Over the years God has been exceedingly gracious to us here. Yes, Chicago’s difficulties are somewhat well-known around the country but for the people who live here it is just home. And the people of Maplewood Bible Baptist Church became my people, and their home became our home. Over the years God sent us more people, precious servants of His. Together, we put our shoulders to the wheel and sought to move this church forward for the cause of Christ.
We have seen God do some wonderful things in our years here. He has strengthened this church in numerous ways. Indeed, in every possible way there is to measure a church this one is markedly stronger. In fact, it is doing better than ever. There is no point to citing specific statistics today, as that would probably just feed my pride, and the spiritual health of this church and these people is entirely due to the Lord anyway.
Then too, God has also wisely allowed some trials. One of those that came into my life nigh on a decade ago is Meniere’s Disease. It is rather rare and entirely incurable, though it is often manageable. It manifests in a variety of ways, and over the years I have become well acquainted with my particular set of afflictions. I have found through research and through trial and error that patience, rest, working out, eating appropriately, pacing myself, quietness, darkness, judicious medication, and as little travel as possible are all helpful to manage my disease. Along the way my family and my church both accommodated my sometimes unusual requests, and I am more grateful than I can express to both of them for this.
Meniere’s is not only incurable, it is usually progressive. It certainly has been
with me. I can still pastor, and
pastor effectively (without controversy, I think my church is living proof of
that) but I gradually came to the conclusion that living where I live frequently
aggravates almost every single aspect of my disease. I also came to the
conclusion that it would be helpful for me to find a city less congested, less crowded,
less noisy, and less busy for me to minister in. Driving, which is only one difficult
aspect of living here, is the nightmare of my life. Sheer wisdom says it would
be better to find somewhere else to live.
So I prayed. And I sought counsel. And I worked. All along, as God is my witness, I kept hoeing the row I was in as well as I knew how, knowing that I will answer to Him someday. I am a worker in His vineyard. He had the right to keep me in any particular part of His vineyard no matter how difficult I increasingly found it. For quite some time He did. It grew me, it grew my family, it grew my church, and it grew my ministry. He is just as much right in His timing as He is in every other aspect of His being and actions. But in the providence of His grace He has now led me to another church and another city. My time in Chicago is thus done.
I covet your prayers in this, my friends, as in all things. As I write I have a hurting church, one that I would see the Lord pour as much grace into as possible as they deal with this. Then, too, my children will be leaving the only home any of them remember, their only church, their hometown, all of their friends, their entire life other than Mandy and me, basically. And I will have to adjust from being a well loved and very respected pastor to being the new kid in town again. I need God’s wisdom, grace, and peace in all of this, as do these people I so dearly love who surround my life here.
Where are we going? Forward, is the answer, but more specifically to the Bible Baptist Church in Dubuque, Iowa. She recently lost her pastor of twenty-two years in death, and God has sent me to pick up his mantle. It is neither a big church nor a famous church nor a church of great reputation. It is a sweet-spirited church, an evangelistic church, a conservative church, and a missions-minded church. Each of the last two sentences I find to be good, either for me or for them, and hopefully for both of us together.