A Clark Fork (River) in the Road

Missoula: Where the Grizzlies roam the streets, nature is still wild, and the people surf the rivers.

About 5 months ago I sent Vanessa, my wife, an email about a church looking for a new lead pastor. From what I could tell online, the staff loved plaid shirts and the church seemed like a church on the cusp of something great. So I sent the email to Vanessa, a California girl by birth, with a note about the church and the potential but with the P.S. “It’s in Montana.”

The response: “I REALLY really REALLY like this church”

And with that, we moved forward with the application and interview process with Church at the Gates.

Over the intervening months there were multiple interviews, emails, and phone calles. Throughout this time there were times of doubt, fear, and anxiety. After each interview, phone call, and email God began to remove obstacles, doubts, fears, and anxieties. He began to lead more clearly in our hearts and, I believe, in the hearts of the elders and staff of Church at the Gates.

All of that led to a visit a couple weeks ago filled with meetings, lunches, dinners, and a chance to finally meet the church and share a bit about Vanessa and myself and my heart for the church. After church both Vanessa and I felt an overwhelming peace about this opportunity and the leadership, staff, and people of CATG. Only God gives that kind of peace.

When I met with the elders later that Sunday evening, it became clear to us around that table that God was moving in unity among those there. It was a sweet confirmation of months of prayers from hundreds of people.

There was one last confirmation we desired and needed: The affirmation of the people of Church at the Gates that they, too, agreed with how God had led the elders and Vanessa and myself.

Yesterday, the members voted unanimoulsy to affirm the leadership of the elders in choosing me to be the next Lead Pastor at Church at the Gates. We were thrilled and humbled at the news.

So, in very short order, we’re packing up things here in California and heading to Missoula. We’ll finish up our ministry here at Hessel Church on September 15th and my first Sunday in the pulpit will be on October 2nd in Missoula.

To the people of Hessel Church: As I tried to blubber through last Sunday, we love you all. It pains us to leave. We feel like God has given us 10 year relationships in the span of 2 years. You adopted my family, craziness and all. You prayed for us faithfully, you laughed with us boisterously, and you loved us well. Though we were with you only a short time, what you invested in us will bear fruit for years down the road in our ministry. We are grateful for you all.

To the people of Church at the Gates: We are excited and thrilled to begin ministry with you! We’re excited to spend time with you all studying the Word of God, eating great food together, and watching our kids grow up together and take the mantle of leadership from us. We’re excited to watch CATG grow in deep love for Jesus as we make disciples together in Missoula, around Montana, and to the ends of the earth. These are exciting times, get ready for God to move in big ways!

If you’ve read this far, would you be willing to read a little more and commit to pray for us?

Here are some ways you can be praying for us as we transition:

  • Patience with each other — Moving is stressful. Pray that Vanessa and I and the kids would be gracious with each other as we all will experience this transition differently. Grieving a loss isn’t uniform in length or intensity.
  • All the details — We’ve made lists. Then made longer lists. Then shorter lists. Then burned the lists and danced on the ashes. Then made another list. There are so many moving pieces, prayer for extraordinary recall, moving mercies, and patience (again!) would be so welcomed.
  • Prayer for the kiddos — Eli, Penny, and Zoe each have some sense of what’s happening but we haven’t yet driven away from the home they’ve known, the school they attend, the church where all their friends go, and the family they get to visit often. We’re aware this will be hard on them and will take some time for them to adjust. Keep these kiddos in your prayer, please.
  • Prayer for the churches involved — There are joys and challenges ahead for both CATG and Hessel in this transition. Pray for wisdom, unity, and a long view of God’s faithfulness among the leadership of both churches.
  • Lastly, dedicate this whole process to “…him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” (Eph 3:20) Essentially, ask God for big and great things. Why? Because we cannot out ask God. Be bold.

That’s it.

We’re moving to Missoula.

We’re pumped.

We’re grateful to God.

See you all very soon in Missoula,

Mark, Vanessa, Eli, Penny, and Zoe.