Raun Swafford, an African American church planter in Memphis, attended the 2013 GCA Conference in Orlando. I received this letter from Raun last week. Here’s another encouraging story of how God works through the faithful prayers and generous support of those who partner with GCA in equipping leaders to start, grow, and multiply gospel-centered churches.
Just wanted to personally thank MNA, Randy Nabors, Coach B, Wy Plumer, Steve Childers and everyone one else who made my trip to GCA 2013 possible. This trip could not have come at a more providential time as my wife and I are in the middle of making some major decisions regarding our call and place to serve. We moved to Memphis about two years ago to serve in what we thought was the ideal church setting for us. The people were very loving; the support was coming in almost miraculously….it just seemed right.
But over the last year and a half following a loss of leaders, three major moves for my family (two residential moves and relocating the church), a steep cultural learning curve of both my supporters and those whom I minister to, it has taken an enormous emotional and physical toll on my family. Through God’s grace and providence we were able to gather encouragement and direction from dear friends but still struggled with the decision of whether or not we felt called to stay in Memphis. Randy and Wy suggested that GCA would help with that decision as well as give me the opportunity to meet other brothers who may be having the same struggle.
They also thought GCA might provide some “Ah ha” moments regarding things I could have done better in the past and also guidance for the future. GCA did all that and then some. Not only did I get the direction I prayed for but was offered the potential of several different ministry opportunities that better “fit” my calling and gifting. As I’m going through my notes there were two speakers that really impacted my life to the core, Steve Childers and Tim Rice.
In Steve’s opening session he discussed the topic of “vision” with four sub points: 1.) The Glory of God 2.) The Kingdom of God 3.) The Church of God 4.) The Gospel of God. He spoke of how God has a vision to help us see how Jesus’ story lines up with our story…a merging of stories. He continued by explaining how God brings glory to Himself by making His invisible Kingdom visible thru the church. As he elaborated on this familiar but needed topic of discussion, it brought new light to the gospel in the context of where I serve and within my own heart.
Next there was Tim Rice who’s first topic was “focus.” Wow….Tim was on it! He began to speak about the Incarnation and then asked the question, “With whom are you trying to identify with like Jesus identified with you when He came to this earth?” From then on he used numerous illustrations which kept everyone’s attention and were very applicable to the questions I had. He was more than willing to take questions both during and after the sessions which helped greatly. I walked out of his class knowing my target area of ministry and myself much better.
Guys, thank you again. Please in prayer for our church (New Beginnings Community Church) and my family as we seek the Lord for guidance and wisdom regarding our future. Lord willing, my wife and I will be joining you again next year. Please know that I am truly grateful.
Raun Swafford, Senior Pastor and Servant, NBCC