Sunday was a sad day at Firewheel Bible Fellowship. Our pastor, Jeff Kinkade, led his last service at our church. Jeff has decided that after 16 years of serving as a pastor at Firewheel, it is time to step out on faith and take on a new mission for God. He made the announcement about 6 weeks ago that he would be leaving and, although the congregation supports his decision, we are all saddened to see him go.
Over the past year, I have worked at the church three days a week, with my desk in the reception area outside Jeff's office. Whereas I used to see Jeff from a distance, up on the stage delivering a sermon, over the past year, I've gotten to see the man behind that persona on stage, and I've begun to consider him as a friend. I'll miss our conversations about books and family and his zany antics at staff meetings. His wife Amy, who I worked alongside in the 5th and 6th grade class that Brad and I used to teach on Sunday mornings, is also a beautiful, wonderful person whom I greatly admire and have enjoyed getting to know. And Brad and I have taught two of their boys, Collin and Blake, in our class and we've loved watching them grow up and being a part of their spiritual growth.
I know what you are thinking: you're moving away in a couple of weeks, what does it matter that you've had to say goodbye to someone a little earlier than you were planning? But for me, I had this idea that the church we have grown to love and adore so much would still be marching on somewhere, even if I wasn't there to be a part of it. And I knew that with friends in the area, there would be Sundays where we could come to visit and reconnect with our Firewheel family. And although that is all still true, I know I will miss hearing Jeff teach--my favorite part of Sunday mornings.
Jeff has an amazing talent for making it seem that he is speaking directly to me each week, for breaking scripture down to make it completely relevant to my life, and I have grown so much over the course of the last three years because of him. When Brad and I first began attending Firewheel, I only went because Brad wanted to go. I was working 70 and 80 hour weeks at that time, trying to get established in the recruiting industry. By the time Sunday rolled around, all I wanted to do was sleep in and relax--getting up early for church was the LAST thing on my mind. But I knew it was important to Brad, and raising our children to be Christians was important to me, as well, so I went. The first Sunday, I wasn't sold completely on the church--it seemed so different from the churches I had known--but I really enjoyed Jeff's message that morning. I agreed to give it another try the following Sunday, and after a couple of visits, I was hooked.
Each week, Brad and I chose to fill our minds with God's word and the teachings of Christ, and that one choice led to more and more positive choices--reading our Bibles more, decisions to read stories from the Bible to our kids, and changes in the way we parented our children. Every time we chose to live our lives in accordance with God's will, we found new doors being opened to us, and found it became easier and easier to "choose God." It was as if we had been sitting on a hilltop, staring at a giant boulder carved with the words "Christian walk" on it. Making those initial choices--to begin attending church, to get involved, to step out of our comfort zone and into the life that God was choosing for us--was so difficult. We strained, we worked, we put every ounce of strength we had into it. But once we got that boulder rolling, it became easier and easier, and now, making those choices is at time, effortless. Not that God's path is necessarily easy, nor is it always simple to discern God's will versus my own. But the choice of who to follow--my will versus God's--we'll that's a no-brainer, these days.
Looking back, though, I know that it was Jeff Kinkade and his teaching that gave our family that initial strength to get that boulder rolling. And along the way, when we've stalled in our efforts, it was his spiritual leadership and encouragement that got us moving in the right direction again. And for that, I am so grateful.
Jeff has also had another major influence on my life, one that I have been hesitant to share until I knew for certain the outcome. A few months ago, Jeff told me I should consider going to seminary and encouraged me to apply to Dallas Theological Seminary, his alma mater. At the time, I laughed it off, and dismissed the idea outright. But wouldn't you know it--God wouldn't let it go. Every time I prayed or got quiet, the thought kept popping back in my mind. It was this nagging idea that I couldn't let go of. So, I started looking into it. My mind had a million reasons why it was a bad idea. But for every excuse I came up with, God revealed an answer. Finally, after days of praying about it, I told God, "If this is what you want from me, if you think you can use ME (which I still don't quite believe), then I'm in." I submitted my application to DTS earlier this month and am waiting to hear from them regarding whether I've been accepted.
I'm excited about this new chapter in my life. I have always longed to have a career that made a difference, that would offer me something more than just a paycheck. I used to dream of being an attorney that advocated for those who didn't have a voice, but then I married an Army officer, making a legal career practically impossible. Now, God has put me on a path of serving in His church, and I can't think of a more worthwhile and fulfilling use of my talents. Had you asked me three years ago if I would ever go to seminary, I would have laughed in your face. But because of the spiritual leadership of Jeff and his teachings and encouragement, because of the way that Firewheel Bible Fellowship has become a central part of my life, I'm finding the courage to let go of the control and place my life in the hands of God.
Thanks, Jeff, for your leadership, your teaching, your friendship and support. I wish you and your family nothing but the best in this new chapter of life. I know God has wonderful things in store for each of you, and I look forward to seeing how He puts the talents of each of your family members to use in the coming years.