God’s Plan

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Sandi and I have spent the last few months seeking God’s will for our future in Miami. Through a multitude of events, we have come to the conclusion that God has released us from planting a church in Miami. Here are some highlights of what we have discovered:

Living as a cross-cultural missionary does funny things to your psyche. We’ve heard from others who have lived in other countries for extended amounts of time that they think that they can endure anything. We have had that mindset about Miami. We thought we could just push through and make things happen, however, we discovered our limitations through a series of situational changes. We have come to the realization that for the first time in our life, we have gone beyond our limits. “We are way in over our heads!” was our common thought. In all truth, Miami is much more different than we anticipated. We thought it would be more similar to Peru, but the only thing these two cultures have in common is Spanish. Now I am a firm believer that limits are God’s gift to us, to bless and guide us.

As we were pondering our future, I took our family to Key West for a quick Spring Break trip. Driving to Key West literally feels like you are driving to the end of the earth. So we went as far as we could go and ended up at the Southernmost point of the United States of America. As I stood there looking out over the ocean towards Cuba, I sensed that God brought me to the end of my road of church planting. At that moment, God released me from church planting in Miami. I immediately felt a relief and peace rush into my soul. Shortly after I recorded this short video with my family…

The only way forward was to turn around and go back the way we came – North. So that’s what we did.

I told my gospel coach about these new developments and he said, “Allen, let’s pull together some pastors and church planters and bring you and Sandi up to Atlanta and seek God’s will together.” So my family and I flew to Atlanta at the end of April. We had a refreshing time seeking out counsel and seeing old friends. After hearing our story and asking questions, everyone agreed that the best course of action was for me to resign from Crossbridge.

Through these series of events, God has made it clear that He has released us from planting a church in Miami. I have recently submitted my resignation letter to the elders of Crossbridge and informed most of our supporters.

What’s Next 

I’m leaving Miami with mixed feelings: sad to close the chapter of church planting and excited to see what God has in store for us. We plan on moving from Miami at the end of June. We’ll land in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where my dad has our lake  house all ready for us to move into. There, I’ll begin to look for a pastoral call.

Know that Sandi and I feel like we are in a good place and are at peace.  Despite the prospect of our third move since being back in the U.S.A., our girls are doing  great and are excited about spending their summer on Lake Hamilton.  I am super thankful for my adventurous and flexible wife and daughters!

Prayer Points

  • That God would allow us to finish well with Crossbridge.
  • That we would grieve well this loss and trust God for a new beginning.
  • That God would open a door for a new pastoral call.
  • That God would continue to protect us as we move again.

THANK YOU for your prayers and support. We are truly honored that you have joined us on this journey to Miami. There has not been one dull moment.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted as God unfolds our next chapter. In the meantime, I hope that our paths will cross.

Grace & peace,

Allen & the Smith Family

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Life On Life Missional Discipleship

This past weekend, three incredible families from Miami joined me at the Life-on-Life Discipleship Clinic in ATL to dream with me what it would look like to start with several discipleship groups. Let me put it this way: If you would have told me while I was in Atlanta that I would return with these people, I would not have believed you. You know God is at work by the quality of people with whom He surrounds you. In the future newsletters, I plan to introduce you to each one of these amazing families.

Jeff Dunbar was another huge highlight of our Discipleship Clinic (see picture below). Jeff is my Gospel Coach and we have done life for the past two years. God worked it out where he was also the coach for our group at the discipleship clinic. I had been telling my Miami people how Jeff is like a gospel ninja – an anointed pastor who can get to your heart in 3 minutes flat (all those who know Jeff, know that I’m not exaggerating). Jeff is someone you have to experience to understand, and everyone from Miami agreed. What a blessing for my two worlds to collide!

First Steps

Several have asked me when I am launching my church. And I’ve answered by saying that I want to start with the right people and the right focus. My desire is to weave multiplication into the fabric of our new church at every level: disciples who make disciples, leaders who equip leaders, community groups that send out community groups, and church that plant churches. Best practices have shown that if you start multiplying at the church level without having first multiplied at the smaller levels (disciples, leaders, and ministries), then you simply plant another worship service. That is why this first step of forming a gospel-centered discipleship culture is so crucial. It will take a little longer to launch a worship service but it will have a more solid foundation.

My hope is to form several discipleship groups by this Fall that will informally gather in one as a larger group at my house. After that, we’ll begin to plan for our worship launch, hopefully in 2019. Slower is faster! Going deeper now will enable us to go farther in the future.

Family Front

Here are some Smith family highlights and happenings…

Sandi & I had the treat of seeing Gary Campbell in Miami; a longtime family friend and president of the PCA’s Retirement & Benefits, Inc.

