Uganda! I got a call a few weeks ago inviting me to help lead a team from Mississippi over to Abaana’s Hope. I knew it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass on. I knew… More
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 ESV
For the second part in this series I want to share with you about the ministry around the Women’s Refuge Center at Abaana’s Hope. I’m personally fond of this ministry simply because scripture teaches us over and again the importance of caring for widows and orphans. While this ministry focuses on the former, I’ve had the opportunity to see God use it to take care of both, and more. I hope you’ll see how God has used this to change lives here on earth and more importantly for eternity.
When the LifeBeads program was started in 2013 it became apparent that another ministry was needed to care for the widows and women with children that had been displaced by the war. These women and their families were left vulnerable with no family to assist them and no means of supporting themselves. It is a place where Biblical truth is taught, vocational training and money management skills are provided, and the love of Jesus Christ is demonstrated. Our goal is to empower these women to be able to purchase land, build a home, provide for themselves, and mentor others with all that they’ve learned in their time here.
The refuge center is overseen by FCM missionaries Jamie and Sheri Payton and sits on 12 acres just a few hundred yards down the road from Abaana’s Hope. There are five traditional homes (otlums) that have been built, a garden area, and a piggery. Most of these women work at Abaana’s Hope in different areas. The homes not only provide a shelter for these families, they provide a place that feels like their own, a place to feel some level of security, a place to invite others in to show hospitality, and so much more. I can’t imagine the physical feeling of homelessness much less the psychological and emotional strain that goes along with it here in the US. All of that would be intensified out in the bush of Uganda while trying to raise a family after experiencing so much pain and rejection throughout their lives. The garden area and the piggery serve these women as they learn agriculture and animal husbandry. These and other skills are used as the women graduate from the program to provide for themselves.
Most of the time women in Uganda if left alone never have the opportunity to make a life for themselves. Women purchasing land is rare. Most end up having to find someone to marry them no matter the cost to themselves just to stay alive. So far two women have completely finished the program and are living on their own; Grace and Carolyn. One who has purchased land and moved away (Joyce) and 2 who have purchased their land and are working on building their homes (Rose and Jennifer). There is one (Santa) who has recently moved in. There are currently 15 children living there. I don’t have an accurate count of the number of children that have been involved but it’s over 30. The lives of these women and children have been forever changed.
During our time at Abaana’s Hope last year, we were able to just spend a few hours there visiting with the women and children. One of the ladies welcomed me (Mallory) and the other ladies into her home. Another made sure she walked me over to her home. To show me the new scriptures she had displayed in her home and her children’s artwork hung around inside, just like my wall at home. The women are so grateful for their homes, and more hospitable than you can imagine. Such pride in what they have was clear. All the ladies and young girls gathered there in the home. We chatted about life and school for the children. How the younger ones were doing in their brand new school at AH and how the older ones were doing in the school they were now able to afford and travel to. Two of them shared their stories with me. Their stories were stories of hardship, and pain, and abuse, and suffering. Full of so much darkness. But, they ended with HOPE. Hope that only Christ can bring. Hope that comes from God’s people being the hands and feet of Jesus carrying the gospel to them. In tangible, physical ways, but also in words. Words of the life changing good news of Jesus.
The personal stories are too many to tell on this post. However, they are powerful and full of God’s grace. I’d love to be able to share some of them or even better invite you to come see and hear them for yourselves. God has provided us with so much and we are excited to be afforded the opportunity to use it for His glory.
I hope that you have a little better picture of this ministry that is providing Hope to so many. God has shown up in this in some big ways and we are looking forward to so much more. Please join us in praying for and supporting these women who have graduated and are looking to graduate. These women are now missionaries in their community, able to provide an example of what the Gospel looks like. Maintenance is currently being done on some of the otlums and the process is beginning to invite some new women into the center. Please pray for the women that will come in the future and for our missionaries as they discern who God will have them serving next.
I’d like to begin posting a blog about each of the ministries that we will be working with at Abaana’s Hope. My goal is to highlight one ministry each week in hopes to give you all a better understanding of what God is calling our family to do and be a part of. As well as try to better explain how we are working towards our mission of “communicating and demonstrating the Gospel of Jesus Christ among hard-to-reach people groups.” This first week I want to introduce you to Living Stones Community Church.
The church is central to everything that is done around Abaana’s Hope. All ministry flows out from what is accomplished here and everything flows back in to accomplish the goal of hearts and lives being changed through the power of the Gospel. I do not believe that any ministry at Abaana’s Hope is more important than this one.
The building where the church meets is a couple of years old. It’s made of brick and is completely open air. It certainly doesn’t compare with most of our churches in America. Yet these people are incredibly grateful for it, as they met for 2 years under a shea tree. It is extremely nice by their standards and most comfortable, as a room full of people dancing in praise without open walls would get rather warm on the equator. It is filled weekly by believers, people who want to know more, people who are just curious, and even some who were dragged there by a spouse or family member. The church is led by Pastor Sunday and a board of elders. Pastor Sunday is a Ugandan gentleman who has been trained and educated well. He is constantly going through other trainings to help him be a more effective shepherd of the people that God has placed under his care. The board of elders is comprised of men from the community around Abaana’s Hope whose lives have been radically changed by the Gospel and currently the 2 missionary men from the US. These men meet weekly for a time of focused discipleship. The leadership at LSCC continues to mature and grow in their understanding of scripture and the mission of The Church and are committed to carrying out their God-given roles in that mission.
