Today’s Sweet Thoughts devotional is a guest post from one of my best friends, Summer Rangel. We have been friends since she sat behind me in Biology class in the 10th grade, and I am so glad she did! Summer is one of the best, kindest, most gentle-hearted humans I have ever met, and I am so stoked you get to see and hear a bit of that today. I wanted today’s devotion, which would usually go out by email to those of you who are signed up for my weekly emails, on the blog for everybody to read. When I asked for Summer to write a devotional for you guys, it only made sense she shared her journey of taking a massive leap of faith with her husband to plant a church in New York City! I hope her faith to step into the unknown encourages you!
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My name is Summer Rangel, and I live in Astoria, Queens in New York City. My husband, Danny, and I are both baristas in a local coffee shop, we love taking pictures, eating Mexican food, and just love living life together.
Today I am going to share a story with you. One filled with lots of stress, fear, panic attacks, prayers, grace, provision, joy, and peace that surpasses all understanding.
In 2014, my Husband and I were living in a small town near Corpus Christi, TX, serving a small church as the youth ministers. It was then that God ordained a meeting like only He could do, which began a stirring in our hearts for a place and people we’d never even met or been to.
I remember getting a call from Danny as soon as he left that meeting, and lemme tell ya- he was pumped for what he just heard about the work going on in NYC. Long story short, after rejections of mission trips, a move to a different church for a different job, and plans falling through, in July of 2016 Danny and I (along with 23 other people) finally made it on a mission trip to Queens, NYC!
We fell in love with Queens. Not because of the big city lights, subways, or even the food (well… yeah, the food, too…), but it was for the people. Our heart both broke and began to tether itself to the city. After years of joking about moving to NYC, God without a doubt called us to move to Queens in March of 2018 to plant a new church in the neighborhood of Woodside. We felt God telling us to stop visiting and start investing in these people.
The decision was long awaited to make the move, and not without some serious doubts.
The Financial Struggles/Provision
I could not see a logical or practical way Danny and I could make it financially here. I came up with so many reasons that justified NOT moving to New York City, despite the deep yearning I had within me.
- I didn’t finish school so I don’t have a degree; no degree = no job = no liveable income.
- We are planting a church — churches that don’t exist yet don’t pay very well.
- Taxes. A week after we made the decision to move we received our tax bill, and we owed everything we had in our savings account. So, all that money we had been saving and was helping us feel a tad bit better about the crazy move we were about to make… GONE.
When we made the decision to actually do this crazy thing of church planting in the country’s biggest city, we planned on moving a year from then. That would make our big move in March of 2019. It seemed logical, and would allow us time to build a support team and save money (especially after losing all our savings just weeks after we had decided to take the leap because of a crazy tax ordeal!). After about four weeks into our calling, we realized that a year was way too far away. And, to prove it, God was already doing crazy things to provide for us to go sooner. So, March 2019 turned into August 2018. In August, our church held a love offering for us to help us start our move as best as possible. By God’s amazing grace we had $40k in our NY fund account. That set us up to buy winter clothes, rent for many months for our NY apartment, travel expenses getting there, furnish our apartment…Just so much. God is SO good.
What We Left Behind
Change is always challenging, even when it’s welcomed. Leaving our church family at the church we both worked on staff for was one of the hardest things Danny and I have been through together. We sold about eight bags of clothes, all of our furniture except our mattress, our brand new dream car that we had just purchased a couple of months prior, and were leaving behind life as we knew it.
People would tell us things like how our faith was increasing their faith, how they wish they could be “Christians” like us, or that there’s only a few that are called who actually go. When you hear so much praise for simply being obedient… it can be tempting to have a self-righteous mind set about all this. I could easily fall into thinking, “Oh yeah, you’re right. This IS crazy and I AM stepping out in so much faith.” It’s awesome that what we are doing is strengthening others faith in the Lord and all… but every time I heard something like that, it just reminded me how much I needed the Lord. And, how nervous I was about all this.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
1 Peter 5:6-9
Once it hit me that we were actually dropping our entire lives to move 2,000 miles away, I started to experience anxiety in different ways pretty regularly. One day I was at work just talking with someone and my chest got super tight and I couldn’t breathe well. I literally ended up in a cold storage closet texting my sister asking her what the heck is happening to me, and she told me, “Uh, Summer, you’re having a panic attack.” I was in denial haha. I kept saying, “But no, I’m fine. I really am trusting God in this and know He’s going to take care of everything.” I honestly didn’t doubt that God would provide, but that didn’t change the fact that I was so freaking scared for the unknown. This kept happening up until the moment we moved.
I also experienced waking up with a locked jaw almost every morning for about three weeks leading up to our move date, and you know what? Every morning for the first week when we got here to NYC I would wake up with a little less pain everyday. It was just another way of God giving me comfort and confirmation in what we are doing.
I know anxiety is such common struggle for so many, and a verse that I would read and recite and speak over me was Philippians 4:6-7.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Two weeks into our big move, my mom texted me saying my dad found a lump on her head. She said they were going to get some tests done. Just moments before receiving this text, our pastor we planted with had literally just told me I needed to refer to Queens as home now, how I needed to really build deep friendships, and invest here. He even said there could be something that would come up back home that would deter my attention. He had no idea I had just received that text from my momma in that very moment, and I knew God was again giving me confirmation of our calling despite me desire to go home.
The next week on my way to work I got a call that no one wants to ever receive. My mom told me that she had cancer. This began a long journey of leading me in constant prayer, feeling God’s peace like I had never experienced before, and seeing miracles happen.
Because of the over the top generosity of our church who sent us, I got to be with my mom before the tumor removal surgery, after the surgery to be there in her recovery, and also when she finished her radiation treatment. I still praise God for providing a way for both me and Danny to do that. All glory and praise to Jesus, I can say today that my mom’s last screening a few weeks ago came back with no cancer!
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
We have lived in NYC for about nine months now. Things are going well with our church plant, and we are just so grateful for everything God has been doing in and through us since we got here. Church planting is not easy, yet I’m grateful for the challenges it brings.
One of my biggest challenges since we got here has been not having a routine every day. Working at a coffee shop welcomes crazy hours while my life in Texas was an office job with set hours that didn’t change. The challenge has been figuring out a rhythm. Every day when I leave my apartment I am interacting with people who look different than me, talk differently, believe in different things, and just live totally different lives than me. I LOVE IT. With that, though, I want to be so full of God’s Word that I am an extension of Him to everyone around me. I want His character and compassion, but I will not be those things unless I make time to be with Him and in His Word. It’s so crucial to have His word in my heart when I am immersed in a culture that doesn’t know Jesus. God gently and graciously reminds me to spend time with Him, despite my need to structure and routine, and always blesses me whenever I do give Him my time. He’s amazing like that. We are praying in faith for big things to happen in Queens Church, and are so honored to be a part of God’s work here in Queens.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
So here my challenge to anybody who may be reading this thinking God may be calling you into something that is scary and full of unknowns to just trust… It’s a hard life to live in surrender to Jesus, BUT WOW is it fulfilling! Not every day is easy, but I am full of joy and peace knowing we have made the step of faith to pursue calling over comfort. Knowing you’re living in God’s will is the safest I have ever felt. Moving here has shown me God is always for me and never against me. He is for you, too. Do the daring, be bold as lions!