“I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1
Well… God’s been doing it again. He’s been messing with the Finke’s. And Dwelling 1:14. Big time.
Let me tell you the story.
A Little Background
Believe it or not, Dwelling 1:14 has been offering training in mission and discipleship for eight years now. As a result, a fairly substantial pool of experienced practitioners has developed. Over the last few years, Susan and I have had a vague but persistent idea that “someday” we would enjoy reconnecting with these experienced leaders to help them see their next-steps for multiplying mission and discipleship throughout their congregations and out into the community. We had noted that even the most effective leaders eventually come to the edge of their vision and experience, and need a little help to see what God is already showing them next.
We also thought that instead of trying to fit such an opportunity into our crazy weekend travel schedule, we could have leaders come to us for a few days during the week. We would invite them into our home where they could get out of the noise and busyness of their day to day ministry. They could have space to reflect with other leaders, laugh, eat, tell stories, pray, gain important clarity and then leave with a simple plan for taking their next-steps with Jesus.
We thought this would not only be effective but a lot of fun too.
But when would we start this? In a few years? After we retired?
And where would we start this? In Houston? In a new location?
It was all pretty vague in our minds. Someday. Somewhere. If the Lord wills.
The Place is Here and the Time is Now
This past December, we were minding our own business in St. Paul, Minnesota.
(Yes, I know. But God didn’t consult us on this matter.)
We were in St. Paul to lead a local congregation through Dwelling 1:14’s Discovery Training Weekend. The congregation graciously put us up in a B&B which straddled the beautiful neighborhoods of Cathedral Hill and Summit Hill. It is a beautiful setting. But Dwelling 1:14 is often in beautiful settings as we help congregations around the country.
The difference this time? God was up to something new.
On the first night we were there, Susan and I decided to take a walk. It was cold and snowy. Susan thought it was beautiful. I thought it was… cold and snowy. We were minding our own business (frankly, I was focused on monitoring my extremities for frost bite), when we began to experience an unusual but distinct sense that God wanted us to come live in this neighborhood.
What?? St. Paul, Minnesota?? I am a Texan. I freeze easily. I visit snow; I don’t live in it.
Nevertheless, Susan and I both got the distinct sense that God was saying something like, “You know that vague dream you have? The place is here and the time is now.”
At first, we tried to shake it off, explain it away, reframe it into something else. After all, we love Houston and we love our neighbors even more. But God kept pressing His point. Bible verses, devotions, “coincidences” kept reiterating that God was up to something and that we needed to trust Him as He brought it to pass. Great.
Throughout the rest of December and January, we kept expecting the doors to St. Paul to close. Perhaps this was just God’s way of getting our attention and a more logical destination would soon become apparent. However, instead of doors closing, the Lord caused a plan to emerge and even a specific property in that neighborhood to be identified. By early February, our board of directors had joined the adventure and voted unanimously to begin the process of raising investments in order to acquire the identified property.
Amazingly, the funds were raised in just a matter of weeks. (That’s another whole God-story in itself.) By early March the board felt enough investments had been raised to make an offer on the property. Because the property had been on the market for over 300 days, the board felt a bargain could be had. The offer was made on Monday, March 11. Then we waited to hear back… but we heard… nothing. We didn’t hear back from the seller the rest of Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday morning. No counter-offer, no communication whatsoever. Nothing.
So, at noon on Wednesday, our realtor left a message for their realtor seeking a response. Four hours later, their realtor called and simply said, “We got another offer,” and hung up on our realtor! What? Our board had prayed for a definitive answer. And this was certainly definitive. But it was also confusing. It had seemed so clear that God had led us to this home in this neighborhood in St. Paul. So, what was He up to?
The board decided to wait and pray through the weekend and see what the Lord might do. If nothing had happened by Monday, we would meet again via phone and reassess our situation.
In the meantime, on that Saturday morning, I got a phone call out of the blue. It was one of our investors. They just “happened” to live in the same neighborhood as the property we had tried to acquire. They also just “happened” to already have their home on the market. The investor said, “Greg, this might sound a little unusual, but we’ve been praying about it and we think God wants us to offer you our house.”
(Did you hear that thump just now? That was my jaw hitting the floor.)
I stammered. I stuttered. I’m quite sure I made no sense as I tried to respond. I couldn’t believe the timing and the generosity of their offer! Eventually, though, I managed to thank them and said I needed to talk with the board.
The board, too, was astounded by all this. But, wisely, they wanted to take some time to pray, do their board work, and make sure due diligence was taken. They agreed to meet face-to-face in St. Paul the week after Easter. They toured the home, met the owners, and then met most of the next day to assess various risks, and, with the Lord’s help, to make a decision. By the end of the meeting, they had identified several risks to keep in mind, but they couldn’t ignore the amazing work God had done to bring us to this point. They voted. The decision was unanimous. It was time for us to step out of the boat and join Jesus on the water.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
So, the decision was made. Dwelling 1:14 would accept the offer and move its H.Q. (as well as the Finke’s residence) to St. Paul.
In the meantime, Susan and I had to go back home to Houston and prepare to move. That meant two painful things had to happen: 1) we needed to put our home of twelve years up for sale; and 2) we had to break the news of our move to our best friends in Houston… our neighbors. Susan and I decided to go to each of them and personally share this story. We are so proud of their spiritual growth over the years! Each said essentially the same thing: “We are sad to see you go, but we can see God is doing this. You better follow Him.”
Regarding selling our home, time was of the essence for a number of reasons. But, suffice it to say, we needed to be able to sell our home and take occupancy of the home in St. Paul no later than June 30. A very tight turn around in the world of real estate.
We prepared our home and put it on the market wondering what would happen. The housing market in Houston had cooled considerably in the first months of this year; because of oil prices, people were unsure of what the local economy would do; and the stock market was wonky. The bottom-line question: would we be able to sell the home quickly enough to make all the financing questions work?
Evidently God had it all covered.
It took all of 29 hours for us to receive an offer. 29 hours. We close on June 20. Wow…
A New Season of Adventure and Mission in St. Paul
After our move later this month, Susan and I will continue to travel on the weekends to bring mission and discipleship training to new congregations coast-to-coast. (Hello Knoxville, Seguin and Charlotte! See you soon!)
However, we are also excited for what God will do in and through this new setting. First things first – we look forward to getting to know and starting to love our new neighbors. What are their names? What are their stories? What’s Jesus already up to? What good has He prepared in advance for us to do? (We’re attending a wine tasting party at a neighbor’s home the first night we are in St. Paul.)
We still do not understand all the reasons God chose to move us from Texas to St. Paul. But, at the very least, it is stunningly clear that St. Paul is His choice. And the home He has provided is truly an amazing place. A 9500-square-feet urban retreat which will now be dedicated to helping leaders like you see, plan and take your next steps in mission, discipleship and multiplication. Once we settle in, we will announce selected weekdays starting in 2020 to offer this new arm of ministry to experienced leaders and practitioners like you.
Collaboration for multiplication! Here. We. Go! Woohoo!
(We will have pictures for you in the weeks ahead as we move in and get settled.)