We had five great years at NE Metro, but in 1999 some things began to shift. God had given us grace for the drive to Norcross. We were averaging making that trip about 3 times a week. At the same time, Julia’s mother had died, and we were thinking about selling our house on Button Hill and moving. It made the most sense to move over to Gwinnett county. Afterall, all of our ministry was over there, an most of our current friends. Although we still had good friends in Marietta, time and distance had caused us to grow apart. The problem we this; no matter how much we looked, neither Julia or I could bring ourselves to by a house over there. We just couldn’t find anything that we liked.
The more we thought and prayed, the more we felt that we were to sell our house and build another on the land we still had on Button Hill. The thought of building again was exciting, and pretty soon Julia and I were working on our dream house. We decided on a builder, our good friend Nelson Jones, and then we started looking at plans. It was an exciting time for both of us as we worked together to make this house special. It was a lot of work. We had to relocate the road, bring in county water and natural gas. We also had to have power lines relocated. The costs began to rise, but I was making good money at Delta, and we had sold 4 acres of the land to a friend, so it was within our budget. I was happy to see Julia so excited. I really thought this was doing a lot to take her mind off the loss of her mother. Her mother had lived with us for about two years, and died at our old house. I thought it was time for a change of scenery, but we loved Button Hill too much to leave.
But the grace for the drive over to Norcross began to wane. We began to find ourselves trying to limit our trips across town. It seemed that God was “unfeathering” the nest in other ways as well. At the same time we heard that a group from First Methodist Marietta were leaving the church and about to start their own church. They were going to call it Wesleyan Fellowship. We heard that there was going to be an organizational meeting at Mt Paran North. We both decided that we wanted to go, mainly out of curiosity. I had felt long ago that God told me there would be another church that would come out of FUMC, and this was it. So, we went to the first meeting, and it was like old home week. All of our old friends were there. Everyone that we had ministered with at youth camp, and many of those in our old home group were there. It felt really good to see them. Julia and I both were being pulled into old friendships. Our good friend Terry Cantrell was going to be one of the pastors, in fact the first pastor until Charles Sineath, the senior pastor at FUMC, could retire and join us. The worship band was pretty good, and they said all the right things that Julia and I needed to hear about a church.
We went back to NE Metro, and things went along, but in the back of or minds, and growing in our hearts was a passion for this new adventure. There were a few more meetings at Mt Paran and other locations and then it was obvious that they were about to formally start as a church. It seems like there were about 800 people. That’s a big church plant. I knew that God was up to something. We were really torn because we loved Tony and Sandy. I loved being an associate pastor and really didn’t want to give that up. The Holy Spirit was still moving strong at NE Metro, and it was still fun. We continued to pray. As we were praying, we had a big prophetic conference at NE Metro. I remember that Saturday morning. We were sitting down, and then we were called out and given a word by one of the people who had come. The word was this: “Grow where you are planted”. Although it’s a pretty specific word, it had tow meanings to us. First, where were we planted. Well, we had helped plant this church. Did it mean that we were to continue to stay and grow there? Or did it mean that we were to leave NE Metro and go back and grow where our roots were, in Marietta. If that was the case, it was probably telling us to move to Wesleyan Fellowship. It was hard to know, but the time for a decision was near. I left the conference and went and called a good friend, Tommy Fraley. I gave the word to Tommy and told him that I really felt that we were to move back to Marietta and Wesleyan Fellowship. He almost started crying with joy on the phone. He said that he had been in a dry season with the Lord, and had a was having a hard time hearing, but as I spoke, the Lord was telling him that we should do just what I had said.
So, with great sadness and great joy, we asked release and blessing from Tony and Sandy. Many of our prophetic friends warned us not to go. They said that Wesleyan Fellowship was a church that was going to blow up, that it would never make it because there was too much division. We were warned, but we had heard God and our eyes were set on going back, so we did. Littlw did we know all that was going to jhappen over the next few years. Those friends were exactly right. We were stepping into a powder keg, but it was where God wanted us, and He had a plan.