We helped out the church we planted, CrossWay Community Church as well as the church that sponsored us while we were there, Haverhill Community Church. It was very good and very much a blessing to be able to return to a place that will always hold a very unique place in our hearts. It was the first place of ministry for us. It was a church plant which holds a uniqueness all its own. It was where our first child, Annika, was born. It was where God grew us in ways that, though difficult, are precious. It was a place where we saw in remarkable ways the power and goodness of God.
Going back was a blessing. It was weird in a way. As Holly mentioned, it's weird when your mind is retrieving information and memories when you return to a place you have been away from for some time. I only got lost driving once, which was good! During the week we were reunited with so many very good friends and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. For most of the week we passed out fliers to promote a VBS type of event that the Haverhill church is doing in a few weeks. We also did some prayerwalking with CrossWay and helped the Haverhill church get some things done around the church building as well as assist them in their nursing home ministry. I also had the opportunity to preach and teach at both churches.
We stayed with familiar friends from Haverhill Community Church, Jim and Teddy. They served us well and were a joy to stay with for the week.
Some thoughts in recapping the week of ministry:
- Only by the grace of God did we do the things we did in our time there planting CrossWay Community Church. As we were driving through Methuen on our way to church Sunday morning I thought, "We knocked on at least 75% of the doors in this town!" I have often thought recently of all the physical labor that went into renovating the original space we were in and asked myself, "How in the world did I ever have the energy to do that!" The answer to both is that God gave us a special measure of grace and strength for the task He had called us to there. God was faithful there and He will be faithful here.
- I am so thankful to the Lord that the church He allowed us to plant is still there and persevering. It has not stopped. They have moved to a street level location and have a great pastor in Bob Smith. The faithful members we had while we were there are still there and a few more have been added. One of the joys of the week happened while we were prayerwalking. A lady asked us what we were doing and we told her who we were with and what we were doing and she said, "Oh, yeah, the church in the center of town. I know where your talking about." In two years, I never heard those words in our encounters with people. They are sweet words and words for which I am thankful to God.
- The people of Haverhill Community Church are some of most loving people, if not the most loving people, we have ever met. They are such a wonderful example of Jesus' words in John 13:34-35. Oh, what a blessing it was to experience their love again and spend time with them in their homes and in their church family!
- The spiritual blindness of the area is the same. We attempted to share the Gospel with an older gentleman. He asked me what religion I was and I told him Christianity. His reply was, "I'm fine with my Catholicism." I then had the opportunity to share the Gospel with two teenage young men, Nathan and Bobby. They listened, one more than the other, but you could feel and see the spiritual blindness of their hearts. I pray God will remove it.
- What a joy it is for a husband to hear and see his wife sharing the Gospel with someone! When we finished sharing with Nathan and Bobby we made our way back over to where Holly was. When we walked up she was there talking to another mom and was about halfway through presenting the Gospel. I was and am very proud to be her husband. Her heart for lost people and her faithfulness in sharing the Gospel challenges and inspires me. She is a gift from God.
- And similarly, what a joy it is for a Daddy to hear his two little girls praying for lost people. Annika and Alexa were with us when we were prayerwalking. They wanted to pray and so from time to time when we stopped in front of a house to pray, we let them pray. Their prayers weren't too complex or wordy or sometimes even understandable, but God knows the intentions of their hearts. God only knows what seeds were planted in their hearts while they were in the midst of praying for others.
- It was a blessing to share the experience. It was a blessing to share it with our girls, but also with a church member. I hope he saw our burden for that place and that people and that in some small way caught that burden as well. He was a blessing to our family and I pray the week was a blessing to him.
- It's good to be home. Though we will always have a heart and burden for New England, Massachusetts was where God called us then. Westmoreland, TN is where God has called us now and the best place to be is always where God has called you.
- God is faithful. He was faithful to us in every way there while we lived there and He was faithful to us in every way while we were visitors. He was faithful to get us there and to give us the opportunity and to sustain us while we were there. He was faithful there and He is faithful here.
That's all for now. If God places other reflections on my heart of the week, I will share. Pray for the spiritual blindness of New England and your hometown as well to be removed by God's grace through God's Gospel.