Sunday, April 17, 2011

A New Vision - Part 3

Not a Work of Human Hands

On the last night of our Guatemala trip, we had a debriefing dinner led by Shaun and Patricia. They gave us a heads up about how difficult re-entry could be. I had been in developing countries before and didn't think it would be that intense for me. I remember two things Shaun said. One, don't try to go home and live in the middle. And two, don't make any big decisions for 30 days.

Coming home was incredibly hard. I was humbled. I felt very alone and uncomfortable with my life - like I didn't fit in it any longer. Frankly, I no longer cared to fit in it. And my new friends who I'd shared this experience with were plane rides away. My sister had been to India with Compassion and she was able to relate to me when we spoke on the phone. But it was a funky time.

On day 29 I tried to convince Curtis that we should move to India for a couple of years. Or maybe to Guatemala. He was not feeling that call, which is saying something. Curtis has typically been ready at any moment to pack up and move to a new place. At this point he felt that unless God made it unmistakably clear that we were to leave, our immediate future was here in Houston. (I may write a Part Four and address the Houston part.)

We had decided (A) to plant a church and (B) to plant it in Houston. But now the question was where in Houston and what kind of church?

Very soon after Guatemala I read Radical by David Platt, which is about taking your faith back from the American dream. I wrote about it here. Right after that, my friend Missy randomly put a book in my hands called Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. I never wrote about the book. I only mentioned it briefly on my blog because it messed me up so much. But ask my friends and they'll tell you I couldn't stop talking about it. I would write some quotes from it right now but I lent it out to my sister. God used my time in Guatemala and these two books to chisel away at my heart.

Curtis kept saying that he wanted to have a city church. I really gave him a hard time about this because, hello, we live in the burbs! The beautiful, spacious, cheap, good-schools-burbs! The area we live in is growing like crazy and there's got to be room for another church out here, right? Surely we could meet right in our neighborhood's community center and invite all the people who live around us. This is our people group! We look like them, act like them, speak like them. We know these people. We would be friends with them anyway, so why not start a church for them?

Well. Interrupted got all up in my business. God showed me some real ugly stuff in my heart. I wanted us to have a church that was filled with people exactly like me and who made me feel good about myself, and that was cutting edge and polished. In my heart, I felt like we would have arrived when we were a part of a church like that. Especially if it was a church that people all across the country talked about because it was cool. Just now I tried to think of a word other than cool that would not make me feel so lame for saying it, but I think it's what I really wanted.

Ugly.

Jen and Brandon Hatmaker planted a church in Austin a few years ago. Prior to that, they had been pouring out their lives to bless people who were already so very blessed, but God began a new work in them. He interrupted their happy, neat, busy church lives and gave them a holy passion to serve the least of these - especially the homeless.

The story of how God brought them through this process is incredibly inspiring and faith-building. Jen talked about the concept of ascending and descending in her book and it broke me. I'm in luck because I just remembered that a friend posted an excerpt on Facebook about it:

I’m learning what it means to descend, which is so revolutionary it often leaves me gasping. I have been trying to ascend my entire life. Up, up, next level, a notch higher, the top is better, top of the food chain, all for God’s work and glory, of course. The pursuit of ascension is crippling and has stunted my faith more than any other evil I’ve battled. It has saddled me with so much to defend, and it doesn’t deliver. I need more and more of what doesn’t work. I’m insatiable, and ironically, the more I accumulate, the less I enjoy any of it. Instead of satisfaction, it produces toxic fear in me; I’m always one slip away from losing it all.

Consequently, my love for others is tainted because they unwittingly become articles for consumption. How is this person making me feel better? How is she making me stronger? How is he contributing to my agenda? What can this group do for me? I am an addict, addicted to the ascent and thus positioning myself above people who can propel my upward momentum and below those who are also longing for a higher rank and might pull me up with them. It feels desperate and frantic, and I’m so done being enslaved to the elusive top rung.

When Jesus told us to “take the lowest place” (Luke 14:10), it was more than a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion, since that is where He is always found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the burden of maintaining some reputation. We are released from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place.

