We have some very important news to share with you in this update. Please take some time to read it over and pray for all that is ahead of us.
TIME TO RETURN
OUR CALLING OVERSEAS: This November marks the completion of our fifteenth year of ministry in Europe. When we were initially sent out in 2004 we had no idea how long we would stay. We came with the willingness to spend the rest of our days serving the Lord on this continent if it were His will for us to do so. However, in recent weeks we have made the decision that our season of overseas ministry is coming to an end in the coming year. Although we have spoken to some of you personally about this, our last update gave no hint of it. We would, therefore, like to take a few minutes of your time to walk you through the process that we went through to get to this conclusion.
STIRRED FOR THE U.S.: Toward the end of our season in Greece we began to sense a stirring for the U.S. again, though we knew it wasn’t time yet. God had another stop for us, which was Germany. We originally believed that God was sending us here for a period of three to five years to get CCK going and to then hand it off to a new pastor with a more long-term vision and calling to this region. But, a little over a year ago the stirring to move back to the U.S. that we had sensed while in Greece, returned. At first, we were unsure about it, because although the church was still doing well it was nowhere near ready to be handed off, nor were there any candidates to take it. With that we began to pray, simply asking the Lord to make His will clear to us. Within a few months, He began to get our attention through ways we didn’t expect.
GETTING OUR ATTENTION: One specific way was the gradual decline in attendance that our church began to experience after its first year and a half. We came to Kandern by invitation to plant a Calvary Chapel and it initially grew quickly, reaching about 60 attendees weekly within our first couple of months. The reality that we eventually discovered is that the needs of the families in our community were more than our new and developing church was able to fulfill. So slowly over several months people began to leave for one reason or another. Some simply moved away to other cities or countries, but others felt the need to be in a more established and fully functional church. Eventually, we began to see this as one of the ways that God was communicating with us and was able to release it into His hands. There are more reasons beyond this, but for the sake of brevity, this is the one we are highlighting.
SEEKING THE LORD OVER THE SUMMER: This understanding led us to make a very intentional attempt to seek the Lord’s will over this past summer. While we were in the States we spent ample time praying together and receiving counsel from several pastors who are both friends and confidants. Each of them has been walking with us through this decision as we’ve been praying over it. On one occasion the Lord even spoke to us through a message that I actually taught at a friend’s church that was going through a similar situation as ours. The message was called, “Downsized by God”, the story of Gideon. God always speaks to me through the messages that I prepare and teach but this one seemed like it was a specific word not only for the church where I shared it but for Suzie and me as well.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHURCH? When we returned to Germany we knew that God was calling us back to the U.S. but still needed to pray about when, and what we were to do with the remnant of CCK that still exists. As you know we made the move to our nearby city of Lorrach back in September. Our intention in this was to simply test the waters in the city and to seek the Lord on His will for our church. Doing so has helped us to see that the potential for outreach and the need for a church that simply teaches the whole counsel of God is very real. However, our calling back to the U.S. and the reality that a church in Lorrach will need to be started nearly from the ground up, made us realize that it would be best if someone with a long-term vision and calling were to pick up where we left off. Currently, we are discussing and praying with a German brother who is very open to doing this. He is from Lorrach and has a heart for the city. Also, Calvary Chapel Freiburg (our closest Calvary) is also prayerfully considering how they can be even more supportive and involved in this effort as it continues. At this point, we have decided to pause our meetings after we conclude the book of Genesis later this month. In December we will change our focus to praying together for the future of Calvary Chapel Lorrach.
OUR REMAINING SEASON IN EUROPE
CC FREIBURG: CCF is our nearest sister church and has been very supportive of our work here. We’ve become good friends with the pastors of the church, Alex, Sam, and Alex and have talked about different ways that we can co-labor together. I’ve taught there a few times in the past so they’ve asked me to help cover the pulpit on Wednesday nights a few times over the next couple of months. It’s a sizable church for Europe with nearly 600 members. One of the things that they have been focusing on since the new pastors took over a few years back is re-imparting the vision of Calvary Chapel and our emphasis on God’s word to their congregants. To help with this I will be teaching the four-part series that I taught at CCK on our core values, beginning sometime early next year.