Eva and Mary have joined me on my travels back to the South as I visited supporting churches. On both trips, they have had the privilege of spend one-on-one time with their grandparents on their farm. They have been having a blast fishing, sewing, shooting, painting, riding in “the mule” and many other fun activities.

Recently, God gifted Adeline with a free trip to Washington D.C. with her 8th-grade class. Before she went, she asked me, “Dad, how can I glorify God with this gift? Should I preach the gospel?” To which I replied, “If God gives you an open door to share the good news, then of course! Preaching the gospel is not the only way you can glorify Him. I think by simply enjoying your trip will also glorify Him. He loves you dearly!” That was a tear-jerking conversation!

Prayer Points

  1. Please pray that God would form a solid, leadership team as we take steps together in starting an Ignition Group – a catalytic group to form more discipleship groups.
  2. Please pray for me to have opportunities to share the gospel and make disciples here in Miami.
  3. Finally, please continue to pray that God would lead me to a target area in Miami. Please pray is that God would give me clarity. The way I’m seeking clarity is through the receptivity of the lost and future leaders who willing to follow me as I follow Christ.

May God bless you richly as you trust Him for your future and wait on him in the present to supply you with the riches of his grace in Jesus Christ.

Allen Smith & Family

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!

BiscayneBay

Family Update & Prayer Points

 

On the Family Front

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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Emilio’s Surprise, Leaving & Going Home

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As I left Peru in 2014, one of the last things I promised my good friend, Emilio, “I will be back for your wedding.” At the time, Emilio was not dating anyone. And I made my promise in faith, not knowing exactly how I would make it back to Peru. Months go by. Emilio meets Alejandra. They get engaged. We meet via skype. Then Emilio asked me the big question: “Are you coming to my wedding?

I wanted to say yes with all my heart, however, our financial situation has had zero margin to save for plane tickets. So I had to break my promise to Emilio and declined. Then along came Patrick.

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Middle: Patrick Woodyard along with Seth Covington & myself in the Nisolo Shop in Peru

 

If you don’t know Patrick, he is quite the friend. While living in Peru in 2011, Patrick co-founded Nisolo, a social impact fashion label that has come alongside many Peruvians offering them friendship and honest work. Emilio and I have been with him from the beginning of Nisolo and watched it grow into a successful international business that today employees over 80 Peruvians. Patrick also has a huge heart for people. So when he caught wind that I could not afford to go to Emilio wedding in Peru, he emailed me with an idea. This is what he said,

Emilio mentioned that you may not be able to come to his wedding… I know it would make his year if you could come, and Sally Ward (Patrick’s wife) and I, if it would help your ability to come, would love to pay for most or potentially all of your plane ticket.”

I wept after reading these words. I could not believe what I was reading. Truly this was an answer to my prayers. God enabled me to keep a promise to Emilio that I could not keep myself! Later, Patrick suggested a twist – “Let’s make it a surprise! Let’s not tell Emilio your coming.” Sounds fun to me. And that’s how we rolled.

So for the next few months, I had to find creative ways to not let Emilio know that I was coming. Thankfully, he didn’t get tipped off. On Thursday morning, October 13 this happened….

It was a dream come true only by the grace of God working through my friend Patrick! His wedding was so much fun, an actual foretaste of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.


My trip to Emilio’s wedding afforded me my first trip back to Peru since our family left more than two years ago. It honestly felt like I had never left. Of course the adults were grayer (as I am) and the children were taller (as ours are); but other than that, everyone and everything felt the same. It fed my soul to reconnect with some of our closest friends in the world.

I have to admit, it was odd: going to Peru felt like leaving home and going home all at the same time. As I left my family, I was greeted by family. I was home but not yet home. What a great picture of living in the middle of Christ’s kingdom already but not yet here on earth!

img_6414It was very sad to leave my family behind, but I was glad to hear that Sandi and the girls vicariously lived through my experience. We all feel a greater sense of closure, remembering all of our wonderful friends and experiences our many years in Peru. As I boarded the plane back home, I had this sense that all that God had taught us, all the memories and experiences He gave us, we are now carrying those with us to Miami.

Peru is chapter 5 of our story. Our transition and training in Atlanta is chapter 6. So I guess that makes Miami Chapter 7. Here we come!

Which lead me to one final thought….


1937104_140383289675_3148357_nOur first introduction to Miami was through Emilio and his brother, Jose. We met Emilio and Jose in Peru back in 2009 after they were deported from Miami (that is a whole other fascinating God story that we don’t have space for here). As we became friends, we heard many of their stories growing up in Miami and on “the Key” (Key Biscayne).

Our friendship awoken within Sandi and me a fascination for Miami. In private, Sandi and I would say things to each other like, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to live and do ministry in Miami? I can see our family doing life with people like Emilio and Jose.” It is safe to say that if we had not become friends with Emilio and Jose, we probably would have never considered Miami as a place to plant a church. God works in mysterious and crazy ways!

