Join Us This #GivingTuesday!

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After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a day to give back. Today we are also launching our End of Year Giving Campaign. Check out our latest video that explains where we are in the church planting process.

YOUR FINANCIAL GIFT will go a long way to help us chart the course to plant a healthy, lasting church in Miami. If God is leading you to give, click on the give button below.

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If you are not in a place to help financially, YOU CAN STILL HELP US!! Here are two ways:

1. SHARE TODAY this post on your SOCIAL MEDIA so that we can have the greatest reach possible.

2. SUBSCRIBE to our NEWSLETTER and join our prayer team. Prayer is the number one factor for success in church planting. Bluntly put – without your prayers, we will not be able to plant a new church in this city!

THANK YOU for your many prayers and past support!

Allen Smith & Family

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Dodging Irma

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Everyone in South Florida immediately tensed up when we caught wind that Category 5 Irma was headed straight for Miami. You could feel the hysteria in the air. Everyone started making gas runs all over the city. Then it dawned on me that our rental house did not have hurricane shutters. My best friend – who had just gone through Harvey – called to warn me to get out of South Florida as soon as possible. I wanted to stay, but I knew in my gut that I needed to evacuate my family.

The next morning we woke up at 4:30 am to evacuate to Atlanta. It was a long 13 hour day of driving. As we rolled into South Atlanta, a beautiful African American elderly lady, saw our FL plate and extra gas cans, rolled down her window and said, “Welcome to Atlanta, we’ve been praying for you!” We all teared up with her expression of love.

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God used Irma as a mini “hurrication” for our family. We welcomed the fall weather, after fleeing the Miami heat. Our older girls stayed with their friends the entire time – we barely saw them for a week! Gary & Holly Campbell graciously allowed us to evacuate to their home and took great care of us.

Sandi and the girls were refreshed by worshipping with our Perimeter family. I even had the privilege of attending the particularization service of Christos Community Church, which is now the first multicultural, PCA church planted by a Hispanic pastor (Rev. Alex Villasana). It was a joyous morning!

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Christos Church voting to become a particularized (local) church.

After the storm had made it through FL, we said our goodbyes and began our trek back South. From Atlanta to Orlando was the worst part of our travels. When we left Atlanta last Tuesday, my GPS said our ETA would be 4:30 pm. I began to think, “Great, we’ll have time to relax by the pool at our Orlando hotel and eat dinner somewhere.” Well, my dream of sitting by the pool died when I-10 merged with I-75 southbound. The rest of the way was like a slow-moving parking lot averaging between 30 mph. Gasoline was hard to find. Most restaurants were closed. We rolled into Orlando at 11:30 pm. Thankfully, we had no problems as Waze detoured us around one accident after another, weaving around fallen trees on back roads. We finally arrived back home in Miami on Wednesday after Irma made landfall.

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Almost all our trees fell, and thankfully none landed on our home. Our once full Mango tree is damaged but not down. And that’s how most of Miami feels right now. As one mayor put it: “We didn’t dodge a bullet but a canon.” God had mercy on our city!

MangoTreeAlthough we’ve been in Miami for only a few months, I can honestly say that it is one of the most divided cities I have ever lived in. Many Miamians have said the same. My main prayer request is that God would use post-Irma to open doors that were once shut. We are already experiencing this by getting to know our neighbors. One, in particular, had our house key, called every day and took care of our home while we were gone. We are so thankful!! Please pray with me that God would open many doors and form many new friends in the post-Irma cleanup.

Thank you for all your messages of prayer and concern. We are so thankful for your friendship!

 

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The restoration begins.

 

 

Heavenly Mango Manna

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Photo credit: Hamza B

We arrived at our new house in Miami in the middle of mango season. All the ducks on our little lake had congregated in our backyard to feast from this heavenly honey fruit. After shooing them away, we began to collect about 8 mangos a day.  We had mangos for breakfast, mangos for lunch, and mangos for dinner. Mary devoured mangos as she read book after book. The best part, we got to share our mangos with our new neighbors: a three generation Cuban family to the right and a Colombian family to the left. It was like God had given us mango-manna from heaven not only to live off of but to share with our new friends.

It’s been said that only God can plant the church. Arriving at our new home ladened with mangos showed us that God had already gone ahead of us. Yes, I’ll have to plant and water the seed, but only God gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7). I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of harvest God might have in store for us in Miami!

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Finishing at Perimeter

It is true that God only causes the growth, but it is also true that God trains the farmer. I feel so blessed to have sharpened my ax at Perimeter these last two years. Bob Cargo and my cohort have been perfect for my preparation. It was amazing to do life with Sam Kang (2nd Gen Korean), Jorge Romero (Colombian), and Dereko Robinson (African- American). I learned so much from each person’s cultural perspective. I will truly miss our times together!

