In September 2013, I went somewhat reluctantly to Gateway Church, at their new Grand Prairie campus. We had been over 13 years at one church, and 3+ years at another, but we believed God was moving us to a new church. We just didn’t know where. On this particular September Sunday, it was just my wife and I planning to attend the service as our kids were gone for the weekend.
I say I went “reluctantly” because I was apprehensive with the size of Gateway, watching a simulcast message, but mostly I was just reluctant to change.
We arrived for the 9am service at 8:45… big building, just kinda empty. At 8:57, we looked around and there still weren’t very many people. The worship team came out and I was instantly engaged. It felt fresh. It felt familiar. It felt alive. About 15 minutes later, without even realizing it, people had filled in all around me.
As our singing came to a close, the screen came to life with announcements, and then the day’s message. Apparently the regular pastor was out and an associate pastor by the name of Tim Ross was preaching. 30 minutes later I had forgotten that I had been watching a simulcast. I loved Tim Ross. I didn’t know him, had never seen him before, but his message was powerful, sincere, and I knew right away I had to come back, next time with more family.
The following Sunday I was introduced to Pastor Robert as he began his series, “Free Indeed.” My heart, soul, and mind were full, and even more so, they were overflowing. I could not believe the depth, the insight, and the practical means by which the message was delivered. We went to Guest Central and met Pastor Mark and others. Next Sunday could not come fast enough.
The Fall of 2013 saw several things happen, both good and challenging. I was grateful to be at Gateway during this time.
In October I saw my business of 10 years crumble. Changes that were outside of my control on the Internet brought my business from a nice stream of income down to a trickle.
One Sunday in October I went forward for prayer after the message. My business was sinking, and I needed prayer. Right before he was ready to pray, the young man asked me if it was okay if he shared with me some things God had spoken to him. For the next 5-10 minutes, maybe hours for all I knew, he spoke words that no one else could have known. He told me secrets of my heart and even revealed things about my dad (my parents were divorced when I was 2). Most of the issues revolved around money, my lack of tithing, and past issues. He prayed. I was devastated. I was undone. I was bawling like a baby. I had gone forward for one thing, but God had a different word for me.
On the drive home, I told my wife and son what had happened. We were all crying and we knew that God was pursuing us. Consequently, I have never seen this gentleman who prayed for me at church since that morning. He left that week for Madagascar for a short term mission trip.
The next month, November, I was taking my son out for his 13th birthday, our father-son-weekend-outing. We were staying at a hotel near the Gateway NRH campus. We were going to have our time together, go to Saturday night church at the NRH campus, go back for more time together, and then go to the NASCAR race the next morning.
During the message, Pastor Robert had a portion of his message, The First Door, that felt like it was specifically delivered just for me. In 30 minutes, all of my years of “theology” as it relates to giving and tithing were undone. As the message wrapped up, the Holy Spirit told me that I had not repented of my years of not tithing. So, I went forward for prayer again.
I walked up to another young guy. I told him that God had recently spoken to me about tithing, and for years (decades) I had not done so. He had spoken to me prophetically at the Grand Prairie campus, and that my son and I were on a trip, had come to the NRH campus, but the Holy Spirit had led me to come forward to repent.
At this point the guy’s eyes got big. He told me that as he was driving to church that night, he realized he had forgotten his name tag. He was preparing to turn around and go home and get his name tag, but God spoke to him to keep going to church because there was going to be a guy with his son that he was to pray for… Josh and me! I repented. He prayed for me, and then he blessed Josh and I for our father-son weekend. It was pretty incredible to think that God had orchestrated that moment to be prayed for by this one particular person.
About that same time, my mother’s health had taken a critical turn. Her health had been declining, but it took a sharp decline. The next Sunday I went forward to ask for prayers for her. For a 3rd time, God led me to a specific person for prayer. Mack prayed for my mother. He told me he had just lost his wife recently and with tears, he prayed for my mother from a heart that understood. My mother’s health improved that very afternoon. 800 miles away, Mack prayed for my mother with a heart full of compassion. My mother was still struggling, but for about a month, her health improved and we enjoyed life with her before God called her home.
The next event was my 25th wedding anniversary. It was an incredible time that Traci and I took as we traveled to Disney World (sans kids) for an incredible 5 days. This was early December when the ice storm hit Texas. Everything was shut down. Somehow, someway, we navigated all the back roads to the airport. No flights were getting out, but we went anyway. They shut down all the roads 5 minutes after we made it to the airport. The time for our flight came. Less than 3% of all flights were getting out. Ours was one of them. We landed in sunny Orlando, swimming, enjoying Mickey Mouse, celebrating an incredible marriage of 25 years.
