“Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.” Mark 8:13
It’s been just about a year. Well, 1 year and 1 day to be exact. On a cold Saturday February morning, my family and I headed to the U-Haul store to get the truck so we could begin packing. It was just the 4 of us and it was pretty lonely. My then, 13 year old son and I began hauling out plastic tubs filled with our belongings and started packing up the truck. Later, our family showed up to help. There were several times where I would have to mentally suppress the looming question of, “What am I doing?” or “Are you crazy, Paul?” Honestly, a year later I am still asking those same questions. We are still frustrated with things and wondering if anything has really ‘advanced’ in the past year. We still don’t have a permanent home and we will yet again move back into the 275-ish square foot camper to lay our heads at the end of hard physical laboring days. We have come through an entire farming season and are gearing up for yet another, praying some of the crops are better than ‘the worst in 37 years as we experienced. Being in a constant state of ‘temporary’ and ‘unsettled-ness’ and moving tubs back and forth can be exhausting folks. We honestly thought things would look a little different by now.
Yet despite any frustration and ‘unsettled-ness’, over the past year we have received many words of encouragement from family, friends and “framily” (friends who are more like family). You have no idea how much those comments have helped keep us going. One such “framily” member wrote me a private message after my last blog on ‘Identity’. She said something that has stuck with me and has spurred me to continue thinking about where I am and what direction we are heading. She reminded me about the times when Jesus and his disciples would hop in a boat and head for the other side of the lake. I think it was recorded some 10-12 times in the Gospels of the New Testament. Sometimes Jesus would push away from shore and head to the other side because such a large crowd would be following him. Other times it was just a way to get to the next destination. No matter what the reason, there’s something interesting about making the move to the other side.
For my family and I, we have found ourselves on “the other side” of full time ministry in the last year. No, not the “dark side”, just the other side. For the first time in my life, we aren’t in a main leadership role at a church. Embracing this has been difficult for me at times. But, being on this side has been freeing too. While Restoration Farm doesn’t have a physical address or place, it is beginning to take shape in the form of trying our best to encourage the pastors in our local church. We have also benefited from another church (Xenia Grace Chapel) who has graciously opened the door for us to temporarily live in a home (called Grace Place) during the winter of 2020-2021. Moving in just before the cold hit in November, it has been a complete blessing for us to spread out and stay cozy and warm. Just finally settling in, we now find ourselves unsettling to head back to our full time RV living so others can find a home in Grace Place. With gratitude for the time we were able to spend here, we are doing all we can to bless this church, Grace Place and those who will stay here in the future. (Hopefully I can write more about Grace Place and how it is designed to do exactly what Restoration Farm will be doing in the coming years.)
The other side of full time ministry for us began when we started to push away from the “shore” that we knew and were comfortable with. Things were good for us. Moderately predictable, a comfortable paycheck and people who loved us were the “shore” that God was asking us to hop in the moving truck and head away from. While I think there are times I can see what the other side looks like, smells like and sometimes feels like, I know we’re not there yet. More patience is needed. There’s a lot more work that needs done. There are more earthly risks that need to be taken and a lot more steps of faith that are out there for us to experience. Slowly but surely, we will get there.
Our hope is that Restoration Farm will be a place where pastors and their families can go to be on the other side of the challenges of ministry. We also want it to be a place where pastors and their staff can get away and plan for ways to help their ‘church’ grow and become all that God wants them to be. I think it’s important to remember that being on the other side of things isn’t necessarily bad. Many times being on the other side brings new perspective, vision and even a new drive. Being on the other side allows us to see and experience things in a way we would never be able to see if we don’t push away from shore. But, don’t think for a second that getting to the other side is always going to be easy. Remember the story in Mark 4? That’s right! In verse 35, Jesus says “Let us go over to the other side.” Not long after that, an exhausted Jesus falls asleep and a “furious squall” comes up and the disciples think they’re going do die. In their attempt to get to the other side of the lake, where Jesus asked them to go, the storm seemed too bad and threatened to sink the boat. And, in the midst of the storm, Jesus says 3 words: “Quiet! Be still!” (verse 39). Many times, our perspective on the other side is clearer because of what God has allowed us to experience trying to get there. We know we are (and have been) in that current state of having to experience some things for our own sakes.
Lord, the miles have seemed long over the past several months. There have been times where I have been more weighed down by the immediate experiences and worrying about getting to the other side and I have missed the fact that you are in the boat with me. Sometimes it seems like the waves are too big and the storm is too dark. Lord, help us to see this thing through. Help us to be faithful to continue on to the other side. Help my family to continue to see you and your faithfulness in the process. Help those who need to experience the other side to join with us in prayer about this vision you have called us to. We know the road isn’t going to be easy but the destination will always be worth it.