24 March 2015


I believe I have been hit with my first repatriation quandary. Since I consider myself in “holiday mode,” living with the in-laws, borrowing the parents’ vehicles and only spending money on what we need month to month, I do not yet consider us repatriated. Once we settle somewhere, we can talk but, for now, we are simply stuck.

One aspect of our previously everyday life, however, has been called into question: What do we do about church?

I cannot speak for Paul, who was raised Catholic and later found his own path, but I was practically born in the Southern Nazarene Church. My friends went to the Nazarene church, my parents’ friends went to the Nazarene church, my godparents were members of the Nazarene church. As a preschooler I joined the Nazarene kids’ club with the blue bottoms and white tops, reciting the Pledge to the Christian Flag.

When we moved from Tampa to the Nashville area we joined another Nazarene church – a couple, actually. First at Trevecca and then one in a smaller town called Smyrna. We were in church every Sunday like clockwork. I was not an early riser in my younger days and Sundays always seemed to be the most difficult days to rise with the sun, but I did what I was forced to do.

I was in church twice on Sundays and every Wednesday unless there was a revival week, which meant that I would be in church every night for a week. I was a member of the Bible Quiz team, sang in the children’s choir and performed in all of the musicals, even the ones with the adults. I was one of the first children in the church’s inaugural youth group.

Church was not an option. I sang the special regularly, went to church camp and got saved when I was 6. Like a lot of Nazarenes, I was saved an average of twice a year after that because, well, that’s just what happens in the Nazarene church.

My family suddenly became Methodist when we moved to Ohio but the rules didn’t change. I was in church only once a week because the Methodists only held services on Sunday mornings, but I was in the youth group that met Sunday and Wednesday evenings, so don’t think I was slacking. I went to the church summer camp and at least two weekend away camps, plus all of the lock ins, service trips and random events that may have happened on a Friday night.

I was a church girl.

When I was old enough to be on my own, I began church hopping, trying to find a place where I could learn and also feel at home. I bounced around quite a bit but I never stopped going to church because going to church on a Sunday was engrained in my being – attending a Saturday night service in lieu of a Sunday service and then having nothing to do on a Sunday was a really weird feeling.

I prayed for and married a church-going guy so, like my parents, he sometimes forced me into attending church on Sundays, even when I didn’t necessarily feel like going. We went to church.

We found an amazing church in Singapore that reaffirmed our faith, reestablished our relationship and pretty much ruined every church we would ever attend the rest of our lives. Papua New Guinea had churches – and we attended at least four separate churches for a couple months – but we understood that we would only be attending church for appearances, meaning that we would only be going to church to know that we were going to church, and we knew that was not what we wanted to do. We wanted to attend a church where our hearts and minds were open and where we felt blessed, energized and enlightened when we left and, unfortunately, we just weren’t getting that in PNG.

The first time that we attended a Hillsong Church in Australia, I cried heavily through half the service because my whole being so desired the connection that I felt from the moment I walked inside. The music, the people, the atmosphere, the words, the prayer, the message – that was what we had been longing to find. Unfortunately, we did not live in Australia.

When visiting Brisbane and Sydney, we arranged our schedules based on the service times and I believe we have been to every Hillsong campus or meeting location in both cities over the two years we were in the Pacific.

Our experiences at New Creation Church in Singapore and the Hillsong Church in Australia were life changing. When we traveled back to Singapore, we went to NCC; when we traveled to Australia, we went to Hillsong. When we were in PNG, we felt that we had nowhere to go.

Not wanting to cut church out of our lives, we started watching video sermons through the Internet. Sunday evenings, Paul and I would sit on that stupid red leather loveseat and have our own church time as we watched Judah Smith preach from Seattle, Washington.

We first heard Judah’s name while attending NCC. Pastor Prince a few times mentioned his good friend, Judah, and we once or twice saw Judah’s face when he would send a video message to our church. While back in the States during a holiday break, we found some online videos of Judah’s sermons and we were hooked.

Every Sunday we became members of Seattle’s City Church. We tithed to the City Church and found the messages we had been craving in the form of a 30-something, trendy-nerdy-looking pastor who likes to yell into the microphone quite often. He is energetic, a great storyteller and obsessively passionate about Seattle’s sports teams. More importantly, he unravels the Word in a way that constantly makes Paul and me grateful that we connected. Our whole day becomes better after we hear Judah speak.

I know that my life in PNG would have been much different without Judah’s messages. But, like our time in Singapore, we have a hard time finding what we desire back in the states.

Since we landed, we have only really had two Sundays available for any type of church attendance. The first four Sundays we had family illness and icy roads, and my husband thought that by not leaving the house, we had a 100 percent chance of not dying. He was right but I wanted to go to church!

Then I went to Boston for a weekend, Cleveland for a weekend, I was sick for two consecutive weekends and then went to Findlay last weekend. All in all, we haven’t really been around and healthy to attend church on a Sunday but last week when we were in town and healthy, and I was really itching to go, the question I found myself asking was: should we be going to church at all?

Ten years ago I would say that we would go to church to learn the Word but now that we are in the social media age, we can bring the church to wherever Paul and I are. If we are being fed by a guy in Singapore, a team in Australia and a man in Seattle, do we want to attend a church just to know that we are physically in church? I am starting to think that the answer is no…

I have my own praise and worship portion of the service every time I am in a car because my radio station is tuned to K-Love. Those songs are so engrained in my brain that I wake up with them in my head and find myself replaying the music in my mind throughout the day. I once had an hour-long, in-home personal God time playing a YouTube video of Kari Jobe’s “I Am Not Alone,” over and over and over, reading my Bible and praying.

Sure, I miss the people who became my church family and, yes, I do plan on going back to a couple area churches to see those people again but when I feel worse after church than I do walking through the door, I know – my spirit knows – that that church is not my home and that I need to be fed elsewhere.

So I think I might be done with the physical church for a while. When Paul and I move wherever we are going to move, I will commence church hopping and pray we find a good one but, if we don’t, watching Judah on a Sunday morning after a round of pancakes with the family, on the couch in my pajamas, doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

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