Last week Bobby and I were invited to attend MNA’s Church Planting Assessment. No, we didn’t go “looking for a new job” there. No, we don’t have plans to start planting a church immediately. Nothing like that. This (church planting) was just something that God has laid upon Bobby’s heart for some time now, and through talking to some trusted sources about the topic, we were encouraged to apply. Just apply, nothing else. Well, we got invited. So we said, ok, let’s just go and see what happens. Just go, nothing else. Well, we were approved. And believe me, getting approved is a pretty big deal. (Not saying that we’re a big deal, just saying that getting approval is a big deal. Got it?) So what does approval mean for us? I have no idea! I view it as an “open door,” rather than not getting approved, which would have been a big fat “closed door.” We spent a long time during the week meeting with talented church planters, assessors, and professional counselors to see if there were any hindrances in our marriage, our relationship with our coworkers & peers, our ability to relate to others, and of course our strengths, weaknesses, and even potential blindspots in our ministry. We were encouraged and reaffirmed in many ways, and advised in some areas that we (mostly Bobby) need more practical experience. Wow… what a week! So knowing the end of the story, I’m going to back it up to give you the full (interesting)
We left home at 2:00 pm on Sunday, Feb 8… 2 hours after Bobby returned from a 3 day youth retreat. Talk about tired! I was originally supposed to go also (I went last year) but am very glad I didn’t so that I could get everything packed and the house/animals ready, not to mention sleep. Someone had to be alert enough to drive! We drove about 8 hours and then stayed in a hotel somewhere in South Carolina. Woke up early Monday morning and drove the remaining 3+ hours to Atlanta, stopping for a "QT" on the way, of course. Yum! We checked into our hotel and then met some of the other candidates and had lunch with them at ChickFilA. (Everyone talks about going to the south for ChickFilA, but we have them here in southwest PA and Morgantown. After lunch, the assessment officially began. I don’t remember much from that afternoon, but I know that by 7 pm when we finished, I was drained! I think we just went back to our room, unpacked, and crashed for the night. Tuesday was a 7-7 day … a really good day of strategy exercises, interviews, and worship, but very tiring. Fortunately we had a free hour in the evening to “get off the compound” and go visit some family. Then it was back to the hotel and time for bed. Wednesday was another good, yet exhausting 12+ hour day, followed by a LOST-watching party with 3 other couples in the hotel room. Last day of the Assessment: Thursday. We had breakfast and a time of worship, then we had to wait one very long hour to hear our fate. So what did we do to pass the time? We drove to the closest QT to get another $1.09 frozen coffee drink of course! Yummo. Gosh, I miss QT. So as you know already, we got the good news, and then had to stay for 5 more hours for an orientation. The material presented to us was very informative and beneficial (I love being part of a denomination!) but we were all wiped-out. I hope I can remember all the great things they told us. Then at 6:00, we were dismissed and all parted ways. Side note - by Thursday afternoon, most of us were already facebook friends, and there was a group established to commemorate the event. Awesome. So off we went... on our way to see the Spencers! We rolled into Aiken around 10 (I think) and visited until we just couldn't cohesively talk anymore due to exhaustion. We got a great night's sleep and then went out to breakfast at a cool little coffee/pastry shop owned by hippies. I had the most delicious chocolate chip muffin. mmmm. Seeing Shaun, Danielle & Eva was a wonderful end to a really great week (or so we thought it was the end, see the next paragraph...) - just wish Lily would have made her appearance while we were there! After breakfast, we were on our way home.
Left Aiken at 10:30, we were on route to arrive home around 6:30 until we got to good old Princeton, WV. Oh, how I hate you, Princeton, WV... A few miles prior, we filled up our gas tank and when we got back on the highway, I was driving and noticed a problem in the shifting. Our car is an automatic and it has a special kind of transmission that makes for smooth, unnoticeable shifting, so this was really weird. It would stop, then a few minutes later, it would happen again. It happened about 4 times and Bobby called the service department at the dealership where we bought it and told them. They said, well, maybe you got some bad fuel, but as long as the check engine light isn’t on (it wasn’t), then there’s nothing mechanically wrong and it should go away. Well, wouldn’t you know… not even 3 minutes after he hung up with them, the check engine light came on and I started loosing power and the shifting problem was much worse. Freaking out, I got over to the far right lane – keep in mind, we are in the major hills of West Virginia, there are 6 lanes on this highway and semi-trucks everywhere! Somehow, by the grace of God, I was able to get to the next exit and I saw my “savior,” Walmart. I kept telling the car, just get us to Walmart! Just get us to Walmart!! And we did. (Somewhere along the way, we called the serviceman back and he said, get off the road ASAP, duh!) I love Walmart, but this was probably the happiest I’ve ever been to be there. Not that I wanted to be there, but that we made it off the highway alive. So we pulled out the warranty information and were thankful that our car only had 26000 miles on it to qualify for the 80000 mile warranty, which included roadside assistance. We called them, they called every mechanic nearby, and everyone, including the Dodge dealer 3 miles away, was closing for the day and wouldn’t open until Monday morning. Fantastic! We freaked a little, then decided to have them call us a tow truck and have our car taken to the Dodge dealer to sit there all weekend and we got a rental car (which should also be covered) to come home. It was so sad watching our “new” car being put on a tow truck – a first for me. But no, the excitement doesn’t end there… first of all, when we got to Enterprise (right at closing time) there were 6 people ahead of us to rent a car. I am not kidding. In a town of 6000 people, .1% of them were renting a car at that exact moment – crazy. We thought for sure they would run out of cars before our turn came. But lo and behold, since we had called while waiting for our tow truck, they saved us a car. A miniature 2009 chevy aveo, which we soon came to hate, but nonetheless, it was a ride home, which we desperately needed. We then had to transfer all of our stuff (a week’s worth of luggage) from our broken car to this rental. I was annoyed, but was so thankful that we were able to do this in the parking lot of the dealership rather than the side of the highway with super big trucks zooming by! Excitement not over yet. We began our journey home, realizing that we should have been home and unpacked by now, and we are still 220 miles away, so we stopped at Sonic. What’s the rush now? We made it all the way to Morgantown and I asked Bobby to get off the highway and get some milk at Sheetz and then we could just take back roads home (the way he goes to and from work/school everyday.) We got about 1.5 miles away from Sheetz and out of the blue we hit a humungous POT HOLE! Immediately we knew something was wrong because we heard air hissing out of one of the 13 inch tires. Bobby pulled over and yep, we had a flat! UGH!!! We made it back to Sheetz where we took it off and put the donut/spare on and finally (FINALLY) drove home (at a rate of 30 mph) and when we got there, we didn’t even unpack the car, just went in the house, said hi to the animals, brushed our teeth and crashed into bed. Wow, what a crazy Friday the 13th.
Unfortunately I do not have any pictures from the entire week. I really wanted to take one while our car was being loaded onto the tow truck, but Bobby wouldn't allow me. Just so everyone knows, the rental was returned today and our car is back home with us, safe and sound. whew.