Three months ago our family took the biggest step of faith we’ve ever taken—let that sink in real quick—and we moved to Ventura.
We packed our home.
Left our community where we were known and loved.
We loaded a moving truck and followed a call from God.
The first three months have been a wild ride. When you take in a job change, a new city, a new school for the girls and some of the loss our family experienced. A long-time friend said to me that in our move we experienced three of the most stressful events could go through. And they all happened about a week apart.
As I've been thinking about our move here are 5 thoughts that keep surfacing:
1. Our church is extremely caring and graciousOur church has embraced us with open arms. They've been extremely kind and caring to us in the move. My first day in the office was cut short due to health complications with my dad. I was encouraged to go see him. At my first elders meeting I found out that my dad 24-48 hours to live, they told me to leave right away and see him. It seemed like the first month I simply preached on Sunday because of loosing my father and needed to be with him and plan the funeral.
Three weeks in to our move our church had a potluck. At this potluck they threw us a "pounding". It's an old Midwest thing I hear. Everyone would bring a pound of this or a pond of that to help a new family to the area. Our cupboards were packed after the pounding!
The list goes on about their kindness.
2. Everything didn’t work out how I thought it wouldOn the day of our move the moving truck showed up four hours late. To this day I still think the driver was drunk but have no proof. The following day I arrived in Ventura to meet them at 9am like they said, they didn’t arrive until 5pm… The moving truck part of the story is actually trivial in all things. They had our personal belongings and things are things.
The part that didn’t work out how I wanted it to is the family aspect. My hope was to see my dad more and be closer to him. I had dreams of visiting him once a month and BBQing with him. I had ideas of him being at my kids birthday’s. I longed to have my dad visit our church and listen to the word of the Lord. God had a different plan. My dad died eight days after our move. It’s been a tough loss to grasp and my heart still is wounded.
3. The pastoral community here is wonderfulI’ve reached out to multiple pastors and experienced nothing but arms wide open
I literally didn’t pay for a lunch with anyone the first three months (now it’s my turn to pay). Every pastor who I’ve connected with has said things like: “I’m in your corner” or “We’re rooting for you” or “I’m praying for you as you get landed here.”
The community amongst the pastors I’ve connected with has been awesome! I’m thankful for men like: Chris, Mike, Dan, Derrick, Larry, Bert, Don, Scott and many more that I’m grabbing lunch with the next couple weeks.
4. Being closer to family has been a blessingWe’ve seen our family more in the last three months than I can remember. I can’t count how many times our kids have seen their grandparents. Charity’s parents are 1.5 hours away. My mom and Jerry are 3 hours away. I saw my dad five times in the last week of his life.
Being closer is a blessing. We were able to spend John’s 60th birthday with him. The kids love seeing Mema and Papa more. We’ve been to Big Bear as a family a few times to see my mom and Jerry. Two weeks before our move Jerry was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. It was a tough diagnosis to handle but we trust in the care of our Lord. We thrilled to be closer to my mom in this tough season.
5. Leading a church has increased my faith and prayer lifeOne of the greatest challenges has been leading a church. I’ve lead in pastoral ministry for almost fourteen years. My mentor, Doug Meye, once said: “Neal when you’re business says ‘Senior Pastor’ you’re going to feel a new weight of responsibility. He was right! This role has increased my prayer life, my listening to the Lord and my patience in making decisions.
I’m loving the regular preaching load and working with the staff here. We have a great church community filled with people who love the Lord. We’re seeing God add people to our community each week and praying to reach more. I’ve been praying for God to add 100 new people/families to our church by Easter. We’re longing to reach those who are far from the Lord, those who haven’t attended church in a while and those who are moving to the community. We want to see more conversion growth and stay away from transfer growth.
Let me sum up our move with a short story. Charity and I walking in downtown Ventura last month on a date. During our walk Charity said: “This is the first city we’ve lived in as a married couple that I feel like we both fit.” She is right. Ventura is a great fit for our family. Please pray for us to reach and lead in this city for decades to come!