It takes a lot of bravery to pack up your stuff and move across the country to a place that you feel led to move to. This is exactly what happened 5 years ago when we packed up our stuff in Redding, CA and moved to New Jersey, in the greater Philadelphia area. At first the decision was based on a few mundane and fairly practical realizations and decisions. God, however always finds a way to inspire practical decisions with supernatural vision.
We had been feeling slightly frustrated with ministry opportunities in Redding. My wife and I had both attended Bethel Church’s School of Supernatural Ministry and realized, fairly quickly, that if we were called to do something non-traditional in ministry, we needed to go where the lost and those in need of this ministry are. That just simply wasn’t in Redding. For a “city” that has a population of less than 100,000, Christians were everywhere and churches lined the country roads. There just wasn’t much of a need for another church or ministry.
At the same time, the recession was impacting northern California in a significant way, especially Redding. Finding a job there was very difficult and that was before the recession hit. At the time we left, the unemployment rate was just under 22%. So we had decisions to make. Struggle through circumstances or look for greener pastures with bigger population and maybe more economical possibilities.
We prayed, talked with wise people and made the decision. Then God decided to make things very interesting. I started to get woken up at 3am every night by a loud church bell. There are no churches near us that ring bells so this was very strange. Also, my wife never heard anything. So I decided to go to our prayer room, which was simply an addition to the house with no insulation that was previously used as storage space. When I asked God why I heard that bell and what the purpose of it all was I heard, very clearly, “Pray for Philadelphia and NJ.”
The weeks went on and I was up everyday at 3am to pray for Philadelphia and NJ. We made the trip across the country in our little Kia and were sitting at Erin’s parents house in NJ (they had moved out east 6 yrs before) when a news broadcast aired on the local Philadelphia news station. It was a story of a catholic church that was disturbing the peace in a Philly neighborhood by ringing a crazy loud bell every morning at 6am. When asked why they did this every morning, even though they knew how annoying it must be to the local residents they answered, “so they can pray for Philadelphia and New Jersey.” 3 hour time difference between NJ and CA.
So yeah, I freaked out a little. I had found myself on the east coast, in New Jersey no less, because of maybe wise practical decisions but meanwhile I had stumbled into God’s leading. He loved this area and had led us here whether by circumstance or fate, it was clear His heart was there. A little later we connected with a NJ local who was part of a group who had been praying God would send a young couple from Bethel to NJ. So yeah.
The first year in New Jersey was rough. We didn’t really make friends, I didn’t find work as quickly as I thought I could and the pay was not great even though New Jersey is one of the most expensive states to live in. It seemed as though all our wise practical reasoning for moving out east was failing hard. God’s heart was still here but when you have a really difficult time connecting or even agreeing with Him, it still proves to be discouraging. Eventually we connected with a few cool churches and stumbled, again, into the prayer movement in NJ. We met so many amazing leaders and tried to pour into what God was doing in the region.
That pretty much brings us up to date with where we are now, about a month away from moving back out west to Reno, NV, a city we have always felt called to and have always loved. So what did we learn? What was the point of being in NJ for 5 years on the beckoning of a few epic prophetic experiences?
One thing we definitely learned is the value of community. We had always come from places that did community pretty well. In Redding, even though its easy to get lost in the sea of scriptures on T-shirts, we had found a community of people and very close friendships that will sustain till our last breath in this world and I say that with great confidence. In Reno, we had the same, friends that will never leave our hearts, though at times, we left them geographically. In NJ we found it far more difficult to find community. We made great friends and we treasure them with all our hearts but there was always way too much distance between us. Either the drive was just too far and expensive after a while or the area was just out of reach for us to move to financially. We were at least 45 minutes away from any church community we could be a part of. We still did it but it took a toll on us. For the first time in our marriage, Erin and I felt pretty alone. That’s an odd thing when you’re a couple because you have each other, however, there is almost a dual longing for companionship and friendship that you need from others as well. That just wasn’t there to the degree that we have had it in the past.
There are many factors for why community is a difficult thing to find in NJ and even the east coast. One is the nature of the east coast rush. People are after living their lives whether that’s a career or schooling or building a family. I found that friendships were always left at the bottom of the priority list. This was the first time I had to ever tell people to just come over my house. This caused some arguments because it was a foreign concept to many people. I didn’t want anyone to call first or text or plan some huge party or event, just to be in my life. Finding honest, vulnerable and real relationships was very difficult but when we did, we jumped on it and invested as much as was possible. This obviously isn’t how everyone is and how everything was but in our experience, NJ’s biggest character flaw was value for community simply not being a value. Good community was the exception, not the rule.
This pushed Erin and I to become very close and gave us a deeper and more profound ability to minister as one person. In the past, I did so much in ministry as far as speaking, teaching, prophetic ministry but now Erin is functioning in a higher place in her gifting and for that, I am willing to trek through any journey in life. There is nothing I want more than for the love of my life to be happy, fulfilled and blazing with the fire of God in her life.
Now the more awesome things about NJ, haha. There is a prayer and worship movement in NJ and NYC , whose power is incomparable and its nothing I have ever seen or felt before. I was unprepared for the revival fire that is resting upon the community of believers, especially at Resting Place, a house of prayer and revival center in Woodland Park, NJ. They taught me so much and blessed us in relationships and spiritual impartation to a degree that I still can’t describe. I believe that what is happening in NJ in the worship and prayer movement is having global impact on such a deep scale. It’s revival history happening right now and I believe a second Asuza street movement is right on the cusp of hitting America through that region.
I often think, would I do everything the same if I were to go back in time? Would I still move? Would I still say yes to God? The answer is a confident yes! I have grown in ways that I know were not possible in Redding or Reno. I know! Even in Redding!
Sometimes God sends you to uncomfortable and foreign places to get power and to grow because power doesn’t live in safe, comfortable places. It’s found in volcanoes, storms and dangerous seas. The waters of risk are filled with dangerous creatures and nonstop perils but they are also filled with growth, power and breakthrough. Don’t resist what God is calling you to and live life with no regrets. You can’t live a life abundant and live in regret. It’s not possible.