When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my dad was a pastor outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. From my perspective, as a kid, this was a great church. Still to this day I have some pretty vivid memories of the people, the church building, the street the church was located on and even the parsonage that we lived in. Looking back, the church seemed healthy. There were some good people who cared about our family.
While living there for several years, I began to develop friends. I played on a baseball team. Our kids ministry was pretty good on Sundays and there were several families with kids my age. One day, a friend from church invited me over to spend the night on a Friday and my parents agreed. The family had been attending our church for some time and seemed to be a good family. Their son was my age and his younger sibling was just a few months old. It was towards the end of the school year and the weather was starting to warm up. I remember it being warm enough to be on the play set in their back yard until it got dark. They had a newer home that was well kept and nicely decorated inside and out. After we had dinner that night, I had washed up and was ready for bed. Right before bed, my friend and I had made our way to the kitchen for a snack. While we were downstairs, his parents were upstairs putting the baby to bed.
All of the sudden, I heard a loud noise upstairs. (** As I write this and recall those memories, I can feel my heart beat begin to accelerate and my stress level begin to rise.) We ran upstairs to see what was going on. When we made it to the top of the stairs and turned to go into the baby’s room, I remember seeing the mom, holding the baby and getting shoved through the air. She landed on the baby’s crib, smashing it to pieces. I was freaked out! I froze. I then saw a “Little Tikes” plastic hammer flying through the air toward her. Luckily it missed her and hit the wall. It penetrated the drywall and stuck. As my friend and I ran downstairs, I heard his mom yell out, “Call 911!!!”. When we got to the bottom of the stairs we headed into the kitchen. He grabbed the phone, hanging from the wall and called 911. As soon as he started to answer the operator, his dad made it to the kitchen and ripped the phone off the wall throwing it into the dining room and ran back upstairs. We were so scared! The next few moments were a complete blur for me. But, I remember hiding in their coffee table. The coffee table was a bigger, bulky table that had sliding doors on either end that you could store things. I slid the doors open and crawled inside. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I didn’t come out until I heard the voice of a police officer calling my name. Someone notified my parents and they were outside waiting with the police and EMT’s. I was escorted out to the safety of my parents car and we went home.
I don’t remember talking with my parents about that night after it happened. I don’t remember “debriefing” it at all. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember ever seeing my friend again. But the memories of that night, some 30 years ago, are still vivid in my mind.
In that moment of being freaked out and scared, I needed a safe place to get away. That bulky coffee table was it. It was the only place that an 8 or 9 year old could think to hide to get away from what was going on. For pastors and their families, there aren’t too many places like that for them. No, I’m not talking about a bulky coffee table or even a bunker dug into the ground somewhere. I’m talking about a place where a family can get away from the situation they find themselves in and be a family. Sometimes pastors families need to “debrief” the things going on in their lives. Sometimes pastors need a person “on the outside” of their ministry that they can talk and relate to. They need someone who they can confide in and listen to them. As a matter of fact, so does the family.
I believe that is why the Holy Spirit gave the dream of Restoration Farm to my wife and I. We desire for a safe place for pastors and their families to go when the need may arise. We don’t want it to be a last resort. We want it to be something that those who are in ministry can utilize any time. We want a safe place. We have a dream for this to be a place where people can come to and find restoration in the midst of serving the Lord and the people they are called to. Ministry isn’t easy. It has it’s good days and tough days, just like any other job. But sometimes, when pastors go on vacation, they really can’t get away and relax and find that safe place that won’t cost them an arm and a leg. We believe Restoration Farm will be that “safe place” for many.
Lord, today I pray for those families that you will use us to impact. Restoration Farm is bigger than the Dennis family. The impact that it has the potential to make is only realized in light of Your Kingdom. Help Tiffany and I to be faithful to this call that you are leading us to. We have a desire to follow Your lead and go where You will send us. Lord, we lift up those pastors who need a place like this right now. Strengthen and encourage them even now as they serve You. Continue to help Tiffany and I to be faithful to see Your vision through. Amen