Tonight was the Annual Meeting for Fair Oaks Church, our new church home and my new employer. More than 200 people were in attendance to receive reports from individual ministry leaders on the previous year's ministry goals, to review the church's financial reports, and to hear about plans for the upcoming year.
I learned a lot about the church, including the fact that hiring a youth pastor was one of the church's ministry goals at last year's meeting. They searched for 13 months before the Lord brought me here, which means that they were looking to hire a youth pastor even before I left for the World Race last year. If only God would have brought me here last year instead, I could have saved the church the trouble!
But the Lord, in His wisdom, knew that He needed to lead me all the way around the world before bringing me back here to Northern California, in order to prepare me for what lies ahead.
As they introduced me tonight and brought me forward, a cheer went up from the crowd (in no small part, led by a quartet of high school girls seated at our table). I was honored to have J.C. and Russ, the church's volunteer junior high and high school directors respectively, lay their hands on me and offer prayers of dedication. They prayed for protection for my marriage, for God's vision for the youth ministry at Fair Oaks to be clear to me, and they thanked God for the heart that He has given me. As these prayers rose up to the Lord, I felt this wave of peace and gratitude wash over me. A reminder that God's Presence is with me, and that He goes before me in everything I do.
Pastor Steve handed me the mic and asked me if I'd like to say a few words, and if you know me, you know I said, "Yes." And as I began to thank the body for the love they have shown Katherine and me, I couldn't help but get a little choked up. God has given me such a tender heart for this church, and for its teenagers in particular. Tears come to my eyes when I think about them for any amount of time, even as I type this.
I welcome this brokenness, and I receive it as yet another lesson from the Lord, teaching me what it means to be His shepherd.