When I was in the process of making a decision about pastoring the “Little Red Church” at Pu’uanahulu, I went back and forth about it in prayer and asked the advice of others. But of course, in the end, I determined it was where God wanted me. After being ordained as pastor, I was excited but nervous… nervous about making a commitment to something I’d never done. I’d preached there a few times already, mowed the lawn, and arrived early to set up coffee and tables, but had never been the lead pastor. What would it be like? Could I handle it? How would it be to permanently live on the Big Island and stop traveling for the most part?
After the ceremony, my Mom, Derek (the previous pastor and one of my best friends), and I went out to lunch and she asked me, “How do you feel?” Of course she was on cloud 9… her son who was rebellious all those years eventually becoming a Baptist pastor! I tried to respond positively, “I feel good, Mom.” But inside, I had terrible anxiety about what I had just done.
It’s amazing how I can pray about a decision and feel confirmation. Then when I step into it, I’m riddled with doubt. It seemed lonely, like I was going to be left all by myself to do the job.
I met with the church board and we decided one year would be a good time to have a re-evaluation on both ends. That put me at ease a little, knowing that even if after giving it a go, I felt called to keep working with YWAM as I’d done previously, I would be released and could return to it.
For the first couple months, preparing and delivering the sermons was really hard. I worried about what people thought a little too much. It took about 4 months to hit a rhythm that worked, but the anxiety was still there. I regretted the decision and wished I’d never started. Of course, I was committed for another 8 months, so I forged on.
At the 6 month mark, everything got better. Preaching the Word became easier. It took less time to prepare, I got over my fear of what people thought, and was still able to work about half the time in YWAM with our Mission Builder program. The commitment turned out to be a good thing.
But sometimes in life, you think you’re doing something for one purpose, but God has you in a place for other reasons too. As I worked at YWAM part time, I also worked closely with a German girl on our staff team.
Ann Sophie and I had a natural chemistry and became friends almost right away. I was drawn to her kind spirit and noticed how the girls flocked to get her attention and to spend time with her. One time I asked her about it and she shrugged me off saying, “I don’t really say a lot. Mostly I just listen.” She was always quick to serve, never looking for credit. Over the next few weeks, my feelings for her became so obvious, I had a hard time hiding it. We were spending too much time together not to mention anything.
One day I told her how I felt and she reciprocated. Since then, we’ve been pursuing an “exclusive” relationship with each other. Even though she returned to Germany at the end of September to fulfill a work contract for 6 months, we both felt it would be foolish to give up on our relationship.
So, last week, I went to Germany to see what her life there was like and to meet her family. Sophie comes from a cool town called Karlsruhe close to the French border. God answered my prayers and the 7 days I spent there couldn’t have been better. Her parents are amazing people and I was so blessed by their warmth and hospitality. Basically, Sophie and I are doing the long distance thing for 6 months before getting back together again in Kona next year.
Bottom line? There are at least two good things about making decisions and sticking with them. First, if I didn’t have the courage to sign on and stick with being a pastor despite the anxiety, I would never have realized that I’m actually good at it and I like it. And second, I might have committed to another YWAM project somewhere else and never would have met Ann Sophie. I’m so grateful to God for guiding my steps and keeping me in the right place at the right time even though I didn’t see the whole picture.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.