LSCC is where physical needs in the community are met as well as spiritual needs. Pastor Sunday and the elders are regularly making house visits to church members as well as other members of the community. Here is where needs are identified and vetted to be brought back to be discussed and acted upon. I was afforded the opportunity to see this in action when we were visiting over there last year. It was a beautiful picture of what The Church should look like. I sat in on the elder meeting as they discussed the needs of a woman whose home had been burned to the ground by her step-sons. The church was able to purchase some milled grain from the maze mill at Abaana’s Hope and deliver it to this woman and her family. I saw Pastor Sunday work with a teenager who was trying to get a better grasp of scripture. This young man reminded me of myself when I was his age, as he wrestled through passages and brought them to his pastor for interpretation. Also, much like me he was proud of himself when a truth was unlocked to him and came alive in his heart. I prayed that God would bring him to a place of humility about himself as God had to do with me. (and still does) I saw a woman come tearfully asking for help with her husband (who are both believers and church members) who had begun slipping back into a drinking habit that had nearly wrecked their lives before they submitted to Christ. Pastor Sunday along with an elder paid him a visit where they discussed the spiritual truths involved and began the intentional process of helping him through discipleship and accountability. These are only a few stories of what I saw God do through His church at Abaana’s Hope during the 5 days that I spent there. The stories are endless as are the needs. This is the gathering of God’s people in this community. Where the Gospel is preached, needs are met and lives begin being transformed. I am incredibly grateful for what God has done and is doing through this church.
The vision for LSCC is to become a place from which missionaries are raised up and sent out, to begin planting churches in Uganda, Africa, and to the ends of the earth. I can’t help but be excited by the prospect of this taking place. While we were there we met a man, who had become a leader in the youth and children’s ministries. His wife had decided that she wanted to go home to where her family lived and he was going to be following her shortly. He had been invested in greatly and was going to be sorely missed. I am friends with him on Facebook (yes they have FB there) and I see now that he is working on planting a church in the village that they moved to! Praise God who takes a situation that makes us sad and shows us that he had a greater plan all along! We are praying that God would raise up other missionaries among LSCC to be sent out with the Gospel and plant it in the hearts of those that God sends them to.
There is always something going on at the church building. Whether it’s choir practice (such a beautiful sound to hear), ladies or gentlemen meeting in discipleship groups, or children gathering there to play; the building, the people, and the Savior worshiped there are central to all of life around Abaana’s Hope. The other ministries are exciting, different, engaging, and vital to the work being done. However, I hope you see that the church is the starting point for all of them and that you will join us in praying for everyone involved at Living Stones.
Since our last update God has done some great things in our lives and in the lives around Abaana’s Hope. We have been encouraged by many people who speak with us about our plans, offer their prayers, and partnered with us financially. Our house in Florida has sold! We had our house on the market for over 3 years. We knew that God would sell it when it was time. A couple of weeks after announcing our intentions to move to Uganda God sent a family our way to purchase our house. Please join us in praying for LifeBeads as conversations are being had about a potential partnership. We attended Four Corners’ annual banquet at the end of October and were greatly encouraged by many of the supporters of the ministry. It was a nice time with our families and some friends there. They were able to see more of the heart behind Four Corners and learn more about the work being done. Work on the new school building at Abaana’s Hope is nearing completion! It will be ready for students at the start of the new school year in February. The missionaries on the ground have been able to break into some new areas around Abaana’s Hope to share the gospel and deliver bibles to soldiers stationed nearby. We are growing more excited everyday about what God is doing at Abaana’s Hope and being able to fill our roles to be a small part of it all.
As we look forward with anticipation we are also realizing during this holiday season that we are experiencing many things for the “last” time for a while. As long as things go according to the plans we’ve been making, we will not be stateside for the holidays until 2019. My (Allen) first realization of this was a week or so ago at Auburn’s last home game of the season. As Bo and I entered the stadium it hit me that this would most likely be our last ballgame until 2019. While I know Auburn football ranks pretty low on most people’s priority lists, it has always been a staple in my life. Realizing this “last” led to the realization that this Thanksgiving and Christmas would also be our last here for a while. For our families as with most, the holidays have always been an important and wonderful time spent together. We will focus a little more on all of it and being a little more thankful for the blessing of family that God has given us. At the same time we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity in front of us and excited as we prepare to move among the Acholi people. We also drove away from our house in Florida for the last time. As it’s the only piece of this earth I’ve ever owned, it was a good reminder that this earth is not my home.
As we celebrate these lasts and come near the end of the year we need your help. As you consider your end of the year gifts we ask that you would consider partnering with our family financially. Whether it’s a one time gift or a monthly commitment, your financial gifts are essential for us to be able to follow God’s call. I am confident in God’s faithfulness to us and confident in the faithfulness of God’s people that he calls to be senders and financial partners. For those that are already giving, we thank you for your faithfulness. Your gifts are already being used to help our family with a few expenses that we are already incurring.
