Monday, August 27, 2012

I Am Moving to Canada


The Maywards are moving to Canada.

Crazy, I know. Following Jesus can feel like that sometimes.

Here is the story of how this came to be, told through my journal entries, notes, and memories:

Excerpt from my journal, May 27, 2012:
On Friday, the car died. When that happened, something inside my soul was ignited, a passion to leave AZ and head back to the northwest. It feels like I was drawn to the wilderness for a season of growth and discipline, but now I am being called back, like I am coming home.... While I have met wonderful people and had incredible opportunities to grow as a pastor and leader, I know, deep down, that this season was meant to end. God, I am not sure what you are stirring up in me, but I feel it. I want to follow your Spirit's leading. Guide me, whether back home or further into the wilderness. Help me to trust you. Give both Katie and me a strong leading from you. May you be glorified in all we do.
Right around the time the car died, I heard from my brother- and sister-in-law, Andrew and Abby, about a youth ministry opportunity in the Vancouver, BC area. Her home church, North Langley Community Church, was going through a leadership transition, and they needed a new student ministry pastor. My initial reaction: why would I move to Canada? I love and miss Portland, OR. Canada was never part of the plan. But I considered their eagerness about the job and began a conversation with the lead pastor, Matthew, not thinking it would lead anywhere. Portland was the only place that made any sense in my mind.

Katie and I discerned three criteria we needed to have present in any opportunity or church:
1. Close to family. 
2. A graduate school with the right academic program for me. 
3. A healthy church where we fit and could grow and thrive as a family.
June 2:
Out with Katie for coffee, she mentioned that the idea of leaving Arizona for Portland felt like she was preparing to come home.

Home.

The Spirit beckons. May we be faithful to follow.
On June 13, Matthew and I had a phone call. The conversation with Matthew was simply incredible. I looked for red flags, anything to keep the conversation from going. I found none. We talked for three hours during that initial call, and I could have kept going. I hung up the phone, stared at my wife, and grinned. "That was...great." We continued to pray and listen for the Lord's voice, trying to discern His leading. Nothing was sure, apart that God was stirring something up in our hearts.

June 16:
If I had to make a decision right now, today, I think I'd say "no" to the offer from Canada. Perhaps that will change upon visiting the church & community, but I simply don't know. I'm not sure how to even discern what to do, what Scripture to read, what to pray for. Does God always make it abundantly clear where He is calling a person to go? Or does He allow us to struggle, to take steps of faith into the unknown and trust Him? Help me to be honest with myself, to discern Your voice and Your leading, Christ.
Personal notes from RMCC sermon, Bob Fox, June 17:

Acts 16 --> the leading of the Spirit
-following the Spirit is communal; it requires others to inform and interpret and encourage
-Sometimes the Spirit's leading is obvious; sometimes the leading will be partial, uncertain, and diversely understood
*Expect that as you mature the Spirit's leading might become less obvious. It requires more trust and risk and faith. It will come in His time; it is not on demand.
--> Be prepared for seasons of wandering

June 24:
I've had a final Skype conversation with the leadership in Canada, and while I keep looking for reasons to shut down this process, all of the signs point to "keep going." I even said out loud, "I wouldn't have planned on moving to Canada, but God seems to be leading us in that direction." Either way, I'm nervous about what will happen next. If God clearly directs us to Canada, that will be exciting, but filled with all sorts of unknowns. If God closes the door, that is filled with an uncertainty about where we're headed. If not Langley, then where? In either case, trusting Jesus is the primary mindset. Let Your Spirit lead and guide our path.
July 3 (written in Latvia on a mission trip):
I'm awake. It's early. I had a Skype conversation with the parents and family of the Latvia team. This trip has been an amazing one so far, with tons of life-change already. I know that the students are being stretched, and it is a joy to watch them serve with such passion and faith. I also still love Latvia. It is a beautiful country, hidden away in Eastern Europe, but not hidden from the reaches of the kingdom of God. What am I going to remember from this trip? What will stand out? Is this the last mission trip I'll lead at RMCC? What are You preparing me for? Where are You guiding me? I will trust You, for Your ways are good and You are always with me. You are bringing me out of the wilderness. You are leading me to new pastures, to a land that You will reveal.
During an already-planned family vacation to Portland, we drove up and spent two days in the Langley, BC area. We had lots of conversations, met tons of great people, and envisioned what life could be like in Canada. We prayed a lot and continued to look for any reason to stop the process. None presented itself. 

