It feels like anywhere you go in the Church of the Nazarene; you walk into the room and you are home. It certainly felt this way this past weekend as Katie and I kicked off our deputation tour of East Tennessee. We spent nearly four years of our lives ministering at Cowan Church of the Nazarene and belonging to the Franklin County community of Nazarene churches. So, naturally, we pulled into the parking lot of Cowan Church of the Nazarene at 9:55AM, and being greeted by Pastor Bill Welch and John Butler at the door, felt that we were being welcomed home for a visit with family.
What a wonderful time we had worshipping with our wonderful Cowan Church of the Nazarene family. We were so grateful to have the opportunity to share our hearts with them. This was our first service sharing our passion and vision for God’s calling to Bulgaria and as Katie said from the platform, “It feels like we can make mistakes not quite be perfect and our family will be gracious and kind, not judging us too harshly, because you know our hearts.” We felt the presence of our Lord as we worshipped and told. We are grateful for the generosity and welcome that we received.
After service John and Sandra Butler took us to lunch at one of our local favorites right across from the active Cowan railroad tracks. Jude could not have been more elated! He paused to admire the two trains that passed during the course of our meal with exclamations of excitement and wonder.
Naturally, after lunch we headed over to the old train museum with John and Sandra and watched Jude rapturously clamber over every inch of the old train wearing an ear to ear grin the entire time! I am not sure we could have put Cowan Church of the Nazarene in our review mirror with any greater a measure of joy, love, gratitude, and hope that every visit would be similar.
Jude and Kate had not had a nap and were tired and cranky for want of one, so we dropped them with Katie’s dad (Allan) and headed for our service at Warren Chapel. As we pulled into the parking lot at 4:45PM we were immediately struck by the beauty of the panorama. We were greeted by a beautiful sunset falling behind a sea of lush green soybean fields backed by a mountainous horizon. There at the foot of the mountain, with the sunset turning all to golden hues, we had our second opportunity to share our hearts. We were greeted by the pastor and NMI president, Sherrie McBee, who had prepared a beautiful bulletin board announcing our deputation service at the entrance to the sanctuary. It felt like being in the company of old friends anxious to hear our story.
The moment that most struck me, and which I will not soon forget, was near the conclusion of the special song that we shared as a conclusion to the message. I heard shouts and declarations of praise and as I looked up, I saw hands raised in worship to the God of every nation. Here in the sea of soybean and on the other side of the globe in the sea of the city, God is living, active, and worthy of all praise! After bidding everyone farewell, we lingered in the parking lot, arm in arm, trying to drink in all the life and beauty of that sweet sunset. Again, as we put Warren Chapel in our review mirror, we began to name the blessing of this church, of this district, of this journey, of this calling, and to claim in faith that as sure as the sun will rise again tomorrow, God will be faithful on this journey.