We once assumed we would live in Brandon, MS, for the rest of our lives. We built our dream home there — a pond, some acreage, the works — and we were comfortable. God had blessed us, and we were certainly grateful for what He’d done for us. We thought this was where we’d be.
But God had something else in store.
Some of the studies in our small group began to challenge us, and we sensed that God had called us to something new — to move. At first, to be honest, we struggled with that. This was our home, and we liked being there. It didn’t really make sense why God would do something like that. We had children and, later, grandchildren, and moving somewhere new could have made it tougher to see them.
His call didn’t let up, though. God poured out an overwhelming sense of His love for us. We always knew that He loved us, but it became so real. We began to ask ourselves, “If He loves us like that and asks us to do something, why wouldn’t we do it?” Our love for His Word just kept growing, and God showed us just how important it is for us to pray together as a couple. Our dependence on Him just grew and grew as the truth of John 15:5 came to life. We wanted to remain in Him and His will.
The summer before we sold our house, we prayed together and waited on God. But we would often try to talk ourselves out of the change we needed to make. Over time, though, He got through to us, and we knew we had a decision to make. Do we really believe God is who He says He is? Our answer was that we want to live like crazy while we’re here on this earth. We just want to have no regrets.
Our answer was that we want to live like crazy while we’re here on this earth. We just want to have no regrets.
So, we told our small group that we’d be selling our house, and a couple in the group said they’d buy it. That made it real. God gave us a tremendous peace, and we were actually anxious to move. We knew we needed to follow Him.
We first considered moving to South Jackson or even staying in Brandon in a smaller place, but God steered us away from that. For many months, we’d been helping out in the Midtown area of Jackson by painting, cleaning and other work. It’s a tough area with high crime and many rundown buildings. While we hadn’t thought of ending up there, the more we worked there, the more God gave us a deep love for the people and the front-porch culture. Eventually, we knew this was where we were supposed to be.
After we sold our house, we moved into an apartment and found a Midtown house in desperate need of renovation: plants grew through the ceiling, dogs had run wild inside and junk filled the rooms and yard. Still, it had character, and we had a peace about it. Amazingly, as we stood in all the rubble, the man across the street came to welcome us, and we knew that God had given us favor — as He has throughout.
We sometimes felt overwhelmed by all the work we’d need to do, but God’s Word provided comfort. We also had a lot of help. A small group from Pinelake came and cleaned out the debris. The college ministry helped us knock out walls as well — 40 of them demolished sheetrock, and 40 prayer-walked the neighborhood. It just made us stand in awe of God. He truly brought this project to completion.
You have certain fears before you move and certain fears the first night you’re actually in the house. Really, it’s just fear of the unknown; you fear based on what you think could happen and what people have said. And, to be sure, there are times when we’ve had to come inside to stay safe. But our fears aren’t stopping us because we’ve spent so much time with our neighbors. We know their stories, they know our grandchildren, and some of the local children catch the bus in front of our house in the mornings and feed the chickens. We know them, and we love them. In fact, we miss them when they’re not around. Our front porch has become the center of our outreach.
Even still, we wanted to do more than just be there — we knew we needed to disciple people, to share the love of Jesus. But it wasn’t happening the way we thought because we had preconceived ideas about how we could share the Gospel. When we turned it over to God and lived missionally, our neighbors began to realize that there was something different about us. When an upset friend came over to tell about the struggles in her life, we shared what the Bible said. She wanted to know how to study God’s Word, so we told her we wanted her to come and study with us.
When we turned it over to God and lived missionally, our neighbors began to realize that there was something different about us.
That’s how our small group began. Word spread as we asked our neighbors, and we now have a group of seven who study Scripture together every week. When we first started meeting, obviously we prayed after the study, but what we’re seeing now is that our neighbors are joining in and praying for others in the neighborhood. God has definitely increased their love and concern.
When you get in a situation where you have to trust God, His Word becomes real at that point. We’ve seen Him come through — over and over again. The Bible tells us not to fear a bunch of times, and the enemy wants to place fear in our hearts. Honestly, sometimes we can get discouraged because we deal with hard stuff, things we’ve never had to deal with before. But we know God is with us, and He does His best for us.
Every step of this journey, God has been preparing us. We found out that it’s not about a particular place or people. God’s been calling us to Himself. And that’s been the greatest part of all this. We’ve grown closer to God and to each other. We realized quickly that this is nothing we can do. God is at work — we’re joining Him in what He’s doing. This is His battle. This is His work.
— Chris and Candy Ray, Pinelake Reservoir