At the outset of 2012, we felt God calling us to something new. We were initially unsure the exact nature of the call, but we began faithfully searching for a new opportunity to serve. After many months spent struggling to find what it was that God was calling us to, I laid my heart out in a letter to my mentor, Pastor Joel Hunter (Northland, a Church Distributed). Joel ministered to me and eventually provided me with the name of another strong leader, Bob Ransom (Director of U.S. Ministries, Missionary Church). It took only a few days for us to connect, a connection that would truly begin our journey into what we originally felt God calling us to.
I approached Bob as a blank canvas, communicating my openness towards what God was doing and what Joel had communicated to me. This led to a time of exploration where Daira and I met with key strategic leaders throughout the country to determine how God was moving, be it missionary work, pastoral supply, church planting, or anything of the sort. What we quickly learned was that God had a plan for us, a plan that was better than anything we could have hoped for or imagined.
One of the first ways God began to show Himself to us was a strategic meeting Bob set up with an international missionary group. Daira and I have long had a passion for the European culture and greatly enjoyed reaching people for Christ while living in Spain and Italy. In fact, upon returning from our stint abroad, we both imagined that someday we would move overseas and minister full-time in Europe. For Daira and I, when we first heard about the opportunity to meet with Bob’s connections about serving abroad, we felt certain that this was what God would have us to do. However, after just an initial meeting, it was clear in our spirit that God had other plans.
Struggling to still solidify an actionable step, Bob encouraged Daira and I to put down on a map the places we would be open to ministering. It took just a few hours and we had successfully drawn a map with over eighty potential destinations. After many days spent researching, praying, and listening to God, we narrowed it down to six and committed the rest to God.
The following week Daira and I headed to a class on Church planting at Wheaton College. A few days into the class we met a guest instructor. The peculiar nature of this meeting was that this individual had not only worked closely with Bob in the past, but he was also from Tampa, Florida – one of the six remaining places on the map. we asked to meet with him and he shared about his wonderful experience working with Bob, in addition to the great need the Tampa area had for Christ.
Daira and I were still quite confused, especially considering that Tampa was one of the last places we thought we would end up. In fact, it was just five years ago we had told everyone we knew that we would never be back to Florida, moving from Orlando to a new life in Nashville, Tennessee. Upon returning from the class at Wheaton, we shared the events of the past week with Bob and he urged us to see what God might be doing. Bob connected me with Mark Nelson, a Pastor and Church planting leader in Florida. Mark felt the Holy Spirit move and invited my wife and I to Florida to meet with a network of pastors. We flew down just a few weeks later and this is where God began working to an even greater extent.
While in Florida, God started giving us signs. On our very first day, while driving into Tampa, a song we had never heard came on the radio. The lyrics to the secular song go as follows, “Hold on, to me as we go, as we roll down this unfamiliar road, and although this wave is stringing us along, just know you’re not alone, cause I’m going to make this place your home.” It continues, “settle down, it’ll all be clear, don’t pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear, the trouble it might drag you down, if you get lost, you can always be found, just know you’re not alone, cause I’m going to make this place your home.” For us, it was not just another song on the radio. We both instantaneously looked at each other and knew it was a sign from the Lord.
The signs did not stop in Tampa, however. A week or so later, while still working to be faithful to God’s calling, Daira and I spent a morning struggling to determine if it was the right move or not. Later that afternoon, Daira was sitting on the stoop of our suburban home and bowed her head to pray. She prayed that I would have a sign if this was to be what we were called to do. At the exact same moment, I was sitting in the lobby of a professional building and began to feel the weight of the decision bearing down on me. I also bowed my head and, at the very same time as Daira, said a very similar prayer. Upon ending the prayer, I lifted my head and spotted a cup uncharacteristically out of place on the receptionist desk. The cup read, “Go Tampa.” Upon questioning the receptionist, she noted that she had never seen the cup and did not know where it had come from. In shock, I shared the events of the day with Daira and we agreed that we would proceed if God should continue to open doors. We would now step bravely into Tampa Bay, a city in great need of faith revitalization.
God quickly began to give us a vision of what the ministry might look like. It was a very different vision from what was traditional, but it was characteristic of how we have viewed our Church experiences over the years. I proceeded to go through the Church planter assessment process, which luckily I passed with abnormally strong results given my age and background. I also completed the process to become credentialed as a Pastor and was granted my license in January of 2013. In addition, Daira and I began to put some feelers out for bi-vocational income within the Tampa area. After spending months looking for a new position previously, the first feeler we both put out engaged with us and wewere given strong opportunities in the Tampa area. We committed to the vision, said goodbye to friends and family, and packed up the car for Tampa.
The final step before heading to Tampa was a stop in Knoxville to meet with a visionary leader, Dan Grider (Ignite Church Network). We spent a few days being coached and then attended an immersive ministry boot camp aimed at honing our strategy prior to arriving in Tampa. The three of us worked through some of the revolutionary methods Dan had specialized in and we had planned to implement in Tampa. After a week’s visit, Daira and I had completed the first phase of our journey and on to Tampa we went, jumping right into the thick of things.
The journey we have had is unique and I believe has prepared us for what comes ahead. The Lord impacted both of us at different stages in life, but today we have seized our purpose and are working to start the vision God has given us, PurposeCity. You can read more about that particular vision in the vision section.