Deedra and I arrived home around 7 pm last night from London. Thank you all for your prayers. A quick shout out to my parents as well for watching our dog Paxton this whole time and to the Daniels for picking up our mail! Thanks guys for your help!
Over the last 10 days I feel like we have experienced a whole gamut of emotions from joy and excitement to sorrow and a sense of being overwhelmed. Throughout it all, the Lord has been near and gracious to us and knowing that you are praying with and for us has been a tremendous encouragement.
We left Dallas on January 10th praying and asking the Lord to make known to us His will in regards to pursuing church planting in London. We had been asking the Lord for clarity on partnerships, locations, desires, jobs, and the team. Sitting at home today, I can say that we have more clarity on each of these (Praise the Lord!), but the picture is still a bit hazy.
I have purposely used the language “pursue” and “pursuing” London throughout this journey because in all honesty that is all that I had heard from the Lord. Everything in me wants a clear and detailed outline of where the Lord would have us, but the Lord in His goodness has given me only small glimpses into what might be, so we have tried to carry everything in open hands knowing that London may or may not be where we plant or it may or may not be in the timing we envision. I admit that this lack of certainty has been difficult for me, but the Lord has used this to push Deedra and I into more dependence on and vulnerability before God as well as one another.
We knew all along that the Lord had us in London when He did. We did not know what to expect, but what we found were friendships, opportunities, and wisdom.
One Tuesday the 11th, we had the privilege to engage with and be encouraged by Tope Koleoso and Adrian Warnock of Jubilee Church (www.jubileechurchlondon.org) and the New Frontiers network (http://newfrontierstogether.org/). These men were so encouraging and helped us to get an idea of what God is doing in the city of London and where there are still needs. Adrian took us to a traditional English Carvery where we got to experience Yorkshire pudding and a very English meal! He even drove us back to the hostel, which meant a 1 ½ hour trip for him. We were so blessed by both Tope and Adrian’s generosity.
We were able to spend Wednesday the 12th with Reuben Hunter. Reuben is an Acts 29 church planter who is hoping to plant in the center of London within the next year. Reuben and I have gotten to know each other over the last few months and I am honored to call him a friend. We have been talking about potentially partnering with Reuben to help him plant so as to learn the culture and acclimate to a new culture. We spent the day walking around a specific neighborhood that Reuben envisions a church plant. It was really a great day of getting to see how this particular area of the city functions, who lives there, and the opportunities before us. Reuben is from Northern Ireland, so his love language was the same as ours: sarcasm! It was truly an enjoyable day!
On Wednesday night we had dinner with Mike and Andrea Coker. Mike and Andrea where members of The Village before they moved to London about 3 years ago for Mike’s work. They took us to an amazing little Indian restaurant. The food was incredible and we had a great time catching up with Cokers and getting their take on the city, the people, and the opportunities and need for a gospel-centered church in the city. We were blessed by their hospitality and friendship!
We spent most of the day Thursday and Friday walking around other neighborhoods in the central part of London just trying to scope out possibilities for areas to start a church. We got to try different English fare and see some of the historically influential churches in London like the Metropolitan Tabernacle, All Souls, and Westminster Chapel and Cathedral. It is amazing to think of all of the great men of the faith who have walked the same streets and graced the same buildings that we did.
Saturday, we departed for Sheffield in northern England to spend the weekend with Steve Timmis and his church, The Crowded House. I am not sure that I have met more hospitable people. The Timmis’ and the entire church body was so welcoming and really made us feel like part of the group! We even went bowling with Steve, his wife Janet, there 4 kids and their families for Steve’s grandson’s birthday! We had some great conversations and found some very helpful wisdom from Steve, as well as a humbling and gracious opportunity for future partnership.
While in Sheffield, we also had the opportunity to hang out with other church planters from around the United Kingdom who were in that weekend for Poterbrook (www.porterbrooknetwork.org) which is a holistic practical theological training that Steve and Tim Chester host. I discovered that Northern Ireland is like Texas, in that everyone from there is definitely proud of that fact! All in all, our time in Sheffield was encouraging, convicting, and provided some clarity on a few of our issues. We are grateful for the opportunity to intrude like we did and all the while feel so much a part of family.
Deedra and I were greatly encouraged by others like Mrs. Jane who was our hostel warden. She is so full of life and really blessed us tremendously during our stay. She rhymed everything and when asked how she was doing would always reply “Huggable!”!
We were so blessed to have Brian Blenden join us as well. He proved to be such a great friend and counselor on the trip and we are so grateful for the sacrifices he and his family made for him to join us.
We are also grateful for the time we had with Chilli and Chuck and the opportunity the Lord gave us to get to know them more. We all had our moments of frustration with one another (like any good team!), but the Lord endeared them to us and used them to stretch and encourage us throughout. They are a good brother and sister in Christ!
The trip was definitely a success, praise the Lord. We are still processing everything that we have seen, heard, talked about, and experienced over the last few days, so unfortunately I do not have a lot of details for what is next to give right now. Here is what I can say: the Lord blessed our time in London by providing us the opportunity to deepen existing relationships and to begin new relationships, by providing a potential job opportunity for me (more on that later!), by providing wise counsel, and by revealing to us our own fears, sins, and anxieties so that they could be laid out before cross of Christ.
As Deedra and I continue to process everything, we will be sure to keep you updated. Again, your prayers and support have been a blessing from the Lord and we are so grateful for you.