If God is calling you to partner with us and you are wondering when the best time is to start sending your monthly support or your one time gift, the answer is, as soon as you are ready. Your monthly gifts now will help us with a few small expenses that we incur with fundraising costs and will go into our account to help with the large expenses involved with moving overseas. Once we begin to move your monthly gifts will pay for our daily needs. One time gifts will be used to help cover all of our expenses as well and are a vital part of the fundraising process.
Another vital part of the fundraising process is being able to share what God is doing with our family and Abaana’s Hope with you, your church, your small group, or civic organization. We are excited and have so much that we want to share with you in person. We desire the ability to extend the invitation for partnership in face to face. We want to share our hearts and our lives with those who God calls to come along side us in His work. We would love the opportunity to sit down with you over coffee or a meal and share or speak to any group of any size. Please don’t feel like your group is too small or too far away.
If you would like to meet with us to discuss opportunities to be involved or if you would like to have our family share with your church or small group, please contact me by email at email@example.com or by phone at 770-710-3301. If your would like to partner by making a monthly commitment or a one time donation you may do so by clicking here: http://fourcorners.org/corbin-family/ and then clicking on the donate button at the bottom. When you fill out the form select Corbin Family. If you would like to make a donation by mail you may send it directly to: Four Corners Ministries, 715 Avenue A, Suite 206, Opelika, AL 36801. Just be sure to designate “Corbin Family” on your check. All gifts to Four Corners are tax-deductible.
We love you all and thank God for you daily. Without you this mission the way God intended would not be possible. Please keep our family in your prayers and we will continue to pray for you as well. As we enter into the season of Advent we are reminded that there is a world out there that doesn’t know about the first coming of our Savior and what a privilege it is that God uses us all to bring that message to them and the message of another coming that will join us all with our King for eternity.
As we enjoy these “lasts” we are looking forward with anticipation to the many “firsts” that God has in store for our family. Each are filled with the incredible grace of God.
If we don’t have the privilege of speaking with you before, we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas!
For His Glory,
Allen, Mallory, Bo, Laurabeth, Lucas, and Annamarie Corbin
I was at a convention a while back, where a comedian was the evening’s entertainment. The comedian was Michael Jr. The guy is pretty dang funny and he’s also a christian. At the end of his set he got fairly serious. He started talking about his CDs and stuff that he had for sale in the back. He made an offer to everyone, that they wanted something from the table and couldn’t pay for it just to let them know and they would let them have it, he also asked that some people give more than what they wanted to buy so that they could continue to give away material to the people who couldn’t afford it. I was thinking, “I could give a little extra to buy someone a CD, maybe it would go to someone who needs it.” Then, he “flipped the script.” He said he knew there were some who could afford to buy several CDs, but these people might not really know how to ask for and receive a gift. He then asked that if this applied to you to please come and ask for a CD for free. This punched me in the gut, HARD.
This was one of the ways that God has been working on me over the last year or so. He has been tearing down the pride that I have always been so full of. Somewhat like Paul, I have been through times that I have had way more than enough and there have been times that I honestly couldn’t see a way to make ends meet and times that the ends didn’t meet when they were supposed to. When I had plenty, barely enough, or even not enough I always wanted to be a giver but, I could never receive peacefully or joyfully. God has pretty much decimated that pride and I stand before God now asking Him to provide our livelihood through people who He has called to be partners with Him in His mission.
What an amazing grace it is, to not be needed by God, but rather invited by God, to partner with Him in His work! The sovereign creator of the universe, who gives breath to all living things, and who sets all rulers on thrones, asks us to join Him in His work. We are all given specific callings, talents, and tasks for the Kingdom work that is still being accomplished. We are all called to be givers and goers. Some are called to go further and/or longer periods of time and some are called to give more, but nonetheless all who are in Christ are called to both. Giving allows people the opportunity to be a necessary and integral part of the work that God is doing from where they are. None of us can go everywhere in person and be the least bit effective. Giving allows each of us to be where God has called us physically and join His mission around the world. God doesn’t need us to go to Uganda and he doesn’t need you to give. He does however allow us to do so, and in doing so there comes “fruit that increases to our credit.” Phil. 4:17b As Paul states here, in my asking, that fruit is what I am seeking for you.
Maybe, God is inviting you to partner with Him in what He is doing through His church at Abaana’s Hope in Northern Uganda. It may be as a prayer partner, facilitator or liaison, serve on a mission team, or financial supporter just to name a few of the ways. If, you are certain that you would like to partner with God in what he is doing by supporting our family, we welcome you. If not, I most certainly don’t want to cause anyone give support out of obligation. Our hearts and the hearts that become surrendered to Christ through any type of partnership in the gospel will be perpetually thankful.
We have needs in 2 different ways. The first, is one time gifts for one time expenses such as airfare (one way), travel expenses, moving expenses, getting visas / permits, a vehicle, furniture, etc. The second, is we need folks to come along side us monthly with support. This monthly support pays for our living expenses, health insurance, home school supplies, fuel, salary etc. Our one time expenses are budgeted at about $44,000 and our monthly need is about $4,500. I share this with you in an effort to be completely transparent. If you have any questions that have not been answered, We would love to answer them for you. We are an open book.
