Monday, October 6, 2014

Team Southards is making a move

 In November, Team Southards is packing up and moving to Ohio!

That is the short version of the story, below you will find the much longer version (but believe it or not, somewhat abbreviated).

This month Steve and I celebrate 10 years of marriage. We met in 2003 in Washington D.C. and were married the next year in Bradenton, FL where we started in ministry as a Youth Pastor (note: I will say "we" the whole time, but really Steve is the only one paid but we partner in ministry so much, that it is a "we").  Our first few years in ministry were so rich and fruitful, we still have great friends from Bradenton and it holds a very special place in our hearts. It doesn't hurt our date nights were watching the sun set over the ocean, not a bad way to start life together. When an opportunity came up to be a part of a Church plant in Orlando, we sought the Lord's guidance. I remember laying on the beach under the stars praying over the decision with Steve. I told him I would be quite alright with God aligning the stars in the sky to say "Orlando" or "Bradenton", I know He is capable of it, but He doesn't always work the way we would like him to. After much prayer, we really felt like the Lord gave us a choice to stay or go and that He would bless it either way.

We made the tough choice to go be a part of a new ministry.

Orlando was a great growing time. We were part of a wonderful team there and knew our role was to help launch the church and then get out of the way for others to step in and takeover. The original plan was for us to go church plant afterwards, but through that experience we realized we are better "builders than starters." We were at a crossroads to stay or go (the other members of the launch team had either moved on to plant or had committed long-term to the church there) when Indian Creek in Olathe, KS contacted us about being the Adult Ministries Pastor with the vision to launch another campus. We both knew pretty quickly that this was the next step God had for us in ministry. When we had visited Olathe about moving here, we really looked at the city thinking we would be here 20+ years, that this would be where our kids would call home.

Even though I was on board and excited about moving, Steve and I had one of the biggest fights of our marriage while moving out to KS. We had rented a cabin in TN on our way out to have a few R&R nights before arriving in KS. Let's just say, it wasn't a pleasant time. Looking back, I was totally irrational and emotional (neither of which I am that often) and I was mourning leaving "home." Florida was all I ever knew as home. We moved there when I was almost 5-years-old and flip-flops and tank-tops were what I knew. I am not sure what we even were fighting about (isn't that how it happens) but we both distinctly remember that time, and I am not sure we will ever laugh about it. 

I remember the evening we pulled into Olathe it started to snow. It was early January and I was in for the shock of my life, a real winter (compared to the Florida ones where I would lay out on Christmas Day). 

We arrived in Olathe as a family of 2.

We will leave as a family of 6!

We have called Olathe home for almost 7 years. It really is that to us. 


That is why when we have received calls over the past few years about taking a Lead Pastor role at other churches it was pretty easy to say "Thanks but no thanks."

We are so happy here. 
 We gave birth to all 4 kids here.
We are a part of a ministry we love here.
We have traditions established here.
We have people we love so deeply here.
We are loved deeply by others here.
We have a family lake house near here.
We have a house we love here.
We (aka Steve) has good hunting here.
We have family farms near here.
We have a plan for the future here.

But God had a different plan.

A church in Dayton, OH contacted us in April about considering the Lead Pastor position at their church, Salem Church of God. To be honest, my first thought was "Ohio?!?! Thanks but no thanks, isn't Ohio REALLY cold and I am a Gator (University of Florida), I don't like Ohio State." Those were my super spiritual thoughts about Ohio :)

After some conversation with a few of our mentors, we decided there was something different about this opportunity and we didn't want to shut the door too quickly. So prayerfully we decided to walk the journey until God closed the door or we had direction from Him to stay. 

The rest of the story and details on how we got to the place where we are packing up our family and stepping out in faith to head to Salem as the Lead pastor might not make sense to many people. This has been one of the toughest, most on-our-knees-in-prayer decisions we have made as a couple. We didn't want to get this wrong.

But that is Faith, not always knowing how things are going to work out, or even knowing 2 steps ahead, but trusting our Good and Gracious Heavenly Father has a better plan that we do. 

We love Indian Creek and have been loved on by the people of Indian Creek. God has done some incredible things in us and through us while here in Olathe.

We have visited Salem three times and it is so apparent we will be loved by the people of Salem. We have experienced an abundance of love and encouragement before we have even officially arrived there.

In my Beth Moore study this semester (her new one Children of the Day) a verse stuck out so boldly to me and has become my prayer for the people of Salem.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV)
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

My prayer is for my heart to expand abundantly for the people of Salem and for the community surrounding. We go to share the gospel and our lives and my prayer is for them to become very dear to us. They have already become so dear in our few visits there.

We are so sad to leave Olathe, to leave Home. But we get really excited to think that God has an adventure waiting for us. We know this wasn't our plan, this was all God.  Since He is in it, we have confidence to step forward. This next season will be rich. We know it will stretch and grow us as individuals, as a couple and as a family. 

We don't have all the details figured out for the move (timing, housing, school, etc) but we do know God has gone before us and surrounds us and will guide us in our path. We have seen His hand all over this situation already and we look forward to seeing how He works in a way that only an omnipotent God can.

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