed the need for a church that loves Jesus on the east side of the city.
Standing in this parking lot today on our way back from Thanksgiving in North Carolina was surreal.
In the last 553 days God has opened doors and knocked down walls to make His church grow. He has sustained us spiritually and financially literally more times than I can begin to describe. One small example happened this summer – the Chromebook I was teaching on for VIPKid would no longer be supported by the company’s teaching platform and we had to buy a new laptop so we didn’t lose the income source. As we traveled to North Carolina for my sister’s wedding our paths crossed with a woman I haven’t seen since I was about ten years old. She handed us a card which had a check that covered, almost to the penny, the exact amount of the laptop.
Why share all of this now?
Because of all God has done.
We have church-planting teammates now when we came without a team. We have a lease for a meeting place in the heart of the area we’ve desired to be working in since we first visited El Paso in April of 2017. We have a core group that has grown to almost forty people. Tom will be able to receives a full-time salary from the church starting in January after two years of piecemeal income. We have completed all the licensure and insurance requirements for the pest control business (our long-term goal is for this to eventually provide our income so we don’t require a salary from the church).
Jesus is faithful.
I know that now in reality in a way I knew in theory in 2017. Sometimes I think we get this idea of calling a little wrong in the church. Sometimes we (sometimes I) seem to think that if God is in something it’s going to be proven by a smooth road or glassy sea. Sometimes we seem to think we have to wait for the victory lap to proclaim His faithfulness in the race or the opened gift to testify to the goodness of the giver.
I’m pausing now to speak to the faithfulness of Jesus because whatever comes next, He is good. We’re at the very beginning of this stage of church panting. We haven’t even had our first service yet (here’s to you, January 12th! 🙌🏻) but here, at this turn of seasons, I want to remember His faithfulness. Remember that He is worthy. Remember that He uses flawed, broken people to help express his goodness to people on a hurting earth.
I’m not saying we’ve done everything right and I would never argue against the need for careful planning or preparing well BUT when we micromanage out the chance for failure or need for faith from our spiritual lives than we miss out on knowing Jesus in a profoundly more intimate way.
These words from Isaiah 58 are ones I’ve returned to over and over again in the past two years. There is no more fitting way to end this first blog post than with them. We have miles and miles to go in this world of church-planting but I badly want to remember at this stage what God has already done and for this to be the work of the church in El Paso.