Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Breaking up is hard to do.

Yesterday I announced to our congregation that I will be moving in a couple months. This was the culmination of six months of agonizing prayer and advice asking. I wasn’t looking to leave my beloved church... and they weren’t looking to have me leave... so to decide to pack up go was a real stretch for me.

I’ve always feared that someday I would have to figure out if it was time to leave a ministry. The only other church I worked in previously figured it out for me so this was a new process for me and my wife.

Here’s the letter I read to our church this past Sunday:

Dear brothers and sisters of Kitimat First Baptist Church

Ten and a half years ago on July 24th (my birthday) my wife and I, along with our two children, jumped into our white Honda Civic idling outside our recently sold house in Regina and headed west. Way west. A week or so later we pulled into the city that we would now call home. A place where we joined in fellowship with this body of believers. I needed a job and you were silly enough to give me one! I don’t think I had really planned on being here for such a long time. Nevertheless, with a pretty decent sized lump in my throat, I am announcing today that our time here, as your pastor, is all too quickly coming to an end. In a few short months my wife and now four children will soon be jumping into our white Dodge Caravan (if it survives) and heading back east. A church in Swift Current Saskatchewan has called us to be their pastor and we have accepted. Coming here years ago was a no brainer. Deciding to leave here is one of the most difficult decisions Michelle and I have ever made

At the BYG ministry team meeting I asked the teens and staff if they had any questions. Matt Anderton simply asked “why?”. I suppose I should try to answer that as best I can in the next few moments.

Over the years I’ve received phone calls from church search committees at various times but always thanked them for their call... but said no thanks. About a year ago today I noticed that a couple churches nearer to where my folks lived had a pastoral vacancy. One was only a few miles away. I lodged that information in my mind and began to mull it over. While we’ve always loved living here the one nagging issue that seemed to pop up again and again was a problem with the proximity of our relatives. There was no proximity. It always seemed that the road for them to visit Kitimat was twice as long as the road for us to visit them. I dusted off my resume and fired it off only to be informed by the Area Ministers that the positions were in the process of being filled.. Nothing ever came of that and, frankly, I was glad.

Time marched on and then this past summer one of those churches called me up but it wasn’t the real close one but rather Swift Current. After explaining that they didn’t hire the other prospect I was asked to reconsider. I immediately said “well, I’ve got a good thing here, thanks for calling”. However he insisted that I consider it anyway and that he’d call back in a week. Now, I’ve been to Swift Current dozens of times but I needed to answer something for myself which was “what is the closest city in Canada to the place where Michelle’s sister lives in the US”? Well, it turns out it’s Swift Current. Then I considered that it’s eight hours east to where Michelle’s dad lives, seven hours west to my folks and lots of other relatives scattered around in between. Michelle and I began to chat about it and decided that we’d let them tell us a bit more. It was one thing to be near family but if the church didn’t need a pastor like me then it was not a wise place to go to. Our discussions led us to believe that we would, in fact, fit the profile of the pastor they needed but we could only be sure after we visited them which we did a couple weeks ago.

Which brings us to today. We are not comfortable with our decision to leave Kitimat but we are at peace about it. We sense that God is leading us to join with the believers there but, in a very real way, we do so as extensions of Kitimat First Baptist. I covet your prayers and support as we head to the mission field of Saskatchewan! Thank-you to all those who have been praying along side us during this process and, rest assured, we may not be your pastor and his wife anymore... but we will always be your friends.

Currently our plans are to move somewhere near the end of January (two months from today). We’ve decided not to take our holidays during the Christmas season, as we had planned previously, so that we could share this special time with each other one last time.

Michelle and I will linger around the front here after the service and answer any questions that you may have.

In Christ

Joell and Michelle Haugan

It’s funny but it seems God doesn’t call many folks from BC to Saskatchewan anymore... but it seems that people are always hearing God’s call the other direction. Here’s hoping I was paying attention.

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