The ascent is so ingrained in my thought patterns that it has been physically painful to experience reformation at the bottom. The compulsion to defend myself against misrepresentation nearly put me in the grave last year. I was tormented by chaotic inner dialogues, and there were days I was so plagued with protecting my rung that I couldn’t get out of bed. With every step lower, the stripping-away process was more excruciating. I had no idea how tightly I clung to reputation and approval or how selfishly I behaved to maintain it. Getting to the top requires someone else to be on the bottom; being right means someone else needs to be wrong. It is the nature of the beast.

(Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted, pgs. 64-65)

We had been trying to ascend for God knows how long. This was so incredibly freeing to realize. We were ready to break those chains and descend.

God used this book to turn my heart upside down and dump everything out of it. Then He flipped it right side up and put in it a desire for a completely different type of church than I'd been hoping for. I finally got on board with Curtis in his desire to serve inside the city. I could see great purpose in the specific area he had vision for, which had seemed like a completely random choice to me before. There was now the possibility of something more beautiful than I could have imagined. It was so new and so unlike my former thinking that I was afraid it would fly away and I'd lose it. I would beg God - and still do - to seal it in there. I don't want it to escape.

What we are praying is to be a church that will reach the lost and hurting in this city with the Gospel in one hand and relief in the other. We want to live as missionaries in our hometown and see the people around us meet Jesus Christ. We hope to be a simple church that can use a lot of our time and resources to serve outside our walls, which is funny to say since we don't yet have any walls. We would dearly love to be an economically and ethnically diverse church that reflects the population of Houston.

When I think about all of this, it seems impossible. I keep saying, "God, this is a really tall order. Are we hearing you right? Can this actually happen?" God has repeatedly reminded me that this is not a work of human hands. It is by His Spirit. He is putting every bit of this together by His might. I believe we will see Him do it.

93 comments:

The Johnsons said...

The last email I sent you was a rewrite. The first copy was all about Interrupted but I wasn't sure if you'd read the book. I've been begging Gregg to read it. Since that book, I've come undone.

UL Cards Fan said...

I belong to a downtown United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky and we have a missionary couple supported through UMC Board of missions who serve the downtown community....the homeless and marginalized. They live in the neighborhood with those they serve while the rest of us drive downtown from the suburbs to attend church. This couple has been a great addition to our church in helping us increase our outreach. Prayers for you and Curtis as you are obedient to God's call on your lives.

Marc and Charity said...

Yes, yes, yes sister! So good to read your story here. It's clear you've seen God at work and you're joining Him- not you making something up and asking Him to join you. Praying for y'all.

California Dreamin said...

Wow! My Pastor left Texas ten years ago to plant a church in NOrth Long Beach Calif. North Long Beach is plagued with drugs, gangs, etc. I am a "product" of that church plant and God has done amazing things in our little church. I just love the song "God of the City" because it so describes our church in North Long Beach. May you and Curtis continue to heed the call of God. He is going to do amazing things!

JenB said...

This reminds me of the Hinsons, serving in downtown Philly. Do you read their blog?
http://cccconnection.blogspot.com/

What a cool thing God is doing!!

bethany said...

I've loved reading this-after you told me your plans in Jan, I called Zak that night and told him all about it-how amazing it would be for you guys and how much good you could do. I am so excited to watch your progress. Isn't it amazing how God leads us in certain directions? And how impossible they are to deny?

Stacie D. said...

Hi Amanda,
I happened onto your blog from the LPM blog and have often connected so much with the content in both of the blogs. I seldom comment on the blogs, not sure why, but anyway I felt the need to comment today. Wow, I can so identify with today's blog. I have recently read "Interrupted", started "Radical" and I too have just felt God challenging me with where I am now and where he wants me to be. Our church is in the midst of turmoil, some have left, and there is such a need for a revival of the Holy Spirit. I have been wanting to look at other churches, and my husband wants to stay with what is familiar and where family is. When I read Interrupted, and Jenn heard "Feed my sheep" I heard that too. But I felt, deep inside me, that the sheep that needed to be fed were right in my presence, in our church, in the midst of the mess. We finished your Mom's Revelation study, and started When God's Spirit Moves by Jim Cymbala, and the response of the 15 or so in our class was unexpected for me-anyway too long of a story to fill your space. But I so get what you are saying, about where you thought you wanted to be; and how God wrecked you and refined your heart- ...funny, after Sunday school and church today, then reading your blog, God has affirmed to me 3 times today that I am hearing Him correctly.
Thanks for sharing your heart so candidly~God does use you and your blog to touch others!!!