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Starting with Crossbridge Church

It has been a dream to come on board with Crossbridge Church in Miami. Lead Pastor Felipe Assis and his team have been very welcoming to our family. They have given me a year to transition to Miami and learn the city. I’ve been partnered with Carter Brown and his Crossbridge campus in downtown Brickell to learn the Crossbridge and the dynamics in Miami church planting. Brickell is like the Manhatten of Miami; the financial district filled with millennials. In the meantime, I’ll continue to investigate strategic areas of the city to see where God wants us to plant a new church.

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Fourth of July Crossbridge Staff Party (Pinecrest & Key Biscayne)

Prayer Points

  • Praise God for allowing us to reach our moving goal! All of the money came in just as we were literally pulling away from Atlanta to cover our moving expenses. Thank you very much for responding. We would not be here if it were not for you!
  • A good start with Crossbridge Church.  In his helpful book, The First 90 DaysMichael Watkins says, “the actions you take during your first few months in a new role will largely determine whether you will succeed or fail.” Please pray that I would make a good first impression with our new team, learn their working culture, and become a trusted worker and asset.
  • Gospel conversions. A Cuban friend told me recently, “Miami is a very spiritual city, it just has the wrong spirituality.” I’m finding that people are very open to discuss spiritual matters and are very honest about believing in God but not being in church. As I talk to people, please pray that God would open doors to talk about the gospel. Pray that God would direct my steps and I would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. And join me in prayer that I would see an early harvest of 3 to 5 disciples within the first few months of living in Miami.
  • New friends. Our family at every level had vibrant relationships in Atlanta. Now, we know no one where we live. This has been the hardest part of moving to Miami by far! There have been moments where several in our family have felt an intense sense of isolation and sadness. It reminds us that we were not made to be alone and that we are pilgrims on this earth longing for our true home. Please pray that God would allow us to form a new community of friends and that we would be patient in the process.
  • God’s leading in learning the city. As I drive through Miami, I have noticed how few church buildings there are. It is overwhelming how much need is here, and it is daunting to narrow down our focus to a section of town. I have researched Doral this past year, and I plan on continuing to do so. I also see a huge need in West Kendall, where we presently live. And I’ve been told that there is an opportunity in Miami Shores. My prayer is that God would lead us to where He wants us to plant by the end of this year.

We truly need your prayers.

Thank you for joining us to Miami!

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Seldom Early, Never Late

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God is seldom early, but never late” (Mother Teresa).

This has been our experience this past month! We would like to rejoice with you by sharing how God has answered our prayers in three big ways:

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1. Selling our House  

When we moved to Atlanta two years ago, Sandi and I had zero equity – a common reality of missionary life. We knew it would be risky to buy a home for just two years. With the counsel of our incredible realtor, Steve Ostenson, he helped us find a great house in the perfect location. [A neat fact about Steve is that he grew up in Miami; his father was the former pastor of Grenada Presbyterian Church, Coral Gabels.] I told Steve to find us a house he could sell in two years. And I asked God, “May we simply break even.” But God had other plans.

The day after we put our house on the market, it went into a bidding war. It was under contract in just 48 hours! The market value of our house had increased by 20%. God went far beyond our expectations! Now we have enough money for a down payment on a future house in Miami.

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2. Finding a School

In moving to Miami, a big stressor has been trying to figure out schooling. The mere logistics felt overwhelming of trying to figure out the car pool situation for a high schooler, a middle schooler, and two in elementary. On top of that, trying to find three schools in the same district with decent ratings was extremely complicated.

So we prayed, as did many of you. Jesse Carbo, one of the Crossbridge pastors, told us about Florida Christian School (FCS) – a great K-12 school in the heart of Miami. A highly esteemed Perimeter School teacher had also recommended FCS to us. Jesse mentioned that FCS loved helping pastors’ families and that we should check it out. So we did.

Sandi began the application process. We drove the girls down for testing and paid a large enrollment fee with no guarantee that our girls would be accepted. But in God’s grace, just a few days before we flew to Miami to house hunt, we received good news: all four girls had been accepted AND offered very generous financial aid. God had provided! We flew to Miami without having to worry about school zones as we looked for a house. God is seldom early, but never late.

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3. Finding a New Home 

A final big answer to prayer was finding a house to rent. Before we went house hunting, I asked each daughter what they wanted in a house. One said she wanted a pink house and another wanted a mango tree. And in vintage God fashion, He not only provides us our needs but gives us more than we need or ask. Although we didn’t lease a pink house (we saw several in Miami!), we did land a great house with a mango tree in the backyard. God loves providing superabundantly!

