"Oh give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the poeples. Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works."
This May will mark three years since we have been in Edwardsville. Actually, three years at the church - two full years living in Edwardsville comes on August 11. Wow. Have I ever told you the story of how God got us here? Lots of you know it, but it is always good to sing praises to God for what He has done. David did this in the Psalms... listing all the mighty works of God. This story doesn't belong in the same list as the parting of the Red Sea or the crossing of the Jordan River - but to my family it is just as monumental! So here is my remembering of it...
Steve was the family pastor at The Journey. We lived in a house that we loved and our three children were all attending public school in St. Louis county. A church in Edwardsville, Illinois had been meeting for less than a year and was closing. Jonathan Mcintosh (a Journey elder) had been meeting with the families and a request was made to make the church a campus of the Journey. One particular family, who attended the church for the first time on the last day of its existence, was pretty adamant about needing a gospel centered church in the Metro East area. They, along with others, begged for the elders to invest in the church. I cannot tell you how God has used this family - the Guilds - in our lives. Right from the very beginning!! So Jonathan asked Steve to consider becoming a campus pastor. He said NO. Jonathan expressed disappointment and asked Steve to pray that God would raise up the right man to lead this church. He said the now famous words: "Just pray about it for four days." So we actually started praying about it...
We drove to Edwardsville for the first time on May 23, 2008. The town of Edwardsville is fairly unique - a historic downtown mainstreet but with new development, a city sponsored farmer's market, bike trails throughout the community, etc. We loved it instantly. Being a small town Kentucky girl, this was like a dream come true.
After exploring the town we began to seek advice from trusted friends and family. God particularly used Steve Miller (another Journey elder) to speak into this. It is a blessing to have Godly men know your husband and his strengths and weaknesses. We will forever be grateful to Steve for being willing to lay out his thoughts clearly and honestly.
Next, the big deal of speaking to the kiddos. It is a difficult thing to present life changing choices to your children. They were 16, 14, and 9 at the time. They cannot be responsible to make your decisions, but they can sure influence your choices - and it was important to us that they be on board. Miracle of miracles - the girls instantly, without hesitation said "Dad, this is what you should do." This was miraculous. Their hearts were won over by a group of people who they had not even met. We would be asking them to leave the only house they had ever known and for the girls to change schools while in high school. This was a big deal. One of the things I love about Steve is that God has given him gifts that He uses to equip the church - that He would use to help rebuild a group of wounded people in a new town. It was so overwhelming to me to see our children recognize this - they knew that God had prepared Steve just for this job. And they were quick to point that out. My heart was over-joyed... we were called as a family to walk with Steve as he lead. I will forever be grateful for this moment on the deck of the house that we loved so much - my family was willing to leave it all to be where God wanted us... what more could a wife and mother want. Our God gives undeserved gifts! "How wondrous are His works!"
After a positive conversation with my parents (which God graciously gave me - we didn't need their "yes" but He knew what my heart needed!) we were set to say yes. God had clearly and very concisely shown us His will for our family. We proceeded with lots of excitement.
Then came the day of actually meeting the people from the church. I am an introvert - and do not relish being in front of people. I famously stared at the floor the whole way down the aisle on my wedding day. And of course, this meeting, in a YMCA room with mirrors everywhere was another entrance I will never forget. We walked in to a meeting that was already underway. Jonathan was talking to the group and introduced us. He presented Steve as the new campus pastor and laid out the plan to have a Journey Metro East campus. The response was so affirming. We met so many amazing, welcoming people - some who we knew from the Journey previously. I will forever remember Betsy Goodman (now Van Keulen) making eye contact with me - reassuring me that I would survive! Afterward I was immediately surrounded by women who were so excited about what God was doing and those women are still in my life celebrating what God is doing here! These people have become my family - they have changed my life in so many ways and I will forever be grateful and remember that day as one of the sweetest, most exciting days. "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!"
Looking back I can see the part that Steve Miller, Jonathan Macintosh and the Guild family played in all of this. I have never had to doubt the hand of God directing us to this new place. It is such a joy to know that you are right where God wants you to be. I am grateful. It has been good, as Wendell Berry says, to come to belong to a place. And we do. It hasn't always been easy... but it has always been good.
I remember - and I am thankful and rejoice. "Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Or can delcare all His praise?"