Four years ago Phillip was first approached by his best friend growing up about church planting. I remember the conversation well.
Phillip: I talked to Cory today.
Me: That's good. How are things going for him in Kaufman?.
Phillip: Well, he is looking at planting a church in the next couple of years and he kinda asked me if we would want to go with him and Leslie with plans to plant another church a few years after that.
Me: That's nice. We can pray for them. I will follow you any where in ministry. I will follow you to Africa, but God has NOT called us to plant a church.
You see, I work in the real world. I know exactly what people think about Christianity. They cry out His name, but it is not in adoration and praise. People in Africa already worship God. They worship the rain god, the harvest god, the fertility god, ect... They just don't know it is all one God. The one true God. They are eager to know the story of our Christ and that He died for our sins. Americans on the other hand are so calloused to what God did for us. Sadly, we as Christians have done little to prove their views are wrong. Having experienced how 'loving' Christians treat other Christians first hand, I see their point. We have done little to disprove their views of our own hypocrisy. So, no, I will not be planting a church in America.
Over the next couple of years, God began changing me. Cory kept calling and keeping us informed of what God was doing in Lorena and China Springs and my fortitude began to change. I learned that the US is the 3rd largest mission field in the world and that other countries are now sending missionaries here instead of the other way around. I learned that the population is growing faster than our churches are growing and that it doesn't matter that there is a church on every corner, the unchurched are not being reached. I witnessed first hand that the "church" is not four walls. Its the people that serve God unselfishly to reach the lost through showing God's love through how we love one another. I learned that being comfortable is not what God called us to be.
About a year ago, I was uncomfortable. I was angry about everything. Something was off. I went a couple days without much sleep and God laid it on heavy. I spent 2 days in prayer and fasting and crying...a lot. Even for a girl. I knew that God was calling us to do something I had vowed never to do. I finally said, "God, I am willing to go any where you call us to go. Even if its to plant a church. Even if its to stay where we are." Neither option was what I was hoping for, but I knew then and there that total surrender is what God was asking of me. So I told Phillip to get some more information. Let's talk about it. So we did. We were not in a rush. We didn't want to make a hasty decision. We had our girls to think about too. But ultimately, God has called us to reach the unchurched. Over the next few months, God's plan was becoming much more obvious. We had prayed that God would firmly close doors and open others and he very well did. Some closed harder than others but the ones that He had opened were like following the yellow brick road. There will be lions and tigers and bears. (Oh, My!) But God has already given us all the tools to find our way home. We just have to be willing to be to get out of our comfort zone and have an "I surrender" attitude.
Growing up in Abilene, Tx with my sister and parents, there was never a question about being active in church. I actually would get grounded from church because that was the most important thing in my life and it hurt the most. I loved going to church, VBS, His Kids, youth, church camp, choir tours, ice cream socials, potlucks...you get the picture. All of my friends were in the youth group. That's where I wanted to be. I remember learning about the missionaries starting in Mission Friends, on through GAs and then Acteens. I just knew one day I would be a missionary in Africa. God, however, had a different plan for my life, and a sense of humor.
I fell in love at a ripe old age of 5. The little boy across the street was tall, dark, handsome, and an older man...he was 6. My sister and I couldn't wait for that gray station wagon to pull up across the street when Phillip and Lee Pat were in town. We played until girls got cooties, but my crush never left. My mom had told me that God has perfect timing and when it was right, it would be right. I followed Phillip's life through the stories from his Mama J as he was playing football and growing up. I remember later on in life, one of my best friends, Karen, told me that she remembered me saying I was going to marry Phillip Thomas. My senior year of high school, I had the cleanest car in town because Phillip was painting his grandmother's house and so I would put on my bikini and try to get 'noticed'. We both ended up at Hardin-Simmons University and I just knew my time was now. And he gave me the "what's up" head nod. Not what I was hoping for. Three years later I moved to Lubbock to go to nursing school and I started working at UMC there and I went into a patient's room and asked if they were from Lubbock. They said they were from Sterling City. Well since no one is from Sterling City, I asked if they knew the Thomases. They said that their oldest son had just moved to Lubbock yesterday. My reply, "Here's my number. Could you pass it along?. And the rest is history.
The day I knew Phillip was going to be a pastor was at his grandmother's 80th birthday celebration. His dad asked if he would do a little Bible Study for the family since it was Sunday. Fifteen minutes later, and I listened to the best bible study I had ever heard. I was in awe that God had blessed me with such an amazing man and I knew our life was going to change forever. Four months later, we would move to San Angelo and Phillip would be serving as a youth pastor at First Presbyterian Church. Our ministry had begun. I am so thankful for those early days in ministry. I was not at all prepared. I cannot even imagine what God was thinking when he chose me to be a pastor's wife. He has had his work cut out with me. I picture a whittler, looking at a piece of wood and how he begins to whittle away the edges and begins to smooth and make something out of nothing, and see how God must look at me sometimes. I know He has had to pull out the heavy duty sander at times but, I know He has the perfect piece in mind. Thankfully, He has eternity to soften the edges. I know that I have not always done the right things, said the right things, or acted in the right way, but I have learned so many things from what I have done wrong in hopes that next time, I will seek God first. Since life doesn't come with a rewind button we have to live with our mistakes and ask for forgiveness a lot. But even when the whittler finds a weakened area in the wood, he is able to make it stronger and that is what I desire to do in my life. Just loving on God's children, here, in Elgin, TX