The Big Cat is Out of the Bag – Nakuru, Here We Come!

(This post was written on Sunday, but lack of internet access has me posting it on Tuesday.)

As I sit in Nairobi on a warm, sunny afternoon, the sun hasn’t yet risen back home in Houston. What has been a day filled with encouragement and hope for us here hasn’t even begun for most of our friends and family back home. And yet, in just a few hours, many of them will be worshiping God like we worshiped him this morning half a world away.

And back at Trinity Vineyard, a poorly-kept secret will finally be made official. Melody, Lucy and I, along with our “baby to be named later” are moving to Kenya! That’s right, the cat is finally out of the bag and it’s a big one. To be honest, there is a combination of anxiety and relief at this announcement. Anxiety because such a big change in our lives, the life of our church and the lives of our family and friends will bring with it many questions – some of which we can’t really answer. Relief because after nearly two years of prayer, conversations, more prayer, trips and even more prayer, our plans are no longer a secret and we can begin speaking openly about the incredible vision that God has placed before us.

When you decide move away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known and to set up house in a developing nation 8000 miles from home, it is not a decision made lightly. For us, it is a decision that has been inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit – something so far beyond ourselves that it’s hard to really fathom all of the ways in which God is orchestrating this.

Though we have had our fair share of risk-taking endeavors, this is by far our greatest adventure yet and the more we say “yes” to God, the more he confirms that we’re headed in the right direction. Even our 3 year old little girl – currently crashed out in a jetlag-induced heap on her bed – seems to understand that something big is happening here in Kenya and that we are to be a part of it.

For those of you who don’t happen to attend Trinity or who just slept in this morning, here’s the skinny: Over the past 2 years, God has made it very clear to us that there is an overwhelming need for a new kind of church in Nakuru, Kenya. Nakuru is a growing, thriving city that is only just beginning to really come into its own and, as such, is beginning to attract people from all over the world who are either hoping for a financial windfall by jumping on this train early or who are just being made aware of the incredible needs of the poorest in the city.

As these international business people, relief workers, missionaries and others move into town, they represent incredible potential for use in God’s Kingdom. Whether here on a business assignment, out of humanitarian compassion or by a clear call from God, these “expats,” as they are commonly known, are here. And yet, the church that they need – the life-giving community that will serve to encourage, challenge and care for them – is missing. The organism that could bring them together and combine all of their strengths, skills and passions currently doesn’t exist.

As such, many expats, including missionaries, in Nakuru don’t go to church at all. Sure, there are churches they can attend – churches led by incredible people who are doing incredible work among the Kenyan people – but there is no church where they feel like they belong culturally. It is our desire to plant just such a church.

Imagine, if you will, taking the very best of our current church, Trinity Vineyard, and transplanting it to Africa – transplanting it just as these people have been transplanted. Trinity Vineyard Church Nakuru will seek to be an answer to the dilemma that missionaries have faced for centuries: How do you pour yourself out day after day helping people, when you have no one pouring into you? The answer: You don’t. You can’t. You have to have somebody investing in you.

Successful long-term workers are often sustained by hard-working sponsors and sending churches back home, but even in the best of scenarios, love and support from thousands of miles away is often inadequate when faced with the daily challenges of living, working and serving in Africa. The only way to thrive long-term in this environment is to have a supportive community and a powerful connection to God. And community happens best when we’re all in the same room. Part of our call as a church, then, is simply to “be there.”

Our hope is that Trinity Vineyard Church Nakuru will be a place where people can be continually finding God and growing ever closer to him, a place where they can find friends who can support and encourage them and, ultimately, a place where they can find life in the midst of all of the brokenness, pain and need – to be refreshed spiritually, relationally and emotionally and then sent back out to continue changing the world.

I suppose you could say that Melody and I feel called to “care for those who are caring for others,” but the mission is truly greater than that. We believe that God’s desire in planting this church is the same as his desire for all churches. He wants to see as many people as possible moving their lives in his direction – getting closer, loving more and working more intentionally for his Kingdom. Our particular calling to the international community in Nakuru is simply one expression of this universal desire.

We are excited to be embarking on this adventure, but there is much work to be done before we pack up and move eastward. First of all, we need to complete the adoption of our second child. For those who know us and have been following our adoption journey, you know that we are nearing the finish line on this one. We hope to travel to The Republic of the Marshall Islands sometime this summer to bring home our little one.

On top of that, there are plans to be made, vision to be cast, partnerships to be formed, more trips to be taken and, of course, money to be raised. On the church side, there is plenty of transition to be made as well as Melody and I continue to bring others along to offer leadership in some of the areas where we’ve been serving.

In short, it’s a lot! A lot of work, a lot of change and a lot of challenge. But as we were reminded at Trinity a few weeks ago, healthy things grow, growth brings change, change brings challenge, challenge leads to trust in God, trust in God leads to obedience and obedience leads to more health. For us, personal growth and the growth of God’s vision for us is now leading to change and challenge. We ask that you would pray for us as we trust God to work out the details and as we try to obey his calling and direction in our lives.

For those who like to think about timelines, we’re aiming for a move sometime in mid-2014. Some days, that seems like an eternity from now. Others, it feels like it’s just around the corner. Through it all, we know that we have the support and encouragement of incredible family, friends, our church community and our amazing Vineyard family of coaches and leaders.

We will be filling in more details over the coming weeks and months, but that is it in a nutshell. We are excited to see what God wants to do in and through us in Nakuru and we believe that the best is yet to come!

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