Well, here we go again. You see, that phrase, “other extraordinary tales of faith filled living”, which is part of the subtitle of this blog, isn’t there just for looks, or for dramatic affect, if you will. No, actual faith filled living, the kind where you actually exercise your faith and not just profess to have it, the kind that causes the question to scream out at you, if only for a moment (or continuously), “what in Gods green earth am I doing??”, but you DO IT anyway kind of faith – is real, and we’ve had the privilege to live it by the grace of God. That kind of faith my friend is the stuff that “extraordinary tales” are made of. I know that it looks different for different people, and I know that He is the “Author and Finisher” of our faith, and that He “measures” it and distributes it to each of us, I’m just grateful to have had and continue to have the opportunity to dive deeply into this faith-filled life and that I get to look back on, as well as look forward to, these “extraordinary tales”.
I am saying all that to say that our journey, the one that has supplied more extraordinary tales and has connected us to more incredible people than can be documented here in this blog, is once again about to take another turn.
It was late 2004 when Theresa and I made the decision to step out in faith and leave our hometown in Michigan and go all in with a guy named Eddie James. We had been working with Eddie already, but this next step had us relocating from Holland MI, to Alabama, then to Columbus, OH and back to Hamilton AL. The next two years alone were so full of extraordinary stuff and God encounters, that it really served to propel us into the next decade and beyond.
In 2006 we hit the road again and landed in Tampa, alongside our friends the Deal family, who were pioneering a work in the inner city neighborhood of Sulphur Springs, the part of town that most people would warn you to stay away from at all costs. From that place often considered unloveable and unlovely, we fell in love – with the people, the city, and the region. After a couple years the Deals moved on, we stayed, and we lived and served in that community, and helped pastor the city and the region for the next 7 years.
So much happened in those years, so many extraordinary tales, so many relationships established. To see what was released from that nondescript inner city church that had profound ramifications for the entire region and beyond is truly amazing. I just think of the people who we were able to host, and not just host but get to know and build relationship with, people I now consider my friends, these are special, choice servants who were able to deposit a piece of His heart into the region, and I’m truly humbled. Eddie James, James Huey, Andrew Ehrenzeller, Darrell Evans, Kent Henry, Wes Martin, Ken Malone, John Mark and Sarah McMillan, Michael Tyrell, David James, Larry and Leah Ramirez, Aaron Crider, Ferrill Gallaway, and many more were used to release a rich impartation over the region and into our lives personally as well. Each of these come with stories and memories that will always be with us.
Our journey continued and over the next few years we were able to represent Jesus to the Tampa region, serving as executive director of Somebody Cares Tampa Bay, as staff pastors at Christian Family Church, co-hosting a weekly radio broadcast, members of the NDP task force, and as part of the leadership team at Heart of the Father Ministries in Lakeland.
There were also so many significant events that characterized these years, and while we found ourselves involved in the midst of some of the most memorable movements of our time, it is in fact the relationships that are by far the most valuable and lasting. Not just those previously mentioned, in fact there are many, many more who might not be recognizable to others, but ones that go even deeper due to the fact that we have locked arms and hearts as we have contended together for the Gospel, sharing with one another our blood, sweat, and tears, our joys and our sorrows.
Throughout our time, although we were constantly engaged in the work of the ministry and thoroughly enjoying what we were doing, there were also those times where we would feel a deep aching as a result of being away from our family. Many times it would hit us out of the blue like a ton of bricks. Then in 2010 our son Jimmy and wife Gilda along with their newborn at the time Mia moved down to be with us. It for sure took the edge off those feelings and soon became a huge blessing as they began to partner with us in ministry. We’ve seen Jimmy and GG begin to thrive in their own right, leading worship in venues throughout the state, and are now helping to establish a thriving church here in Tampa Bay. Our grand daughters here, Mia and Lilly, mean more to us than we can say.
Which brings us up to the present. From day one when we left our hometown we have always maintained and our heart posture has always been, “God we are yours, we’ll go wherever you say go and do whatever you say do”. So quite often when we would go back to Michigan there would be the question (my mom usually leading the pack) “when are you coming back home?”, and our response would be typically be along the lines of… “we’ll do whatever He says and nothing less”.
Well He has spoken, and we are making the long trek back to where it all began. Back to our hometown, back to our daughter Rachel with her husband and our four other precious grand kids, back to ￼our son Bryan, and also my dad. Back to where Theresa has two brothers and nieces and nephews. Back to where my mom was longing for us to return, up until her passing less than two months ago. We’re coming home mom.
We know God is directing, and we know there is a mission involved. I’ll be working with my daughter, who is establishing a successful and thriving real estate business and needs help with her growth process. We also know that what has been poured into us spiritually throughout these years, he desires to pour out through us in some way shape or form into the West Michigan region. It’s just another chapter in “extraordinary tales of faith filled living” and we can’t wait to see how this one turns out.