I feel like I must acknowledge and apologize for the fact that it's been 3 months since I've updated. There's really no excuse for it, but I am going to take this post to let you know what I've been up to for the last 3 months! Does that help? :)
In October of last year, I was given the privilege of covenanting with Jessi, a dear friend, to pray for her, her husband, and the Perrys as they began to transition towards planting a church in Tampa, FL. As I prayed for the team, I was overwhelmed time and again by the way God was flinging open doors for them. We were clearly seeing God move on behalf of His Church and how humbling that was. Psalm 27:13 says, "I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!", and I began to identify this verse with our meetings.
As I prayed, God prompted me to pray more, look for ways to serve the Tuckers and Perrys, and plan to give financially towards their support. With each step, God gave me an incredible joy in obedience. He has been so gracious to allow me to watch Him move in my friends' lives and for Tampa.
However, it didn't feel like enough. I wanted to do more. And so I began praying that God would allow me the opportunity to join the team in Tampa and serve them there. I can be prone to jump ahead of God with an idea, so I wanted to take my time praying before speaking with anyone. For a month and a half, I prayed without letting anyone know that I was considering it, and God only grew my desire to go with the team. God reminded me that loving the Perrys and Tuckers was not enough of a reason to go, and I began praying that He would allow me to have an affection for the students, moms, exotic dancers, baristas, assistants, and other women in Tampa so that I could like Paul say, "So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us" (1 Th. 2:8). Without even knowing the women in Tampa, I can tell you I am already praying for them often and long to love them as salt and light in a dark city. At the time I was praying, I didn't know how the team would feel about my coming but had pretty much decided to go regardless. :)
I let my parents and Lauren, my roommate, know what I was praying and asked them to pray as well for a month without talking to me about it. They did so. During this time, I began reading through Matthew in my quiet times and Jesus' call to "Follow Me" and the emphasis on God's sovereignty in calling the nations only deepened my desire to be where I knew He was working. Matthew 4 was especially convicting as the disciples immediately got up and followed Jesus; I mulled over the ESV Study Bible's notes for verses 18-19: "These brothers had been followers of Jesus for about a year...but apparently had returned for a time to their normal work.... Jesus calls them to abandon their ordinary occupations...and accompany him full-time." It reminded me that Jesus has called me full-time--all of my life must revolve around Him and His mission. I began sensing this when I returned from Venezuela two years ago, prompting a change of jobs so that I could spend more of my time volunteering and with my sisters in Christ. It wasn't enough.
After praying, Lauren gave me her complete and joy-filled blessing. According to her, she wasn't surprised and she wanted me to leave whenever I wanted to; (my name isn't on our lease, and she let me move in with her as a blessing to me and not because she needed a roommate--now I see God's orchestration even in this). My parents gave their cautious but affirming approval. (This is, after all, a bad time to move without a job because of the economy, and I will be the only member of my family on both sides who lives outside of NC).
In the next several weeks, I had the opportunity to tell both Jessi (Tucker) and Jackey Perry about my desire to move to Tampa in order to be a core group member for the church. The team as a whole has been excited and incredibly supportive. I respect these couples greatly and am looking forward to serving them in Tampa, and to have their encouragement has been so affirming. As I told the women in my small group and my girl friends, the response was overwhelmingly a lack of surprise and support for something we have been praying about for 2 years now. (After a year and a half of feeling like I was living life in a "holding pattern" without knowing what I was "holding" for, God has given me direction towards church planting, an area I've been praying about since May of 2007). When I look back over the notebook I put together when I first starting praying about church planting and full-time missional ministry, I can lay Covenant Life Church's information beside it and they match almost exactly. Praise the Lord! God has allowed me to partner with a team I've been praying for since the summer of 2007.
At this time, it was looking like I would not be able to move until January of 2010, a month which seemed entirely too far away. I began praying that God would free my commitments and the finances to allow me to move in August before the college students at the University of Tampa arrived for their next semester. In late January, God led me to 2 Corinthians 8-9 and Matthew 6:19-34; 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." As I meditated on these passages and read Randy Alcorn's The Treasure Principle, God challenged me to abound in every good work here and trust Him to take care of the means to live in Tampa. And how gracious He's been to do just that. During the last month, God has providentially freed almost $4000 that I can now commit towards getting to and living in Tampa, which means that I can and am planning to move in August.
Since December of 2006, God has said to me, "Wait. Wait on me. Wait for Me to move." And He is moving in Tampa. One of the principles from Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God that comes often to mind now is look for where God is working and join Him there. I am almost without words (seriously) that He is choosing to let me live and work in Tampa-a city full of people that desperately need Jesus, and He is "turning ground" to give them Himself. God has been preparing Tampa for His presence in a new way, and I am excited and nervous and so grateful that I will be able to be there in the city as He moves!
Praise the Lord for He is good and His love endures forever! Praise the Lord.
In the coming months, I will be posting updates and prayer requests here for me and the team and covet your prayers as I step out into this new season with God.
If you would like more information about Covenant Life Church and/or Tampa, I would encourage you to visit: Covenant Life's website.