God has done so much in our lives in the past year and healed us in a lot of different ways. Here is a lengthy update that gives detail more of our journey. This will mostly be from my (Matt) perspective, I but will share things we both have learned. This will be a series of blogs that will share what we have learned and now what our current role is.
These last years, we have experienced a wide range of emotions. We have seen God heal us from some intense darkness and burnout, and we wanted to share that with you all. I’ll start our story during the year of 2006. At this point Angie and I were in the middle of leading at Lighthouse. I was the pastor and Angie was the worship leader. Ethan and Bree were 4 and 2. In the past year, our church had experienced some challenges, so we both had to step up more in our leadership. So during that year, we were both starting to experience some tiredness but we didn’t know the root of it or have the self awareness to make some changes. Now as we look back, we realize that we just didn’t know how to take care of ourselves emotionally and spiritually. We constantly served but didn’t know how to fill ourselves back up.
That fall our current house opened up, and we were able to get the house ready to move in. This was the first step in thinking about our transition and saying to the church that we won’t be here forever.
So all of that fall, Angie and I worked many hours on the house while continuing our church responsibilities and dealing with 2 young children. This is when our fatigued heightened. It was often that I would work at our house in the afternoon and then tag team with Angie after the kids went to bed and she would work until 10 or later. But we enjoyed the work and were excited with our new house. We moved in December of ‘06 excited to have an amazing house and take a big exhale of relief. However, on the 16th, we found out Angie’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
With that news, Angie made several trips to Nebraska to see her mom. Also, in the beginning of ‘07, our WI leadership told us that this would be our last year of ministry at Lighthouse. Our job in ‘07 was to make our transition and look for a pastor. I spent most of that year training our leadership team and looking for a pastor. By then, as I look back now, I realize that I was struggling with serious fatigue and depression. There were days I wasn’t motivated to do to much other than what I absolutely had to do. Spiritually I felt empty and dry. But we knew that we had to finish well. We persevered on.
During August of that year, we planned to take the month off to go to California for a family vacation and break from ministry. We were hoping for a time of refreshment so we could push through until December when we would leave Lighthouse. But again, plans changed. Angie’s mom’s condition continued to worsen, and she ended up dying on the 4th of August, 2007.
Initially the pain was intense for Angie, but since we were in the middle of transitioning at the church, we kept going and she stuffed her emotions. That fall, God provided us with a future pastor, Jerry Willhite. We felt like we ended our time at Lighthouse on a high note with a great send-off service. We were amazed that in the middle of our own burnout, God’s grace was still with us and in that church.
We had made plans to spend January through April in Costa Rica for language learning and a sabbatical. We were looking forward to this time to regroup and spend great time as a family.
The time in Costa Rica was unbelievable for us. We loved the culture, the travel, and meeting great new friends. We felt like God was starting to show us walls in our lives that had contributed to the burnout and felt like God opened up some things in our lives.
We were excited to make a new start when we got home early May. Three days after arriving home, our basement flooded. This sent us into more chaos, spending the month of May cleaning up instead of focusing on the things we learned while in Costa Rica.
Then the big devastation hit us. On June 16th, we found out that my brother Phil had passed away. Wow, that sent us into a major tailspin. The pain of that day and weeks to come were so intense. We had a hard time making it through. It opened up new wounds for all of us and it sent Angie into a funk as well as the double grief of losing Phil and her mom in less than a year The heartbreak of all that she stuffed and now faced hit her hard.
We realized then that we needed to take time off from any formal ministry and church planting so that we could rest, heal, and have our call renewed. I spent the whole year working at the thrift store, our medical clinic, and then doing various projects around WI. We are so grateful that our WI leadership gave us the year to rest and not have to minister.
Through working at our clinic, God opened the door for me to start driving the Mobile Clinic. I took my CDL test and passed. I became an official trucker!
During that year, Esther (Phil’s wife) had decided to return to Indonesia. She invited me to go for the one year anniversary of his death. Phil’s good friend, Caleb, was going back, so I worked out the travel with him. In June of ‘09, I spent 10 days touring all the places where Phil had lived, studied and worked. That trip was so good for my heart. I really think that emotional healing for me happened on that trip.
I came back to Wichita feeling more refreshed and ready to engage in ministry. As I look back now to my burnout, I realized I needed more than emotional healing. I needed spiritual and physical healing as well.
After that trip I was starting feeling like myself again. I had more energy for people and didn’t feel so down. During that summer, I worked with different youth groups that came to visit. This led to one of my current roles of being the coordinator for all our volunteers.
But God was making it clear to me that I was still in need of spiritual healing. In this past year, he has provided different people in my life to help in that healing. During this past year, I’ve realized a few lies that I had believed about myself that I needed God to heal me of.
1. I believed somehow that I needed to arrive spiritually to be like the other missionaries. Because I was experiencing so much burnout, I didn’t feel as “spiritual” as I felt I should be.
2. I believed that to be a “super-missionary”, I had to be a certain kind of person. I was striving to be someone that God hadn’t made me to be.
When it was clear that those characteristics weren’t in me, I wasn’t sure who I was. God showed me how much he deeply loves me and accepts me for who I am right now. I can be myself and I don’t have to ever arrive spiritually. It gave me so much freedom and joy.
I have been meeting with a guy named Dave Williams. He is a professor at Barclay College. He has been teaching me how to connect with the Lord. Through this past year, I felt that God was spiritually healing me. One that will continue the rest of my life.
Then the last year where I needed healing was physically. During the last years, I had let my body go and I was heavier than I wanted. I was out of shape and not able to do what I wanted to. This past year I have made some strides with my green smoothies (which I will write about another time) and started to exercise. These past two months, I was able to do both more consistently, and I’ve lost a total of 22 pounds or so. Now I feel so much better and have way more energy!
Through all of this, we’ve learned so many lessons, and in future blogs, we’ll share more of what we have learned. I will also share what our roles are with World Impact.
I am so grateful for the Lord’s grace in our lives. It was so clear how at each time He guided the healing process and gave us what we needed.