Today is the end of an era.
When I was 19 I was going to school in San Francisco and my boyfriend lived in LA. We wanted to spend the summer on the mission field and as adventurous (read stupid) young people we thought we’d just buy tickets to Africa and find people to serve (eye roll). Whilst planning our grand adventure we came across a mission trip called One Great Thing that my calculus teacher from highschool (of all people) was hosting with his wife. They were taking college students to the Dominican Republic for two weeks to do one great thing with their summer. We were in. Our parents breathed a sigh of relief in unison.
The structure of this mission trip was unique. During the day we served in different capacities: medical clinics, vacation bible school, building homes, and revamping a church. In the evenings we were discipled by our leaders through worship, teachings, prayer, and counseling. I fell in love with some of the local children–giving them a few pieces of personally valuable things I’d brought with me. I experienced the presence of God in a white plastic patio chair with my hands raised high while we worshipped in afternoon heat that melted the cover of my bible (literally). I learned about abundance, generosity, community, the heart of prayer, and the supernatural power of God.
A freedom began in me that hasn’t stopped unraveling since.
When our plane landed back in San Diego, it was evident that all we’d done was expose a hunger for more in all of our lives. A handful of twenty-somethings who’d glimpsed the life with God began meeting every Friday night at Brad and Cory’s house on the couches, bar stools, rugs, and dining room chairs. We packed in like sardines, lost ourselves in worship, prayed for each other with our whole hearts, and watched a family begin to form. We were all still attending our Sunday morning churches, our Wednesday night youth groups, but on Fridays what we’d found was a life-giving well.
As the weeks passed it became routine to see people from Friday night group every day. We studied together, helped each other move, had coffee together, ate Brad and Cory’s food, prayed for each other when our lives fell apart, gave each other cars when they were needed, opened our spare bedrooms when we found ourselves without a place to stay, and went to the hospital when a relative was ill to pray and deliver food. It was the most organic, sweet vision of the Acts Church I may ever see on earth.
Looking back over the past 9 and a half years a lot has changed. We decided to spread our love beyond our small group that covered every square foot of a living room and get a building, we began meeting on Sunday mornings, and so many faces have come in and out of our sacred little tribe. We’ve been on another mission to the Dominican Republic and a few to Mexico. We’ve led a tour of Israel, held conferences, retreats, and a million other kinds of events.
I have made my best friends in the world at Antioch. I met my husband at Antioch. The pastors (B +C) went from being my mentors to some of my best friends. And all those 19 year olds grew up together to be husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, entertainment industry moguls, doctors, nurses, writers, painters, pastors, business owners, and world changers.
While many things have changed from those early days sitting on the floor with one guitar, a few things have remained the same. Antioch is first and foremost a church of worship–it has stayed our stop priority since day one, to minister to the King. We are a church of head, heart, and hands. A church of generosity, creativity, honor, intelligence, and service. A church committed to being in step with the Holy Spirit. A church committed to being a family and a home.
And since the beginning Brad and Cory have called Antioch an Eagle’s nest. We are to build up and send out. Our name actually came from the passage in Acts 13:1-3:
“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
I watched my best friends over the years accept dream jobs, get married, and move away from Antioch–full to the brim with teaching and ready to pour out where God had called them. I hoped inwardly that I could be the one who stayed at Antioch endlessly, all my friends that moved away still longed for it and considered it home.
It was only a few months ago I found out where Jon and I would be moving. Utah in the first week of June. I couldn’t imagine living away from this spring of life I’d known my whole span of adulthood. I mourned, I questioned, I drug my feet.
And then one day last week, my eyes opened. I’m not even sure how or when but the Holy Spirit made everything clear…it was time. I had soaked up every good and beautiful gift of this season. I had been poured into until I was overflowing. Now it was time to make room for others at Antioch and go pour out all the goodness to a new community set apart for me.
Yesterday was my last Sunday at Antioch–and I had new eyes to see it. I looked around the room at fresh-faced nineteen year olds worshipping with all their hearts and said,
Yes God, I see it, it’s my time to go so you can fill this place with more fledgling eagles.
Even as I write this it still stings, but hadn’t I known from the beginning this was a nest? A place to grow and fly away from, not stay forever?
I guess I never expected God to turn me into an eagle–it felt impossible in that insecure 19-year-old heart of mine. And yet…
And yet, God.
“He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
I didn’t see it coming but I feel stronger, more confident, and more ready than I ever thought possible to go out and run my race. Antioch has been my home, my training ground, my place of instruction, my joy and it will always be my family. But today I can say by the grace of God that I turned into an eagle because I found an eagle’s nest to adopt me. Now it’s my turn to put these brand new wings to use. To build my own nest where the Spirit asks me to land.
I really needed to read this. Your words felt like they were to teach me. I feel very much the sole Christian in my home. My husband is just starting out as a very new Christian and he relies on my direction, which is daunting at times. I want so much to do right by God for my husband. Most of my children don’t go to church. One son who is married goes to church with his wife and children. My oldest daughter is a very new Christian and lives in another state. I don’t have any family in the state where we live so I rely very heavily on my faith and my relationship with the Lord. I now feel much calmer about my role in my family after reading your words. He has always had my full trust and I know that as long as I keep myself close to Him, everything will be alright.
Time to fly, strong one. Time to soar. Xoxo ~C.