This past Sunday we kicked-off our new learning series, Make Room, encouraging and challenging us to be proactive and invite God into our lives for the purpose of transforming the way we define Family, Reconciliation and Renewal. Week one focused on Family. Below is an open letter from one of our long time servants and family members Bryan Perez, who a few weeks ago departed NYC along with this new bride and fellow CCF'er Sasha Perez, to plant roots in another city across the country. We share this letter, as a reminder of how God unites people from all walks of life and creates a bond that transcends physical borders.
Brothers and Sisters,
Over the last 5 years as our family has grown, I have learned a few things. Creating family does not mean you will avoid hurt and pain. In fact, we feel most hurt when the circumstances involve a family member. I've come to know the true meaning of family. Family are those you sacrifice for, those you labor for, and those whose burdens you carry as your own. CCF, we are a body of patients who need the redeeming love of Jesus Christ every single day. For five years my faith has grown in this home. My discipline has grown in this home. My love for people and serving others has grown in this home. I even met my wife in this home. The Lord brought her here from Seattle. In this same home, she has grown in patience, love, perseverance and faith. God has used His people to grow both her and I in these areas. We are eternally grateful for the friendships that have been built, by the prayer that we have been covered in, and by the teaching of our God-fearing pastors. I don't say all of that to boast in ourselves, rather to boast in God, who in his holiness, decided to use all of us together, a wretched people, to bring glory to His name.
For a year while we were dating, Sasha and I prayed about what it would look like to move forward in marriage, given our attachments to our respective cities on opposite coasts. These were hard conversations as we had selfish desires to satisfy ourselves. We soon came to realize we wouldn't grow closer to a decision if we continued trying to make plans for our lives without allowing God to direct our steps. As Proverbs 16:9 says: ”The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” We were holding our plans with closed fists. Eventually, we saw that what we needed to do was relent and let God speak. Soon after that, we both heard Him say Seattle was where He wanted us. Here's a verse we read that gave us comfort:
I feel like God is like, “You've done great, you killed it! That's my boy! Now I need you over here.” Some people are called to plant AND harvest, while others are called to plant OR harvest. I'm praying that God would use us greatly in either of these ways wherever we go. We're trusting that God will still use our work, the work we did planting here, even though we may not see the harvest in this city or this lifetime. We're also trusting that we’re being called to a place that needs harvesters like us, with our unique experiences from NYC. Romans 8:28 says,
I'm only called to something if it's according to His purpose. I know that God will see to it that there's good in my life. But I want us to pay attention when He says, “good” or “your good” in other versions. God’s standard of good is different than ours. We deem things “good” through finite lenses. But God’s ways are not our ways. He deems things good through the lens of eternity, making certain our days and trials don't go to waste. Only He can bring “good” into our lives that grow us, strengthen us and make us look more like His son for His glory. So then, we cannot boast in anything we do. Following His will and welcoming His idea of good into our lives doesn't mean we'll always walk through fields of lilies. But oh, there's such a reward in bearing your own cross.
I want to be Jesus' disciple, so I'm gonna die to myself, carry my cross and follow Him where He takes me. I want my family to die to themselves and follow Jesus as well.
Lastly family, a brother shared this verse with me and it shook me. I want my family to embody this verse in Seattle. And my prayer is that our family here, at CCF, would do the same in NY.
Family, I implore you, let us not be a church that stands by the wayside of our brothers in times of adversity. If we truly believe that we are made family from strangers, siblings out of enemies and given homes from brokenness, then we MUST emulate the brother in this proverb. We are called, we are born with the command to bear one another's adversities, burdens, trying times and whatever other word you want to put there. If we fail to love our neighbor, we have played ourselves. If we fail to bring to life the theology books we collect in our libraries or kindles, we have played ourselves. How can we say we love God if we don't love the people He created whether they're white, black, brown, a basketball player or a golf player, a country music lover or a hip hop fanatic, an artist or an accountant? Family I love you, it's been such a joy for my wife and I to serve you in the ways we have. It's a treasure to have been used by God in the history of this church, and this will always be home. And by home, we don't mean NYC. We mean here, in your midst, amongst your infectious smiles, and in your warm embraces. We're super grateful for every single person here. I love you, we love you.