For those who know Miami, our house is in West Kendall. And if you come visit us, we’ll be sure to serve you some fresh mangos 🍊 🙂

PRAYER POINTS

Here are some ways you can pray for us in the next few weeks.

  • Moving. Right after we close on our house in Atlanta on June 23, we’ll jump in our car and move to Miami. Please pray that we would extend grace to one other as we pack our house. My prayer is that though we will be sad saying goodbye to our Atlanta friends, that we would also laugh and have fun as we move.
  • Fundraising. Since our last update, we have inched up two percentage points. We are now at 94% of our moving budget. We only lack $23K! Our move alone will cost around $10K. Please pray that we would be able to raise 100% before our move date. If you’d like to give, go to the “donate now” page above.☝🏻
  • Open Doors. I am so excited to explore Miami and make new friends. Please pray Colossians 4:3 for us, “that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.”

Thank you very much for praying for us!

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Things Are Getting Real!

Moving!Things are getting real! This week we put our house on the market. Sandi and I will fly to Miami in two weeks to go house hunting. We have begun the official transition to Miami. We have stepped onto the transitional bridge and moved from being settled
to unsettled –  chaos is coming very soon (see former post)!!

92%I’m in my last months with Perimeter Church’s church planting program. My supervisor, Bob Cargo, has graciously allowed me a large portion of my time to focus on fundraising. Our original prayer was to raise 80% of our moving budget by this May. God has answered our prayer by bringing in 92%!! We are so thankful for His provision! We only have $32K left to raise before we leave.

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Abbie and Addi have just finished a great track & field season. The amazing thing is their team won first overall in the State of Georgia! This is the first time in the history of their school that any sport has won State. I’m so proud of my girls for their hard work and persevering through a grueling season.

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Mary has blossomed in leading kids in worship at Perimeter’s KidsQuest. Brent, Adrienne, Cheryl, and the Impact Arts staff have inspired and invested in Mary to bring out her singing potential. Not many can sing in front of others and worship God at the same time. Mary’s expressive and calm confidence is contagious.

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Eva is ready to start packing! She is such the planner, that she has already mapped out the rest of her life and ours too (at least she would like to!).

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Prayer Points

  • Selling our home in Atlanta. The housing market in Miami is almost twice as expensive as Atlanta. Please pray that we will have a good return on our house, so we might have a good down payment on our future home in Miami.
  • Finding a new home. As I mentioned above, Sandi and I are looking for houses in two weeks. Since we are not 100% sure where we will plant a church, we will first rent. Our challenge is not only to find the right house that meets certain specs but also to find the right area to plant. The Crossbridge team has helped us narrow down to two potential areas of the city (Doral & West Kendall). Please pray that God would lead us not only to the right house but also to the right area of Miami where He wants us to begin a new work.
  • Raising the remaining 8% of our moving budget. We only have $32K left to raise! Several churches and individuals have expressed interest in joining us to Miami. Please pray that God would provide our remaining need and prompt many to begin giving before we move this summer.
We’re so thankful that you are following us to Miami!

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One Principle That Will Help You Make A Big Decision

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Making big decisions is very stressful! Being uncertain about your future is especially tough if you are without a job or have an end date in your present job. We received some great advice that has helped us a ton on when to pull the trigger on important life decisions. Honestly, I don’t remember from whom I heard this principle, (a friend? a podcast? a book?) – if you are reading this now and you gave me this advice, please let me know so I can give you props and properly thank you.

Here’s the principle on making big life decisions:

God usually gives 60% clarity.

This “60% Rule” is an application of Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.”

God gets you over the 50% mark so that you are not constantly waffling back and forth between several options. However, He typically doesn’t give you too much clarity. Now, there are exceptions when the Holy Spirit gives exceptional clarity to someone with an exceptional calling (75% and above). For most of us, though, God gives about 60% clarity.

Why does God do this? Think about it. Greater clarity means greater control. God is in control of our future, and He wants us to trust Him with it all. If I’m honest I really I love control. Because we are made in the image of God, we are responsible for controlling many things as we trust Him for all things. My problem is that I frequently grip too tightly to my future plans with closed fists, demanding God to give me 100% clarity. That’s why Proverbs 3:5-6 hangs in our living room.

In His kindness, God only brings 60% into focus so that I would remain focused on Him. He is the Good Shepherd. He will open doors in His timing. “I may not know my way well, but well do I know my Guide” (Martin Luther). Sandi and I are quick movers and usually get ahead of God. I once shared this struggle to one of my mentors and he told me, “God is seldom early but is always on time” (Clint Wilcke).  Only God holds our future, so we need to loosen our grip and hold our decisions with open hands.

