Incredible! Amazing! Awesome! Humbling.
After 23 years of hope deferred, the Lord has brought to completion what He promised: this past Sunday, 11 May 2014, He set my feet on 330-year old stones as priest-in-charge of St. Stephen’s CEC, London, England. The promise had started on Thursday, 13 May 1991, when He set our feet on 700-year old stones in the ruins of Tintern Abbey (located near Chepstow in Wales) and turned our thoughts toward those who had built it (and all the other cathedrals, abbeys, and churches we had visited) … men and women who had lived, worshipped, and died preserving the faith which we now hold so dear. What He laid on our hearts that day so long ago became a burden, a longing for the people of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
We held on to that promise, and we sought after it … but always the answer was the same – whether through circumstances or through words of those in authority over us: “not now, not here, not yet”. We learned patience … and trust … and gained an inkling of just how much our Father loves us.
The promise became a journey. In 1993 our independent charismatic church became part of the ICCEC (and later a cathedral), and in 1994 I was ordained a deacon alongside six other men. In 1995 God called us to move from Olathe, KS to Kansas City, MO to begin investigating Christian community, and to plant a mission church on the very border of the inner city. There He taught us to love and minister one-on-one to the poor, the least, the lost, the lonely. In 1999 He taught us to keep loving even when our hearts were breaking, as half the church and the community left the battle. In 2000 He taught us the love and care of our bishop and cathedral, as we moved back to Olathe for healing and restoration. In 2009 He taught us patience in the midst of adversity as I was laid off by my employer. In 2010 He taught us to stretch and to trust, closing all doors to employment except one in Virginia that eventually required commuting to the very heart of Washington, DC. In 2012 He taught us peace in the face of fear as He carried us through a harrowing van accident on a rain-slicked highway, with only minor injuries. In 2013 He taught us to hear and obey, putting our house for sale in a depressed market at a very poor time of year – and sold it in two months.
The journey is almost over, but the adventure is not. The promise, the call, was to the British/Irish isles … but that is not the destination. We are not merely to be here, but we are here for a purpose. That purpose was revealed to us in 1991 after we had returned to the U.S. from Britain.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendour. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. – Isaiah 62:1-4
The Lord gave me this Scripture as my life “verse” upon our return, and gave Edye a similar passage Isaiah 58:6-14 from which the following verse comes:
Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In – Isaiah 58:12
Though the journey may be nearing its end – and even that we cannot be certain of – the promise and the burden are not. We are not called to a destination, but to a ministry – and so are you!
Who am I, that God would give such a promise and then so graciously grant it? I certainly don’t deserve it. And we are not the only ones who have a promise, a burden. I share our journey not because we are special, but because this is the stuff of all our lives: trial, heartbreak, disappointment, potential, progress, setback, diversion, repeat, grow weary, stumble, rise up … as long as we keep going. The vision from God will come in every case except one: it will not come if we quit!
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. – Psalm 126:6-7
- The people and clergy of St. Stephen’s and the church in Edinburgh
- All those who have housed us, prayed for us, donated funds and goods to us, worked alongside us, exercised authority over us, and supported us throughout our journey
- Approval of my visa and a swift passage through customs on entry at Heathrow
- Edye’s completion and submission of visa applications for her and the children
- That Edye, Christyn, and Tobyn’s visa would be approved in short order so they might join me in London by early June
- Goal: $ 11,722
- Received: $ 600