Last week, Shainu, Hannah, and I jumped into our car and drove 6 hours northeast back to Boston. After being away now for about 11 months, it was good to see everyone and give a report on how we were doing.
On Friday, we joined the men in the pastor track and their families for a one-day retreat in New Hampshire. Getting away with these men, their wives, and their children was so much fun. The first night was spent reading through 1 Thessalonians and hearing Paul’s heart for the church God had called him to plant. Paul’s words were dripping with love and joy for the folks under his care. We spent a good amount of time talking through whether we shared in his passion for the people God had called us to shepherd. Some rejoicing, much repenting.
On Saturday, each couple took turns looking back at the previous year and sharing their struggles, growth, joys, sorrows, progress, etc. We were in that room for hours recounting God’s faithfulness, repenting over our sinfulness, celebrating the Gospel, and grateful for the Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives. Some crying, much laughing – it was a really sweet time. In between and after our sessions together, we just hung out. Talking, canoeing, hiking, eating, playing – it was a blast. Shainu loved getting to be with the ladies again, and Hannah followed the other kids wherever they went, including fearlessly following them into a lake.
On Sunday, I got to preach. It had been eleven months since I last stood behind that pulpit. As I looked out, I didn’t know about a third of the faces in front of me. That was sweet. It was a joy telling everyone of what God had been doing in and through us. I boasted in God and bragged on the folks that God has connected us to. But I also shared my frustration in seeing so few people come to repentance and faith through our work. So I preached from Acts 16 and the planting of the church in Philippi reminding myself and 7MR Boston of what God and His gospel can do in even the hardest cities and among the most unlikely of people. Together, we hoped again in God and in the power of His gospel.
One more thing…
There was a couple there who stand now where we stood about a year ago. They were getting ready to go overseas for missions. They were getting ready to leave this church that they loved and doing so with many hard tears. We felt for them cause we knew all too well what it was like getting choked up at just the thought of leaving. But at one point in the weekend, I shared with them of God’s faithfulness to us. I told them that as hard as it was to leave, right now there is no place on planet Earth that I’d rather be than in Philadelphia doing what I’m doing. And here’s the thing. I meant it.
None of my friends from Boston are with us in Philly. But God is with us. That’s not just sweet sentiment. When we couldn’t bring anyone with us, God went with us. God went ahead of us. And God has given us a new community that we love. And God continues to give us Himself. And He is enough. Visiting Boston was sweet. So is coming back home to Philly.