Dos Palos United Methodist Church...
I was born a few blocks away.
It's the church I went to Tiny Tots at...
the church I attended once in a while as a child with my Grammy...
the church where Tom asked me to marry him - just to the right of that front door, kneeling on the soggy grass...
the church where we were married, nearly 15 years ago - on a day that was 115 degrees and the West Coast power grid went down...
the church the kids and I would visit, again with Grammy, when we were here from Florida...
where last summer, after leaving the ice cream social, I stopped on the grass for a moment and thought, how amazing would it be to come back here, to live here, to serve here, to be part of this community...yeah....right... there's a crazy dream...
it's the church we began attending when we moved back to California. A church that's been damaged in ways similar to our own story in an odd way.
They asked Tom to preach, on his birthday, knowing that their pastor - this wonderful man who came out of retirement to simply bring healing to a fractured, hurting congregation - that he was ready to retire for the third time.
And they loved Tom.
And we love them.
It's funny - so very different from the church where Tom last worked. So small, so connected. Sunday services are not a slick production put out by a few for consumption by the masses...they're a love offering to the Lord, with so many working to bring forth worship. There is an honesty and transparency that I have craved. With hymns and readings, a piano and an organ, not even an overhead projector much less flat screens, flashy backgrounds and a large band, I've felt God's presence so strongly, so directly and healing has begun.
It has been a journey - these months since Tom preached - so many ups and so many downs, to that phone call from the District Superintendent last Friday...saying yes...this is the best thing for this church, for you, for your family, for this community.
On July 1st, Tom will become the pastor of Dos Palos United Methodist Church.
We have already been so extravagantly loved on, so supported, so blessed by this congregation we hardly know what to do. It won't be an easy road - this is a small town with a massive unemployment rate, schools that are flailing, a gang problem, and he will be fighting a bad legacy left by a previous pastor (not the current one). It's a church that needs to grow for a future, but that is ready to.
And I think again and again of God's words in Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
And these words from Elizabeth Elliot, that stukk continue to bring me hope and peace:
"God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to."
And I laugh.
Never - not ever - in these past 15 years of marriage, have I ever truly thought that God would bring us to this place. Never, in the midst of the pain of these past few years of ministry, had I ever thought this was where He was leading. When we moved back to my hometown, it was because my parent's had the most room in their home and we thought we'd be here for a few months before leaving to take another position. It certainly was beyond my thought process that He was bringing us full circle to serve Him.
Right now, it's a very good place to be.