It’s funny how sometimes we pray so hard for something and then find ourselves surprised when God actually hears and answers us.
We had been praying for weeks that God would clearly guide us to the church where He wanted Charlie to serve. We asked that He put that church on our hearts and no other – that there would be no doubt where He was leading us. His answer came somewhere on I-95 South as we came home from Mississippi.
He was calling us to Camilla.
During that time in the car, we felt overwhelmed with peace at the thought of living and serving with the Camilla UMC family. I told Charlie I felt like there was a deep well of joy waiting for us there that I didn’t think I could pass up. We still weren’t sure where we’d live or where I might work, but we knew there were deep waters of community there that we couldn’t wait to dive into. A life there would be built around people rather than things, and for two people who spent the last 18 months gaining an acute appreciation for close relationships, that felt right. We had to trust that God would work out the details.
As we we talked, the Lord led Charlie to the bottom line of His will. Charlie was quiet for a minute and then said, “I feel like I could be happy ‘doing ministry’ in Hattiesburg. But I have this feeling that we’d be ‘building the Kingdom’ with the people in Camilla.”
Done and done.
Hattiesburg made sense for us on paper – larger city with opportunities, close to family, good church – but Camilla made sense to the Lord. And since we determined early in this process to follow Him wherever He led, it now made sense to our hearts too.
But the Lord didn’t stop there. He called us to stretch our faith in a big way by removing Charlie’s name from the Hattiesburg position before we even knew if Camilla wanted us to come. He asked us to trust Him that He wasn’t leading us to Mississippi, in the faith that He would provide for us in the direction we felt Him leading.
So we did what no sensible job-seeking person would do. With no offers on the table, Charlie called the pastor in Hattiesburg and took his name out of the ring. He explained that God was leading him somewhere else and he wanted to remove himself from their search to help them more easily find the person God had for that position. That’s the great thing about ministry jobs – God has uniquely prepared someone to serve in each position, so if it’s just a matter of asking His will to be done to get all the right people to the right positions so that He can be glorified. Charlie could have served in Hattiesburg – but someone else will serve them better because they’ll be within God’s will for themselves and that church.
After that conversation, Charlie hung up and we just kind of stared at each other. We so clearly felt God calling us to Camilla that we’d now put all of our eggs in that basket. We were literally living by faith of things promised yet still unseen. We prayed He would make His will clear to that church family as well.
The next weekend, we went back to Camilla for Charlie’s last interview with the staff parish committee and so he could teach youth Sunday school and MYF. We spent Saturday night at a cookout with several families from the church and we immediately felt like this was home. Everyone was so genuinely warm. We could tell this was the kind of community where neighbors truly care for each other however they can. Throughout the weekend, people kept saying they hoped we liked Camilla while we kept thinking, “We hope you like us!” It felt like we both wanted this to work and were trying to court the other one. Looking back, I can see how God had been leading both of us towards each other before bringing us together that weekend. Sidenote: Ken, Camilla’s pastor, told us later that he felt Charlie was God’s choice for this position during their first conversation. The Lord was leading us both just liked we prayed He would!
When they offered Charlie the position, we didn’t even discuss it with each other before he accepted. When we were alone afterward, we just fell on the bed laughing in amazement at seeing this incredible journey with the Lord reach its destination.
It was almost two months to the day between God calling us to pursue youth ministry and Charlie accepting his new position at Camilla UMC. With God’s will revealed to us now, I can look back and see how the path He led us down had a purpose at every step. Some things didn’t make sense at the time, but now are revealed as tools that refined our hearts.
The Lord has led us down some narrow, winding paths in the last 18 months. We couldn’t always see where we were headed, but the view from the end has always been more than worth it (and much, much more stunning than anywhere we could have reached ourselves). From where we’re standing now in our last few days travel nursing, packing and preparing to move on Saturday, our view is of a beautiful church family that has already shown themselves to be generous, kind, servant-hearted people. It’s a family of which we already feel a part and are so, so eager to join.
It doesn’t exactly feel like we’re moving to a new place on Saturday. It feels like we’re coming home.