A quick flashback to my trip to Kenya with 9 college students and 6 adults: We spent a great amount of time in the Mathare slums within Nairobi. Less than 12 hours off the plane and we attended a 3 ½ hour church service in these slums. It was an experience of culture shock to say the least. But the hearts of our team quickly broke for this place and we fell in love with the people there. By the time our trip was wrapping up we shed tears as we said goodbye to the 260 children of the AIC Zion school. Many of the students on our team echoed the same sentiment—we have to come back… this is where God wants us.

About a month later Carrie and I found ourselves on a visit to Penn State University attempting to decide what the next step of our lives entailed. Should we uproot from the Pittsburgh area after 8 years of ministry between two churches? Should we attempt to sell a beautiful house we feel is a gift from God and move our three daughters halfway across the state? Should I leave the title of “pastor” behind, along with vocational ministry, and take a job as a manger at Chick-Fil-A—in a place where I have no experience? Should we even think about trying to do college ministry in a place where there are 42,000+ students, most of whom are not oriented toward faith?

I walked around the main campus of Penn State in State College, PA on a drizzly afternoon with one of the students who had gone on our Kenya trip. She told me about the campus. She told me of how she had grown closer to God through the ministry of Campus Crusade, and how she knew God had big plans for this campus. She introduced me to friends and that evening, Carrie and I worshiped with their Cru (the Campus Crusade program).

The next day we drove home. We had reached no decision, but I felt the same thing many of our Kenya team had felt—we have to come back… this is where God wants us.

Carrie and I have had a wild ride since I came back from Kenya. We have chosen to leave an amazing church community to follow God’s leading to Penn State University. I will be taking a job as a manager at a new Chick-Fil-A in the town with the dream of birthing a community of Christ-followers in order to impact the campus. It has been a difficult decision. I have fallen in love with my wife all over again as I’ve watched her come along side my dream and trust God’s leading in spite of what she and I both might prefer in terms of comfort.

Our house is on the market. We have owned the place for 10 months and truly love it. I am nervous about it not selling, afraid of what that could mean financially. I am fighting my own pride of no longer being a full-time vocational pastor. I have found more joy than I can describe in watching the comforts of my life be stripped away.

I started yesterday as a manager in training at Chick-Fil-A. Today I got a minor burn on my arm from the grease in the fryer. This isn't what I ever planned for my ministry career to be. But I think I smiled all day today.

For the first time since I graduated from high school I am standing with Carrie and our girls feeling like we must truly depend on God. It is the first time in a long time (if ever) I feel like I have truly been living by faith. And I would not have it any other way!

The next couple months are going to be critical. As we transition to State College we are in the process of praying through a vision for ministry there. A great team of people have already begun to surround us and we are encouraged by those of you who are praying for our journey!

As we returned from the beach a couple weeks ago, somewhat fearing the idea of coming back, saying goodbye, selling the house, and blah blah blah, we sorted through our mail. In the midst of the bills that are starting to look intimidating a good friend had sent me this postcard above with some encouraging words—along with a check for a thousand dollars. The basic message from him was, “God is behind this. Trust it. Use this for what you need and be encouraged.” Both Carrie and I shed tears as we held tangible encouragement God was using from the heart of a friend.

The journey has begun. I cannot wait to tell the stories. Stay tuned.



July 8, 2010 at 9:32 PM

Justin, I really enjoyed reading this because I can relate to what you guys are going through so completely and I am so glad that you are getting the opportunity to see God for who he really is! He is so faithful and in the midst of your fears and questions, he will prove that over and over! I am excited for you guys and Jon and I are praying for you! We love you!


July 9, 2010 at 2:44 AM

Your journey is a blessing to those of is who are blessed to know you. Watching you guys take this free-fall into the arms of Christ and down this new path is exciting and encouraging.
I keep you guys in my prayers as you take this leap. It is awesome and the Lord is ever faithful.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand