Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The move to California was emotionally traumatic for the whole family. As for me, I had to say goodbye to the dear people I pastored for four years and the church we had planted together. I will always believe God called us to plant Shiloh in a city with over 400 churches because we had the privilege of ministering to so many hurting people and we saw so much spiritual growth among our folks. We truly loved each other and we worshiped God with our whole hearts. It’s just that we were never able to break that 100 barrier long enough to get a momentum of growth. Sadly, it was a matter of being just a little too small when there were so many mega churches around us. It was hard to leave.

For Mia the move meant saying goodbye to the Midwest where she has lived her entire life. Her sister is in Glen Ellyn, IL and her mother in law (her late husband’s mother) is in Joliet, IL. Her friends were in Caledonia. She was taking a huge step of faith. God graciously gave us all the signs we could ask for that he was leading us to California. The ABF trailer we hired wasn’t large enough to carry all of our stuff so we had to leave quite a few things behind. As it turned out, a lot of the abandoned stuff was hers and that was painful too.

Ben (19) came with us. He was actually looking forward to the move because he would be able to start college in California. He was leaving a job that wasn’t really his thing. Elizabeth would be starting in a new high school for her senior year. Anna and Mary would be starting as freshmen. But all the girls would be leaving their friends behind. It would be an adventure but it was a painful adventure.

We felt like we were abandoning Caleb (23). He’s still in school up in Sault Ste Marie in the Upper Peninsula. At least he got Mia’s car in the deal. (We didn’t have enough drivers to take Mia’s car to California and it doesn’t have air conditioning anyway!) But there he is, up in the great white tundra, trying to finish his education. He didn’t say much but I know I would feel pretty lonely if my family moved 2500 miles away!

The trailer was dropped off in our driveway on 17 July. Two crews from Two Men and a Truck came and loaded it on 18 July. Around 5:00 that evening we took a couple of final pictures of the house and drove south toward Indiana. By the way, the house is still on the market if you know anyone who would like a great deal on a beautiful old house!

Ben drove the van with two large dogs, 16 birds in two huge cages, two geckoes, and two of his sisters. I drove the car with Mia and one of the girls in the back. We made it to Davenport, IA the first night. We had to find pet friendly motels all the way west. We stayed in Grand Island, NE, Denver, Cedar City, UT, and finally pulled into Bakersfield on 22 July. (If you look very closely at the map above you can see the faint outline of our route.) We should have caught the hint; it was 108 degrees when we arrived! But God had brought us across the country with no accidents, car trouble, or dead birds. The adventure was well underway!

Friday, October 24, 2008


It was about 9:00 on Monday morning, my day off. I was in my study not studying when the phone rang. I answered and the voice said, “Hi! I’m Roger Peterson from Tulare Community Church in Tulare, California, and I think you are the answer to our prayers.”

Well, that’s always a nice thing to hear! But I had never heard of this guy or his church so I was a little suspicious. He continued, “Let me tell you what I mean. Tulare Community Church (TCC) has one mission and one mission only, we plant churches. We have planted 18 churches over the last ten years and every one of them has succeeded. We have one group that has been praying for almost two years for a pastor to help them plant a church in their town. I got your resume from the RCA office and I’ve been praying over it and I think you’re the man!”

I hadn’t encountered such enthusiasm in a long time. It’s hard to be negative with someone who is just so darn positive! It had to be some mistake. I was about to close a church plant that never really grew large enough to survive. And when I was in the RCA headquarters we all pretty much agreed that I wasn’t really gifted as a church planter. I was a “teacher/discipler.” I told Roger all of this. It didn’t seem to make much difference to him.

He said, “Yes, I know all that already. Don’t worry about it. We won’t let you fail.” He went on to tell us about the amazing church planting ministry at TCC. He told me about this town of Shafter. (Never heard of it!) He told me about the core group which was made up of Dutch almond growers and dairymen. I started slipping in some questions to try to find out if the six things we asked God for were all there. They were all there and there was much more! To say the least, I was intrigued, amazed, astounded, and blessed by one of the most phenomenal answers to prayer I have ever seen!

Mia and I prayed for a few days and I called Roger back. He immediately scheduled for us to go to California and meet all the people we needed to meet. Throughout our visit Mia and I just kept looking at each other, communicating wonder and God-worship with our eyes! We just couldn’t believe it! If we had created our own situation it would look just like this! God had told us what we could pray for, waited for us to pray, made us walk in faith right up to the last minute, and then given us everything he promised and more!