Holly said...

Me, too. I see it already...see you serving and living and loving. Praying for His vision in your hearts to be reality. Chris and I are praying for your church. For you. Let us know if there is any way we can serve you or help. You have my email. Feel free to send us a support letter or whatever you have going forth. Love, Holly

Wendy said...

You have no idea how this has ministered to me from where I am in my life and my ministry right now. I will be getting both those books this week.

Deidre said...

Wow, Amanda, I love reading how God reveals things one step at a time. To see the entire picture would just be too much, would it not? I am writing your name in my journal to remember you (and Curtis) daily as you discern God's voice for each step. This is so exciting!

Little Steps Of Faith said...

amanda-
I love your sensitive and precious heart for God! I mean you and Melissa have no idea what your trips did to my heart. IT MESSED ME UP FOR LIFE.
I don't know if I told you this but I wasn't raised to give to poor and the needy. My family would see the kids on television or whatever need was on tv, and they would just change the channel. I wasn't allowed to give to my church, to compassion(as you know), I wasn't allowed to give things away I didn't need without having a yard sale and getting some money from it, I am constantly being bothered to put ads on my blog, because my mom says my writing is a waste of time when I dont' get paid for it...
I'm so glad you were raised so differently. I remember your post on the toys we used to have as kids, and I love ours were similar:) even though our lives were definitely so different.
I have such respect for you and pay attention to the paradise won and paradise lost moments in your life.
Your mom may get up there and preach it, but girl YOU do the preachin' all by yourself just by the life you lead:) And I love that I have had a chance to see that:)
Sorry this was kinda long, was going to snail mail it...but I just couldn't help sharing:)
So keep doing what you are doing, because you have already started that ministry, WALLS or not!

xoxo
angie

Paulette Carson said...

I am blown away and blessed beyond measure! Praying for you all. Surrender, not commitment. Your surrender is bringing in the work of the Holy Spirit. All Glory to the Lord for His infinite wisdom and grace.

psm260 said...

This reminds me of the book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.

Pam

Ashley said...

Sweet niblets! I so wish right now I could sit down for coffee or tea or water or whatever. This is where I am...we are not planting a church, but I have been feeling this call to move outside the church walls to where there are hurting and lost people.

I read Interrupted after you mentioned it on your blog and God used it in a big way. He has been showing me some ugly stuff in my heart...not even an hour ago at Walmart He called me out over what I was thinking about someone I saw there.

My pastor has asked me to lead our outreach small groups, to work to build this area of ministry within our church...and it feels like a tall order...and I don't feel equipped, but I know I'm called. So I've agreed to do it, and it's freaking me out a little. It just makes me feel better to read your story. Blessings on you and Curtis, I know He will do amazing things through you!

Engraved Euniques said...

Praying for your family and also praying for others to be willing to reach those 'outside' the walls of the Church.
Blessings today and every day,
Kaye
Matthew 21:22

Tracy said...

Wow, I really need to read that book! Just that little bit you shared from it, it sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing how God is working in your lives!!

leahmariecase said...

love this. My husband and I are planting in atlanta and couldn't be more excited about serving the needs of OUR community. Can't wait to continue reading your journey!

Boonies in the Boonies said...

I used to read your blog everyday, and then after baby #3 I had to leave little luxuries like blogging behind ... HOWEVER, 7 months later I'm back! And at the perfect time, look at all the big things God is doing in and through you!! So exciting!

Skubaliscious said...

What part of Houston? We live over in the west side suburbs. I think this is awesome. Would def. be interested in getting more information as you get started up.

Marla Taviano said...

Tears in my eyes. Interrupted ripped me to shreds too. And Cambodia. And... e-mailing you right now.

Mary R Snyder said...

I adore Jen Hatmaker and have this book....but have yet to crack the spine. I will read it now. The phrase about people being articles of my consumption.....my word! This hit me square between the eyes.

Thank you for sharing -- so honestly!

Shelley said...

