Their current preacher, Don Loftis, has been there for 15 years, and their last youth minister left them in May of '06, so I hope I can bring him some help and relief. The congregation is about 350 members with 6 elders, and it's located very near where I grew up. I played little league baseball about 4 miles from where the building is.
For several years now, I thought that the hardest thing I had ever done was asking Carolina's father (in Spanish) for permission to marry his daughter. Even though I spent several days thinking and praying about how I would announce this to the Rose Bud congregation, where I've been preaching for a little over three years, I just couldn't keep my composure. Leaving them is turning out to be about the hardest thing I've ever done.
I came to Arkansas in 1999 to go to Harding University. They hired me to preach for them in January 2004 at the age of 23. It was always hard to convince outsider people that I was old enough to be the preacher, but the people at Rose Bud have always believed in me, and have supported me the whole way through. I am convinced that I'll never be as close to another congregation as I feel to the people at Rose Bud. Carolina and I have no family here. I don't understand rural culture. I don't know how to ride a horse or tell what a good cow looks like. But they have gone out of their way to become like our family, and we love them so much.
Moving to Nashville is moving close to home for me, but I worry a lot about Carolina, who is really having to start from scratch. She has so many friends in Searcy, and is so well liked around the Harding community. But we're picking up and beginning a new leg in our life's journey. It is going to be so painful to stop seeing these people from week to week. At the same time, I think there are some great opportunities at Old Hickory that will challenge me in some new and different ways. Through all of these experiences, I'm convined that I'll become a more well-rounded person.
This has been a very hard decision to make, but we believe we have made the right one. The people at Rose Bud have been very supportive and loving. I knew that they would, but their kind hearts continue to overwhelm me. There are a few of the older members who I might never see again after we've moved. Talking with one of them after church whose health is declining, I just lost it and couldn't speak. I had to go to my office and weep for a few minutes. So I ask all of you--O Readers--to pray for several things:
- Pray for Carolina and I. We're going to make some huge changes and adjustments. We'll be much closer to my family, but Carolina is not used to being surrounded by in-laws. We're having to sell our beautiful house here in Searcy, and find a new one in Nashville. This is already stressing us out. There is much to be done.
- Pray for the Rose Bud Church of Christ. We've worked so hard to help strengthen this congregation, and I really want someone good to follow me so that the good work can continue when we're gone.
- Pray for the Old Hickory Church of Christ. I've taken this position, because I see some ways in which I really believe they need my help. I hope that God will use me to help this good congregation.