If you are considering this, you may be wondering when you should start giving. If so, the answer is, as soon as you are ready. Even if you want to support us monthly you can begin doing that now and any funds will be put into our account for one time expenses until we begin to need our monthly allotment. As soon as it looks like we will have enough support, we will then be able to start setting up dates and finalizing our plans. So, the sooner the better!
If you would like to sit down with me and discuss all of this in greater detail, we would love to do it! Please contact me! My phone number is 770-710-3301 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are ready to join Him in this work by supporting our family, you can do so by clicking here, then click the link to “Donate to missionaries,” and fill out the form. You may also mail checks to: Four Corners Ministries, 715 Avenue A Suite 206, Opelika, AL 36801. Just make sure you designate “Corbin Family” on the memo line.
We are extremely excited about everything God is doing and look forward to you joining us and Christ to bring glory to His name among the Acholi people and among all people who see His work being accomplished.
For His Glory,
Allen and Mallory
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
Nearly 12 years ago as we were discussing our upcoming marriage, my soon to be father-in-law said to Mallory and me “Don’t forget about the ends of the earth.” If memory serves me correctly, Mallory replied with “Why don’t you mind your own business?”
Over the last few years Mallory and I have discussed this conversation a few times. Over the last five years or so we have not been able to read this verse without the “you” in there pointing directly at our hearts. We didn’t know what it meant for us and honestly we still don’t know the full reality of it. However, we do know that God is leading us to the end of the earth (well depending on how you look at it the middle of the earth), to the bush of northern Uganda, more specifically to a ministry called Abaana’s Hope.
We were put in contact with Four Corners Ministries back at the end of last year. We discussed with them the direction that we felt God leading us and the direction that God was leading Four Corners and Abaana’s Hope. The more we talked the more incredible it was becoming. Mallory and I went to Uganda for a week in February. It was here that God began shoring up the calling and gave us some vision of what the next stage of our life would look like.
We came home changed, we spent the next several months praying big and hard to pray prayers, and being worked on by God like we never have been before. God has been breaking down parts of us we didn’t know we had and rebuilding them section by section. God has been teaching so much about grace, about sufficiency, about trust, about supremacy, sovereignty, love and so much more. God has worn me out over my belief in my own sufficiency. I could write a book of short stories that probably wouldn’t hold the number of times God has recently taught me lessons in this. (needless to say His patience astounds me) I have come to the realization that I have absolutely zero qualifications for missionary work, much less missionary work in a 3rd world country on the other side of the world. What I have also realized is that I need none. I need His grace alone. Jesus is our qualifier and He alone.
We are humbled that we have been approved for this work by Four Corners. We are grateful for the care and leadership they have displayed throughout the process. I don’t think I could be any more excited about the group of people God has given us to serve alongside. We do not know how long we will live in Uganda. We are committed to being there indefinitely with the exception of furlough every 2 years. What I do know is that we are sojourners or refugees on this earth no matter where we live. Our home is in heaven and our longing is that God would use us to help make that a reality for the people he is calling us to serve.
Enough about me, let me tell you about where we are going.
Northern Uganda (Acholiland) is a place that has been ravaged by a long civil war between Joseph Kony’s LRA and the Ugandan government. The birthplace of the LRA is just a few miles from where Abaana’s Hope sits today. While the war is over, the Acholi people have physical scars that are at times hard to see and unseen emotional scars that run deeper than I can even imagine. They have been beaten, raped, tortured, killed, forced to kill, and more.
As a result of many social issues, including the war, poverty is everywhere. Unemployment may be as high as 80%. These people, prior to war were farmers and hunters mainly. The war tore families apart and nearly wiped out an entire generation. With the former generation gone, a new generation of people emerged that didn’t know the trades their father’s had known. They didn’t know how to provide for families because displacement camps had been their only homes. Multiple generations will be effected. But, as immense and real as these needs are it is NOT their greatest need.
Northern Uganda is a place plagued by spiritual darkness. Most anyone you ask will identify themselves to you as “christian.” Probe just a little deeper and you will find out quickly that there are obviously different definitions of “christian.” I certainly did not realize that the greatest problem with their “christianity” is a very false and ever changing prosperity gospel. Prosperity gospel in one of the poorest regions in the world? That was the first thought that entered my mind. Well, then it hit me that it’s the perfect place for it. These precious people are searching, searching for hope. The prosperity gospel offers them a hope, when their greatest need is Hope. We have a gospel that is rich beyond measure. It certainly doesn’t promise us financial wealth or even stability for that matter. It does however offer us an inexplicable richness of life and life after death. Between cultural religous practices, prosperity gospel, and encroaching Islam from all sides, there is much work to be done.
When we arrive in Uganda we will be joining 2 other families that are there now. Our daily duties will be varied but will generally include evangelism, discipleship, farming, construction, schooling, administration, etc.
Abaana’s Hope provides jobs for about 100 or so people around the local village. There are people everywhere all day long whether they are working there, getting water for their homes, or children there to play. On the property there is a church, school, women’s refuge center, orphan care ministry, farming ministry, construction ministry, a paper bead jewelry ministry, medical clinic, children’s sports ministry, and more.