Here are some pics from the trip…

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Patti, our friend and empleada along with her family

 

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So encouraging to see these men leading Cristo Rey Church so well, along with the other hermanos.

 

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Had to get in one game of futbol verdadero.

 

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Huanchaco Beach one of our favorite spots in Trujillo.

 

Making a Big Mid-Life Decision

Next week Sandi & I will travel to Miami for a one-week assessment to see if we are a good fit to plant in South Florida. If you remember from our last update, we were suppose to go in early March, but they moved the assessment to April. We are very thankful for Sandi’s parents driving all the way from Louisiana to take care of our girls in ATL.

The need for gospel centered, missional churches in Miami is huge. The challenge is also immense. I’ve been told by many that South FL is a graveyard of failed church plants. That’s why we are interested in partnering with Redeemer City-To-City as well as with Perimeter Church in ATL to form a solid support network. Next week is all about whether or not our family is up for the challenge to plant in the rocky soil of Miami.

This month I (Allen) turn 40. Reaching midlife has made me reflective. I can honestly say that in the next few weeks, Sandi and I will be making one of the biggest decisions of our adult lives. Just this week, I read an article by David Brooks in the NY Times on Middle-Aged turning points. Brooks quotes the theologian Karl Barth about reaching midlife:

“The sowing is behind, now it is time to reap. The run has been taken, now it is time to leap. Preparation has been made; now it is time for the venture of the work itself.”  

We truly feel that our entire life up to this point has been preparing our family for something like Miami. From all the short-term mission trips I took as a child, to living in Guatemala post-college, to raising bi-lingual daughters in a Peruvian urban city for nearly a decade – we are ready to make the leap.

So please pray for us! There are 3 requests that I’m asking God:

  1. For clarity about the Redeemer City-To-City partnership in Miami. Are we a good fit?
  2. For confirmation in our hearts. Is God opening or closing the door for us in Miami?
  3. For conviction. Is God calling us to Miami in a way that if we don’t go, we will be disobedient to his will?

We covet your prayers next week as we go through assessment. And we so appreciate your friendship and interest in our family as we make this life decision!

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Multiculturalism

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It’s no secret that the social topography of America is rapidly changing. According to the Census Bureau, the United States will be a majority-minority nation by 2044. That means that Hispanics, African-Americans, & Asians will out number White Americans. And all to often, the church lags behind the cultural trend. Our denomination (PCA) is a prime example; we are 80% white with only 14% Korean pastors, 1.2% African-American pastors, and very few Hispanic pastors.

In Atlanta we have a great opportunity to get ahead of the curve. Perimeter has created a great laboratory to learn how to do multicultural ministry. For one, I’m part of a church planting cohort that represents every major ethnic group in America. Sam (left above) is a 2nd Gen. American Korean worship leader, Dereko is an African-American fire fighter, and Jorge is a Columbian pastor. I am so honored to develop friendships with these great guys so that I can learn from their stories, perspectives, and struggles. My stereotypes will only be broken down by forming meaningful relationships with people different than me.

Perimeter Church is also leveraging it’s resources to learn more about multicultural ministry. Recently, my boss, Bob Cargo, invited key Hispanic leaders from all across the country & abroad to discuss key issues. Leaders came from Miami, Boston, Chicago, San Diego, Tijuana Mexico, Cuba, Atlanta and Birmingham. It was very enlightening as I heard about the complexity of doing Hispanic ministry among first and second generation families.

Finally, where we live helps us envision what’s to come. Our county (Gwinnett) has just recently become a majority-minority county. Over 50 languages are spoken here – one of the most diverse counties in the country. Where we are, America will become in several decades. We are truly living in the future! My hope is that God will use our cohort and context to helps us better grasp how to do ministry in a multicultural world.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that God would guide our family to the right place to plant a church. We are learning to trust God as we wait for Him to lead us. For those who know us, this does not come naturally for us! In the next few months, we will be exploring some potential places to plant.
  • Pray for Sandi as she recovers from shingles. People of her age & good health normally don’t get shingles, but her doctor said the inevitable stress of all our transition and uncertainty has probably lowered Sandi’s immune system. We are thankful she is on the upswing and has the support from an amazing discipleship group at Perimeter who daily reminds her to rest in God’s truth. 
  • Pray for Rob. I met Rob at one of our daughter’s volleyball games. After he found out that I was a pastor, he opened up and shared that he and his wife had recently separated. He believed that God had sent me to him. After sharing the gospel with him over lunch later that month, he became a born again Christian and wants to join the church. Please pray that Rob would be able to reconcile with his wife. He says she is not a believer, so please pray for her as well.

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