I accepted the call to go to Shafter and everything took off at once! This is a unique church plant. We have two mother churches. Tulare, which is RCA, and 1st Hanford, CA, which is CRC! Our church planting task force, the group that helps us, is made up of people from the RCA and the CRC! Our new church would be named New Hope Community Church. We began to take steps toward moving. It was the end of June and I was supposed to start on August 1!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Upon my return from India the church in my parents’ town thanked me for my resume and said no. Mia and I had a great meeting with the American Baptist Church in Michigan. We also flew out to California to interview at the school and the for the staff position. Both of those doors closed.

My dear friend, John Armstrong, was encouraging me to look into the Reformed Church of America. He sent my resume to one of his good friends at the RCA headquarters which was only about five minutes from our house. We made contact and Mia and I went over there for several interviews. It seemed promising but nothing was moving very fast.

In the meantime, the leadership team at Shiloh had begun to really take stock. We were desperately looking for a place to rent/buy. Slowly but surely we were coming to recognize that we were running out of time. We were within a couple of months of having to leave our school meeting place and we had nowhere to go. We had followed up on a number of possibilities but none of them panned out. I was coming face to face with the possibility of having to leave the ministry for secular work or try to continue pastoring while working full time. I began to look for secular jobs.

Before I knew it, it was May. The ABC church was very interested. Mia and I had been praying and we had a list of six things we felt the Lord had allowed us to ask for. Sadly, the ABC church only met two of them! One night I was praying and I felt led to pray this: “Lord, there is only one church that is interested in me but it doesn’t meet the six things you said we could ask for. If that is where you want me, I’ll go and I’ll go happily and I’ll work hard and love and pastor those people with all my heart. But I just don’t feel a peace about it. I know you are almighty and you can change things with a phone call out of the blue. If you want me somewhere else, bring that phone call!”

The next morning, the phone rang.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


My family and I are now living in Southern California. How did that happen? It’s an amazing story and I’d like to share it with you because in the events that led to this move I have seen the amazingly powerful hand of God work as clearly as I ever have.

Last November (2007) Mia and I sat down and began to take stock of our lives. Our oldest son, Aaron, was living in Lake Tahoe. Number two son, Caleb, was studying up in Sault Ste Marie, MI at Lake Superior State University. And son number three, John, was in the Air Force and getting ready for his first deployment to Iraq. Only Ben, Elizabeth, Anna, and Mary were home with us. Ben was working full time because we had run out of money for college. Beth was a junior in high school and Anna and Mary were 8th graders. We realized that kids were going to start leaving our home in droves before long. Where would be the place they would come back to? Where would we be settled?

Mia and I also had to consider our situation with our church, Shiloh Community Church. We were in our fourth year of existence as a church. We had “plateaued” in attendance. The church was going great. It was just too small. Our family was experiencing serious financial issues. And the school where our church met would not be available to us after June, 2008. We would have to find another place to rent, buy a building, or build something. Here were two large financial commitments for a small church, the pastor’s family and a meeting place. Would we be able to meet both of these commitments?

I decided to update my resume and send it out to a number of my friends and see what the Lord might do. The resumes went out in late November. We prayed and prayed that the Lord would show us where he wanted us to be. It was our deepest wish that he would somehow allow us to stay at Shiloh. I loved the people. We were happy there. We had poured four years of our ministry lives into that church and didn’t want to move.

I’ll be honest. The phone didn’t start to ring off the hook. It seemed as if I had fallen into a black hole and nobody was interested. That was ok with us. We believed the Lord could do miracles and make it possible for us to stay at Shiloh. One friend in an American Baptist Church sent my resume to his district executive and Mia and I met with him in December. It was a good meeting and we began to wonder if we would become American Baptists. He sent my resume to several churches in Michigan. At the end of December we heard from one of them. I was leaving for India for three weeks and we agreed to talk upon my return.

A church in my parents’ home town in Southern California contacted me and we talked on the phone a couple of times. I had another contact from Southern California to serve as a staff pastor part time. Also, a Christian school in SoCal was interested in having me come to teach. I went to India.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


WOW! It has sure been a long time since I wrote a blog entry. I'm wondering if I'm back again. I might be. Then again, I might just be having feelings of loss of the "good ol' days." We'll have to see. With my friend, Jonathan Moorhead, off to distant places, I feel like I have to at least make some kind of effort to pick up the mantle he left behind. I mean, it's just lying there. It's not like he gave it to me or anything. My mind is speaking to me. Just a second...."Hey, Stupid! Nobody even missed your blog! Have you heard from ANYBODY about why you haven't written anything in about ten months? Do you actually think anyone cares?" Good point. Well, we'll see! I'll try to let you all know what's been going on in my life and that might let you know why I have been so totally absent. I'll give you a hint. We moved. And here's a picture of my lovely wife and me at our new home (but the picture wouldn't give you any idea that we're at our new home or where it is or anything interesting...I just think she's pretty!) Talk to you soon.