Lisa and I have been living in Columbus since a month before we got married or so (Fall of 2012). Soon after we got married, I started a job where I was required to work almost every Sunday and my shifts throughout the week varied constantly. It made finding a church incredibly difficult. Occasionally when I would have a Sunday off, we would visit a church we thought could become our home church, but we never really felt like any of those could be churches where we grow, helped others grow, and raise a family in. That’s not to say some of these churches were not biblical or gospel-centered, they just weren’t where God wanted us, which is evident now. A couples months ago, I was lucky enough to trade the weekend shift in for the regular Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm shift. We began looking through websites (The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29 Network, Sojourn Network) looking for a church that wasn’t super far away and also shared in our same reformed theology. We visited a couple of churches whose doctrine we didn’t completely agree with, some of it minor some of it major. Some churches we did find, we emailed and never heard back.
Somehow, during my 10th scanning of The Gospel Coalition’s I saw a church that I hadn’t seen before. Refuge Church, which was located in Grove City, about 15 minutes from where we live. I went to their website and thought to myself “this looks like it could be a very good place for us to visit and check out”. I emailed the pastor, half expecting never to hear anything back like 90% of my prior inquires with other churches. But to my surprise, I heard back rather quickly, and most of the questions I had, he answered. Usually when I had heard back from a church I emailed with questions, I got super vague answers back with them trying to get me to come to service to get all the answers. It was a refreshing twist. Needless to say, we attended their Sunday service that week and have been going back ever since. Next month we hope to take the membership class and become full-fledged members of Refuge Church.
Our first visit was crazy, it was made pretty obvious to us on our first trip that this was where God wanted us. We were approached after service by one of the elders of Refuge and asked to have lunch with us (Something to note, Refuge offers a lunch buffet at church after Sunday service as a way for fellowship and getting together). Readers of my blog will know that Lisa and I feel called to the poorest area of Columbus, Franklinton (aka The Bottoms), without knowing of our call to that area, one of the elders brought up how Refuge is involved in that area and hope to eventually plant a church in that area one day. Lisa and I kind of looked at each other, almost in disbelief. It was obviously from there on, that God wanted us at Refuge. It has been such a blessing getting to know the people at Refuge and making friends. I had forgotten how much I longed for a church family during the last two years. It would have been a lot easier dealing with our miscarriage had we had a church family then. I can’t wait to see where God takes us and Refuge next.
I’ve written about my perceived calling to inner cities several times before. If you know me outside of this blog, I’m sure we have spoken about it before as well. Moving back to Columbus after college has really only served to further fuel that desire. To be honest, it’s a calling I have struggled with believing. Not because I don’t want to minister to that type of area, but because I want to minister to that type of area so badly. I have feared at times that I have made myself feel that calling because I like to hear people tell me how brave I am for wanting to move to a ghetto to share the gospel or how I’m a better Christian because I’m willing to sacrifice comfort for the gospel. After living the last two years pretty comfortably in Columbus with my wife and attending a couple of churches who minister to wealthy suburbs of Columbus, I just can’t shake the calling to the inner city. Specifically in this case, the bottoms of Columbus. My wife and I want to buy a house in the bottoms and move there as we share the gospel with our neighbors.
I firmly believe that in order to effectively reach a community, you have to live in and be apart of the community. While I was in college I attended a church that desperately wanted to reach out to the poor and lost of the towns urban areas and asked for their members to live in those areas, while the church leaders (some, not all) lived far away in very nice houses while sending their kids to private Christian schools. You can’t share the gospel with people when you only want to interact with them when it’s convenient for you. I know it’s a scary thing to live in the ghetto, there have been many times where I have thought about moving my young bride to the drug riddled and crime capital of Columbus and have simply wanted to ask God for another calling, but as a husband, I have to lead my wife and my future children to where God wants us. And right now I am completely confident that He wants us in the Columbus ghetto.
Lisa and I are in the very beginning stages of looking for a home when our apartment lease is up this coming winter. I pray that if this truly where God wants us to set up shop, that it will be made obvious in this part of our journey.
Lately, I have really felt called by God to do Urban Ministry. I’m applying to Transfer to Moody Bible Institute next fall, it’s in Chicago, Illinois and has one of the best Urban Ministry programs in the nations (or so I hear). I’m only about a year away from getting a BA from Shawnee, and if I transfer to Moody, it will add at least 3 more years unto my undergraduate. However, I completely feel called to do Urban Ministry and I feel like Moody is just the place to equip me to do just that. And in an area such as Chicago, I believe it offers me the best opportunities to do urban mission work while I’m still in school.
However, if my transfer to Moody doesn’t go through, I’m thinking I may still graduate Shawnee with an associates this coming spring and either save a bunch of money and move to Chicago, or just move to Chicago right away and start doing urban ministry work there. I was asked today what my plans were or what organization I’d work with, and I honestly don’t know. I just know that this is where God has called me, and I’m more than happy to live in a ratty old apartment in the worse part of Chicago if it means doing Gods will.
So if you have any suggestions for organizations I should look into (doesn’t just have to be Chicago), feel free to let me know! All the help is appreciated!