It’s been difficult trying to keep this news quiet, and an even tougher process trying to explain why I’m leaving in multiple sentences. For those who have asked, and will continue to ask why I’m moving to Miami, you have heard or will hear a plethora of reasons like: “new job”, “burn out”, “Church plant”, “urban American missions”, “settling for comfort in Nashville”, “youth outreach program”, or “living with friends 3 blocks away from the beach” – I’m excited about the close vicinity to the beach, but I promise that’s not why I’m leaving.
Really, it’s been a combination of the things that I listed but, in a nutshell, “it’s about time”.
Comfort & A Heart for American Urban Missions
Since moving to Nashville in 2013, I’ve attempted to become more and more acclimated. However, it seemed like the more I tried, the more unsettled I felt even though everything seemed to be in place: I’ve been working at a nonprofit in a field that I’m incredibly passionate about (and actually being able to survive off the nonprofit money). I’m a member at a wonderful local church that consists of people from many different nations, and I serve in many aspects (hospitality, set-up, worship, community group and a Tuesday morning Bible study). I made friends – despite how difficult it seems after college. I have my favorite coffee shops, and my favorite drink at each. There are bookstores that I frequent, ministries to volunteer with, I’m finally at a place where I rarely use my GPS, and my local Starbucks baristas know my name! Yet, it’s been apparent that I’ve had a feeling of unsettledness; as though I’m choosing comfort and security over something else.
Since college, I’ve had a growing desire for missions, particularly in urban American areas, and my prayer since has been that the Lord’s will would be done in my life “by any means necessary”. It’s a very bold thing to say, but I meant it, and still mean it! As a child, I was blessed to have grown up in a church where the pastors and leaders took teaching the Gospel very seriously. From time to time, like any other child, I would visit friend’s houses on the weekends and sometimes go to their churches on Sundays. Doing so over the years, I noticed a huge difference between the content taught at my church and some of their churches. If this is beginning to sound a bit self-righteous, that’s truly not my intent. However, the lack of Gospel-centered teaching in the urban context is pretty low and rare, especially from minority leaders. There’s an unfortunate abundance of prosperity teaching, legalism and fundamentalism in the urban context, but not the Gospel. As a teenager, I either ignored it, made fun of it or turned up my nose, none of which are proper responses. Nonetheless, as the years have gone by and I’ve grown older, a lack of sound-theological teaching in the urban context continues to cause my heart great grief.
I would often notice that if there were Gospel-centered churches in an urban area (or ministries), the congregation didn’t really look like the neighborhood. To make it plain, there are a lot of “gentrified” (for lack of a better term) churches in urban areas, where the leadership and the make up of the congregation, don’t usually reflect the demographics surrounding the church. It sounds weird, gentrification in urban churches…but it’s a thing, unfortunately.
In 2011, my home church in Kansas City merged with another church and became (and still is) Koinonia Bible Church. We learned that KBC was going to be a part of an initiative called the Rebuild Network, that focuses on planting Gospel-centered churches in urban areas and raising up indigenous leaders. It was the coolest!! Hearing all of this, internally I was saying “Yassss Lord”! The truth of the Gospel was intentionally being placed in urban areas around the country by leaders who either had a burden and/or came from those same backgrounds. It was wonderful…but I was still in college 2-hours away in small-town Columbia, Missouri. I didn’t really sense a call to go back home following college, so I began looking at large, urban cities that had the fewest number of Gospel-centered churches. The plan was move to an urban area and share Jesus. Simple enough, right? So, I set my goals high and my eyes on NYC – the biggest urban city in America!
For those who know me, you know how much I adore, talk about and desire to move to the Big Apple. I’ve visited, threatened not to return back to wherever “home” was at the time, I reference the music, coffee shops I might frequent, and so on. I even tell people that a plus side to moving there would be getting rid of my car, so I can be a “nicer commuting Christian” (two words: Nashville drivers). What you may not know is that, despite my eagerness to go there, I was offered a job in the city very recently and declined to take it. You’re probably thinking, “what?!”. Yeah…as eager as I am to share Jesus in the bustling city, something about the timing and this position seemed off.