The day of our return departure came. We were waiting to get to the airport for the trip home when my sister called and said my mother had been taken to the hospital. It was very serious. We flew home. I rented a car and left immediately for Illinois. It was snowing and freezing rain, but I was able to stay on the very front edge of the storm as it was on my rear bumper the whole way.
God protected me and led me to Springfield, where I found my mother in a coma. The next morning, the doctor gave his prognosis that there was nothing that could be done. She had had a very serious cardiac arrest and she was gone. About 1 pm on December 14th the doctors took her off the machines, and she passed shortly after that. She passed peacefully into the presence of Jesus.
I had the Gateway Worship CD, listening and singing on that drive up north. Somewhere in central Missouri, winding along Interstate 44, “Forever Yours” came on. The words of that song ministered to me in ways I cannot describe.
You saved me and I will be forever Yours
You made me free to be forever Yours
That was a song for my mother. She was saved and free, forever in the arms and presence of Jesus. Lauren will lead this song in worship sometimes at the GRP campus, and as she leads, my mind and heart are taken back to that strip of highway, knowing that my mother is wholly healed and forever His.
In the midst of all this, Pastor Aaron at the GRP campus was helping Traci with gas cards so we could help cover the travels to Illinois and back. Gateway was there for us. We were not yet members, but they were there for us.
2014 – Getting Plugged In
In January we went through Catch the Vision and got plugged in with Pastor Josh, helping us get plugged in at Guest Central. Our son was loving Wednesday night student ministry with Pastors Landon and James. He has found a home and has been loving it.
Traci was doing Pink stuff and we were trying to help out where we could. Later that year we became group leaders and had about 27 couples sign up at the Group Block Party for our group! When groups got started, God led 5 families into our group and we knew we had the beginnings of some great friendships. Our group was focused on families with older kids, maybe some out of the nest already. We’ve had a great time growing and becoming friends. In fact, last night we all met up in Mansfield to try the new Rosa’s Cafe.
We’ve been attending Equip classes, more Pink nights, student camps for Josh, hanging about 500-600 door hangers in August for the Michael Jr and Room 12 series, and special events at the Southlake campus. We are captains for Team 2 at Guest Central, and love helping our team greet and welcome new guests.
Getting plugged in has been the best thing we could have ever done. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option.
2014 continued to see the failure of my business, which is now no longer in business. I sold off what was left and have been struggling to find work. I still have a nice chunk of debt that I owe to a company in Arizona for my business failure. I’ve done what I can do, contract jobs, selling possessions, trying to make money where I can.
Traci has been working part-time and bringing in a weekly check. We have one vehicle and our son is home schooled. We believe God has not changed that for us and has led us to continue to home school through this season. The one vehicle limits the work that we can do, having both of us work at the same time. If God opens a door full time for me, then Traci and I will change places. She has work she can do from home while I work. It’s a unique situation for us, but it is working, by God’s grace.
In mid-2014, we met with Pastor Aaron regarding our financial situation. We were behind on most, if not all our bills. Gateway church, even though we had only been members for 6 months, stepped into our lives and brought many of our critical bills current. They helped us more than we have the ability to express our gratitude.
We do not have family in Texas. Our parents and siblings were not in any position to help us. We had no safety net. Gateway Grand Prairie stepped in and blessed us in a powerful way. Even as I’m typing this, I’m getting choked up.
We had sold everything we could. We had a garage sale, sold stuff on Craigslist and ebay, and it was down to a stack of bills that we had no resources to cover. You find out how little your possessions are worth when it comes to trying to extract value from them to cover your needs. To Pastor Aaron and the leadership of Gateway – “Thank you with all our hearts.” I don’t know where I would be right now if you had not stepped in.
The next several months we have been so encouraged by the staff at Gateway GRP – Pastors Mark, Steve, Levi, Aaron, Niles, Landon, Josh, Rachel, James, Gene, and many others. The leadership, deacons, and members have welcomed us in. Our home group, student groups, Guest Central group, and those we’ve met in Equip classes and just in being together at church – one thing remains true after 18 months as it was from the very beginning – we cannot wait for the next Sunday.
Who would have thought that a church of 35,000 (with 50,000 on Easter) could ever be so personal and make you feel and know you are loved, honored, and valued. It all happens on purpose. We are blessed. We are excited for what lies ahead for the Grand Prairie campus and Gateway as a whole.
And you will say in that day:
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. ~ Isaiah 12:4-5