I usually get anxious when I don’t know what details will result from my decision. I begin to play out hypothetical worst case scenarios. In those moments, I have to stop and ask myself, “Has God given me 60% clarity on which road to take?” If He has, then I can confidently trust Him with all the unforeseen details and repent of acting as God by trying to control all scenarios of my life. It’s so liberating to trust God! 

Listen to this stirring quote by the German philosopher, Goethe, as he offers what happens when we step out in faith with 60% clarity:

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy. There is one elementary truth, and if you ignore this truth it will kill countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself,  then God’s Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events come from the decision, a whole host of favorable incidents, meetings, and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” (adapted from Next Christians by Gabe Lyons, p. 126)

I’d love to hear from you! Is the 60% rule helpful to you? What big decisions are you making in life right now? I’d love to hear and pray for you.

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8 Reasons Why We Are Planting a Church in Miami

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The question is often asked: Why start a new church if there are already many churches in the area? Why not just revitalize existing churches? Those are very good questions. I thought it might be helpful to share 8 reasons why I’m planting a church in Miami.

8. Miami is one of the most unreached cities in America. In the area which we are considering starting a new church, 85% of its residents have zero religious affiliations – including the Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witness, Muslims or any other religious group. Only 2.5% are evangelical Christians. The field is white for harvest!

7. New churches need to be planted in Miami to simply keep up with the population growth rate. According to the 2010 census, there are a little over 1,000 evangelical churches in Miami making up about 13% of the total population (this is a very generous estimate!). Miami’s population is growing much faster than the national average. From 2010-2015, Miami-Dade county grew by 7.8% (about 250,000 people/year). The bottom line: the evangelical church needs to plant about 26 churches a year just to maintain 13% of the population. In reality, for the evangelical church to grow in Miami, many more churches need to be planted – 40-50 churches a year is probably a more accurate figure.

6. It takes many different kinds of churches to reach an entire city. No single church tradition has a monopoly on the harvest. No one denomination or network can plant 50 churches a year! A positive way to put it is that each church reaches certain types of people. And since Miami is the most international city in America, there are many types of people to be reached!  I like how David Olson puts it: “New churches are historically the best method for reaching each emerging generation… [and] the only truly effective means to reach the growing ethnic populations coming to America. Every people group needs to hear the gospel in a way that makes sense to their culture” (The American Church in Crisis, 156). To the degree that evangelical churches link arms and work together, is the degree to which we will we reach Miami. All evangelical traditions need each other if we are going to change the spiritual tide in Miami.

5. New churches best reach the unchurched – period” (Tim Keller). It is essential to revitalize existing churches for kingdom impact in Miami, yet that alone will not turn the tide. New churches less than 3 years old average 10 new disciples per one hundred members compared to older churches: 10-year-old churches average 3 new disciples per hundred members and churches 50 years or older average 1.5 new disciples. As the late Peter Wagner famously said: “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.”

4. New churches often bring renewal to older churches. When older and newer churches work together, the new churches bring new disciples with new ideas and models for new situations that result in new leaders for both the older and newer churches. The older churches provide the emotional, financial, and spiritual support that is critical for the long-term health of a newly established church.

3. God has called me and my family to plant a church in Miami. God has given me a strong desire to seek the lost sheep, preach the gospel, make disciples, and organize a church not just anywhere, but in Miami. It really bothers me that there are so many lost sheep without a shepherd. We especially have a unique burden for those who find themselves in cultural transition. We know what it’s like to live as a minority. We understand the unique struggles, like the fatigue of always thinking in a second language or the stress of frequently feeling misunderstood. In many ways, our daughters are more comfortable as the only white girls in a sea of Latinos. In short, our family feels uniquely fitted to live in the international city of Miami.

2. My wife, Sandi, also feels called to follow me to Miami. This is HUGE! I’m continually amazed by God’s grace in Sandi. I’m amazed that she is still following me joyfully after all these years of transition!  We know that our family has a call to Miami when former Southern Floridians warn us about the culture, and yet we still feel a strong pull to move there. Yes, we know that Miami is a superficial, flashy, and decadent city. Yes, we know that Miami has been hard soil for many church plants. Yes, we know that ministry in Miami is a marathon that will take longer than most areas in the States. Yet, we are strangely drawn to all its beauty and brokenness. We see more potential than danger. All though we have our fears about living in Miami, I can honestly say that Sandi is just as excited about moving to Miami as I am.