This is so incredibly exciting - we had our second service this Sunday in down town Niagara and we have always served in a 'burbs' church - but over the last couple of years the Lord broke us (literally) and we had a two year sabbatical while he refashioned our ministry. I came to Canada as a missionary and although I loved serving the burbs I have never felt truly fulfilled in my call to Canada - I can say that feel scared, overwhelmed but incredibly excited and now feeling as though I am now serving my purpose here. I am actually blogging about our journey to this place of ministry right now.
I'll be really exciting to read your blog in the coming months to see how the Lord leads you. I pray EVERY blessing in JESUS over you and Curt during this season. You are so right it is not our work - it is all of His. And our churches may never be the biggest or the best but we will have the privilege of reaching 'the least of these'

Missy said...

So excited for you! Praying Isaiah 43:19 for right now!

Kirsten said...

Amanda, I admire your faith and willingness to step out of your comfort zone so much! I pray blessings on you and your family and God's ministry at work. :)

Sitesx6 said...

I read the Jen Hatmaker book because of your post about it, awhile back. It messed me up too. I also read Radical on the plane to Haiti (where I've gone twice with Samaritan's Purse) and that messed me up too. I'm still messed up and don't know what to do with it.

But....anyway, I wanted to suggest another book, UNDER THE OVERPASS (can't recall the author- and I'm too lazy to walk downstairs to look). It is a book with great insight about the homeless. (it messed me up too.) Two Christian guys gave up their live to go homeless to see how they live. Very interesting book.

In case you were looking to continue your messed up cycle. I'm in a place in my life, where I want to continually be messed up by God. :)

God's blessing over your new journey. I can't wait to read all about it.

Gay said...

You WILL see Him do it!! I am so grateful to be present today so that I can see Him do it! Love you, Amanda. Incredible time in LR.

Carrie Beth said...

Amanda -
SO funny that our journey is running parallel right now in some ways. I have been reading Radical with a married couples' group at our church and started Jen Hatmaker's Interrupted about 6 weeks ago. my heart has been SO convicted through those two books.
Thank you for being so transparent and sharing the various stages of your journey with us.
I cannot wait to see what all God has in store for you and your family. Your story reminded me of a song. Some of the words are: "not by power, not by might, just my Spirit says the Lord..."
All things done by him far exceed those we do ourselves! What a blessing a privilege that he has called you and Curtis to this!!
Praying for you all,
Carrie Beth

Kristy said...

I love that you say that you want to serve with the Gospel in one hand and relief in the other!!

I just had a lengthy conversation with a friend about how this model is being demonstrated so well overseas and is a true picture of the Gospel but it seems that the American Church exemplifies it quite poorly. I know that God will honor you as you seek to meet needs and share the Gospel in the process!

Amy Bennett said...

Love reading this story of how God is working. Please keep us updated!

Tabaitha Kaye said...

Amazing how God's timing work. You are the third person to mention Radical this week and now I know I must read it. Praying for ya'll!

Erica said...

I am so excited to see all the details come to fruition. How amazing that you have a very clear purpose! I've loved reading about this journey and can't wait to pray with you through this journey!

Emily said...

Oh I love to hear this story! I am praying for amazing things to happen in your church and for God to be exalted in all. Also, I've been dying to know, how did your dinner go? Do you have a timeline? I can't wait to follow your journey!

brandiandboys said...

so excited for you and your family, amanda! thank you for sharing such special details of your journey with us. i love your honesty and the details of your journey.

Amy Beth @ Ministry So Fabulous! said...

Oops, tried to comment but I think it didn't work.

Okay, forget Tennessee. Would you happen to have need of a big haired girl to help you with those teen girls that'll be coming your way? They say everything's bigger in Tennessee, so my big hair (and ba-donk-a-donk) should fit right in...

Jackie said...

My family and I moved back to Texas last July after living in the Middle East for 2 1/2 years with my husband's job. We became involved in a small Christian church there and loved it. I remember last Easter., the pastor told us to look around the room at all the different countries represented...he said, "This is what Heaven is going to look like." So true and so wonderful! I am proud of you and your husband for stepping outside of your comfort zone and desiring to be in community with all types of people. We are still looking for a church here in Houston and are very interested in learning more about your new church and possibly helping you get it started.

