Let me take you on a little journey! I trust you will enjoy His-tory (His story) as much as I like telling the story!
It began around summer/fall of 2008, when we felt quite unsettled here in Chadwick and began seeking God earnestly asking Him what was up. We both felt God say to us individually, “It’s time.” It’s time to start going. We began watching and looking and waiting to see where He was going to move us over about two years time. What we didn’t expect was what He had planned for us in the waiting time. He did some amazing heart work and refining in Josh and some exciting transformation in our church. In January of 2009 God brought two amazing people into our lives. Gary and Sandy were missionaries but were home to help care for a loved one. Home happened to be in our area! As they were looking for what church they would attend, Sandy said this (our church in Chadwick) is it! She really enjoyed Josh’s preaching and I think the love the people showered them with might have helped too…but it was all God’s design! Gary and Josh started meeting on a regular basis and God had some heart work in mind for Josh in a big way. Also around that time Josh got connected with a discipleship group that Cadre (a ministry organization) and old friends of ours were leading. Dave and Rennie took Josh, and eventually me, under their wing for some intense training and mentoring. What was amazing to me was that I actually got to watch God transform Josh before my eyes. I got to see the growth–it was happening that fast!! Super exciting! BUT…after two years of waiting on where God was going to move us on, we pretty much gave up and dug back into ministry here surrendering to the possibility that God wasn’t saying it was time. That was about the time (fall 2010) that I was able to start putting into practice the photography training I had received from a ministry wife (connected through Josh’s Cadre group) and soon an actual photography business took off much faster than we ever expected! Spring of 2011was a pivotal time in our church’s growth toward health and self-sustaining status. There was a significant turn-over on the leadership board and the current group of people have God’d heart for this church, work really well together and are doing an excellent job caring for the church body, the buildings and the ministry as a whole. It has been a sweet time in Josh’s leadership here. This past summer (2011) we were able to participate in RHMA’s 50,000 mile check up and that began again the stirring in our hearts that it was time to move on from Chadwick. Again we didn’t know when or where. We could see clearly that this church needed a different guy for the church to be able to move on to the next level. We could see that by us staying there was almost the sense that we were holding the church back from breaking through the surface. But, we waited again…not realizing that the next chapter of His-story was already being written – a chapter that would alter the course of our lives, our church’s life, and the life of a church we’d never even heard of.
Several years ago (maybe 5 or more) God brought a young family into our church. The mom and son started coming first and eventually the dad started coming as well. The dad had never, ever been in a church before. He befriended Josh and they have been incredible friends. One element in their friendship that was missing was a spiritual one. The two of them would travel to Northern Wisconsin every summer and sometimes each winter to go 4-wheeling and snowmobiling. One winter not so long ago they were “skunked”–there was no snow! So, they had some time to kill and did what I guess all Northern Wisconsiners do, you go from bar to bar talking to people and drinking (Pepsi for these guys though). During that winter God began to knit Josh’s heart to these people and this culture. He went home and pulled out his trail map and asked God where would you want me to plant a church? Where would be a great location for spiritual growth and revival in this needy area? Drummund, WI is where it seemed to be. So this past summer (2011) Josh took our whole family north with this friends’ family for vacation. The day that we were going to go to Drummond, Josh said to me, “This is where I want to come, so I’m praying you’ll fall in love with it!” UGH! What pressure! Do any of you remember my reaction when we drove through Chadwick and Josh said, this is the kind of place I want to come to some day? I thought I was going to be sick! I literally almost had Josh pull over! So…Drummond…ahh…not falling in love, uh oh! As we drove through town though, we couldn’t find a single church…my heart started to soften. We pulled into a gas station and Josh asked where people go to church around here and she said they either drive to Ashland or Cable or don’t go–hadn’t been one in long time and before that it was about 5 people for a lotta years. But, she said there was something going on down across from the bar/restaurant on the corner…maybe a food pantry or youth thing, she wasn’t sure but thought that it was church related. So, we had to go that way anyway AND there happened to be people outside working on the building. Josh pulled up and a man came over and they talked for a while. Chad Weber was the guy. When we drove away. Josh snapped his fingers and said, “Awe, he beat me to it!” Chad was an elder from a church in Ashland and was leading a group of people in planting The Oaks, a church, free store, food pantry, etc in Drummond. Chad kept in communication with Josh via email and in December shared that his sending church was going to be looking for an associate pastor. The description at the time didn’t appeal to Josh and he actually forgot about it until April 12th when a job description came across Josh’s inbox that completely resonated with his heart and passions! Getting super excited about this possibility, he got to the bottom of the description and it said Salem Baptist Church in Ashland, Wisconsin! “This is Chad’s church!!” Josh said outloud! Instead of just sending a resume, Josh called the church and talked to the head pastor, Rod, and had a great conversation. Josh passed the “northern Wisconsin” test that Rod had found others who had applied couldn’t pass since they were from the south–deep south actually–they don’t know the area, the culture, the WINTER. Josh sent off his information at Rod’s request…and we waited. A prayer warrior and “senior” search committee member (she called herself that) contacted us by email a couple days later and was super kind and helpful in answering questions as we waited and praying for us and our church here. She became a dear friend quickly!
