It has been a little bit quieter here than usual as we work out some future plans. Many times in the past few months I have wanted to share some the details of our lives as they were happening, but we needed to hold our plans close until the right time.
I’m not sure where to begin, since God has been weaving bits of this story together for many years. For those that know us well, you’ll be able to fill in the pieces and for the rest I’ll try to be detailed enough to make sense.
For at least a couple of years we have known that Shawn’s career in the Navy would be ending for us. The Navy has been a wonderful source of education and support for these 12 years. We have enjoyed many close friendships and enjoyed traveling around the country, but we have also endured many long separations and difficult working conditions.
Our children are growing up—needing their daddy more and more. Success in the Navy comes with the cost of more responsibility and more time away. So for our family it is time to move on. We have known that this time would come—that the Navy was for a season—but our future after the military always seemed a blank slate. Nothing seemed to fit and we felt a bit lost about where to go next.
God has been teaching us patience as we have waited for his leading. Stepping away from the security of the Navy with no plan of our own seemed a bit crazy, but we have been learning to wait on the Lord as he was working and preparing us for something new. We have spent much time in prayer, seeking his direction for this season of our lives.
Last summer seems the best place to start the story. A Englishman contacted our pastor after reading his book. Our pastor was invited to England to put on a conference there. He accepted and spoke to a small group of Christian families in NE England about family discipleship and the Biblical roles of men and women.
As our pastor recounted his experiences in England when he arrived home, he mentioned that there were a few families there that were interested in or were already in the early stages of planting churches. He suggested that there might be a family or two in our church that would be willing to go and help them.
Shawn and I both felt an immediate interest and not long after that he began an e-mail dialog with a few men in England to get to know more about them and their plans. Dozens of e-mails later, swapping theological convictions and ideas about church, we felt drawn to one family in particular with similar vision and convictions.
The dialog continued…hundreds of e-mails…daily e-mails…video chats…
I can’t possibly sum up all of the information that was exchanged and the relationship that was built with this family, but it became clear that we needed to go there—to meet face to face. We needed to experience life with our new friends, and learn about the place we felt drawn to go and live and share the gospel.
Last week, Shawn and I left 5 of the kids for a week with his parents (the little one came along with us). We flew to London where our friends met us and drove us over 3 hours back to their home in NE England. (If you are like I was, you might need to check google maps and relearn British geography. London is in south, central England. We were on the NE coast, south of Newcastle.)
Again, summarizing all of what happened in a week is nearly impossible. We met with other local pastors and ministry leaders, we walked around the town and spoke with some of the local people that we met in coffee shops and such, and spoke with some businessmen that might help Shawn find work in the area.
We have developed a true friendship with the other family and a heart for the people of the area. I think Americans tend to have a “Jane Austen” view of England. We think of it as glamorous, but NE England is not that. The land is lovely and the people are welcoming, but many are struggling to make a living in a post-industrial, economically depressed area of the country.
Every town has a big brick church building with a tall steeple…but nearly all of them are empty, boarded up and crumbling as the young people consider church irrelevant to modern life. And yet, most of them are living with no hope and broken families. There are a few churches here and there, but nothing like the dozens of mega-churches we can find within just a few miles of our home here. The Christians there are working to spread the gospel, but they need help.
Less than 1% of the population attends church, and even fewer than that are evangelical. The other 99% are living and dying without the hope of Christ. We want to be a “radiant home” in England, living our lives in their community, reflecting the glory of Jesus through our family.
I’ll be sharing more as we go, but for now you can be praying for us as we prepare to move to England.
- Pray for work. British immigration laws require Shawn to find a “skilled labor job” that the company has been unable to fill with local applicants. A job offer is currently our only option to get into the country. Finding a job within our narrow geographic area combined with the restrictive immigration laws will truly be from the Lord.
- Pray for the right timing. We would love to have a smooth transition out of the Navy, straight to England sometime in August/September. Everything hinges on the job and immigration paperwork, so we need wisdom making decisions if God’s timing is different than ours.
- Pray for the other families as they are moving into the community, meeting their neighbors, and beginning work in the town.
- Pray for receptive hearts among the people in NE England. There are several new churches being planted through various networks—God is at work there.
- Pray for wisdom as we navigate all of the administrative papers and decisions that go along with an international move.