From the Bumpy Road said...

My heart is bursting with excitement for you. May God unveil a beautiful ministry in Houston and may you be blessed by your part in it all!

ACupBearer said...

So stinking proud of you both for allowing God to work so in your hearts to make them like His. I esteem you highly sweet one.

April said...

Wow, Amanda! I could have written your blog post! Last August, my husband and I left our comfortable suburban church to plant The City Church. It's been hard for me to leave the security of people like me that are easy to relate to and step out to a church with people I have to work harder to get to know. My biggest fear was that we would have a church full of scary people who would introduce my children to things they weren't ready for them to know. That and I would have no one to identify with on this journey. So far everyone has been great, but I'm still praying for support on this crazy journey. I'm caught in limbo right now. I know I could never go back to comfortable, easy suburban church, but, frankly, I'm still scared. I'll be praying for you as you and Curt begin this amazing adventure!!! (And I am going to get a copy of Interrupted. Sounds like I need it.)

Lauren said...

Amen, sister! I can't wait!

KR said...

Yahooo! So happy for all of you. Inspiring post--well worth the cliffhanger!

Nicole said...

Thanks for sharing your journey Amanda. I am excited to hear what God is doing in your heart and Curtis's and how it will impact your city. I am praying for you.

Rachel said...

Amanda,
My husband and I have been on a mission to give away one Bible to every person in our city, a city of about 300,000. So far, we have given away around 125,000 with the Bibles actually going all over the world! I was so moved by your new calling that I want to offer to have as many Bibles as you need shipped to your new church, if you have a need, or are interested. You can read my story on my blog and contact me through there if you want to arrange to get Bibles. Also, I so enjoy reading your blog, as I was born in Texas, but moved to Alaska when I was 11. You have reminded me of lots of wonderful things about my home state that I had long forgotten. So thank you for having a public blog for former Texas girls like me to remember our proud roots! So excited to see what God does through you!
Rachel

Rachel said...

Amanda!!! I'm Cimbrey's NOLA friend and love reading your journey....Dear Father, Give Amanda just exactly what she needs for today and hope for tomorrow...not fear..not worry..hope..Give her strength to raise children who fear You and adore You with mind, body, soul an spirit!! I'm thrilled for your precious fam! Awestruck and so excited to pray for you and yours in this new adventure!!

Dana said...

So excited for what God is up to! Thanks for sharing and I'll be praying for you.

courtney said...

awesome, exciting, and so good to chat with you on the way out this morning - praying for you tonight!

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

Amanda - I relate so much to your post in that God has used 'Radical' and 'The HOle in our Gospel' to totally wreck me and make me see that same 'ugly' you talked about. After several mission trips to the same small, poor village in Nicaragua, my husband and I are feeling the call to move to Nicaragua to minister. (He is a pastor) - We are letting God work out the details - slowly I might add - and are just hanging on to see what is going to transpire. THe move will be in about a year as we have to begin to sell out completely - materialistically and spiritually - but we feel that it WILL happen. Leaving my 3 girls and 6 grandbabies is the tough part. Pray for us please and I will pray for you and Curtis.

Shellie Paparazzo said...

So cool! I had a feeling you weren't leaving the area after I saw one of your comments to the last post, when you said to "Angie" that your mama was not crying! Cause I knew she would be if you were moving to Guatemala. She'd want you to do what God called you to, but she'd be sad. Cause she loves you and she loves those grandbabies!

Kelli said...

Amanda, my husband and I are also planting in inner-loop Houston and it can be messy- but it has been beautiful! One Sunday not long ago, my husband baptized a 20- year-old Chinese student and a 45-year-old doctor. It has been amazing to see how God works in the lives of all types of people! If you want to chat, (because believe me, I was scared. I am a small-town girl) feel free to e-mail me: benandkelli01 at aol dot com :) Blessings on your new adventure!

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

SO EXCITED. And so thrilled I had a small part to play in it. And btw, I need my book back.

Rock on wich yo Jesus self, Mrs. Jones!!

Susan said...

