It's Sunday night and our small group just left our house. We have been so blessed by this new group of friends. Their friendship has been so meaningful to us, especially in the last few weeks. Most of all, they have been a picture of God's grace on us as a young couple.
Several weeks ago, we were back in GR sending off another family to the other side of the world. In addition to wishing them safe travel in their new adventure, we visited most of our favorite GR spots, including Jen's former church, KCC. It's no secret that Jen has missed her old gathering spot, but this time, the longing was a little more intense. As we talked about it, we realized that as much as we have enjoyed being part of our house church in Canton, we longed to be part of a larger community. Being at KCC that weekend crystallized our desire. We had been visiting a church in Canton, but after a time adjustment with our house church, it had become more difficult to attend regularly. We realized that we felt something was missing if our weekend didn't include a Rivertree service.
When you attend a large church, it can be fairly easy to slip out and away. When you attend a small house church, the decision to worship elsewhere is more difficult. It's hard to articulate a sense of being called away because it feels like a personal rejection of those we love. We began to pray in earnest that God would give us clear direction that our desire to make Rivertree our church home was God's leading.
God answered loud and clearly. One weekend, our house church participated along with Rivertree in a project called iServe. Rivertree closed the church doors one Sunday and instead organized work projects throughout the city. Rather than talking about serving the community, we served.
Our group met at a local park with some others from the church. We weeded. We planted flowers. We mulched. We picked up trash. And we painted a swingset. Niels and I were especially excited about the event because our biggest apprehension about joining Rivertree is that we didn't know anyone there yet. In fact, the house church was everyone Jen knew in Canton! We prayed that if God wanted us at Rivertree He would show us by provided us with some new friends that Sunday.
As soon as we got there, we were asked to fill out some paperwork. Jen made a comment that she didn't know Niels' cell phone number because it's saved in her cell phone as "Sweetie." A young couple nearby heard us and laughed with us. They introduced themselves and we ended up working together most of the morning. Before they left, they told us about their small group (Thrive groups, in this case). We promised to check them out the next night.
The next night we visited the group and met some others. We felt immediately welcomed and at ease. Niels really hit it off with the tech guy from the church, which answered a prayer we've had for him to find his place to serve. This same guy casually mentioned, without knowing anything of my background, that the church library/bookstore was looking for someone "very, very part time." Niels and I looked at each other and smile. We were home.
Since that night, Niels and I have spent many nights with our new friends, watching movies, worshipping, and serving together. Niels is now the master of lights on the tech team. Jen is now EMPLOYED at the bookstore. Two of the women have been especially good friends in the last two weeks, going to the doctor with Jen and checking in on her, especially in the first few days after the miscarriage.
Because the group is very tech oriented, they made a video of themselves. They showed it to us that first night. Jen's previous small group, in GR, had a tongue-in-cheek name, The Zeros. This group is a little off. They are. we are. We're home.