Oh how the time does change: my experience with Refuge Church in Cookeville, TN
Three years ago today I had my messenger bag around the same neck that was holding up a half windsor one-color tie. With my pants pressed and shoes shined, I can still remember walking across the parking lot thinking, “What have I gotten myself into”? I was starting the month of November as a car salesman (I actually didn’t start until the 6th because my drug test had to come in - I passed!!!!) as a way to provide income for my family unit. We had moved to Cookeville, TN to help launch the newest General Baptist church. Moving from Poplar Bluff, MO (where I was serving in the International Missions department), the church planter had promised me nothing except no pay check, a lot of work, and a ton of fun. We moved to learn, help, and experience. It was a great year and a half where we accomplished those things and so many more such as meeting some of the nicest friends I have. We moved back to Indiana to follow God’s calling on our life of revitalizing a church in an urban context.
Last weekend I bypassed my closet that is now filled with suits and several different ties to grab a few of my many Refuge Church T-Shirts. My wife and I travelled back to Cookeville to experience our first service at Refuge Church since we left almost a year and a half ago. We had been back to visit and been a part of the church through conversations and sending of financial contributions, but this was the first time we were able to be back there on a Sunday. This time we took 15 people (13 youth and two other adults) from Garvinwood Church to learn, help, and experience. While there we helped facilitate a trunk or treat where Refuge serviced approximately 400 area children and their families with close to 20 highly decorated trunks.
While at the trunk or treat, one of the volunteers at Refuge Church, who I had never met until this weekend, talked to me about how the church had changed his life and saved his marriage and family within the past year. With students running around having fun with trick or treaters, children from the church, and serving chili, the greatness of this conversation didn’t truly hit me until later. Did he know that I was the hyper 23 year old kid who took a leap with my young bride to sell cars in order to help with the pastor’s vision for the church? Did he intentionally add emphasis to “this church has changed my life” simply to encourage me? Did he know how much his story meant to me to remind me that it was all worth it? I may never know what God is doing in my life and through my life until I get to Heaven, but I am thankful He let me see a little piece of it this weekend.
We must keep going, having faith that the seeds we are planting now will eventually become "this church has changed my life", even if we don't know it.