1. Starting new churches not only follows the Biblical pattern but is essential to fulfilling the Great Commission. It might surprise you to know that the there is zero commands in the New Testament to plant a church. However, as many have pointed out, the outcome of making disciples and baptizing them (Matthew 28:19-20) is to bring them into a new covenant community  – a new expression of the Church in that specific context. That’s what we see Paul doing all through Acts: everywhere the gospel is preached, disciples are made and a local church is established. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18) and church planting is the normal way He builds his church. I would go further to say that the church is God’s plan for the world. I like the way Ott & Wilson puts it:”Because the church itself is central to God’s mission, church planting must be central to that mission.”

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Many of you have joined us to Miami – thank you!! If you haven’t joined us yet, there are 3 ways you can do so:

  1. Join our Launch Team by moving with us to Miami. I’m dead serious. If you don’t know Spanish yet, I know of some great language schools that can get you conversant in just one month. If you are already in Miami, hit me up. I’ll be in the Magic City every month now until the summer. Even if this is a remote dream, let’s talk!
  2. Join our Financial Team. One-time or recurring donations are greatly needed. We are presently at 40% of our budget, and our goal is to be at 80% before we move. You can donate here.
  3. Join our Prayer Team by subscribing to our newsletter. Prayer is the number one factor for success in church planting! Any spiritual, lasting fruit is a direct result of your prayers. And we need them!!

We Did It Together!

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With your help, we reached our $10K End of Year Goal! Since City to City Miami will double all of our donations, we in effect raised $20K.

Thank you very much!! 

30Overall, we have raised 30% of our total church planting budget. With your financial gifts, you have propelled us into 2017 with a strong support base to help us move to Miami. Please pray that we will be able to raise 75% by this May.

We are excited about our new gospel partners – many of which are receiving this email for the first time. Your investment will enable us to make disciples, plant a church, and train leaders.

Thank you again for helping us get to Miami!

Help Us Meet our End of Year Goal!

As you make your end of year giving, consider financially joining us in what God is doing in Miami.

Sandi and I have set a goal of $10K by December 31. Every dollar donated is doubled by City To City Miami! We are especially looking for those who might partner with us at $30-$50/month – that’s less than a tall coffee at Starbucks a day.

If 4 people committed to $50/month, we would meet our end of year goal!

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3Milestones Review

April 13, 2014

After serving in Peru, South America for nearly a decade, we moved back to the United States with a dream to plant a church in America.

September 12, 2014

To help evaluate our desire to plant a church, we went to Mission To North America Church Planter Assessment. And on this date, God confirmed our call and the MNA assessors fully recommended us for church planting. At assessment, we met Danny & Kimberly Iverson, who connected us with Bob Cargo and his church planting training program at Perimeter Church.


April 20, 2015

Bob Cargo formally invited our family to join Perimeter Church’s two-year church planting program, allowing us to re-acclimate to the United States and get some of the best training.

July 5, 2015

Moved to ATL!

October 28-30, 2015

Bob organized a meeting among key Hispanic leaders from all over the country to come to Atlanta to discuss the future of ministry and church planting among Latinos. Two key things happened for me at this meeting:

(1) Allen Thompson said, “If we are going to reach the next generation of Latinos and train its leaders, we must figure it out in Miami.” When he said that, a bolt of lightening with through my body, and I knew at that moment that I had to be part of what God was doing in Miami.

(2) I met several of the leadership from Crossbridge Church Miami (PCA): Felipe Assis, Jesse Carbo, & Henry Rojas.

December 12-16, 2015

The Crossbridge team invited us to explore Miami to see if it might be a good place for us to plant a church. We fell in love with the city and saw the great need for planting gospel-centered churches in one of the most unreached and challenging cities in America.

April 19-22, 2016

We went back to Miami to be assessed for church planting a second time, this time by City To City.

June 29, 2016

Crossbridge Church & City to City invited us to plant a church with them in Miami.

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4 2017 Preview

January 21, 2017

Travel to Miami to begin a monthly Incubator Training with City to City Miami.

February 6, 2017

Speak with missions’ committee at Independent Presbyterian Church, Memphis.

February 10-12, 2017

Attend mission conference at First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, MS.

February 16-20, 2017

Travel to Miami for our daughters’ school testing.

April/May 2017

Sell our home in Peachtree Corners, NE Atlanta.

June/July 2017

Move to Miami! And begin to meet the people, learn the culture and develop new friendships.


Just reviewing all these events reminds me of how much we have to do before the summer. Yet, we can’t wait to be in the city that  God has been preparing us! With your financial gifts, we will be able to bring the hope of Christ to Miami.

 May 2017 be your best yet as you begin the new year in the Lord!

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