MINISTRY FOLLOW-UP VISITS: Between now and the time we move back to the States we hope to take a couple of ministry follow-up visits to the two places that we ministered in the longest, Poland and Greece. Our purpose for this is to reconnect with those we ministered to and with and to encourage them in the work they have continued in. The apostle Paul exemplified this in the book of Acts so we pray to do likewise as the Lord provides.
OUR U.S. RE-ENTRY
WHERE & WHEN: There are several variables at play here but we are estimating to be back in the States sometime between March and May. We do not know exactly where in the U.S. we will land or live but are open to wherever God wants us to go.
READJUSTING: We’d like to be able to take some time to rest and readjust to life in America. We’ve been gone for a long time and the country we left is a very different one from the one we will be returning to. Taking time to process the last fifteen years and clearly reflect upon the many things that God has taught us throughout it will be good for us in the long run and help to prepare us for the new season of life and ministry in the U.S.
NEW MINISTRY FOCUS: We are praying about and considering various ministry options in the U.S. Although we trust that God will open the door for me to pastor a church again eventually if it is His will, we are not sure if this is something I should head directly into immediately after reentering life in the States. With that, I am open to serving in an assisting role for a season that would still allow me to teach the word on a regular basis. Either way, we simply want to be in the right church, in the right location where we will be fruitful and effective for the Lord. One thing is clear to us, the experience that we’ve had in Europe has equipped us to help prepare and train the next generation of missionaries and church planters for ministry both in the U.S. and abroad. Regardless of where we go, this will be an aspect of our ministry that we feel called to pursue. As for now, I have begun contacting various pastor friends in the U.S. to share our hearts about all of this. We have been very blessed and encouraged by those we’ve talked to and trust that God will open the right doors in His time.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: I am in the process of applying for Western Seminary to pursue a Master’s degree in Ministry and Leadership. This is something that has been on my heart for several years but I believe that the timing might be right now. My long-term goal for this is to be able to teach in an academic setting later in my life, as teaching and training others for ministry has been a part of what I’ve done everywhere that I’ve served. The program will take at least two years and will be almost entirely online. If I am accepted I will most likely start in either the summer or fall of 2020.
With news like this, it is important for us to stress that we are close to the finish line but not quite there yet. We still have several months of life and ministry here in Germany and are praying that the Lord would make it a fruitful final season. Once we return to the U.S. we will be facing a time of readjustment and having to learn how to live and serve in an American context all over again. It will take us time not only to get acclimated in a new vocation but get started in a new home. We plan to leave most everything behind here so we are looking at a fresh start with regard to practical needs. All that to say that your continued financial support will be needed more now than ever, not only here while still in Europe but also for a season once we return to the U.S.
Leaving our life, friends, and co-laborers behind will be extremely difficult but we are convinced that God will make us more effective ministering overseas from the States. We have been honored to be part of what God has been doing in Europe over the years and are grateful for the small role we were allowed to play in it. We also look forward with great anticipation to what God has planned for us next!
Below are some things to pray for. Thanks for taking the time to pray for us!
- CC LORRACH: That God would give us grace and wisdom while transitioning out of our current ministry roles, and that He would raise up replacements if the church is to continue on.
- PARTNERING WITH CC FREIBURG: Please pray for God to guide CCF regarding their involvement in the continuing work with CCL and that God would bless the teachings that Frank has been asked to share with their church on midweeks and a special series next year.
- MINISTRY FOLLOW-UPS: Pray for God to provide an open door for us to visit Poland and Greece to follow-up with those that we’ve ministered to and with.
- SPRING OF 2020 TRANSITION TO THE U.S.: Please pray for God to provide all that is needed for this move and for an opportunity to rest, reflect and readjust to the new life we are heading into.
- NEW MINISTRY ROLE: For God to guide us and give us discernment regarding the specific ministry that we should go into, whether a lead pastorate or an assisting role for a season. We simply want to be in the right church, in the right location, serving in the right role, in which we will be the most fruitful.
- SEMINARY: Pray for God’s will regarding Frank’s desire and application for seminary, he is almost done with all that is needed to apply. Also that God would provide for all the costs involved.
SUPPORT INFORMATION: If you are a church or an individual and would like to learn about partnering with us financially with either a one-time gift or regular monthly support you can visit our “PARTNERING” page at https://gonzogazette.net/becoming-a-sender/ .
Blessings and thank you again for reading and praying! We appreciate you standing in the gap with us! We will continue to post updates throughout our remaining months in order to share how things are moving forward.
Grace & Peace
F & S