I’ll save more info for later posts and for being able to tell you in person. There’s so much that God is doing at Abaana’s Hope and in front of us that I couldn’t begin to fit it in one post.
The timeframe that we have laid out to get to Abaana’s Hope is August / Sept. 2017. Before moving to the end of the earth, there’s a lot that will need to happen. We will begin selling practically everything we own. We need to get rid of our house in Florida and raise our own missionary support.
We will begin raising financial support within the next few days. We will make a post laying out ways to partner with God and support us financially.
Our greatest need is your prayers. We covet them more than you know. We have felt many of your prayers for years, we are always humbled and encouraged when someone reminds us that they are praying for us. Here are some specific ways to pray with us:
- Pray for us to trust Christ alone
- Fundraising efforts
- Our house to sell
- Our parents, grandparents, siblings, etc
- Our children’s hearts
- The Acholi People
- Four Corners as a whole
For His Glory,
Allen and Mallory
Change has happened. Although I’ve never been real fond of it, it’s not always a bad thing. Here is an update on where we are and what’s going on in our lives.
Kristopher and I are no longer working together on the same church plant. There were several factors involved with this decision but basically it came down to differing visions of the church and the process to achieve our goals. I believe Kristopher is currently keeping on where we left off. This made sense as he is the person that was working with NAMB and the person on all of the paperwork as the lead planter.
We were initially rocked back and confused a little by this. I’m not sure exactly what God had in mind by leading us to Atlanta. However, we are certain of the calling. The certainty of the calling and God’s sovereignty has been our rock to look back on when emotions are running high. We have continued to minister to our neighbors here in EAV and have developed some wonderful friendships on our journey of sharing the Good News.
This came about as Mallory was nearing the end of pregnancy and I thought it best to wait until life and hormones calmed down some to make any life altering decisions about our future. (In case you didn’t know, we welcomed kid number 4 on Oct. 12. Her name is Annamarie!) I have been slow to publicly share this news, frankly because I didn’t know what to share. We feel that we are now ready to begin the work and focus of figuring out what our next steps are. This week we have been in a time of focused prayer and seeking of God’s will. There is literally a world of options before us. I definitely have certain peoples and places in mind as we pray that have narrowed the world down some. However, we are continuing to be completely open about where we will go (or stay) and what we will be doing.
The options that are before us all come with their fair share of difficulties and concerns as well as many bright spots. The options before us broadly are:
1) Stay in EAV and plant a church here
2) Move somewhere else to begin ministry – this could be domestic or international
3) Move back to Chipley to begin ministry – We do still own a house there, and when we get tired, lonely, and afraid this starts looking real good. However, this option seems to be the least likely. God has been shoring up the call to “GO” in our hearts this week.
This post is a beckoning of those that will pray for us as we seek and discern “what’s next.” I want to thank all of you who have been praying for us. Your prayers have been felt and much appreciated. We couldn’t have lasted this long on the front without your support. Please pray specifically about the decisions before us:
-Wisdom, Discernment, and Clarity
-A strengthening of our family bond as we focus on one objective
-Selflessness; that we would consider each other and the world around us more than ourselves.
-Rest and Energy as we face sometimes sleepless nights in meditation and prayer, as well as the strain when making these kinds of decisions.
-Financial support for whatever ministry God leads us in. This will be vital to maintaining a life and meet ministry needs.
This list isn’t all encompassing. If you feel the spirit leading you to pray something please do it. Please email or call me if you have any questions or just to talk. I have intentionally not put this post on social media as there are sensitive situations around us here right now.
For His Glory,
“Give yourself and family plenty of time to adjust.”
I heard this or some variation of this multiple times from a lot of people who were missionaries, church planters, and the like. I knew that it was sound advice. However, since then I’ve been wondering. “How much time is plenty?”
I was at “home” this weekend for the first time since Christmas, for a total of 24 hours. As we rolled in to town I said “Man, I love this place.” I didn’t even realize how much I had been missing it. Between going to work every day, doing ministry, coaching Tball, and everything else that has been keeping me busy, I just didn’t give myself time to miss anything.
As we rolled out of town on Saturday night I realized that not only had I not given myself anytime to miss anything, but I hadn’t extended very much grace to my family throughout their adjustment and in how much they missed “home.” We miss a whole bunch of things about our life in Chipley.
I’m not going to sugar coat it all and make it seem like everything has been smooth and easy. In reality it has been pretty far from it. The adjustment to “city life” has been difficult for my family. For Mallory, it’s been tough to get to know people deeply, needing to home school our “strong-willed” first-born, dealing with people who disagree with our parenting, having to watch every child at every moment of the day, and several other things. For the kids, not being able to just run outside and play with out someone watching them, not having enough space to hit a golf ball, making friends with other kids when there is no real community that we’re heavily involved with, and other things. For myself, leading my family well through the adjustments, not having the securities of Chipley, not being able to “run” to the lake in the afternoon for some down time with a line in the water, making every decision based on traffic, etc.
God has been gracious to us and we know without any doubt that he has called us here. Being where God had called us has been freeing on many fronts but it certainly has come with its difficulties. We know that we love these people and this place that God has led us and we want to be able to say that we love living in the city.
