Forward by Noah Curran: I’d like to introduce Adam Atkinson. Adam and his wife Laura have an incredible heart for the Lord and have joined PurposeCity! I’ve asked him to share here how God has been working in their lives and that is what you will find below. It is an incredible story of how God’s fingerprints can been seen all over your life when you take the time to look back. I urge you to reflect upon his journey and think about how God might have actually worked in your life to date.
As my wife and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary I took a moment to process just how God has taken us to new heights in our spiritual maturity. As we celebrated our special day just last week, I had a thought – if our lives as a married couple were summarized and made into a book, the first and last chapter would look as though not much had changed. A quick glance would be the furthest thing from the truth though. The reality is, it might look similar as we celebrate our two year anniversary at Disneyworld, the exact same place we vacationed for our honeymoon; however, two years later at lot has changed and we stand smiling, enjoying what God has done in our lives. Let me fill you in briefly on how God transformed us and took us from that first day in our marriage, to where we are now, just two years later.
The day I married Laura I knew my life wouldn’t stay the same, but I never would have envisioned the changes that actually took place. You see, for four years I juggled 40+ hours working as a physical therapist aide, in addition to countless hours volunteering as a youth pastor. I always wanted to pursue a career in full time ministry, but I wanted all the opportunities to simply fall into my lap. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t realize until much later that life doesn’t work like that. I continued to keep the job to provide income for my family, but I knew ministry was my calling. I wanted to make a difference in the community and reach teens who were lost. Mostly, due to my own stubbornness, I was unwilling to look at alternatives when it came to ministry as I was extremely comfortable, enjoying the luxury that was working and living in the same area as my family. This stubbornness continued for quite some time, even though it meant Laura and I weren’t taking advantage of the strengths that God had given us. Laura and I would often discuss how we envisioned ourselves doing so much more, but then I would quickly dismiss any more talks or “dreams” because I ultimately wanted to remain in my comfort-zone. This went on for quite some time and sadly, it would cause Laura pain as she saw the potential God had put in me, but knew I had a lot of maturing to do. Therefore, instead of wine and complain, she would go to the park and pray everyday.
Along this journey my grandmother died and I felt like I lost one of my very best friends. My grandmother and I were very close and it was tough for me to cope with the loss. It had rocked my world. During this time I was blessed to have Laura though, as she would pray with me often to help me work through the pain. It was through this time spent in prayer that I felt a calling to change and simply… do more. I felt the need to get out of my comfort-zone and stop waiting for someone to simply realize my strengths. It was time to actually pursue our dreams.
The first thing that changed, and it was only through the power of prayer, was God taking me out of the great state of New Jersey. I had never seen myself working as a missionary overseas, but now I felt God calling me to discover a new skill set and learn only from His guidance. The steps it took for me to get from hearing God’s call to actually getting on that airplane proved to be a long and tedious. There were times when obstacles were so big that all I wanted to do was revert back and crush this new-found ambition. It was again the power of prayer that kept me going. In the end, I can look back and see it was God making me a stronger man, one who wouldn’t give into the pressure. I was now bent on only trusting Him and I was ready to serve.
On January 24, 2013, Laura and I boarded a plane and flew to Santiago, a city in the Dominican Republic. As I was in the air it finally hit me – there was no turning back now, and the next three months became totally overwhelming! I was excited, but I realized that I had just left behind my family, our apartment, our memories, and all our “stuff.” We left with just four suitcases and headed to a land where we had no clue what to expect. When we first arrived that night I felt God place a reassuring peace over me. I was anxious for what I was about to learn and I felt like this might be the start of a new journey for Laura and I.
During the three months in the DR, I never was nervous, I never feared what might happen while I was there and as a result, my life, which often felt like it was protected by a glass barrier, was shattered to pieces and my eyes were finally opened. As we worked alongside the national churches of the Dominican, I was coached by a missionary named Rick Romano. Rick helped me to grow and operate in a style that was completely outside of the box. In fact, one day you might have found me mixing cement by hand and the next I might have been teaching English or throwing a baseball with the locals. You see, each one of those days was committed totally to the ministry of Jesus. This new mindset required that I stop being hesitant to serving God and understand that I have unique strengths that only God can use.
Sadly, three months later April 24th came and it was time for Laura and I to return home. I honestly had knots in my stomach about leaving my new “home” – that’s how much God had changed my heart while I was there. Laura and I knew we would never be the same people we were before we left. Our whole mindset had changed as we both found our God-given strengths in ministry and now desired to put them into use. Ideally we saw the DR as the perfect place to stay, but God had other plans for us. And, while we loved the DR and knew we had to leave, we also had a feeling that NJ wasn’t a good fit for us at this time. As crazy as it might sound, we were actually happy when we heard that the apartment we were going to rent was flooded and no longer livable. We were honestly excited to find out that both our jobs filled while we were gone and my youth pastor role was filled at the church. Why were we so elated about not having a house to live in, a job, or my old ministry? Because it was another sign for us to keep trusting God, because He was not finished with us and our role in helping to build His Kingdom.
Laura and I again were faced with the uncertainty of not knowing what was next. This time we both knew what to do. We prayed & wrote down our strengths. We focused solely on what we would both like to do and cast a large net with those strengths in mind. A couple weeks went by and we stayed strong trusting God. One day, just to switch things up, I decided to apply for a couple ministry jobs for Laura and she would apply to some openings on my behalf. The next week Laura and I both were contacted by two people – things that seemed as though God created them just for us. Oh I forgot to mention that both these people just happened to contact us from the same city – Tampa of all places. Laura ended up getting a job at a local Christian ministry as a house parent working troubled teenage girls. You see, Laura had gotten a taste of mentoring and leading while in the DR and wanted to continue in that capacity. As for me, I am so excited at the opportunity Laura’s position has allowed me to be able to get involved with PurposeCity. I am passionate about digging into the community, getting to know people, and helping them feed their hunger for Jesus.
So that brings us back to the start – we are two years removed from standing in the same exact place we stood this week – Disney! A shadow is cast behind us and reminds us of our journey thus far. We smile and both realize that this is not the end of the book, rather it is a start of a new chapter in our lives as we pursue God. And… for the first time in my life I am not afraid of the blank pages that follow, rather excited for this journey that Laura and I will take together fulfilling God’s will for each of our lives.