The Transition Chapter

I have a new job.

That’s the last page of a two year long chapter of transition in our lives.  Here’s the rest of the chapter.

Stepping into the Water

When God called Israel into the Promised Land, one of the critical moments was the crossing of the Jordan River.  The river was a flood stage, yet God told the priests to walk into the raging waters in faith that God would halt the river to allow his people to pass through (re-enacting the parting of the Red Sea for a new generation). Here’s the catch, nothing would happen until the priests’ feet touched the water. 

They had to step before the miracle.

Almost two years ago, Sarah and I started feeling God's pull to move back to the USA.  Leaving Korea was like stepping into the water for us, for Duneland Community Church, and for KNU International English Church (although they didn't have much choice).  We felt several confirmations that this was the right choice and God's calling for our lives.  Yet actually making the final call and telling our Korean church and friends was extremely difficult.  Then, we had six months of preparation for us and for both churches.

Actually, hiring me was also a big step of faith for Duneland Community Church as well.  They had never met me in person.  (All the interviews were via Skype.)  I had no full-time ministry experience in the US.  We were coming with literally nothing but our suitcases.  They had responsibility to help us settle, and they could only offer a part-time job.  To make matters worse, I couldn't even fill their most pressing needs.  I can't sing a single song on key all the way through.  I don't have much experience with youth ministry.  Children's ministry is not really my thing. 

In their early private conversations, they called me the "wild card pastor."  I was some random guy in Korea who was interesting but didn't seem to fit.  Yet, somehow, it became clear that God was calling us there and that God was calling DCC to gamble on my family.  When I came, I didn't have a job description or even a clear idea of what I would be doing.  All we knew was that I was supposed to come and that we would figure out the rest later.

Walking through the River Bed (a.k.a. Valley)

Next came flying over the Pacific and reestablishing our home in the USA. 

We drastically underestimated the emotional toll of leaving two full-time jobs for one part-time job. 

This began a long hard struggle of trying to grind it out with low income for me and for Sarah.  She transitioned to a job she loved teaching low-level readers at an elementary school, but the pay was one step off of terrible.  We had dreams for a small business, but that didn't really work out.  I tried teaching in traditional classes at Olivet Nazarene University, but that was too far away.  Out of desperation, Sarah got some jobs as a care giver.  I wrote some for a local newspaper, but that fizzled out.

To tide us over, I started hustling weddings via the internet.  At one point, I had a wedding scheduled for almost every weekend for 7 straight weekends.  I also started offering to help friends will small businesses just to get some cash rolling in. 

I described this Valley experience as the time of Sushi Provision.  God was just giving us one bite at a time, not enough to really satisfy, but enough to meet our needs.  We just had to trust that the sushi bar would keep rolling.

In the late fall of 2013, I got an offer to work with Campus Life (a Youth For Christ) organization that basically puts community funded youth pastors in public school to help develop Christian communities.  It seemed like a great fit with my job at the church, which was beginning to include developing a youth missional community.  It would also provide much needed financial stability for my family.

However, when it was time to pull the trigger in December, I couldn't do it. 

Somehow, I knew that it wasn't right. 

I felt this overwhelming calling to spend a year focused on writing.  Needless to say, writing income is extremely unstable - especially for beginners like me.  But I just couldn't get away from it.

Then, in January, Tom Oord and I joined forces to begin the Renovating Holiness Project - a massive book in which 100 young(ish) Nazarene leaders revision sanctification for the 21st century.  As this project began to take root and grow beyond my dreams, I began to plan for more projects. 

Writing was working.  I was breaking through, gaining trust, and building a platform.  I had at least 3 more books on deck (in my mind at least) for 2015.  I was also doing some freelance articles and poems and pushing book ideas through traditional publishers (and getting some traction).  I was actually beginning to see how this could work long-term for my family.