There have been several exciting things that have happened since we’ve been here. You can check out our updates on the church Facebook page. There are exciting things happening all the time and “wins” that come often enough to keep us going. I fully believe that if God ever calls away from here that when we get to wherever, there will be things we miss about “home” in EAV.
I still don’t know the answer to the question of “how long.” But I Know that God is sovereign and responds to the prayers of His people.
I’m asking you guys to be in prayer for us.
-Pray that I would extend grace to my family and myself as we continue to adjust.
-Pray that I would remember to lead my family well, before leading in ministry or business.
-Pray that our hearts would remain soft and moldable.
-Pray that we would adjust quickly, but in God’s timing.
-Pray for our children’s hearts. That they would understand the mission and love it.
-Pray as we make decisions about school and living arrangements.
I could make this a really long list. So, let the Holy Spirit guide you as you pray for us.
Thank you all for your prayers in the past and in the future. It is a great encouragement to know that we have people lifting us up to the King.
In my last post I talked about how hard it was to wait. Wait, knowing where God was calling me and not being able to be there yet. Well, the time has come for us to be there. God has proven to be faithful to us yet again as He always has. This might be a little long… Sorry!
We started in August coming to Atlanta every weekend to look for a house and a work for me. The first week or so was slow and we found a couple of houses that we wanted to see the next weekend. It was the weekend of my nephew’s birthday party close to Atlanta, so my family was all up here as well. That Saturday after the party Mallory, Mama, my sister, her husband and I all drove into the city to look at the area and the houses that we had planned to see. As we came in to the neighborhood we just all felt some level of uneasiness. None of the people that we saw looked like anyone that we could relate to in any way. The houses that we looked at just did not feel right. Nothing felt “good” to anyone of us during our time in the village. Not much was said about how we felt, but we all knew without saying any words.
The next day as we went to church with the family I had a feeling that God was going to something big. When we arrived Lucas actually stayed in the nursery without too much of a fuss. We got into the sanctuary and every song spoke to each of us in a real way specifically about our feelings from the day before. The message from the pastor spoke directly to the calling that God had placed on our lives and the reasons why we were moving to Atlanta in the first place. Everyone there knew that God had moved in all of our hearts as he was reminding us that He was in control of it all.
That night my brother-in-law. Told me about an opening for a job at the company that he works for. I interviewed for the job the next day and was able to spend some more time in the village job hunting and scoping out houses. I spent Monday night at my sister’s and went back to the village on Tuesday. I ended up coming across a house that was originally for sale and the owner had decided on Monday to rent it instead of selling. The house contained everything that we had been looking for and more! It was just out of the price range that we were comfortable with, but I knew we wanted to see it. But it would be the next weekend before we were able to have the realtor show it to us. I put in an application and made a refundable deposit down immediately to hold it for the week until we could make it back.
As we came back in town the next weekend the feeling was incredibly different. Families were out walking, people in their yards, everything that we had hoped to see the weekend prior! We looked at the house and just knew that this was the house that God had given us. We told the realtor this was it and we were ready to move forward. After we did we received news that someone was committing to pay the difference in the rent from what we were comfortable paying and the price of this house!
I received confirmation on Tuesday that I had been selected for a job with the company that I interviewed with but it wasn’t the job that I had interviewed for. It was a lower paying job and extremely labor intense. It was planned for me to start in 2 weeks on Sept. 15. I was super excited to have a job! I had a very real peace about it all. As I was getting home on Tuesday night I received a phone call that there was another job that came open. It was more money and a lot less labor intense! The only problem was that they needed me to start the following Monday Sept.8. I accepted the job, and began work today.
We will be moving our stuff up here next weekend and moving in to our new house. It’ll be a busy weekend as I will be back in Graceville on Sunday to speak at FUMC. And then be back here for work Monday.
All through these last couple of weeks we have been able to see God working and moving in BIG ways. The support of our family and community have been a tremendous blessing to us all. God continues to confirm in Mallory and me that this is where we are called to go. We know that we are not qualified in any earthly way for the task before us, but we are confident that God qualifies those he calls and in His grace we have our hope, our peace, and our sanity (maybe)? As we have surrendered our lives to the gospel and this ministry and in seeing God’s faithfulness to us I am reminded of this passage.
“Each one must do just as has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having sufficiency in everything, you may have abundance for every good deed;” 2 Corinthians 9:7-8
We love you all and covet your prayers.
