In October of 2006, my husband and I both went forward to pray at invitation time about God's will for our lives. We had just heard a sermon on church planting, One of many that we had already heard in our lives.
We both grew up in a church that had a strong heart for church planting and were blessed with a Pastor (Pastor Dan Smith) with a burden to see churches start churches. We both were involved in several church plants through our home church, Buckley Road Baptist in Liverpool, NY. We both had a desire and burden to one day come back "home" to NY and plant a church.
At the time we were serving in Kansas. My husband was the Associate/Youth pastor and we loved it. We were paid well. Had little responsibility (which we did not realize until later, haha) and some good friends. We were content and happy. We loved the teens and spending time with them. They were our life and we saw God do some wonderful things there. We both started feeling....I don't know how you say it...uneasy? ready? Just that feeling you get when you are ready to move on. Looking back I am 100% sure that it was the Lord preparing our hearts for a big transition.
So anyways- back to the altar. We both prayed that God would give us direction. Either make us content where we were serving and take away any desire to plant a church OR to make the desire so strong and His will so obvious that we wouldn't miss it. We went home that night with not much talk about it.
The VERY next day I came home from my part time job at our small town's library (best job ever!, lol) and my husband was in thinking mode. I was like, "What's up?" And he said, "My dad called. BRBC (our home church) wants to plant a church in Binghamton. He already called a couple other guys and they said no. So he decided to call me and see if we were interested." I was like. "What!? Are you serious?? I hope you told him yes!" And he said, "Barb. We need to think about it and pray about it." I was like, "huh? we already did. last night!" (Duh!)
I will say I am blessed with a husband who does not make quick, hasty decisions, unlike myself. :) It's a good thing I have him;) But at this time, I felt and knew in my heart that this WAS the answer. It was the day after we asked the Lord to show us and BAM. Here we were! So- anyways my spiritual husband prayed about it and came to the same conclusion that I already had days before that yes! This was indeed what God had for us!
Now I had only ever been to Binghamton one time. My husband was there once for a Teen activity to a hockey game, so we had no clue about the area, the people, anything. So on Halloween, less than a month after we decided to move, we were in our car on our way to our new ministry. We had our dog, cat, and our 15 month old daughter. We were ready to take on Binghamton.
In my mind, I envisioned us starting the church and having like 100 people in the first year. I knew of several church planters that struggled over the years but still I was thinking that we had this in the bag, haha I was like, "We have great personalities, Who wouldn't love us!?" Yeah. About that....church planting and youth pastoring aren't even in the same league. :)
We really had no clue what we were getting in to, which is probably a good thing. We never went on deputation. We didn't have a bunch of materials and sound equipment. We had some chairs, a pulpit, an electric piano, and some hymn books. What more could you need? :) We had some financial support from our home church and that was it. (A couple months later we were able to go to the college we both graduated from's home missions conference and raise enough support in that meeting that my husband did not have to get a second job right away A huge, huge blessing!) We moved in with my in-laws because we didn't have a place to live. I knew one song on the piano in chords that we could sing. (And we sang it a lot!) We had only gone on visitation for a day. We had basically never even been to this Binghamton place that we were called to! It was so exciting though! Home missions! This was it. Our dream coming true! I was 22 and he was 25. Less than a week after moving to NY, we had our very first service. We had a teeny room that we would meet in that was in a big, old high school.
This was the room before we set it up...
Ok, my eyes just filled with tears as that uploaded! Look how small that is!? The picture was taken from the doorway. That was it. We packed it out at our first service with 12 whole people!! I literally couldn't believe people actually showed up. I felt like we were 10 years old playing church. Is that weird? It was just so unreal! Felt too good to be true. A few months later we were able to move to a "big" room across the hall.
We remodeled it a few months after that and were able to use the other half as a nursery! And even had a bathroom in there. Which was great because we were having to go early and clean these really gross ones down the hall.
From that first day we started right into full services. SS, AM, PM, and Thursday night services. We, unlike some church planters who just start with a Bible study, just went all in. Go big or go home! right!? (Disclaimer- I'm not saying there is anything wrong with going on deputaion- we just didn't) For me it was no big deal because I didn't have to really do anything special but go to church and wow everyone with my charming personality (ha!). But for my husband, he went from just doing a teen SS class once a week to preaching 4 'real' sermons a week! I think he lived off pepto bismol for a year!! hahaha Those were some crazy fun, scary, sad, happy, exciting, unsure, you-name-the emotion-and we-had- it, times! I have so many stories. Just so many. This post is already ridiculously long though, so I'll refrain...About a year and a half later, through another long story, the Lord provided us with a building! An actual, real, official church building! It even already had hymnals, KJV Bibles, an organ, a piano, pews, SS materials...you name it, it was there! For only $15,000. Another miracle! I mean, there are just so many miracles...
We saw, and continue to see, the hand of God in our lives and on this ministry over and over and over! We have seen hundreds of visitors, hundreds saved through various ministries and outreaches, many people baptized, people rededicating their lives to the Lord and just countless testimonies of God's power. He, time and time again, has made Himself so real to us.
We have learned and grown so much ourselves. I cannot really speak for my husband, but man, the more we are in the ministry, the more I realize how unworthy I am. How much I don't know. How I have no wisdom in and of myself. How I don't have all the answers, and that is ok! How it is NONE of me and all of Him. My charming personality (which turns out isn't so charming! who knew?? haha) isn't bringing in the multitudes. The lessons I have learned and continue to learn in my short time as the wife of a Pastor are never ending. One of my favorite verses is in II Cor. 3:5, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; It is all Him. ALL Him. Which is a very good thing, because I have nothing to offer on my own.
We have had 9 wonderful years here serving the Lord and I am looking forward to the next 50 if that is what He has for us (which I pray is the case!) There is just so much I could write here, but I wouldn't even know where to start.
There are times of feeling like you are alone. The only one out there. The feeling of doing everything by yourself. Being the only nursery worker for years. Years! Running up and down to play the piano hoping someone can just sit with the kids in the nursery so you can have an invitation or a song service with music! Being the only woman teacher, encourager, counsellor, kitchen worker, babysitter, all while tying to give proper attention to your own children. Sitting in the back row counting how many people are there. And even include the baby in your womb. why not!? a life is a life! lol.
Watching your husband do his best to do it all alone. Seeing Him laboring all week over a sermon he is thrilled about only to have 2 people show up. Seeing him discouraged and not knowing exactly how to help. Not sharing your own emotions for fear of further discouraging him. Poeple who you thought were in it with you for the long haul stab you in the back and leave bringing you back down to no one. So much hurt, but so much joy too. Financial burdens. Balancing church and family. Up and down. Up and down. Victory and defeat Victory and defeat. And just when you think you are at your lowest He brings you up! And does something so amazing that you can't even doubt it was Him that did it.
Only another church planter can really understand. There is a special bond between us. We can look at eachother and just know. We get it. You can talk about church planting. Study it in college. Be part of a church plant, be in a church that is planting another church, but until you actually are THE ONE doing the actual planting, you just cannot fully understand. Which is ok. It isn't God's plan for every person...
All that to say, it's so worth it! I wouldn't go back if I could. It is those times of hardship that we were able to fully rely on God and see Him work in crazy, wonderful ways. I feel like this post is a bunch of rambling because I have a hard time expressing the last 9 years here, but I wanted to share anyways- So thankful that God called us here. So thankful for the people He has called us to. We love each of them so much and it is so exciting to see God working in their lives :) Very excited to see what He has in store for our church and our future. "Through it all.....God's Been Good"