Coming Out on the Other Side

Then, out of the blue, a few months ago, my senior pastor, Greg Arthur, called me over after he finished a video call for a board meeting for Free The Girls.  (Free the Girls works in developing countries to help survivors of sex trafficking start a new life by selling new and used bras.  It gives them income, confidence, and useful skills for the business world.) It turns out that Free the Girls was looking for someone with lots of international experience and a mind for both business and mission to help them manage their current international partner sites and expand into new locations.  I already knew a lot about Free The Girls because our church here is their international distribution center. 

As soon as Greg started talking about the job, I was already all in.  I knew very quickly that this was a great fit.  It fits my passions.  I already know and love the organization.  It's edgy (bras in a church, people!), and I like that.  It's deeply missional.  What's better than helping former slaves get established in authentic freedom?!  It's international and multicultural.  It would open me to lots of new experiences and skills.  I was in from day one.

However, for a long time (well actually only about two months, but it felt like a long time), it was just an idea, just one of many possibilities.  Then, suddenly, last week the interviews started, and that was nearly all I could think about.

On Thursday, I got a Facebook message from a Teanna Sundberg - a Nazarene leader in eastern Europe.  She was submitting her essay for Renovating Holiness, but I had also been trying to talk to her about human trafficking for about six months.  That afternoon, just an hour before my second interview with Free the Girls, Teanna and I dreamed about possible partnerships in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Moldova.  She also informed me that the directors of the European Freedom Network (which connects all organizations in Europe who are fighting human trafficking), these very influential people, are Nazarenes and would love to talk about Free the Girls. 

About an hour later, I had my second interview with Free the Girls.  When they asked if I had anything else to add, I told them about my conversation with Teanna, and we began dreaming about the possibilities of Free the Girls' expansion into Europe.  The timing seemed like a direct confirmation from God that I was on the right track.

By the end of the week, they were saying things like, "We're so glad to have you."  I got the official job offer yesterday (Monday).  I said, "Yes!" immediately.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt this is right - even though it is nothing I would have imagined 3 months ago, much less 2 years ago when this transition began. 

Within the next six months, I'll probably visit our project sites in El Salvador, Uganda, and Mozambique.  I started my first official task with Free the Girls by talking with Pam Gumns (our Inventory Manager) about Uganda and then figuring out how many boxes of bras will actually fit in her Honda Accord.  (The answer is about 7 boxes or 1,400 bras.)  So yeah, I'll be doing a lot of work with bras now.

Completing the transition, a few weeks ago, Sarah got a promotion.  She is now managing the technology elements for Westchester Intermediate School (where Emma is now a student).  It has more pay, more hours, and health benefits. 

Oh, and on a very connected side note, in May Duneland Community Church finally hired a worship leader - Kyle Miller, a recent Olivet grad.  He intentionally chose to major in music education so that he could serve as a bivocational worship leader in a local church.  His music chops are outstanding, and his character is stellar.  He's also genuinely a lot of fun. 

We were thrilled to have him, but we were somewhat afraid we couldn't keep him.  All summer long, he was trying to break into the education system at any school nearby, but despite being well qualified, he was striking out.  He was starting to make plans for a year of piecing together part-time work (something we knew would not be a recipe for keeping him long-term).  Then, a week before school started, the music teacher at a local charter school quit, and there was a sudden job opening.  He found out on Sunday and had the job by Wednesday. 

It's as if God was saying to our church two years ago: "Don't hire a music guy.  I know you really, really want one.  Hire Josh instead - even though you're not sure why you need him. Just wait a while, and I'll give you a music guy that someone else can pay for, and then you'll have Josh too."  (Of course, we pay Kyle, but not nearly what he's worth.)

These three new jobs in less than three weeks seem to be the conclusion of this chapter of transition.  I don't know what all of this means for my callings to write and to get a PhD.  I guess God has put those on the slow track for now.  However, I am ecstatic to begin a new chapter in this new season of calling that I never anticipated.

The church and my family has finally marched up out of the banks. We've carried some stones from the depths of the river and placed them on firm ground as memorials of how God has brought us through. 

My memorial stone turns out to be shaped suspiciously like a bra.