The situation met our three criteria: Langley is about 6 hours away from Portland, 3 hours from Olympia, and 2.5 hours from Tacoma. Regent College in Vancouver has a Master of Christian Studies degree program that perfectly matches my own criteria for a graduate school. The role at NLCC would be a fantastic fit for my gifts and passions, and the pastoral staff and elders we met were all phenomenal and Jesus-loving people.

July 21:
I'm on the plane, leaving the northwest and headed back to our home in the desert. Having spent two full days in Canada, and celebrating our 6-year anniversary with a day in downtown Portland, I'm realizing that I will deeply miss it here. This is home. This is where God is leading us. I would have never put Canada in my plan, but Jesus has a better plan. In my prayers, I imagine Him smiling at me with this knowing grin on His face, and a twinkle in His eyes. He's smiling, as if to say, "See? I told you. Just trust me. I've got a story to tell, and it's far better than anything you could ever write yourself." 
The Author of life has a sense of humor, I guess. 
Both NLCC and Regent College are almost ideal for me. It's a perfect fit. Jesus knew that. I'm emotionally invested now, and would be disappointed if this role didn't work out. Either way, it's a step of faith that Katie and I take together. It's an adventure, and those are always worth pursuing. Looking back, it's clear how He was leading in this adventure, that Canada was a better option than I had discerned for us. It wasn't part of my plan, but it was certainly part of His. 
I can't believe we are probably going to move to another country! And so soon! If my first journey to Arizona was God's leading into the wilderness, this feels like God bringing us back to the land of promise, to a land where we can grow and thrive as we seek His kingdom.
July 30:
I came to a point yesterday where I would be content in the Lord regardless of the answer from Langley. I must admit, I would feel deeply disappointed if they responded with "no," because I think I'm emotionally invested now. I want this role at this church, and would be bummed if I didn't get it. However, Katie and I agreed that we will trust the Lord with our future and not take plans into our own hands. That's the idea of following Jesus; He is the one leading, even when I cannot see where He will lead next. Lord, I trust You. May Your will be done.
July 31:
The staff met together today in Langley. I'm honestly nervous. Scared. Wondering if my own sin and failure disqualifies me, like I'll be found out as a fraud or deemed unwanted. These are the insecurities that surface when the hour approaches midnight and one is still very awake, alone, wondering how the story will play out. 
God, I trust you, even when I'm broken. You somehow use me, and I am eternally grateful. Give me peace with roots found in You.
August 2:
I wait. 
To be patient is not easy in this season. I eagerly anticipate the next step, the next move, the what-is-to-come. But I wait. I listen. God speaks and reminds me to trust Him, to allow anxiety and stress to slip away as I rest in His presence. I wait because His movements and timing are better than mine. 
To wait means to trust. It requires me to slow down and not try to outrun God.
On Friday, August 3, Matthew called me with the news. He eagerly told me that I was "the guy" for NLCC, that they had a letter of employment in the works. The waiting was almost over. I didn't need to give an answer right away, but as Katie and I prayed, we knew this was the next chapter in our story. We were going to move to Canada. We would be immigrants, sojourners in a new land. Now we had to prepare to leave well.

