“I’ll go,” I said as we stood on the porch overlooking the mountain range.
I would have said yes to anything he asked if it meant leaving the church that he was currently serving. For over 2 years he had worked upwards of 70 hours a week. He had grown a youth group of 30 to more than 100. He had intentionally discipled 10 youth for more than a year and planted a church in a government housing project. He had taken those kids on missions trips, youth camps, weekend retreats, and service projects.
His cup was running over and mine was empty.
We were in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, leading a team of youth on a mission trip. Thad had been bitten by the church planting bug and we both knew his days as a youth pastor were coming to a close. It was bittersweet for him and joyous for me.
I literally would have moved anywhere to have him to myself.
Within the year, we were living in Spruce Pine and working for an Appalachian church planting ministry.
Elli, our first born, was 14 months old and I was 5 months pregnant with Audrey. We lived in the government housing complex with the people we were trying to reach and our church service was held in the community building on the grounds. Our apartment was nestled between beautiful mountains right off the Blue Ridge Parkway and in our free time, we would drive the parkway and talk for hours.
Each Sunday, we ran a circuit of 3 worship services: one at a theatre, one at our apartment complex, and one under a tent, next to a river. Our life was crazy busy, but we did it together. Elli and Audrey went with us everywhere and it was during our time in Spruce Pine that we became a family.
My cup began to be filled and Thad was in his element. We truly loved the work with this ministry and we saw ourselves being there long term.
But after several other church planters began to lose their jobs under suspicious circumstances, red flags began to go up. Other things began to not add up, literally. After a year, we felt led to make other plans and head to seminary.
Upon giving his notice, Thad was fired and told to be out of the county within 7 days.
Before we ever left the mountains, our home church had already gotten word of our decision to leave the ministry.
We arrived back in Rocky Mount a week later, under a cloud of suspicion. We moved in with my mom and spent a full 2 months in shock. We were both 26, with 2 kids, no jobs, and lots of ministry debt that we incurred while in Spruce Pine. We paid for all of our ministry expenses out of our own shallow pockets ( We made less than $20,000 and somehow we still had to pay the IRS $1,000 at the end of the year. How does that happen?).
God provided jobs for both of us and we began to make plans to attend Dallas Seminary in January 2004.
But God’s plans are never our plans and while trying really hard to not have any more babies, we got pregnant with Josiah.
This pregnancy delayed our move to Dallas by a year.
And we were going to need that year to process the storm that we thought we had left in Spruce Pine.