Praising God as I read this. We recently joined a church in the city of Atlanta with a diverse congregation and strong outreach to the homeless. (St Paul's Presbyterian, a PCA church) On our second visit to the church we sat toward the back and as I looked around as the service was starting, I thought, "How can we join here...we don't fit in." By the end of the service I was thinking, "How can we not join here!" God is so good. Blessings on you, dear sister!

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Awesome!!

Tara G. said...

Names are escaping me- reminds me of the book/testimony the pastor of the Broolkyn Tabranacle wrote years ago. Exciting and I appreciate you taking the time to share!

Mommy Dot Com said...

Go for it. God pours His grace on the humble and there isn't any way to get too close to this type of ministry w/out the humility of Christ.

I work w/ impoverished children and God always shows up. He has chosen the poor of the earth to be rich in faith. Use that faith to move mountains for His glory.

Praying for your family and all who will shoulder w/ you.

Shannon said...

Amanda: this is so exciting! I will be praying for you and Curtis on your journey.

I remember when you blogged about Radical and Interupted at the end of last year. Upon your recommendation I read both...and have been messed up in huge ways. Those books truly ruined the goals and dreams I had for my life and God is slowly building a new dream.

Thanks for sharing your journey so transparently. I went on a vision trip to Colombia with Compassion last year and can relate to so many of your feelings. Reading your words helps me understand the changes God is working in my heart are part of a bigger picture. He's moving in many hearts for His glory.

I look forward to watching this exciting new chapter unfold right here on your blog!

Tara said...

Super excited about seeing what God has in store for you and your fam! I had the pleasure of knowing Miss Jen and LOVE HER. One of these days I'm gonna drive the little 3 hours and see her in Austin New Church! :) I too was messed up with Radical and Interrupted. Both of which I stopped reading about 3/4 of the way through because I couldn't figure out how the heck I was gonna do that. I felt like such a loser! How do I live here but not be wrapped up with all this junk?!?! I'm really excited to follow your story because I feel I can relate to you. I'm in the same place with two kiddos 3 and 2 and live a comfortable life. I want to be different. Thanks for sharing and I'm gonna go pick up those books and finish them now :)

Rhonda said...

Very exciting! Praying for you both!

Angie said...

Praising the Lord with you-praying for you!
God is going to do great things with your obedience and faithfulness!

Ronda said...

I LOVE how the Holy Spirit is moving in His church, especially in our generation. I have recently experienced a heart and mind transformation very similar to your own and to the author of Interrupted. It is completely freeing and yet scary as well. Thanks for being so transparent! It is definitely edifying!

Jennifer said...

So exciting and I figured this was what it was based on something that Pastor Greg said a few months ago. Can't wait to see what God has in store! Any timeline information yet?

Kari said...

Wow! Amazing! Exciting! I have no doubt you will see this goal to fruition!

Blessings,

Kari

Jen Hatmaker said...

Thrilled. And so it begins...

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

I read Interrupted on the heels of Radical as well. For some reason, Interrupted messed me up WAY more than Radical. I think Jen just makes the concept so much more flesh-and-bone. You know?

And so a few months after I taught Jen's Interrupted study at an establish church, we left to be part of a church plant team right here in our small town. God is doing BIG THINGS through Jen's message and through people who are willing and ready to get messed up a little. (or a lot)

Kendra said...

Thank you for letting us in on your incredible journey - I need to descend!

Sallie Belle said...

Wonderful! I'll be praying for your adventure. I know this needed ministry will be blessed because you have sought the Lord's hand. I will check out that book and hold on to my boot straps.

Tara said...

amazing!

Mrs. Pear said...

Lord, please love the people through the Jones family. May You be glorified and may they be strengthened by you.

Rebecca said...

That is amazing! Praying for you both as you continue on this journey.

Melissa Terry said...

Praying for you and blessed by your willingness to step out in faith and follow God to the hard places. God's speed be with you, friend.

melanie said...

wow! i am so excited to hear what is going on in your hearts right now, so excited to see what God is leading you & curtis to. and thank you for sharing it because i will be praying for y'all to have peace and clarity to know exactly what steps God wants you to take! i can't wait to hear updates!

Enfant de Dieu said...

