I cried when we left Texas. A lot. Actually, I cried the day we committed to coming to Friendly Avenue Baptist Church so far away in Greensboro, North Carolina. I knew it was time for us to leave Texas, for Rob to start working full-time in ministry, but I cried all the same. I loved our little Texas country church; the youth and families there were my world. It was so hard to leave.
Seven years later, I cry because we are stepping out from that church. I love our big city church; the youth and their families here are my world. It is going to be so hard to leave.
I haven't posted much about our church plant stuff mainly because it hasn't officially started yet. We have one more Sunday at our current church but last week was our last youth group.
I'm not sure I can even begin to describe what happened that night! I knew they were planning to do something but I had no idea what.
One of the moms came into youth group and said that they needed everyone downstairs right away. Rob & I were supposed to wait a little bit, then come. When we walked in, everyone was wearing t-shirts with Rob's face on the front and "10 things Rob Cassell says" on the back! And it wasn't just the youth - some of our old youth were there and so were more youth parents and friends. We were definitely surprised. They had decorated the tables in Wake Forest colors and put Castles (get it? Cassells?) on every table. We shared dinner and cake from my FAVORITE cake-maker - Granny Brady!
Then lots of the youth had brought little gifts for Rob that reminded them of him. They each took turns coming to the front to give him the gift and explain the meaning behind it. I really wish I had had my video camera with me. Some were really funny, like a piece of cheese because he's cheesy and a book full of random trivia because he knows tons of useless information. Others were really sweet. The kids told Rob over and over how much he meant to them and how much he'd taught them. I don't think he really ever knew just how much of an impact he's made. They gave him a book full of pictures of them along with letters and notes. Do I even need to tell you how much I cried?
On top of that, they'd put together a slide show of pictures. We've been here seven years. It feels like forever and the blink of an eye all at once. When we moved, we had no family here, no one we knew nearby. In seven short years, the youth families of our church became our family. They were there for the birth of our first two children and they carried us in their hearts through our adoption of Amani. They waited outside in the cold at our house for almost two hours just to be there when we drove into the driveway when we finally got him home. The parents of the youth have taught me so much. I watched them as they handled the "teenage years" and how they have allowed their children to go serve God when they were called.
And what a joy and an honor it has been to watch our youth grow up. Some of our youth are now married, some even with kids! Others are leaving for college in the next two weeks. The ones who have graduated have turned into church leaders, spent summers in Africa, are serving in the military, are amazing parents, are getting their PhDs. They are following their dreams, from teaching to hairstyling! We've seen the ones still in school figure out exactly what it means to follow Christ; how to live for Him and are leaders on their sports teams, at school, in the band. We've seen them tackle their struggles with grace and persistence. These kids are awesome. Maybe I'm biased, but there is an entire group of youth that I hope my children turn out like. These kids are that incredible.
I know without a doubt that we are to plant a church. I know our next step is to be a part of a community called Missio Dei and that God is calling us to follow Jesus in a way that doesn't allow us to stay at our current church. And I'm excited. But the hard part for me is leaving the youth and their families. We've been in youth ministry for 10 years, 7 of them with these families. We love them dearly.
Thank you, FABC youth families. Wednesday night was amazing. I'm not sure it's possible to feel more loved. And I woke up the next morning so thankful that we have not been called to leave Greensboro. We are still here - y'all know exactly where to find us. We might not get to play as active a role in your lives as we'd like, but I hope you all know we are always here for you.