Laila and I were in Atlanta at a pastors' conference when our son Danny sent the first picture of steel being erected joining our church complexes together. "Relax and enjoy your trip," I was advised by more than one person. "Everything is under control."
Trusting leadership was not the cause of my restlessness. Being 600 miles from home when a dream is coming true was the crisis.
In 1981 the church complex consisted of a 36 x 60 two-story cinderblock building---painted inside and out. An adjacent two-bedroom parsonage had just been completed. It was a noble and proud, sacrificial beginning of a courageous congregation relocating across town.
Laila and I with our three children arrived September 1, 1981. Three weeks later we began work on new classrooms and a new sanctuary. Time passed and a new lobby and offices were added. Classrooms were remodeled. Land was added. Construction on the larger building began in 1994.
Later we had architects design a magnificent sanctuary. But before laying the cornerstone, the Holy Spirit restrained us. We put it on hold, and soon the economy tanked. We were glad that we had heard the whisper of the Spirit.
The dream to join the buildings together did not die. More than six years ago the congregation discussed the future. We understood that family ministry required improved access to buildings and greater safety measures.
It took five years to clear architectural and code challenges for us to obtain building permits. Groundwork done it was time for steel beams to rise in the air.
How I wanted to be in the parking lot for the adrenalin rush of seeing those red steel beams being hoisted by a crane, set down on plates, bolted and welded!
The staff sent me pictures by email and texts. My heart rejoiced. Yet, it was not the same as if I had been on site.
Make no mistake. The steel beams will not leave here when Jesus returns. But we go back to when we were worshipping 60 strong in a 36 x 36 cinderblock room. We built. God added souls. We built again. God added souls. Again. Again.
Again. Each time the Lord added to the Covenant Family.
Do we forget investing about $400,000 in Valley Covenant in Waynesboro? No. The church is strong, having been financially independent since its first Sunday of worship.
Do we forget that God has given to us power through the Spirit to touch thousands of lives in Charlottesville and around the world?
No. We will remember. We will remember the missionaries we have sent. The pastors we have encouraged.
The orphanages we have supported. The medical clinic funded in numerous countries. We will remember Dr. Linda Baluga and Ellie and Ernie Deomampo of our congregation who are currently on mission trips to the Philippines. We will remember Richard Prins who is often in other countries encouraging missionaries and teaching them how to do business in ways to support their ministry. Countless treasured memories.
We will rejoice for thousand of Bibles we have sent to North Korea, Zambia, Iran, etc.
Dear Friends, yet again you have succeeded in sending out a pastor. Simon Philip and Jesse, leading our Indian Fellowship, have been ordained to senior leadership of a transcultural congregation south of Charlotte NC.
Today, as this letter goes into the mail, a young man who had four pages of offenses with Virginia DMV will be driving again. His journey to find Jesus at Covenant and allow the Holy Spirit to restore order in his life has been a remarkable journey! Hats off to you: Brandon Williams. And congratulations to you Covenant Family for knowing how to gently help a person to come in from sin and grow in Jesus.
We will praise our God for discipleship that is raising up a powerful army of young people in our congregation. Super scholars and with incredible giftedness these young people are committed to Christ and making a difference in fulfilling the Great Commission.
We hold ourselves accountable to our community. The banner of Covenant must wave with biblical integrity. We desire to be a Berean people who know and love the Word of God. We yearn to hear the call of the Macedonians who asked for someone to come and tell them more about Jesus.
Patience. If Jesus tarries the building will be finished. We will cut a ribbon. We will celebrate. But our celebration will not be bricks and mortar. Our celebration will be that a door will be opened for us---a greater door---a door of opportunity to minister more effectively to a greater number of souls.
We see people. We love people. We care about hurting people and lost souls.
Such is our mission: To fulfill the Great Commission and pray for the soon return of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And, for the record we did not close last Sunday. Many churches did. We had two well-attended services. Thank you for your faithfulness.
Much love, Pastor Bare Matthew 28:18-20