Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Life on the Move, and Finding a Church

As a military family, we have moved a LOT.

"Home" is in South Carolina.
That's where our families are.
That is where we were married and lived for the first 8 years of our marriage.
That is where 2/3 of our children were born.

But then, the Navy...yes, Jason IS a reservist.  AND he is active duty.  Welcome to my confusing life.

And "A" school in Meridian, MS (The kids and I were still in SC).

And two homes in Portland, TX...because we added another child!

And two homes in Helena, MT...because we added another child!

And two homes in Virginia Beach, VA...because we bought a house!

And ONE home in Bedford/Lincoln/Lexington, MA.

Of course, prior to Jason going active duty in the Navy, we moved a LOT, also.
We were in a trailer in Gaston, SC for a couple of months...
...stayed with Jason's parents in SC for a month or two...
...an apartment in Columbia, SC for a couple of months...
...9 months renting a house in Due West, SC...
...6 weeks house-sitting...
...about a year in a make-shift house outside of Columbia...
...about 2 years in a duplex in Columbia...
...about 2 years in a trailer outside of Columbia...
...about 3 years in the house we built in Gilbert, SC...
...and six months at my brother's house in Edgefield, SC.

That is a total of 17 different places our family has lived in 22 years of marriage.

All of that moving has meant that we have had a LOT of neighbors (howdy, good neighbor!), and been part of a number of churches...and have many friends from all of them.

West Columbia Evangelical (now named Augusta Street Church) was home for 7 years.
Calvary Chapel of Greenwood, SC was where we attended for the time we lived in Due West, SC.
In Texas, we went to Calvary Chapel Coastlands for about a year, and then to New Community Church in Portland for the remainder of our time in TX.
In Montana, we were happy to quickly find Hannaford Bible Church, and attended there for all of the 4 1/2 years we lived there.
In Virginia Beach, we were part of Reality Church for 7 years, and then at Tabernacle Church in Norfolk, VA for a year.
Now we are part of Grace Chapel, in Lexington, MA.

Even though we have been far from our biological family, God has provided His family for us in many different places, and during some very difficult years, and we are grateful.

If there is one thing I would tell any nomadic family (be it military, missionary, or otherwise), I would STRONGLY urge you to find a good church family.  That family will be who walks with you through transitions, and who provides support and encouragement during those times when your family-of-origin cannot be with you.

Of course, finding a church family that feels like home is not always easy.  Different areas of the country have different expectations and cultures within their churches, and you may have difficulty finding a church that fits your family, or that fits your expectations of how church is "supposed to" look.

A few tips on finding a church in a new area:

1. Pray.  Ask God to guide you to where He wants you to be.

2. List.  Make a list of what you need to have in a church.  Theology?  Affiliation with a particular denomination? Programs for kids? A good choir? Men's/Women's ministry?

3. Pray some more.

4. Google.  Using your list, go find websites for churches in your area.  Look at their "What We Believe" section, the programs they offer, who they are affiliated with.

5. Pray over the churches you find that fit your criteria.

6. Visit the churches...plan to attend each church for at least two Sundays, and as many other meetings as you can get to during that time period.

7.  Pray some more...keep asking God for His guidance.

If you find a church that feels/seems right, visit it for another couple of weeks to months, making sure that it is the right place for you.  Plug into small groups, get involved in learning about the way this body of believers does life together, make connections with people.  A good church is not just about theology and programs...a good church provides a place for people to connect with God and with each other.

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