Church hunting

The military definitely has its perks as far as traveling goes, but it isn’t always as glamorous as you may think. Sure, we get to see and explore some pretty incredible places around the world, but we also have to try and make a life for ourselves in those places, which can be challenging when you have to uproot and move every 2-3 years.

Now, to some people this may sound like a wonderful contract to have… Being able to see the world, meet new people, experience new things, then moving on to the next destination a few years later. But for me, it’s something I’ve really struggled to accept. Creating and working towards building a life that you know you will have to eventually leave behind can be quite disheartening. But like all things, it’s something I’ve had to pray about and with time have learned to make peace with. Although change is hard, we realize that each place we move and live just adds to our story: helping us learn, grow and experience much more than if we were to stay in one place our whole lives.

We moved to Hawaii exactly 70 days ago. Willie is loving and learning so much about his job, we have settled into our house, we’ve met a few good friends and we’ve even explored some of the island. Sounds great, right?! WRONG! We’ve been missing one thing, in fact the MOST important thing! A church home. Most people are familiar with the term ‘house hunting’, well church hunting (as I like to call it) has the same concept, but with a few more determining factors. Just like finding and buying a house, finding a church is equally, if not more important.

First impressions are EVERYTHING to me: how do you feel right when you walk in… Is there anyone to greet you, talk to you, make you feel welcome?. Next, what’s the crowd like… Are there people smiling, fellowshipping, engaging one another?. What’s the demographic… Is there only older people, younger people, families or a good mix of all three?. Praise and worship… This can be preference, although I prefer newer contemporary music, I also love the simplicity of old hymns. Outreach… Are their opportunities to connect, get involved and meet people within the church?. Lastly and most importantly, the pastor, the head of the church… What is he preaching about… Is it biblically correct, does it speak truth, is it inviting, is it positive/constructive versus judgmental/hypocritical?

These are all questions that must be answered before choosing a church. Back in California, we tried 4 churches before we found one we immediately felt connected to. I never want to discourage, put down or talk badly about any church, for any congregation that serves the Lord is a sacred place. But I guess at the end of the day it all comes down to preference and what you’re looking for…

It may be a lot to ask for… But for us, we really wanted these things in a church.

  1. ‘come as you are’/nonjudgmental
  2. nondenominational
  3. family oriented
  4. strong kids/youth/young adult ministry
  5. good, down to earth, relatable pastors
  6. biblically accurate teachings
  7. powerful praise and worship
  8. plenty of opportunities to fellowship, socialize and connect
  9. community volunteering and outreach programs
  10. just to be in a place that lives for Jesus (a place where you can feel and see His presence every time you meet with Him)

Recently, Willie has been working quite a bit, so I’ve been church hunting on my own, keeping in mind what we both really want in a church home. I went to a church last weekend, which was good, but had some elements that were missing or lacking. This past Sunday (yesterday), I tried another church…

Anxious and alone, I arrived 15 minutes early. The service started at 9:00am, so I figured since I was early I would just go ahead and go in, take a look around and find a seat. Well, this church is comprised of multiple buildings so naturally, my first instinct was to follow the crowd. The crowd seemed to be going into this one particular building, so I followed behind thinking nothing of it. Once I got into the building, I was greeted by a desk with a sign that said “Welcome to kid’s church, check your kid(s) in here”. Everyone around me had multiple children and here I was alone, lost and quite embarrassed. Once I realized that I was NOT in the main building, I walked out quicker than a hiccup.

I noticed many people sitting outside in the courtyard, talking and sipping coffee. Still a bit traumatized by the kid’s church incident, I walked thru the courtyard and finally found the main building thanks to the praise and worship band who I could hear as I was walking up. Nonchalantly, I strolled in expecting to see a mass of people by the looks of the overcrowded parking lot. To my surprise, there was only a few people standing around and no one at all in the seats. Confused, I stood by the door unsure of what to do or where to go. Almost immediately, a friendly woman came up to me. She said that the band was just finishing up their run through and that they hadn’t opened up the church doors yet (which would explain why all of those people were sitting and waiting in the courtyard). As if this church encounter couldn’t get more embarrassing… Here I am feeling like an idiot, all alone and in a church that technically wasn’t even ‘open’ yet.

I was about to apologize and go back into the courtyard to wait with the rest of the crowd, but before I could get a single word out, she gave me the biggest hug, introduced herself, asked me about myself and told me I could stay with her in the main building until they opened the doors for service to begin. Talk about first impressions… Instead of scolding me, embarrassing me or making me feel stupid, this woman who I had never met hugged me, talked to me and welcomed me like I had known her for years. Her name was Tammi and after talking with her I later found out that she is the women’s pastor. How awesome!

It was in that moment, in that hug, that I felt welcomed, embraced, accepted and wanted. The smallest gesture that Tammi gave me, spoke volumes as to the things I want and look for in a church. As they opened the doors and everyone began to flood in and grab a seat, I sat next to, met and talked with another girl, Teresa. It was also her first time attending this church, which felt comforting to have some common ground with at least one person in a room of many. The service proceeded into prayer, amazing praise and worship, communion and eventually into the sermon.

After service ended and I walked out of those church doors, a feeling of certainty came over me. My mind felt refreshed, my body felt rested and my heart felt ready to love. All feelings that I didn’t get from any of the other churches that I tried. Sometimes God has a funny way of showing us where we need to be, like walking into kids church and barging into a service that hasn’t even begun. However, it is up to us to embrace those gut feelings He puts inside of us. It’s important we listen to them and acknowledge them so we can get to the place where He wants us to be, a place of a love, community and belonging.

We are so thankful that we have finally found our church home here in Hawaii! We are excited and eager to get connected and involved and are ready to be used in whatever way He needs. Thank you all for your constant prayers and encouragement as we continue to create a life here on the island.

We love you all!

XOXO

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