Since our last post, God has sent us on another path that we didn’t expect. We felt that our path was to start to focus on fundraising for the retreat, and considered this new direction a diversion. It frustrated me because I saw the original path of moving forward with the retreat and I felt we weren’t on it. Now looking back, we understand why God took us on this diversion. The key point to this is that we considered it a diversion, but in God’s eyes, it was always the path He set forth for us. CJ was open to new direction sooner than I was, because she could see the big picture to why God took us in a different direction. CJ helped me to see the big picture, so I eventually realized that I was putting God in a box by being closed off in my thinking (inflexible) that the path I had in my head was THE PATH that God had laid out for us.
Building our Garage
That path was for me to learn the trade of building construction. My experience in construction was limited to remodeling projects for four houses, and it was nothing to the scale that I would need to know in the construction of the retreat’s buildings. When God guided CJ and me to the house we currently live in, we knew we would eventually need to build a garage and more storage. Therefore, this past fall we set out to have a garage with a large storage area constructed next to our house. Our original plan for the garage was to hire an experienced contractor to oversee me doing a vast majority of the work. Well that thinking was naive, because my experience was not in starting something from scratch. I quickly realized that I was over my head, and our contractor ended up doing most of the work and I was his laborer.
We broke ground on the garage in late September and we should finish phase 1 of the construction by the middle of January. Phase 1 includes a completed roof with the side having only the plywood. We are holding off on any more construction until spring time frame. By that time we should have some more money saved up to complete the garage. In addition, the next phases of construction are steps that I can do a majority of the work at least that is what I’m hoping. We believe that the garage project was in God’s plan, because I learned a great deal about constructing something from scratch, which included learning the County’s permit process. All of this experience will pay big dividends when we develop the retreat property.
Through the garage construction, I started to build relationships with the County inspectors and a number of the local building material suppliers. Getting an “In” with both parties will set the stage for our next building construction on the retreat. I’m hoping that some of the relationships grow beyond just being only business oriented and become friends.
In addition to building the garage, God moved our focus from marketing and fund raising for the ministry to building relationships in Salida from both a personal as well as a professional standpoint. Our friend, Judith, who succeeded me in leading the Outside ministry at our old church in Austin, moved to Salida at the same time as CJ and me to be part of the ministry. When the three of us first know we were moving to Salida, we had this preconceived idea of the type of church we would be a part of. That type would be a contemporary non-denominational church, which is what we were a custom. The reality is that type really does not exist in a small town like Salida, with all but one of the Christian churches being denominational churches. We prayed about which church God wanted us at, so we when we were up to explore last February CJ and I visited the only non-denominational church in town. We walked away that day feeling it just didn’t seem like the church that God wanted us at.
So, the first Sunday after we moved here, we prayed and talked to each about which church we were to visit first. Our plan was to visit as many churches as needed to find the Church that felt right. The first Church that we visited was Cross Roads Church in Poncha Springs, which is the town we actually live closest to. While we were in Colorado in February, I saw this church when we drove north on one of our exploring drives. I noticed on the sign, it was part of the South Baptist Convention. So, when we decided to visit it first, we had our guard up already because CJ and I had bad experiences in the past with denominational churches. Cross Roads is a small rural church with about 50 members, so coming from a church of 5,000, it would be a big adjustment. Well, when we went that first Sunday, we noticed right away that the members average age was in the 60’s, which also would be a big adjustment coming from a church with an average age in the mid 30’s.
Even with all the perceived red flags against this small rural church, we left the first service not felling like wow we have to find another church. It was quite the opposite. We experienced a bible-based not doctrine-based (which many of the denominations preach) sermon that we all liked. That same week the pastor called us and wanted to have lunch with CJ and me. The pastor and his wife seemed very nice and were open with us. We also got the sense that they actually cared about getting to know us more. We both left the lunch feeling that they weren’t feeding us a line, but were authentic and genuine and at went along way with us.
We felt a draw to go back the next Sunday, so we did. Outside of liking the pastor and his wife, we weren’t sure why at the time. Some concerns that kept running through our heads, was that we are some of the youngest there and that the service was traditional not contemporary. We also kept saying to each other, “we’re active outdoors people, and we are supposed to find a church that had that type of demographic”. This church was far from that, they are ranchers or construction workers from families that have been here for generations. So why did we sense that God wanted us there? If we stayed, at this church how would we connect with the outdoor community that lives in downtown Salida? Judith even visited several other churches to see if she was called to a different church, and didn’t get the feeling that she experienced from Cross Roads, so she came back. Is God trying to break us again of our preconceived views of His plans? So many unanswered questions to why Cross Roads Church…
Soon after we started attending Cross Roads, we slowly started to plug into the church activities. It would have been easier for us to build relationships with people that are very similar to us. However, God had other plans in store for us, by placing us at Cross Roads, it has required us to stretch ourselves and build relationships with people that we may not have much in common. In doing that, our mind and eyes has been opened a life style outside of the outdoor community. However, entering into the new relationships, we had to constantly pray that it’s not about us and to be careful not to focus on what can they do for us or the ministry, but to focus on getting to know and loving our new friends. As a result, we have been able to develop friendships with a number of people, by focusing on who they are and where they are in life. Some examples of the fruit that has blossomed from these relationships are, we have a new friend that helped us with garage by pouring the concrete floor, and another one helped me fix our car. For many people that include us, it’s much easier to serve than to be served, so we were very surprised in a good way with the generosity so soon.
We also learned that Salida area including Cross Roads Church seem to struggle with isolation. They aren’t big on doing big group outings or events, which is part of a healthy authentic church community. They do however offer help on an individual basis, like the two examples I described above. Both CJ and I have a passion for building community and maybe God has us here to help this church build a more vibrant community within the church as well as the church becoming an integral part of the local community. God calls all of us to love each other and help the less fortunate.
The key take away from this blog is that when we are praying for God’s path to get us from point A to point B and we can develop a preconceived vision of the path (fixed path). So when God calls us off our preconceived path, we think it’s a diversion. The reality is that it’s not a diversion at all, but God’s actual path for us. So in following His path for you be prayerful, trust Him, have faith to take the steps, and to have an open heart (be flexible) to whatever direction He takes you.