Church planting is so scary at first because you have no idea what's going to happen, but that makes it even more awesome when you get to watch God fulfill the vision. My pastor and his wife are about the same age as you and Curtis. He was the youth pastor at the church that had the vision for our little church plant. His wife is a stay-at-home mom and they had 4 young kids. If the church plant failed, he'd be left without a job and would have to move to find a new one. Not only has God provided for their family, but he has also blessed them with a 5th child. In not much over a year, we have more than doubled our numbers. We started as a group of people that all came from church, and now we have many people attending that have never been to church or are just coming back. We have seen God do so many miracles! Church planting is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding things I have ever done in my life! It's also addicting. We're already saving up to hire a church plant pastor in the future, and as I am looking into churches to attend when I move in a few months, I can't imagine not being part of a church plant. I pray that God will also bless your family and church plant tremendously as He has blessed ours! Enjoy the journey, and cherish each step because it goes fast!

God bless,
Elizabeth Blakeley

The Youngs said...

"Beautiful" is the word that keeps coming to my mind while I digest your post. It's just so beautiful when God does His thing...it's unexpected, shocking and stunningly gorgeous in the very most sacred ways. His plans just re-write all of our definitions of beauty and I loved reading what God's doing in you because I'm praying for God to do something like it in our family. Beautiful!

Michelle said...

What a wonderful series of posts! What an exciting time that lies ahead for you and your family in this new "city ministry"- Soul City Church in Chicago is a neat, relevant inner city church you may want to check out. A new "daily church amoung the people" is developing in inner city Detroit- I love watching God move (and being part of it) in all the different cities around our nation.

hilarylarson said...

Wow! It is so inspiring to read how God is at work in you and your family. My husband and I are missionaries in our city through our non-profit, we do not have our own church, but run an inner-city youth ministry. We are definitely "out-of-the-box" in Beaumont and I felt like I was reading about myself. We bus to our home church each week, it is not a "burbs" church either! Blessings to you both! God is always faithful!

Hilary Larson(www.powercastle.org)

Kelly said...

Recently I followed my husband to a new life and job in St Louis, Missouri. Leaving behind my beautiful suburban Texas hill country life. We are feeling the same call not to settle in with what is familiar, and minister to the city's broken and least of these...I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to see God at work like I've never seen before! The inner city isn't always beautiful at first glance. My life has been INTERRUPTED for sure. Abandoned homes, abandoned lives, and disrepair are everywhere...It's almost like lions, and tigers and bears, if i let the FEAR take over, But our Good God doesn't neglect or ever give up HOPE on people who need him. Thank you for sharing your journey here, Houston's inner city will be in my thoughts and prayers. May your new church be a bright shining light for His Glory.

Celie said...

Amanda I have not been following you but today I just felt a nudge to read and here I am.It really does remind me of as a few others have said I think it's a must read if you haven't read, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire the book the pastor of the Broolkyn Tabranacle wrote years ago. It sound so like the journey God's blessing your family with placed within your heart's. I will be praying for this part of your journey.

He is doing a big something in me
I have no clue where or what he wants He is showing me the me that need to change. My husband keep asking me questing of when I will start being all God has for me. He wants me to stop what I have done so many years of in home center. It has touched so many famlies with our lives for all to be seen. It really was something I started to think of after he called our Troy home how those families eyes where on us and the impact to them who watchin us live out the loss of our child,us to walk by faith through that season,

happymcfamily said...

What a beautiful thing it is when God wrecks the "us" part of our hearts so severely that only the "Him" part remains functioning. May "you" never recover! :-D
Prayers and blessings.

Nichole said...

So relieved I'm not the only one He's messing up these days. Go God!!!

Shelli Littleton said...

That's beautiful, Amanda! This young couple that I recently wrote about ... moving from Alabama to Seattle to plant a church in urban Seattle (1% claim Christianity) with their tiny baby girl! I'm scared for them, yet I know God is going to do big things thru them and for them because of their obedience and love for diversity. They plan to go into the city and mingle with the people ... life on life discipleship ... be real. I can't wait to hear what God does with them and with your family.

ourfamilye said...

Amanda, I just read all 3 parts of your story, and I have goosebumps. God is definitely doing a big work in you and Curt. I'm SO excited to see all that He does in and through your family in this. He is so faithful--He's even called you to a place you already love so much. Michael and I will definitely be praying for your family!

