I'm sitting in my office right now listening to a bunch of college students from Ada, OK talking about meatball sandwiches & Pringles as they get ready to head to the YMCA for a shower before going to sleep on small air mattresses on a hard floor... and I love it! We actually have two mission teams here right now from FBC Charlotte, TX and Trinity Baptist in Ada, OK. They just wrapped up a day of serving our local Boys and Girls Club, volunteering at a low income apartment complex, prayer walking our neighborhood and having an intentional cook-out at the park where they'll be hosting a block party on Friday. But through all the hard work, communal showering and bad air mattresses, no one is complaining. They are all here to serve Jesus and I am excited to see how Jesus responds!
Last night I sat on the floor at the spot during our mission team orientation. Stacie Hooks has led a solid team from our church in planning and preparing for the mission team and all the ways they'll be serving while they are here. It was not that long ago that if something was going to get done, led, planned or organized, I had to do it. I'm so blessed now to be surrounded by so many people who are sharing the load and carrying the mission forward.
As I listened to Stacie talk to the mission team and go over the schedule I was humbled to think of how God brought Stacie to our church. She was actually a crazy young college student who I hired when I worked at Camp WOW years ago. She came to serve with us here in Tacoma for a few weeks and she's now been here a few years. Up next was Kyler Phillips. She was sharing with the team about some service projects they would be doing this week. As I listened to Kyler talk I was in awe. She's a passionate and confident young woman who has lived in Tacoma for two years with her husband Chase. But I will always remember Kyler as the nervous, passionate, excited summer intern who came to Tacoma full of questions about life, ministry and church planting.
Then came Jason Downing. Jason was actually an intern with another church plant 5 years ago just south of Tacoma. I happened to know the planter and he let us "borrow" Jason one day a week as we learned our new city and began to plant the gospel. Jason stood before the mission teams sharing about all the ways that they would be praying for the people of Tacoma this week. I was amazed that God called him to plant his life here over a year ago.
And then came Adam Forgety. Adam is our new Associate Pastor and worship leader. He stood up to lead us in a time of worship. One of the churches that is here this week, Trinity, is Adam and his wife Khylee's old church. Adam was the worship pastor at Trinity for about 5 years and he and Khylee led multiple short term teams to serve with us in Tacoma. It was this time last year that Adam first began to feel God calling him to Tacoma. Amazing.
As I sat there on that floor, in awe of all God has done and the ways he has called people out of their comfort zone and into an incredible city that sits in the shadow of Seattle, I began to think of all of our Tacoma orphans. That's what we have come to call all those who have left the comforts of home, family and southern hospitality to serve Jesus in the city we have come to love and call home.
Rebecca Hurst was the first. She is my wife's best friend and old college roommate. I still remember chatting with her on the Internet when she told me God was calling her to come from Austin, TX to Tacoma to help us plant The Pathway. Five years later Becca is still here and still serving. She came here as a single young missionary and God has brought her a husband and most recently a precious baby boy.
Laura Bravo is one of those people that makes me smile just typing her name. She came to Camp WOW years ago as a camper. She then served as a high school intern that led to me hiring her as a college summer staffer. Laura was going to serve as a missionary in Calgary and got stuck at Seatac due to some customs issues. She new we lived in the area and ended up staying with us for more than a month. She fell in love with Tacoma and after serving in Canada for a year, came back to be a part of The Pathway. She too came as a young, single woman and over the last several years God has brought her an awesome godly husband and she just graduated from the University of Washington, Tacoma. Amazing.
Jenna Jones planned to serve with us for a couple weeks with Stacie Hooks. Now a couple years later I can't imagine The Pathway without Jenna. She took our Kids Ministry from about 6 kids to over 30 today and I believe is ready and equipped by God to lead us to see even more families and kids fall in love with Jesus!
Chase Phillips is Kyler's husband that I mentioned earlier. Chase came to serve with us on a short term mission trip. He then decided to marry Kyler (good idea) and they moved to Tacoma a week after getting married.
Khylee Forgety is Adam's partner in crime and in marriage and the mother of their newly adopted baby boy! Her journey was and is an amazing testimony of faith and obedience. Although Adam had been wrestling with a call to Tacoma for a year, Khylee had not even considered until about a month before they moved here. But she didn't come kicking and screaming (at least not too much). She wrestled with God, prayed, sought wise and trusted counsel and then said "yes" to Jesus.
Marybeth Coker came to serve with us as a semester missionary and decided that there was no reason to leave. We don't know how long Marybeth will be with us but we are so thankful that she is here. She has served in our Kids Ministry, pioneered our assimilation process and done just about anything else she's been asked to do (including jumping into the ice cold puget sound!).
I think I can speak for all of us in saying that I love being a Tacoma Orphan. Although we are far from our families and many things that are comfortable, God has given us a new family that we would have never been a part of had he not called us out. God is using these orphans, these missionaries, in mighty and powerful ways. I'm thankful that my family is not alone here in Tacoma. God has provided the right people, at the right time, every step of the way!