We left for our RHMA conference on April 21st not having heard any more from Salem. We asked God, okay, we begged Him to make it clear to us what we were supposed to do and where we needed to go. We asked Him to speak to us at the conference. At conference God brought us to a point of complete surrender. Looking back now, we know that’s what it was, but at the time it was an emotional, difficult time of letting go of what we wanted and being completely willing to go wherever and however God wanted us to go–even Idaho where we’d have to raise all our finances…it was a hard, but blessed time to surrender, really waving a white flag to God and saying, “Yes, Lord!” We honestly came home from conference thinking we were going to need to start raising full support and were going to transition to church planting with our mission to Idaho. Surrendered, but not thrilled about every detail about that, not really. We were mostly thrilled at the thought that we could come alongside a super amazing family our family loves from the mission that was already there. We later found out that our mission didn’t want us to move next door to them (we wanted to!) but to plant another church 50-100 miles from them in the same region.
The day Josh got back into the office after conference the phone rang early in the morning and it was Rod from Salem asking if they could check Josh’s references. Ahhh…ok, sure. I then sent out a quick email asking our mentors for advice, really thinking they were going to all encourage us to pursue church planting with our mission…not only did they NOT do that, but they all strongly encouraged us and were very excited about the opportunity God seemed to be opening in Ashland. We’d been in this place in the interview process before so we weren’t holding our breath, but also trying not to get excited. It’s a place and a position that Josh would have only dreamed about and only God could have brought to pass. All three reference calls went well according to the people on our end. And we waited. (I know the waiting wasn’t that long, but it felt REALLY long!) May 7th Josh got an email from our boss at the mission really releasing us to allow us to accept whatever God had for us, he leaned back in his chair grateful for the release he needed and the phone rang and it was Pastor Rod from Salem asking if they could skip the next step of a phone interview and just have us come for a visit (to candidate for the position). God’s amazing timing! The date that worked for everyone was 7 weeks later on Father’s Day weekend! Talk about a wait! Those 7 weeks felt about as long as 9 months of pregnancy! Our friend on email from Salem’s search committee was a HUGE help in the waiting! Chad also emailed during that time and encouraged us about the kind of passionate people we would meet and that he “had been telling the elders about ‘Josh from Chadwick’ since last summer!” Isn’t that so GOD?!
The weekend we went up was pretty amazing! The people we met and had Q & A sessions with (3 different times) were wonderful and the staff and Josh just really connected well. We actually could see some of the gaps that they were looking for Josh to fill. Josh’s 4-wheeling friend and his family were actually visiting family in the area that weekend so they attended the Q & A and 2nd service with us, kind of hiding out in the back. One of the questions that was asked of Josh was, what was your greatest joy in ministry in Chadwick and Josh’s quick answer was to tell the story of how his friend came to accept God’s gift of Jesus’s salvation for him and choose to follow Christ! How they now did have a spiritual connection as well! Salem didn’t know our friends were there but after a while in the Q & A a man leaned forward and tapped them on the shoulder and said, you must be Josh’s buddy?! Yep! There wasn’t a dry eye in the place! It was a really special time!
The church had their vote on Sunday night. Being Father’s Day they didn’t expect too many, but to their surprise there were more there than anticipated. Josh received a message from the head elder on his phone while out on the 4-wheeler with his buddy (how funny is that!?) and the message said that the vote was a unanimous 100% yes for him to come be the pastor of Body Life at their church! Apparently this has not happened in the history of the church when calling a staff member and the church dates back to the 1880s. We consider that God’s incredible Grace to our tender hearts.