Liz*** said...

Very exciting stuff! I've recently been "Interrupted" and it has messed me up too. Thanks for sharing. If we lived in Houston we would join you on your new journey but instead we will pray for you and Curtis and watch what He does!

jkjkjkb said...

Your last paragraph made me smile! I am soo excited to be able to follow you on your new journey with God leading the way :) I always say, If God brings me to it, I know He'll get me through it! Praying for you! Kim

jonesbones5 said...

I am so amazed and excited for you and Curtis. I can't wait for more details. I can't wait to see how God uses your family to change lives.

kari said...

love you, love you, love you! i smiled really hard when i read all your connected posts. So thrilled about what He is doing in your heart! We will pray for you guys tonight. Of course move into downtown with a few other couples/families who want to start the plant with you...that way you can text them when you hear gunshots and say, "did you hear that?" It's like it comforts you if someone else heard the shot or at least can verify it was a dump truck. lol...danny always says, "as long as they're not shooting at us, we're good." I still call 911 every time though just to get more police coverage in our hood, but he's right- they're not shooting at us. The "street traffic" just steal my fall pumpkins and rocking chairs. I have actually contemplated if there is a way to chain up my pumpkins each fall!!! Chain up your grill too. :) Oh and one more hilarious thing. In downtown the suspicious people are the well dressed white people. I look out my window and see some random white guy walking down my street and ALWAYS WITHOUT FAIL think, "Who's the white guy? What's he doing on my street?" HILARIOUS shift that happens. The city is definitely a mission field where sacrifice is real as well as a HUGE learning curve for us sub city gals. Would love to chat through the process. love, love, love, k

HisTreasuredPossession said...

Amanda, like so many others, thank you for sharing your and Curtis's heart and vision. I am linking this to a sweet High Schooler who just got back from Haiti and is dealing with the questions of what next. I think this story will greatly encourage her.

as you continue to share your journey, I will continue to pray!

Lord, magnify yourself in Houston!!
love,
rachel

Jesus Chicky said...

Amanda,

This is so amazing! I will be praying for your family. Can't wait to see God's blessings!

I just happened to read this blog and thought of you. It is about local mission work.

http://oursweetbabygirl.blogspot.com/2011/04/msi.html

Amy -GA

His Jules said...

A tall order for us, but just a small one for our huge GOD. I will be interceding for you & Curtis on this mission. I am so in awe of what God is birthing in your hearts as well as your city!

Queen B said...

It is so very exciting to see God give someone the desire to be uncomfortable. Amazing. And something that could only be done by Him.

I completely identify with much of what you wrote. Work in Guatemala began a stirring in my husband and me that has become an undeniable calling...we are just not sure what we are being called to do! Like you, we have considered permanently relocating to Guatemala along with many stateside ministries. Your words about waiting are so encouraging. Thank you for sharing your journey.

(My copy of Interrupted should arrive today! Can't wait!)

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Oh Amanda. May God's abundant joy and strength fuel you and Curtis as you walk this path. How exciting! And frightening! And pistis-requiring! I will be praying for you.

Katie - a Blessed Mommy! said...

I've been meaning to comment all week but time got away from me! Was anxiously reading each post on my phone & so excited to hear your journey to such a big decision! I am excited for your family!
Thanks for sharing your story - look forward to the next chapter!
Have a great Easter - Katie

Darla said...

So excited about your church plant and what God is going to do through the ministry of you and Curtis. Yea for Houston!

Robin ~ PENSIEVE said...

Yes...yes...this :).

{{love}}

Emily said...

I am a friend of Alicia D's, and came over to read about the church plant she's going to be involved in. As a fellow Houstonian, I am so excited for y'all! I love hearing how God led y'all to this, and am excited for His plans for Houston.

Leslie said...

I wish you would plant in League City! We just moved down here from Tomball last month and are so frustrated in our church search. But I guess League City is still the 'burbs, so not a good option for y'all. I'm a Puerto Rican Air Force brat, so, unlike you, people in the 'burbs don't look like me or share my background. Wish I were up to a long drive to go to a more culturally diverse church, but with a little one and another on the way, that's not really an option for us right now. Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing more about your family's adventure.