For His Glory,
Wow! Waiting is hard! Leading up to the announcement, I was filled with so many emotions. They were all over the board; excitement, love, anxiousness, fear just to name a few. I thought I was feeling a little impatient. Until now… The little bit of impatience I was feeling before doesn’t compare with how I feel today. Now that IT is out there I am so ready to just be able to do what we have been planning and working on. There are so many things that we feel need to be done that just can not be done sitting here in Chipley. I find myself in prayer on a constant basis giving up the next impatient and anxious thought to God. My days are filled with impatient moments and then a prayer giving that thought to God. I know that His plans are better, His timing is so much more perfect. This flesh that I am in, impatiently wants our house to sell TODAY, I want to lock down a place to live in Atlanta, I want to secure a job there, I want to feel completely comfortable in the fact that I have it all under control. The simple fact of the matter is that I have absolutely NONE of any of this under control. It gets hard to tell myself that. I want to know what my next moves are, I want them to make sense in my head. On top of all of that I want to be in the village that I barely know, but have come to love. I want to be on the ground meeting the people, I want to be building relationships. Sometimes I think, “why is ALL I can do for the people that we will minister to is pray for them?” And then I am ashamed to think that prayer is not enough. I am quickly reminded of how unprepared and unequipped that I am to be ministering to these people at all. There is nothing about me that makes me need to be there. Do I really want to be there making a mess of this opportunity before God wants me there? Do I really want to be there before these people have been poured over in prayer enough and their hearts are ready for the Message? Do I really want to be there before God is there? The answer is quite certainly NO! Why these thoughts, these little obsessions with myself, my desires, and my comforts? My focus must always come back to The Cross, who God is, and who I am apart from Him.
I sincerely beg your prayers for us during the next few months. For those of you who are praying for us, we are eternally grateful for you. Here is a list of some things that we are asking for prayer about:
– Mallory is preparing to leave in a few weeks for a mission trip to The Dominican Republic. Please pray for the team; their hearts, their minds, and their physical well-being. Pray for the projects that they will be working on there, that the funds are raised to complete the projects they have set out to do. Pray for the hearts of the Dominican people that they will encounter with The Gospel.
– For us during the transition:
- For me in battling with what I shared above
- Wisdom, faith, discernment
- That our house will sell
- That we finish our jobs and responsibilities here well
- Our children’s understanding about what all is happening and their hearts
- Our families that will be staying here
- Clarity as we tell people about what we are going there to do
- Financial burdens
- A job in East Atlanta for me
- Mallory’s business moving and getting started off well in Atlanta
- Laborers to join the harvest
- The hearts of the people that we will minister to
- And anything else that the spirit guides you into praying for us
Thanks again for your prayers, and thank you all so much for the encouragement and support that you all have shown. We have been blessed by all of you.
For His Glory,
I want to share an update with all of you about what God has been doing in our family over the past several months. God has been working abundantly in our lives. Over the last several years He has given Mallory and me a heart for sharing the Gospel with those who don’t know Him and sharing what the result is of the Gospel transforming lives.
To cut to the chase, God has chosen us to relocate our family to urban Atlanta to plant a church there. This has come through many years of prayer and many weeks of focused prayer specifically about this opportunity. We are confident in this next step, we know with great certainty that this is where God will have us.
As many of you know I received a call to Gospel ministry when I was 17. I went to BCF for a year and then I began running. I was running from this call, I was in effect running from God. In the last 10 years or so I have done a few different things. I got married, had a family, worked a career in the agriculture business and most recently gave that career up to join my family in the grocery business.
Three years ago God began a work in my family that I honestly knew nothing about. Mallory began to pray for my relationship with Christ. She didn’t know any more if I was a Christian or not. Looking back over my life I think that I probably was but there was really no fruit being produced at this point. Through much prayer by her and others for me, God began to show me what it looked like to be a follower and disciple of Christ’s. I realized that my life looked absolutely nothing like a biblical disciple’s life. Culturally I was a “Christian.” I was a “good ole boy” that went to church on Sunday and took my family to church with me. When God showed all of this to me, I surrendered my life to Him. I gave up all of my dreams and hopes, my desires, and my family to Him. I told God that He could have us all, that we would go anywhere in the world and do absolutely anything that he wanted us to do. Immediately my heart was changed in many ways. God put in me a love for people who I had never loved before, people who I honestly never really even wanted God to love, much less for me to love them. All of a sudden I wanted to take the news and love of Jesus to people who I had never cared about. I had a heart and burden for the mission of Christ, to build His church globally and see His glory made known to all people. I had no idea what it would look like in my life to be surrendered to God and to the call that I received at 17. I was ready for God to show me, I was praying for a specific way to be involved, I was expectant that he would show me in His perfect time.
Fast forward 3 years. Mallory and I still had a heart for the lost and the mission of Christ. We were still waiting on a specific call and for a door to open. My heart was for foreign missions and I honestly thought that was where we would go next. Somewhere across the world, in a context that would be scary and steeped in lostness. God began to create a desire in me to plant a church somewhere. I really had never considered or desired planting a church before. At first a door was opening to plant a church right here at home. We thought at first that maybe this is it, that God had led me to the family business in Chipley to be able to do ministry in Chipley. I thought that this would be great; we can still have the life that we wanted in a small town, my hometown that I love so much. In a matter of days I came home one day feeling a little lost. It didn’t seem like Chipley was the right place but I wasn’t sure. Mallory tells me out of the blue that Chipley just didn’t feel right to her. We agreed on this, but the desire to plant a church was still there.