One huge joy and answer to prayer is that Josh and his buddy will still get time together and we hope they will eventually move up north near us!
Questions you may have:
What is Josh going to be doing? His position will include oversight, equipping and leadership development for small groups, other ministry leaders, etc and discipleship! There is a senior pastor who does the preaching and overall oversight, an “outreach” pastor who works with the community and evangelism, a worship/youth pastor and then Josh will be the “inreach” pastor–helping to care for those within the church. Before we even left one of the leaders actually asked if he could be Josh’s first one-on-one discipleship guy–that was before the vote, from a man who told Josh he wasn’t sure about him before the weekend.
What will the church in Chadwick do? RHMA and our denomination are coming in to help decide if CEFC has graduated from RHMA and is a self-sustaining church and will assist with pulpit fill and the pastoral search. 13 years ago the denomination was thinking the church would close and maybe should. That is not the case now!!
What’s the housing situation like? We are leaving a super spruced up parsonage (newly finished floors, new central air, remodeled rooms, painted outside, new porch floor and many other things they accomplished on the house while we were here) to a nice parsonage there that has huge closets and 6 bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a basement the kids can use on a corner lot. Our neighbors consist of the head elder, his wife and 2 boys that are 5 and 7 (Liam and Aidan already got to meet and play with them!) and across the street is where Chad Weber and his family live!
What about Jen’s business? I am transitioning clients to other photographers in the area. Two of the three weddings I had booked look like they will go with other photographers. One is still deciding if I will come back or not. We would really appreciate your prayers for my business to really grow quickly up there. Josh will not be working a 2nd job so unless God has some other plan, my business needs to grow and grow very quickly!
How are the kids doing? Well, Moriah has known about the possibility of this for a long time and seems to be doing quite well with it. All but Cooper have been children that transition easily and Cooper is doing much better. Liam was able to get to a point of surrender that we had talked with him about–going where God takes Daddy without a fight–but he still has moments of sadness about leaving all he’s ever known. Aidan was really mad at first–even singing a song in the back when we were driving about it being ‘the worst day…hide all the stuff so no one can move…’ but he is coming around and thinking a bit about what opportunities might be available in a town of 10,000 instead of 450. Cooper’s pretty oblivious now, but will probably have trouble when we actually move. We plan on going the public school route. There is apparently a phenomenally academic private school and it’s not too expensive. And we’ve homeschooled before so if we find that we need to do that it will be okay. School in Ashland does not start until the Tuesday after Labor Day.
Where is Ashland, WI? Are you any closer to family? Ashland is on Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior, about an hour from our favorite family vacation spot of Duluth, MN. Right above Chequamegon National Forest where there are trails and trails for 4-wheeling and snowmobiling. Yes, we are praying for those items. I think we will be able to see both sunsets and sunrises on the bay because of how it sits. We will have a guest room, and lots of space, so we hope to have lots of visitors! Speaking of visitors, it is quite a bit closer to Josh’s Dad (3 hours away now instead of 7plus), about a 1/2 hour closer to his mom. We will be about 7.5 hours drive time from both my Dad and siblings and my Mom.
When do you move? Josh’s last day at the Chadwick Evangelical Free Church will be July 29th and we have been told they will have an all church potluck to say goodbye and also an open house for friends, neighbors and family to come so we can say goodbye as well. Josh is officiating a wedding for our youth ministry director and her fiance on August 4th. Our anticipated move date is August 9th. Salem has told Josh to take some time to get settled, which is a big blessing. They will have an all church picnic on August 12th to welcome us.
What about RHMA and missionary support? We want to thank each and every one of you that have supported us ten dollars or thousands of dollars for us to be in Chadwick, there were so many times that your gift to us came at just the right moment, when we thought God might not provide (I know!! we of little faith!) and He did provide! Through YOU! Every time! Thank you! THANK YOU!! We have longed to come to you on a deputation trip to meet with each of you and personally thank you. It’s something we should have done but did not get the opportunity for, and for that we are sorry. RHMA will no longer be able to accept financial gifts for our ministry after August 9th.
For those of you who have prayed us through each battle, defeat and victory these past almost 13 years (it would have been 13 years on September 18th)…we are eternally grateful! We hope that you might still pray for us through the journey of this next season in our lives. Thank you!
We could not have been here without prayer and financial support! Thank you for being on our Chadwick Team all these years! We love you all and thank you more than you’ll ever know!
Here is our new contact information (phone #s coming):