Thursday, December 26, 2013

Here's To Hope In 2014

Much of my updates these days are shorter in length and offered via Facebook and Twitter, so you may have noticed that I have only posted a single article since last year around this time. So here goes my second and final article this year.

When the sun goes down and the lights burn out
Then it's time for you to shine
Brighter than a shooting star
So shine no matter where you are
Shooting Star, by Owl City

Last year, I asked the question, “Would there be a victory in 2013?” I will let you read on and judge for yourself. What I can say is that, while not as difficult as previous years, 2013 was still a challenging and often painful year to endure.

Circumstances have steadily improved for the Powells in 2013, as we have adjusted to a lifestyle that we never desired. Day by day, we continue to ask ourselves what God is doing in our lives by allowing the hardships we have encountered over the last three years since closing Encounter Church.

The ministry we engaged in through Encounter and in Helena, Montana, was such a large part of our lives. And over the last three years, we have drifted away from that type of ministry. I still long to engage in that type of “dangerous” ministry again, as soon as God allows and orchestrates.

If we look at things honestly, we are in a better place than a year ago. I am still employed for a full-time job with insurance benefits. Things are very tight financially, and my pay is significantly lower that industry standard for the work I do. But jobs are difficult to come by and so we are managing as best we can.

Oddly enough, the very situation that I fled California from, the very situation that I said I did not want to get into coming back, is the very situation I am currently in - a full-time secular position with freeway commutes, and very little time with my wife and sons. It hurts to be where eI am now, and yet I will endure until our situation changes.

Andrik's Graduation
Andrea was finally able to secure a wonderful position the Custom Floral Designer for the Michaels Arts & Crafts store in La Verne, California. She is receiving many positive reviews (and positively impacting sales) in the the store district. Additionally, she really enjoys the work.

It is also good news that Andrik graduated from Summit High School here in Fontana. He is now attending Chaffey College and finding it very difficult to secure any classes at all. Fortunately, we were able to get him hired as a Web Design Intern at Lunarpages where I work.

Kellin is doing very well in Middle School here with nearly all A’s in his classes. He has begun to make friends in school and begun to adapt to this lifestyle called Southern California.

While I have made the connections I can here in Southern California, ministry work is difficult to find. The culture of faith here in Southern California seems much more corporate and less open to risk and adventure than in other places.

The Vine Church
We had been attending The Vine Church in Rancho Cucamonga, a 13+ year-old church plant still struggling to survive, much like Encounter.

Having made some friends there at The Vine, having gotten plugged in with a small group, and even met with the Pastor and rehearsed with the band, there seems to be some barriers and/or differences there. The Vine seems to be a forward thinking, community-minded church, but still much more “safe” than our personalities. We are still not sure where we belong.

In the meantime, the church where I served as Worship Leader for the 4 years before we moved to Montana has experienced some difficulties that led to a church split. They lost their staff, elder leadership, and nearly half the congregation. It was because of this (and my connections within the SBC and CBA denominations) that I received a call from the church to essentially serve as an interim worship leader there beginning November 24.

Our hopes and prayers are to serve as an influence, and a source of spiritual guidance and reasoning there, as we lead worship each week. Perhaps we can help renew the church’s sense of purpose while helping them develop an outward focus to change the the community around them.

It took over two years, but our Montana home finally sold in April 2013. The market is the complete opposite here in Southern California. Home for sale are hard to find, overpriced, and difficult to secure. Since April, we have made and lost offers on 11 houses, and that is with a nearly 50% down payment.

Just this November, our offer for a home was finally accepted, nearly a year and half since we began looking. Things were looking good for the sale and we were expecting to close escrow and move in just before Christmas. However, at the last moment the financing options changed from what we were originally promised. We were instead offered a risky loan proposition with an exorbitant interest rate and we had no other decision but to back out of the deal.

So we find ourselves at the end of 2013, still without a home. I never expected that a year and a half would pass without finding a new home. To add to the disappointment, it looks as though it may be yet another 3 to 18 months before we can begin looking again.

With all this said, we are really just trusting in God. I experience times when I feel that there is no longer hope. I sometimes feel that God has abandoned us. At the same time, I know that it is not true. I know that He is there, helping us with each painful step forward, He is orchestrating His will for us during the very moment I write this.

Oh, how I have wrestled with God over these last three years and it does not look like it will end any time soon. One thing I do know, is that we, all of us, were meant to shine. We were created and touched by God to make a positive difference in this shine no matter where we are.