One thing we’ve learned through travel nursing is that, whatever the options, God’s will is always the best. There have been a few times in which we had our hearts set on a certain place and then struggled with disappointment when the Lord clearly led somewhere else. Yet, where He sent us always ended up being perfect and nurturing, and we felt so silly for being reluctant to accept His will at first! This lesson has been invaluable as we’ve gone through the search process for youth ministry jobs. We determined to pray only for His will to be done and guarded our hearts from getting attached to any specific place.
I say it’s been invaluable because without that lesson firmly branded on our hearts, we might be packing up this week to head to the wrong city and the wrong church for us.
After moving on from Griffin, we heard back from two churches we had sent Charlie’s resume to a few weeks before. One was in Camilla, GA, and the other in Hattiesburg, MS. Since we heard from them at the same time, we felt ok pursuing them simultaneously while praying for the Lord to clearly show His will for each.
Charlie had a great phone conversation with Ken, the pastor in Camilla. They discovered a mutual commitment to promoting discipleship within the church, and we could tell they would work well together. Charlie’s work schedule allowed us to make the trip to Camilla the next day for an in-person interview with the search committee. We could have done this via Skype, but we wanted to get a feel for the town since we weren’t familiar with south Georgia.
We felt good about the interview and especially enjoyed the kind, generous people we met. The church has about 300 members with around 40 youth. It’s very similar in size to the churches we’ve enjoyed while traveling, and we love the close sense of community that is fostered in a smaller church family. The town is tiny compared to what we’re used to. As we drove around the next day, we tried to picture what our life would look like in a town of 5,000 people in rural Georgia. What would we do? Where would I work? We loved what we learned of the church, but is this just crazy? Yet, everyone we’d met said they loved their town and would never leave because the people were just too wonderful. We drove home knowing all we could do is pray that the Lord would guide us. If He wanted us to go to Camilla, we wanted to be there and we trusted He would give us a rich life there as well.
The next weekend, we made the long trip to a church in Hattiesburg for a marathon day of interviews. This was a slightly larger church that was structured very similar to Auburn UMC with the various ministry areas and location near the local university. It has recently undergone a beautiful renovation in which everything flows from a central atrium, the youth and children’s rooms are extremely well designed and there are plenty of high-tech resources for each program. We enjoyed worshipping there and had a great lunch with the staff. They are a really warm and silly group of people, and we fit right in. Charlie spent the afternoon in two more interviews before also attending MYF. He came back to the hotel excited about everything he’d learned. We had breakfast the next morning with the pastors and left feeling like this was a good fit for us.
Then, our hearts soared as we made the super fast trip down the highway and were at my parents’ house in an hour. We kept thinking of how incredible it would be to live so close to family. Our children would be near one set of grandparents, and I would get to spend a lot of time with my own grandmother. Since Hattiesburg is a large town, we also knew it would be easy for me to find a job and there would be a lot of couples our age to do things with. It was perfect.
We started the drive back to Florida the next morning asking the Lord to protect us from the temptation to compare the two churches. Neither one had negatives that we could see – they were both so positive in their own ways that it was impossible to weigh them against each other in an attempt to determine where we should go.
We knew it was set up so that there was nothing on which we could make on our decision – we had to wait for the Lord to make it clear.
Yet in our humanness, we spent a little time on the drive back to Florida talking about how Hattiesburg made so much sense for us. We felt like we would accept the job if they offered because we liked the church, we would be close to family (an idea my heart was having trouble not attaching itself to!), and I could easily find a job. It was kind of settled.
Except for five hours later when, after a little while of not talking about this at all, I turned to Charlie and said, “I don’t think we can not go to Camilla.”