Thursday, April 28, 2005

Leaving Paradise

Let me give you a little more background. At the time of our trip to northern Maine, I was serving in another church plant in absolutely beautiful Ellsworth, on the picturesque coast of Maine. I was the first paid staff member other than the pastor. My responsibilities were to lead the youth, direct the choir, develop evangelism and outreach, go on hospital visitation, clean the church, and teach Sunday school. I earned $150.00 a week.

When we first moved to Ellsworth, we lived 16 miles out of town, in a cottage that had been moved, by flat bed truck, to the edge of man-made Graham lake. Our undrinkable tap water was pumped about 150 feet from a cove of the muddy lake (we had to walk through the woods to a spring to get drinking water). The water pumped from the lake was so stained that when you filled the bathtub (no shower) you could not see your feet!

After a few months of living in the cottage, Sandy and I bought our first house through FmHA, a program for first time home buyers that was government subsidized at a 1% interest rate. The house cost $44,000 (I remember it well because my license plate number was 44000E). We were thrilled with our new house -- it was an exciting time for us.

We thought Ellsworth was paradise. We were loved, cared for, experienced tremendous success, and our time there was nearly carefree. The church had gone to great lengths to get us out of the cottage in the woods and into the little ranch style house. One family bought us a new bedroom suite and others gave us furniture. It seemed like the entire church family shared our excitement in being homeowners. It was there that I met Aubrey, one of the best friends I would ever have.

While in Ellsworth, our second son, Joshua, was born in Blue Hill, a quaint little town near Ellsworth reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. Josh was everyone's baby! Justin was old enough to love our new neighborhood and had a great time with Waynie and Tiger, twins who lived across the street. Sandy had a tub, shower, paved driveway, and no coyotes howling just outside the front door!

We had lived in this house for less than a year when the prospect of going to Northern Maine was presented to us. My pastor, Barbara and Aubrey, and Jack and Sharon were our confidants at the time. They prayed with us and let us share the questions we were struggling through. My pastor wanted us to stay, Jack and Sharon wanted us to stay, and Barbara just cried at the thought of us leaving.

Aubrey assessed it this way, "New Life has a pastor. You are not convinced that a second church plant in that sparsely populated area is your calling. The door is temporarily shut."

A few weeks later I got a call from Rocky, a pastor friend in Houlton: "Bill, the pastor of New Life left in the middle of the night. What are you going to do?"

I responded, "I am leaving Paradise!"

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