Around January or February of this year, I started feeling a little burnt out from my job. I thought maybe it was the loss of a couple people close to me or lack of sleep or not drinking enough water. But as the weeks went on, work began feeling like a chore. My work, – in domestic violence – which I will still, effortlessly, stand up and advocate for was becoming a chore. Something needed to change or maybe I needed a vacation. There were grant reports, an audit, trainings and a conference; maybe I just needed to request some time off for vacation. So early in the Spring, I got in touch with a couple friends and made plans to visit them in Miami.
Visit to Miami & The Brook
A couple of friends from my church home in Kansas City moved to Miami about a year ago to help launch a church plant. The Brook launched their first service on Easter 2015, so I was excited to see the work my friends, and the rest of their team, were doing, and enjoy my time off from work. It was by far an incredibly refreshing week. I had witnessed and experienced more intentionality and community in a week than I’d seen in two years in Nashville, and it challenged me to go back to Nashville and try even harder to live on mission. I don’t want to make it seem like my friends are better at living life intentionally than people in Nashville, but I think the approach to relationships is different when you’ve moved across the country specifically to plant a church and teach the hope and truth of the Gospel to a city that isn’t overwhelmed by Christianity (like the rest of the South….there’s something different about Florida). I’d been overwhelmed in Nashville, because there’s such a strong Christian culture. It seems difficult to “live as an alien” or “let your light shine” while living in a city where evangelism/missions/ministry is something you do, and not simply who you are. Either way, I loved the work that was being done in Miami through The Brook church, and would definitely move to team up with them in a heartbeat, but I knew I should at least initiate mission minded living in Nashville.
Burn Out & Branches
Once I returned back to Nashville I sort of hit the ground running with trying to be more intentional with the people around me. I started a 6am (which I originally planned for 5am) discipleship group for women at my church, a couple friends and I decided to start going through a book together, and my prayers to continue living as an alien increased. With this, so did two other things: 1) burn out at my job and 2) a burden for the city of Miami. However, I didn’t want to act too impulsively – especially since everything was beginning to come together. I began praying about this, but again, knowing how faithful God has been, my prayer was “Your will be done, by any means necessary”. That burden for Miami continued to grow and my burn out was not getting any better.
I think having a desire for missions, primarily in urban American cities has made it easy to break this news to my local church family, many of whom could tell that I wasn’t fully settled in Nashville. However, I wasn’t sure how I’d tell my boss and coworkers (in a non-religious organization) that I’m leaving a job I’m passionate about to go help with a church plant in Miami. I think the burn out from the past few months, and learning about the opportunity to serve at Branches was just God’s way of being gracious and helping me have the “I’m leaving” conversation. To me, it’s been a blessing in disguise, because despite a growing burden for the city of Miami, and feeling unsettled in Nashville, I probably wouldn’t have left so long as everything stayed alright with my job.
On the outside, it may seem as though I’m on a time crunch, but God really has everything in control and perfectly timed. This quick transition has not been stressful in any sense. The past couple years in Nashville with unsettled comfort, suppressing the idea of missions and being removed from an urban area, has fueled my passion to go.
My last full day in Nashville will be Thursday, July 30th, I hit the road to Miami on the 31st, and begin training at Branches on Monday, August 3rd. School for the kids (and for me!! that’ll be another blog post!!) begins on Monday, August 24th.
I’m excited for this new phase in life and excited to see how God will work through me. For once, I’m not even planning an escape to NYC (not immediately, at least – contentment has finally taken root), but I am overjoyed to have grown and become certain about the desires God has placed in me since moving to Nashville. I’m excited to put what I’ve learned into practice, and thrilled to move to a new city strictly with the goal to serve and be on mission.
Here are some of the things I’ll have on my plate that I’d love for you all to be in prayer about:
1. The Brook Church – Prayer for how I’ll serve & Praise that I’ll have a church home.
2. Branches – Prayer for my soon-to-be teammates, children & families I’ll be serving. Prayer that I’ll have plenty of energy, patience and be open-minded to learn
3. As some of you know, I’ve started writing for Elite Daily…I’ll be continuing this and hopefully growing as a writer
5. That I don’t spend all of my money on Cuban espresso & fresh seafood. No, really. I love both dearly, but I’m still on a budget. #Stewardship #DaveRamseyPlan