The last few days have been eventful to say the least. Last week Marlene's mother died suddenly in her sleep. Though she was 83 years old, it was unexpected and a heavy blow to the whole family. Early on Friday morning Marlene and I boarded a plane in Chicago, flew to Denver, changed planes and flew to Great Falls, Montana, then rented a car and drove to the tiny town of Joplin, on the Hi-Line, the name given to the region adjacent to Highway 2 that runs across the northern tier of the state. This is true "Big Sky" country, with flat prairie that stretches as far as the eye can see. On Saturday we had a funeral service for Marlene's mother at the Chester Alliance Church. Later she was buried next to her parents in a cemetery behind Grace Church, surrounded on all four sides by wheat fields. It is a beautiful, peaceful spot, just a few miles south of the Canadian border.
We arrived back in Oak Park about 3 PM on Sunday. At a congregational meeting that evening, I resigned as senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church. I will preach another Sunday or two and then my ministry will come to an end. I will have more to say about this soon, but for the moment I want all my friends to know that my heart is filled with gratitude to God for the privilege of pastoring this wonderful church for over 16 years.
This decision has been in the making for over two years. My friend Colin Smith of the Evangelical Free Church of Arlington Heights gave me an illustration that helped me think about things. When you get ready to transplant something, you dig it up and loosen the dirt around the roots. That's what I feel God has been doing in my life for the couple of years. He's been loosening the dirt so that we would finally be ready to follow his call. In the short-term, we plan to go to Mississippi and stay for several months at a cabin my brother owns outside of Tupelo. We're going to pray and rest and wait on the Lord for his direction as to our next step. Yesterday we started packing up my office at church. Many people have asked how we are doing. It depends on the moment, of course, but fundamentally we are at peace. The decision is entirely our own, prompted we believe by the Lord. So it’s onward for the Pritchard clan. I have been teaching people for years that living by faith means taking the next step even when you don't know the end of the journey. Now we get to put that into practice in a brand-new way.
To sign up for Pastor Ray's free weekly sermon email list, click here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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