September 11 has meaning for me for a couple of reasons. Obviously, that date in 2001 changed our nation and the world in so many ways. The other is the same date a few years later that changed me and my family forever.
My wife and I grew up attending church at The Salvation Army. For those who aren’t aware, it is its own denomination – a legitimate and bible preaching part of the universal Christian church. Vanda and I were married almost 15 years ago. Less than a year later we attended the Salvation Army School for Officer Training in Suffern, NY, to become pastors.
Upon being ordained as ministers we were stationed in Rochester, NY, where we launched a new Salvation Army. Three years later we were transferred to Philadelphia, PA, to head up the Pioneer Corps, the first Salvation Army church in the United States. In that denomination the pastors are transferred from one location to another by the determination of the top staff at divisional and territorial headquarters. But our next move wouldn’t be determined by someone else . . . and neither would it be easy.
Vanda and I had been feeling that God was calling us to serve him in a different way. That’s not an easy thing to decide when you’ve been in the same denomination all your life. That was all we had known! Almost everybody we had known, even most of our family, were in The Salvation Army as well. But, God’s call was strong and persistent. So, on September 11, 2005, we said goodbye to our friends in Philadelphia and moved to Boardman, OH. We would eventually plant our second church in nearby Columbiana.
That date is the day that Vanda and I risked everything for God with so little to go on. The house we had been living in belonged to The Salvation Army, so we were homeless, moving into what had been worked out as a temporary living arrangement. Everything we owned for our five-member family was in a fourteen foot U-haul truck. The cars we had driven belonged to The Salvation Army, so if not for the generosity of my father-in-law we’d have been without transportation. And, I had no job. We had left everyone we had known, so we were very lonely.
But, we were free. Not free from oppression, but free to live how God was calling us to live. As one of my friends would later put it: we weren’t free from something but to something else. We’ve paid the price for it, literally (a proper use of the word, for those who read my recent blog on pet peeves). A great lesson I’ve learned is that when you take a great risk for God, you’d better be ready to take the hit when the reward for your risk isn’t what you thought it’d be – at least not initially.
Two days ago our Senior Pastor, Randy, finished up a series on the book of Daniel with a great thought. The message of the final chapter was God telling Daniel that some seriously crazy things would happen to his people in the coming years. Wars and rumors of wars. An abomination that would cause desolation. Scary stuff. But at the heart of the message was God’s anticipation of our hope in his faithfulness. So, he lists all the heavy stuff, and in the midst of it all says “I’ve got you covered” (Randy’s paraphrase).
He does. On the seventh anniversary of taking the largest step of faith we may possible ever encounter, we are in a place where we know God wants us to be. When we first made our move, many people didn’t understand. We had to come to terms with disappointing people so that we could please God. It’s not been easy, but it’s a choice we would make again.