The next day I get a text from an old friend (Kristopher Parker). He says that God is showing him some crazy things and that we were on his heart and he wanted to talk to me about some things. Well, he and his family had been on our hearts as well, and God was definitely doing some stuff in our lives that I wanted to share with someone else, so we decided to talk. Kristopher and I have a long history. We were best friends in High School, accepted Christ as our Savior at the same revival service, and received a call to Gospel ministry the same summer. We both attended BCF at the same time. We have had maybe 5 conversations in the last 9 or 10 years, none of which had anything to do with planting a church. When we got on the phone we had no idea what the other was thinking about, so I went first and just shared pretty much everything that God was showing me over the last 3 years and about the church planting idea that God just wouldn’t let me let go of. Kristopher laughs and says “well, that’s interesting.” He begins to tell me about a church plant that he was working on in Atlanta with NAMB (North American Mission Board) and about how he had been burdened to call me about it and see if it was something that I was interested in. I told him that I would pray about it, but that I wasn’t sure that Atlanta was for us. It was exciting for me to be able to share my heart and have someone else 250 miles away share the same heart. At this point I probably knew what the answer would be, but I really didn’t want to go to Atlanta. Mallory and I talked a lot and prayed a whole lot more. We decided to fast until we got an answer. After a couple of days we talked about it and we decided that God could not have told us more plainly that we needed to go to Atlanta. The only other thing he could do to tell us would be to yell it down to us from the sky, or maybe write it in the clouds and say “hey Allen and Mallory read this.” There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to Atlanta at this point. We shared this open door and this desire with my parents because of the whole deal with the family business. Then I called Kristopher to let him know that we were in!
We have been praying about an area and a time frame for a while. We visited Atlanta and some of the neighborhoods that we were considering. We feel sure that God is leading us to the neighborhood of East Atlanta Village. We are looking at a time frame for the transition of early fall. Upon our move the plan is to get a secular job somewhere to support our families and just begin forming a small group meeting of people in the neighborhood. From there we will let God lead us in the next steps of the church.
Why Atlanta? This question plagued me in the first few days of all of this. Atlanta is in the heart of the Bible Belt. Aren’t there other places and people who need Jesus more than here? Here is an excerpt from NAMB’s website about Atlanta:
|Though it sits in the biblically saturated South, the city itself is no longer considered to be the hub of the Bible Belt. Only a small percentage of the millions living inside the city’s perimeter have any inclination toward church. With a population of more than 5 million in the metro area, only 27 percent are considered evangelical believers, leaving millions that still need to know Christ.|
- “There’s an idea that because we’re sitting in the middle of the Bible Belt, we don’t need more churches or evangelism in a city like Atlanta,” explains Send North America: Atlanta City Coordinator Jim Haskell. “But the truth is, the majority of our city is uninterested in church. We have 62 planters on the ground in the metro Atlanta area but we need hundreds more to reach our city.”
Atlanta is a hub and hot spot for sex trafficking, drugs, gangs, and violence. There are also a bunch of churches, businesses, and wealth. Each neighborhood is different and each is loaded with people who are on their way to an eternal hell unless someone shares Jesus with them and their lives are impacted by the love and grace of Christ. God is doing a big work there and we are grateful and excited to be a part of it.
Cities all over the world are where culture is changed, positively or negatively, almost all of cultural change stems from these hubs. Reaching the cities for the Glory of Christ will ultimately result in reaching a nation for His Glory as well. Christianity is on the fringe of society in America today. It is no longer central to our nation’s life. Cities are where this shift originated and if Christ is going to reclaim this nation it will begin in the cities as well. This will take the people of God sending, going, praying and giving to this task and mission.
We are seeking partners in prayer. Our overall greatest need is people who are willing to commit to praying for us daily. We cannot do any of this own our own. We know that it would be incredibly foolish to even attempt it. We know that whatever we do apart from the grace of God would be a complete failure. We need people to pray for us as we sell our house and other things that we won’t need, our children’s hearts and understanding of what is going on, our families that we leave here, jobs and living arrangements there, humble and obedient hearts as we minister, boldness and effectiveness, and for the souls and hearts of the people who God gives us to minster to.
There will also be an opportunity to support us financially. As I said the plan is to work in the community, among the people who we are ministering to. We are not sure what that looks like at this time, but we are confident in God’s sovereignty and provision. Atlanta is not the least expensive place in the world to live and we will need support as we get started. It is just as you think it would be, when there are no people who are part of the church plant yet, that there are no people to help support our ministry. If God is leading you to support us in this way we will be eternally grateful for your support. We will be faithful stewards of God’s resources.
We will send a monthly newsletter to all people who desire to partner with us in any way. You can go to our website: citychurcheav.com to sign up as a prayer partner or you can contact me personally to partner with us in prayer and/or financially. We will make sure that you get on the newsletter list.
If you’ve ever considered being a part of a church plant, we would love to have you come and work with us in Atlanta. Whether you want to move there with us or just lend a helping hand at various events or other opportunities for service, we would love to have you! I ask that you consider whether or not God is leading you to support us in any way at all. Without partnerships from other believers and churches the task of the Great Commission would be difficult to handle. Together we will reach the nations for His Glory!
I would love to talk more in-depth about all of this. If you have questions that I didn’t answer here or just want to know more specifics please give me a call, text, Twitter, Facebook, email, stop me somewhere, or send me a note. I want to share with everyone all that God has shown me.
For His Glory,
1833 Quail Roost Dr.
Cottondale, FL 32431