We moved to Providence, RI from Dallas, TX. We had a rich community of friends and family in Dallas. Our church family in Dallas was a great blessing to us and I was richly grown in my faith the seven years we lived there. But we very clearly heard a call from God to move to Providence and so we did about nine months ago.
People warned us, saying “God isn’t in New England,” “it’s such a dark place I’m worried you will fall away from God.” I expected that ministry itself would be difficult. I expected that fundraising and raising support for our ministries would be difficult. And God was close as we prepared to move to New England. My biggest fear moving to Providence was that we would be alone. We had wonderful, Christ-loving friends and community in Dallas. I couldn’t imagine what life would look like without them.
“Lord, what will I do without my people?!”
I refer to myself a “raging extrovert.” I love people and I had relied heavily on our Christ-centered community. My women’s Bible study was studying Mark during our last few months in Dallas. During that time, the Lord gave me this verse as we were praying about leaving all our beloved people in Dallas:
“Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.’” Mark 10:29-30
A hundredfold? What is that?! God is promising me 100 times the community I currently have?
“Okay God, PROVE IT!”
What does 100 times a community I love so much look like? I knew I could trust God with this, even though I didn’t know what it would look like. I prayed and trusted that God would provide a hundredfold community from Him.
Once we arrived in Providence, I thought the difficulties of transition would be over. Moving was the hard part, RIGHT?! What I was unaware of was how the enemy was going to come at us so hard after we had arrived in physical, spiritual, and emotional realms of life.
We moved into our new home on my oldest son’s third birthday. We joked that his birthday present was a new house. He’s a really energetic and lively kid. We love him to pieces. About three weeks after the move he became lethargic and had a low-grade fever. I figured it was a bug that would pass. After three days of him laying on the couch, I started to reach out to pediatricians in our new town. I called 15 different offices and all of them said they couldn’t take him without a well visit before a sick visit. So, I did what I do so well: I started to freak out.
My husband recommended that I reach out to a new friend from church. Great. One of my first interactions with someone I was hoping to be a friend was extending a need. But, I needed help! So I texted her. She replied so eager to help and gave me the information for her pediatrician. I called, and sure enough, this pediatrician agreed to see my boys just two hours later.
“Okay God, you had that one!”
Turns out, he had Lyme’s disease. So of course, the young mother with the crazy thought-life was spinning with anxiety. Being from the South, where Lyme’s disease is rare, I only knew what I had googled about it, which is a world of worry in itself. A few days after my son started treatment for the Lyme’s, he was still lethargic and so ill. I knew it could take a while for him to heal but I was getting stir-crazy being around the house so much so we decided to go for a drive to see a lighthouse, just as a way to get out for a while.
As we pulled up to the lighthouse, my husband pointed to a family and said, “Hey—we know them from church!” He said we should go say hi. Neither of us could remember their names and I was so embarrassed. But we started a conversation with them. They were were practically strangers to us except for meeting them a few times at church. They were so kind and invited us to walk to the beach with them.
“Yay God! Friends!”
HOORAY! PEOPLE! I was SO excited to have some interaction and to get out of my head for a while. Turns out, the Lord lined all of this up for us. This particular family had had their own experience with Lyme’s disease a few years prior. They spent over an hour with us sharing about their own daughter’s terrible case of Lyme’s disease, and encouraged us that God was close and that our boy would get better!
God was so near that day to provide almost-strangers to encourage us. The wife reminded me of 2 Corinthians 1:4, which says that God “comforts us in our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort by which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
When we got home from the lighthouse, the other new friend, who had sent me the information for the pediatrician, had left a care package for our sick boy on the front porch. I cried.
God, is this what a hundredfold looks like? Is it you using your people to encourage me in the deep places of my heart? Yes. That’s exactly what a hundredfold looks like.
And that was just the beginning of how God has revealed the “hundredfold” of community since we moved into ministry. Over the past nine months we’ve experienced the richness of this one hundredfold community in so many ways:
- In October, our basement flooded. A hundredfold looked like our pastor, an elder and a deacon at our house that day with a dehumidifier ready to help us with cleanup!
- In November, my husband and I were having lots of arguments and were stuck in a rut of sin and hurt. Our newly formed homegroup spent an entire SATURDAY night listening to us confessing our issues and praying with us while our kids watched a movie and ate pizza.
- At BOTH Thanksgiving and Christmas, since we couldn’t be with family, members of our church family had us over to share the holidays with their families. (They are so brave. We have TWO toddlers!)
- Over New Years, our heating pipes froze and burst leaving us without heat on the second floor of our house. A member at our church is a plumber and heating specialist. He came over at 10pm that night to help us and then spent his FREE TIME over the next couple of weeks to help my husband fix the pipes. And in the meantime, friends from church loaned us space heaters and frequently checked in on us.
- Over the past several months, I’ve been getting to know the women in my home group and to dive deeper into my own personal struggle with anxiety. This group has been a huge blessing to me as they minister to me and my husband in all of the trials of adjusting to life in a new place.
And on and on I could go. These are only a handful of the countless times and ways our new church family and community has come around us. Not only with physical needs, but emotional and spiritual needs too. And even outside of the church we’ve experienced the value of community. We have experienced such love and generosity from neighbors here in Providence.
So when the Lord gave me that verse in Mark 10, he wasn’t saying he was going to give me hundreds of friends but rather a depth and richness that I could not imagine. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE our friends and family in Dallas and we miss them dearly. But we have been incredibly grateful for the intentionality of God in giving us SPECIFIC people who love us well because he first loved them.
I love when I can tangibly see God’s care for me and my family. He is so good to make it so OBVIOUS that he loves us. It helps my obedience in listening and obeying his leading on my life. I hope it does to yours as well.