Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bohanans on the Move

Just over a week ago, I was informed that the cabinet and Bishop of the Susquehanna Conference of the UM Church had prayed and unanimously concluded that my family and I are to leave Bethany United Methodist Church, effective July 1, 2013, to serve another church in a suburb of Wilkes Barre – Christ UM Church in Mountain Top, PA.

When Robin and I signed up to serve God through the UM Church, we agreed to an itinerant form of ministry – to go wherever and whenever God called us. By far, this move is the MOST difficult one we have ever been asked to make. Robin and I are missionaries. We serve the mission even when the move is a difficult one. We trust with our whole hearts that God goes before us and prepares the way for all of us – the Bohanan family, Bethany, and Christ Church in Mountain Top. We trust the bishop and cabinet to care for us and our churches with prayer and love.

This was not expected. Neither we nor the church council requested this move. Our superintendent did not suggest me for moving. The superintendent where we are going did not request for us to come, though he is quite thrilled. My name arose in the larger conversation and the conclusion was unanimous. This move is all about the mission, in this case the mission of our whole region and connection. And it is all about obedience to the call of Jesus Christ and our covenant to serve the church.

We LOVE Bethany with our whole heart. We love your mission – to make MORE disciples for Jesus Christ. Bethany has embraced this mission wholeheartedly and God has blessed you because of this.  It has been an amazing and beautiful journey.

What does this mean for Bethany? As of July 1, a new pastor will be serving Bethany UM church. Our church council will meet with the DS this Thursday night in a closed meeting to determine the gifts that Bethany needs most in a pastor at this important moment in Bethany’s mission. Our district superintendent along with the cabinet and Bishop will meet and pray together about who God will appoint to serve Bethany Church. Once that appointment is made, I will begin to work together with your new pastor to help the transition go as smoothly as possible. I believe in my heart that God has GREAT things for Bethany.  You have great leadership already in place in your church council and your staff. The Spirit of God is fresh and alive among you. It is a privilege to have partnered with you in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Please know that God goes before you and will continue to bless you as you continue to serve Jesus and his mission in the world.

What does this mean for the Bohanan family? We leave you, wonderful friends, an extended family, and partners in the gospel. The effectiveness and fruitfulness that we are experiencing in our partnership here are the greatest I have ever experienced. We’ll be 2 hours away from Robin’s parents, who are such a big part of our lives. Please keep Jess and Joyce in your prayers. Robin’s career is now up in the air. I know exactly where I will be serving, but she has no idea. Pray for the perfect opportunity for her calling and gifts in HIV care and serving underserved people. And, pray for her boss, her patients, and her colleagues.

Our boys have grown from teenagers to men during our time here. This has become home to them. Jesse will be able to complete his associate’s degree course work before the move, and we hope to find his internship in the Wilkes-Barre area, where there is also a Penn State Campus. Jesse would like to learn to drive before we go, so if you would be interested in teaching, let us know. As you know, Jesse does not like change. Pray for him. Caleb will remain a student in State College and hopes to work in a fine arts and music summer camp in Michigan this summer. He’s hoping to miss the move entirely and he knows he will miss the many wonderful friends he made here.

For Oliver, our orphan cat, this will mean a new home with new places to hide, pounce, and attack.

We will be packing. Yes, we will take volunteers help in this process. The parsonage has been a wonderful home for us. It’s in great shape, and this provides you the opportunity to get a few things done to make the home "just right" for the new pastor and family.

For our entire family, it will mean leaving a church we love, leaving you. We cannot begin to tell you the blessing you have been to us during some of the most difficult times we have faced as a family, and the blessing that you were as you embraced the CrossWalk Community congregation with open arms. We are so thankful to God for you. This time, the cost of following Jesus seems almost too great to bear. We grieve. We love you. We believe that God loves Bethany, and will pour out blessing on you.

Friday afternoon, the three of us drove up to Mountain Top to meet our new superintendent, see the parsonage, and be introduced to the personnel committee of Christ Church. Our new superintendent brought Caleb from State College so that our entire family could be there. You will be glad to know that those nine folks from Christ Church who met us on Friday love Jesus and desire to reach their community with that love. They are excited to welcome us as their partners in ministry. They fell in love with our boys. And, they’ve got two youth soccer fields out back that are used by the local soccer program.

Now, I am going to ask a favor of you. Please pray and stay. I know we thought we would have more time to serve Jesus together but you are ready for a new adventure with Jesus.  I can only have peace in leaving, knowing that you are all here. You share one mission. You love Jesus. The word is getting out. There is something special about Bethany.  It is not me – it is YOU. Thank you for allowing me to partner with you in this for five beautiful years.

One more favor. As difficult as this news is to share, I want to be the one to share it with our 11:15 service families as well. Please refrain from discussing it around them until after I have that opportunity.

For our prayer, I want to invite you back one week to Sunday March 10. Robin, Caleb and I met with our new superintendent on our way to our anniversary trip and taking Caleb back to State College. We talked for three hours. That night, Robin and I prayed together. The day’s prayers included words of Teresa of Avila, followed by a prayer and the Lord’s Prayer. I want to invite you to stand with us and make a circle as we pray together.

Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing disturb you,
nothing dismay you.
All things are passing,
God never changes.
Patient endurance attains all things.
God alone suffices.
Instill in us . . . the assurance that you are enough for us, God. Your love, your call, your work, is enough.

Our Father . . .

Common Prayer, March 10

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