I carry a little pebble in my pocket to remind me just how much God has done for me in the last three years.
Little did I know when I wrote my last post on "Romance and the Journey of Faith" (Feb. 12, 2016) that I would end up arriving home again, myself. Here it is a year later and I have pretty much made the entire trek, "There and Back Again."
Here's a little bit about my recent journey: In March of 2012, in obedience to God, I closed the church I had planted in July 2000, the Walnut Valley Vineyard Church, and gifted most of the equipment to the Can2 Vineyard, a new Cantonese-speaking congregation that was planted out of the Vineyard of Harvest (a Mandarin congregation) by my friend, Pastor Kenneth Kwan. I began working on planting a new Vineyard Church in Brea, California called "The Journey." It was exciting to begin a new adventure. We gathered a small group of great leaders, all of us anticipating what God was about to do. Little did we know that we would wander in the wilderness for a couple of years.
During that time, leaders came and then had to leave for a variety of reasons until, in October of 2014, we decided that it would be best to suspend everything. As you can imagine, it is a bit of a shock to realize that "God is just not that into your church plant." And even though I was disappointed at the end of The Journey (pun intended), it was not really the end of my journey.
Although I had gotten used to sleeping in on Sunday mornings (The Journey met Sunday evenings), we continued to attend a really great home group. I knew we needed to find a church home. It is never good to "give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing" (Heb. 10:25). The painful process that follows any loss, called the grieving process, can be difficult enough without also withdrawing from the loving support of the community of faith.
In January of 2015, we started to attend the Vineyard Community Church of Pomona/Claremont. My friend, Alan Strzemieczny, aka Stretch, became my pastor as I sought to find work in the secular world. I was selling doors and windows for another good friend, Kelvin Chin. Then I was hired by a Property Development and Construction company close to my home.
By the end of 2015 I was feeling pretty miserable in my new job (all of which was my own stuff--it was not a good fit). And I began to pray for God to open the door back into full-time ministry. By April of 2016, He partially answered my prayer by cutting back my hours at the Construction company. In order to make ends meet, I began driving for Uber (which I am still able to do when I have time). With all of this, I was not really making enough to live on.
Besides that, I yearned for the privilege of, once again, fulfilling my purpose in life. God made me a pastor and I don't think I'll ever be able to be happy doing anything else again.
In August of 2016, God answered the second part of my prayer, when the Pomona Vineyard hired me as an Associate Pastor. There and back again.
On Good Friday 2016, I picked up a small stone to remind myself to pray this prayer every day, "Lord, please open the door back into pastoral ministry." And even though the prayer was answered in August, I continue to carry that pebble in my pocket as a reminder to be thankful for all that God has done. Even when ministry gets hard, which it inevitably does, I want to remember how thankful I am to be doing what I'm doing.
What does your journey look like? Are you asking God to lead you to a preferred destination? Remember that He is "the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul" (1 Pet. 2:25). You are never wandering alone when you stay connected to Him.