We're Moving!

The McGees are moving to New York! I type this with a breath of relief and a knot in my stomach. I'm scared, excited, and so thankful. Here's the full long-version of the story:

Part 1: The Seed Was Planted!
During Will's senior year of college, Will was given the offer to come work with a church plant in New York City right after he graduated. He loved the city and thought that it was a great opportunity. He sought counsel from other pastors who knew his long-term vision of being a pastor, and they encouraged him to go to seminary first. The seed of a love for New York was planted when Will was only 22, but there were many steps that had to happen before it could become a reality.

When we lived in Raleigh-Durham during Will's time at seminary, we were a part of a church that valued church planting and sending out missionaries. We constantly heard scriptures about the importance of going and being a part of the global mission to share Christ with those who did not believe. We felt convicted that we should be a part of that calling. During this season Will felt called to be a pastor in an urban setting. We thought that we would be involved in a church plant through our former church, The Summit, and had two paths presented to us: Will could stay on staff at our large church in a small associate role, learning from the amazing team of pastors and church planters in our community, or we could go to Alabama and start a college ministry, where Will would have the opportunity to preach every week to a large congregation.

We felt that ministry in Alabama was where God was leading us, and we thought that the opportunity in Alabama would better equip Will to begin and lead a new church one day. During our job interview in Alabama, the search committee asked Will what his 5-year vision was, and Will told them it was church planting. Even though we were moving to Alabama, our heart's desire was still New York and planting a church. We trusted God that He was ordaining our steps, even if it meant going to Alabama and that didn't make sense to us!

Part 2: Waiting in the Pasture
Moving to Alabama was really hard. The first two years felt like we were in a holding pen. Ministry was slow, the wait for our adoption was agonizing. I (Rebekah) wanted to be a mom so badly and I felt like an outsider in our community. (By God's grace I don't feel like that now, but back to the story!). We constantly reflected on a sermon our former pastor preached about David being anointed as king but returning to the pasture as a shepherd until his time to reign actually happened. We felt that we had a calling to be church planters, but we were sent to the pasture to wait and grow. I remember looking at each other several times and wondering, "what are we doing here?!" but God was so faithful.

As I said, the first years were hard. And then...suddenly... we loved it here. We really loved our students, we felt like things were finally clicking in their heads and there was fruit from the plowing that the Lord did through our hands. The college ministry grew by hundreds of students. Will's skills in graphic design, preaching, discipling others, etc., were really coming along. We were able to look at each other and we could testify to God's faithfulness in our season in Alabama. We could already see specific purposes for our time here. We have grown as a couple, we brought our two babies home here, we had the support system that Israel needed, and Will was able to complete all of his PhD seminars (all he has left now is dissertation).

Part 3: The Calling Returns
Over the past few years, Will and I have continued to feel a stirring in our heart for New York. We've taken brief trips and followed New York social media accounts. We have had different opportunities to see what God is doing in the city, and we have always been encouraged by the believers who are working there. There have been times when we have daydreamed about what it would be like to live in the city. We have looked at neighborhoods and boroughs and have had conversations with church leaders and church planters who live in urban settings. There were a few times where we thought maybe God was calling us to New York in a specific way, but each time we didn't feel a peace. We just had this gut feeling that we weren't done in Alabama yet. We didn't feel clarity that our engageJSU chapter should be closed.

At one point we were offered the position to plant a church in New York with our former church, the Summit.  Let me tell you, this was one of the hardest decisions we had to make. We had our dream on a plate in front of us, but we didn't have a peace about it. Israel was in a hard place at the time and he wasn't yet walking in a walker. We were months away from an important neurologist appointment (when he received his CP diagnosis), owning our own equipment (walker, wheelchair) and having an IEP started. We again didn't feel like we should leave engageJSU. We were confused, we were heartbroken. We'd waited in the pasture for this! And it wasn't right?! We decided to stay in Jacksonville for a while longer. Plant roots. I needed it. I needed to have a deep community somewhere, and had never really felt that connected in Jacksonville. I wanted to let my heart rest and just BE somewhere without thinking about the next step or where we could possibly live. We stopped looking at NYC neighborhoods and stopped talking about planting. We thought through where else God could take us. What if it wasn't New York? What if Israel couldn't handle the city? What if when we adopted Israel, it meant that we had to let this dream go?

Part 4: The Right Timing.
This past year in Jacksonville was so good. I really have to honor the Lord for that, because He was so faithful. Ministry was good, we both felt fruitful and that we were making an impact in the lives of students. I was able to lead small groups of college students, Will started a Pastor School for students wanting to go into ministry. I had close friends, finished school and got my LGSW license. Will passed his PhD comprehensive exams. Israel had an IEP, started making huge progress, and even started walking! We felt truly blessed.

Then... an opportunity came up.

When Will had been making connections in the previous years, he developed some relationships with a church planting company called Orchard Group. Orchard Group plants churches in urban contexts, and they wanted to be one of our collaborators if/when we planted a church in New York. Just before Christmas, one of the Orchard Group staff members emailed Will that a small church in Brooklyn, one of their church plants from 15 years ago, had an opening for a lead pastor and they immediately thought of him. Will looked into the situation and it seemed almost too good to be true. In Brooklyn! They have about 80 faithful members, an office, a rented worship space, two part-time staff members! This church has so much potential and it is a truly amazing group of diverse people who love the Lord.

So, we began the interview process. Will had several Skype calls, email sessions, and finally for our anniversary, we spent a whirlwind weekend in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with our future church. They had narrowed the candidates down to Will and another pastor. We were able to spend time with many of the members, and walk around the neighborhood. We could picture our lives there. After we had gone home, we found ourselves thinking about the people and the church. The Lord was already moving in our hearts and we knew that He could use us in that setting! The search committee picked Will and the church voted on it to affirm the choice. Will was chosen to be the lead pastor of the church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn! Is this real life?!

Part 5: So What Now? (and Reflections)
The plan is that we are going to move at the beginning of June. The church is small and already has a TIGHT budget... so we have to raise a good portion of our salary. That is very humbling and intimidating! We cannot move unless we are supported by others. We hope that long-term, the church will grow and we will not need to raise support. However, we know that in the first few years we will need the support of others to SEND us on mission to New York.

Honestly it is so crazy to finally be in this position. We've daydreamed about this and thought that we had to let this dream go at several points. It is truly the Lord who ordained this whole journey and we feel that we are equipped to GO and live missionally and guide the church. Will is always challenging our students to go and live in a strategic place. It has been really hard to read Isaiah 6 and know that WE wanted to be sent, but it wasn't our time (not that living in Jacksonville hasn't been purposeful, but we are in a very churched area and wanted to live somewhere outside of the Bible Belt). Our time in Jacksonville has been so edifying and good for us. We love our church, and it is going to be really sad to go... but we trust that our church is not going to see that we are leaving them, but that they are sending us.

So here's to a new and crazy chapter in our lives... life in the city!

We finally have our website ready to go! If you would like to learn more about our move to NYC, and would consider partnering with us in the mission, please check it out and SHARE! www.McGeesinNYC.com - you can find out more about the financial need and how we are trusting the Lord for partners with us in our mission. Thank you so much!

Thank you for your encouragement, prayers, and support! We're really doing this!!! **

A Message From Will from engageJSU on Vimeo.


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  2. It truly feels great whenever something happens, which then sets off a chain of events that lead into a new adventure. And New York is a constant adventure, so I'm glad that you have made it there. I'm sure that you will write more about this in the near future, as well as the time you that were still preparing for your move. Cheers!

    Robyn Harmon @ Hills Moving


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