I've had my head in the clouds for my whole life, dreaming away about different possibilities and 'what ifs'. My insanely amazing wife Kimmy is the same way, but she has a lot more follow-through determination than I've got The past year has easily been the best one of my life. Many dreams were birthed and visions caught. We've worked ourselves to the bone to make them happen. Some things were shot down and some situations have been painful as we've been growing, but it's all been worth it.
If you've paid attention even a little bit to what we're doing at the Alsheimer camp, you've noticed that this past year Kimmy has launched her own business, Drift Design Co., doing art prints and branding, which has been going extremely well, and there are some pretty exciting things that I'm sure she'll be telling everyone about within the next few weeks. We've seen the college ministry that we get to lead, Oneonta BASIC, soar to new heights as more people are getting excited about what God is doing on campus and taking ownership. I've also been playing more and more music over the past year, playing shows and recording music with both my band grafted i am, and my solo project Open Your Eyes Small Bear. We also bought a house this year, and recently started journey as homeowners and landlords by opening our rental business. It's been an epic year of dreams coming to pass...
Almost a year ago, Kimmy and I felt some transition coming in our lives. We were sure that it was time to move away from Oneonta, NY to pursue our dreams of art, music, and ministry in a big fancy city, or at least somewhere warm. However, after exploring some realistic options for our departure from Oneonta, we both pretty clearly felt as if God was speaking to us about staying in Oneonta. How could this be?! How could the very place that we wanted to leave be where God wanted us to be? It didn't make any sense. After lots of praying and seeking wisdom from lots of family and people who we really love, we decided to plant ourselves down in Oneonta, and really start digging in. As Jim Elliott said, "Wherever you are, be all there." After all, we were in Oneonta, but realized that we had never appreciated it until this point.
The decision was made; stay in Oneonta. But it went deeper than that. What would it look like for Kimmy and I to "be all there" in our community? How has God gifted us to give back to our community and invest in this little gorgeous town and our church, Community Gospel Church? Mind you, these are some dangerous questions to ask, and we knew that we'd better be ready for some crazy answers if we were going to make our decision to stay count for something. Almost immediately, we felt that God was asking us to plant a new ministry in Oneonta. I honestly had no idea where this was coming from. It seemed impossible on so many levels. So, it became a topic of conversation throughout the year, but not any kind of priority. However, we immediately started looking for houses to purchase, and after 6 months, 40 houses, and lots of roller coasters, we scored a home that we're extremely excited about. Simultaneously, we got cracking on our dreams of music and art, and have been experiencing some great things as a result.
But no matter how hard we kept weighing the impossibilities of starting a new church ministry, we couldn't shake the call.
It's amazing how often God tapped me on the shoulder with this calling, and I ran. I can think of about 3 distinct times that I got really excited about the idea of planting a church ministry in Oneonta, then immediately got extremely discouraged with all of the reasons why it couldn't happen, and tried to forget about it. It's been a roller coaster of a year in this regard, but for some reason, now is the time for it to finally come to fruition.
It started when a few of our awesome college student leaders in BASIC got thinking about something epic we could do this semester to reach more people and tell them that we love them, and God does too. After a lot of talking and brainstorming, the idea came about to rent out the Oneonta Theatre on Easter Sunday and throw a massive worship service that everybody was invited to. We wanted this to not only be for college students, but for the whole community at large. This got me thinking: why wouldn't we be able to use this event as a launch for this ministry that God has called us to?
After some prayer and careful thought, I approached my incredibly wise and awesome father-in-law (who also happens to be my pastor) about the idea. How could this perceived call to plant a new church ministry jive with the church that I was already a part of? The answer: launch a church service within a church. I immediately got incredibly excited and nervous, and asked if I could take the idea to the eldership of the church to weigh and judge and possibly approve. They were very gracious, and their support was overwhelming. With a unanimous decision, these men granted support to the idea.
Anchor will be the new 'night service' of Community Gospel Church. We will launch on Easter Sunday and continue to meet every Sunday following. We are a group of people coming together from all different backgrounds and stories; all different age groups and people groups; all different passions and talents; to proclaim the message that this world is broken, but there is hope in Jesus. No matter where you are in life; if you've never entered a church building before, or if you've been a Christian your whole life, you are welcome to join us and explore with us what God wants to do in Oneonta, NY.
I see a city in need. I see a city that has the potential to be a destination, instead of a checkpoint for many who come and leave. I see the potential of a city without drug addiction. I see a city of people who have purpose, potential, and can experience deep redemption through a God who loves them.
Sure, I'm in over my head. But isn't that what life is about? I can't bear the thought of not trying. I'm naive enough to believe that I can do my part to enhance a community, and change the world. Who is with me?
I'm grateful for my God, my wife, my family, and my friends who support me in these crazy ideas and these crazy times. I'll conclude this outlandishly long post with some of my favorite song lyrics:
We can't hope that somebody else take our place
No, we can't hope that somebody else take our place
May the history book read of all of our names
Be it blood, be it ink, but at least we were free
This is only but a fraction of what I've got to say
It must be said, it must be said
If I leave this earth tonight may it be said that I spoke my peace
I spoke with the wrath of His grace
Calm rose: come violent wind
Oh we stand hand in hand and we walk without fear
This is a revolution
-The City, by The Chariot