August 13:
We put our house on the market yesterday [You can see and share the MLS listing for our home here. If your friends or family need a great home, we've got the best neighborhood in the east Valley]. Met with a realtor, and she let us know that we could sell our home for 30-40k more than we purchased it! Six months ago, it would have gained us nothing, but God's timing is perfect. 
I'm humbled and grateful. While I think there is an insecure and doubtful side to me, God truly has given us unmerited and unexpected blessings all throughout our story. I don't want to miss the places and times God blesses. I don't want to forget. 
(Written in the margin: Psalm 131)
While back in Canada for Andrew and Abby's wedding, Katie and I met with Matthew once again, talking over details and the process of the employment. On Monday, August 20, after a brief Q&A time with the membership at an NLCC congregational meeting, a vote of affirmation was passed. I am the new Pastor of Student Ministries at NLCC.

August 21 (written in Matthew's basement at 4:45 AM):
I cannot sleep. I don't know why, because I am deeply tired. But I can't. I am so overwhelmed and humbled and encouraged by our experience here at NLCC. The congregational vote was an overwhelming 100% affirmation, which is a bit unusual, and very reassuring. We feel deeply loved, and I was so blown away by the way they embraced us already, literally circling around us and laying hands and praying for me, for Katie, for my children. I loved it. I love being here. God knew exactly what He was doing.
My last official Sunday at RMCC will be September 23. Then we'll begin the long trek to British Columbia, stopping along the way to visit friends and family. We are so saddened to say goodbye to the friends and loved ones we've met while in Arizona. The past five years have been a gift. Places are important. This is the place where we bought our first cars, our first home, where we gave birth to our two children. This is the place where Jesus used me to shape the hearts of others while He shaped my own heart to resonate with His own.

Arizona will always be a significant place in the Mayward story. Gratefully, we never have to say goodbye in the kingdom of God. We just say "see you later,"  knowing that we'll share eternity together celebrating what Jesus did in and through us while we were apart in this lifetime.

We are also so incredibly excited to begin this new chapter of the story. Every good story is filled with twists and turns, surprises and conflicts. God is writing our story, weaving it into His Story and somehow using the Maywards to expand His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. We're humbled and grateful for the gift of this new season.

Following Jesus is always full of unexpected blessings as His Spirit shapes our stories. He's a good Author. Let's trust what He's writing.

8 comments:

  1. So exciting to see you following where the Lord leads! I had a fantastic time when I was living and doing graduate school in Langley, and I think it will be an excellent fit for you. I'm a part-time lurker on your blog, mostly because the internet in Cameroon has been so bad for the last 2 years. We'll be in the NW for only 3 months, but I would love to see you and Katie, and meet #2! We'll be in Vancouver for 2 weeks for our honeymoon in October, maybe we could get together??

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    1. If you're in the Vancouver area in October, we'll be there. It'd be great to get together and catch up on what the Lord has been up to in our lives!

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  2. Not only is this really big news, but this is such a uniquely written entry. Feels very personal. Thanks for sharing and we will be sure to pray for you and your family. Hope to see you at some point in the near future!

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    1. I'll be only a few hours away, so we'll certainly have to hang out more! I need to meet Cam-Fu Kiddo #2!

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  3. Wow! Great Story. I will share the news with the rest of the youth. The one thing that caught my eye was when Matthew called you "The Guy." THAT is the highest compliment that you could ever receive from The Price. Matthew constantly said to me as he started his transition that he would NEVER give the job away unless he knew for sure he was giving it to someone who would love and cherish the youth group as much as he did, or more.

    I had a really hard time with Matthew leaving the Youth, especially when he would be missing my Grad year. But, ever since Matthew texted me telling me that you were taking his spot, I got so excited and more excited for youth than I ever was when Matthew was in charge. I cannot wait to meet you and see how God works and speaks through you to NLCC and the Youth Program.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Riley, it means a lot!

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  4. Dude, I love your faithfulness. And I'm pumped for your new gig as well as your time at Regents.

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  5. Thanks for the share Joel. So how are you liking it so far out there?! I too am Moving Across Canada to British Colombia! I recently got a job offer out there as a consultant of a computer software company and figured hey why not!

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