Planting a House Church in Bend, Oregon Featured

Wednesday, 21 September 2016 12:15

Prior to May 2016, Bend, Oregon represented a city in the middle of Oregon, the home of my close friend Kathy Daniel, and a city that was waiting for a church planting from our fellowship of churches. However, my brief email inquiry on the University Church of Eugene website on May 15th forever changed my relationship with Bend. My inquiry was to simply ask when the Bend church planting was going to start, for I was looking out for the best interest of my friend Kathy Daniel.

boyd and mitchell families in bend oregon
The Boyd and Mitchell families visiting Bend.
However, the conversation my husband and I had with Kelly Boyd, the leader of the Eugene church, set in motion the Mitchell family (me, my husband and our 19-year-old daughter) selling our California home and buying a home in Bend to start a house church. The time between the email inquiry and owning a home in Bend occurred in a short 16 weeks. On September 4, 2016, we pulled into the driveway of our new home in Bend where our agent was waiting to hand us the keys. We opened the door to a new life and new relationship with Bend.

Our journey to Bend actually started many years prior to September 2016. Kathy, who has been living in Bend for the past eight years with her husband, was baptized into Christ in 2010 by her son, Matt Thomas, at the Orange County Church of Christ of which we have been members for 23 years. Kathy returned to Bend after her baptism and was promised that there would be an eventual church planting from our family of churches. I was introduced to Kathy shortly after her baptism, and every week for the past six years Kathy and I prayed on the phone for a church planting to come to Bend. However, my understanding of a church planting is that there would be a full-time staff couple, several families wiling to uproot and move and a special contribution and/or several years of support from a more mature church. This type of planting did not seem to be in the works for Bend.

When my husband and I spoke to Kelly we learned of a different way to start a church in a city. What he explained made sense to us that this might be another solution for planting churches in smaller towns across the country. Kelly asked if we were willing to be the “mom and pop” of the church in Bend by hosting a house church in our home as well as inviting a One Year Challenge sister and a single sister to live with us to help with the ministry. Kelly also said that the Eugene church would send brothers to live in housing near the campus in Bend to help start a campus ministry. This reminded us of the verse in Acts 8:4, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

This invitation from Kelly made sense to Kevin and I, for we had already been serving as a “mom and pop” in Orange County for several years. Over the last four years, we had two campus interns living with us and with that came the continual stream of campus students visiting our home. My husband and I found that the campus brothers and sisters kept our faith alive and exciting and they inspired our daughter in her faith also. I decided from this involvement with the campus that perhaps someday Kevin and I could replicate what we did in Orange County in a new church planting. Well, that day came.

mitchell family and university church of eugene
The Mitchells and campus students in Eugene.
Before we decided to take the leap of faith and put our home on the market and move to Bend, my husband, daughter and I flew to Eugene over the July 4th weekend to visit Kelly and Cheryl and take a day trip to Bend with them to scout the land. We fell in love with Kelly and Cheryl, the University Church of Eugene, and Bend. After we returned from Bend we sat at our kitchen counter and drew a line down the middle of a piece of paper and wrote the cons of moving to Bend on one side and the pros on the other. We then spent time in prayer and fasting.

After our assessment period, it was obvious to us that we were set up in every way to make this move to Bend and help start a church there. My husband’s company of 12 years was sold the week before our pros and cons discussion and he was not going with the new owner; therefore, he was ready for a new beginning. Our 19-year-old daughter was in the middle of her gap year from college and was working at Pier One and eager to go to school somewhere other than Orange County, where she has lived since we brought her home from China. I had been working for the Bank of California as a report developer and was starting to get the idea that perhaps I could work remotely from Bend. It was worth a try to ask my manager. In addition, Kevin and I were about to pay off our California home which would allow us to buy a house for cash in Bend and live debt free. So we asked ourselves, “Why not us?”

Once we realized that we were capable of making the move to Bend and that the timing was right, we put our house on the market. Within three days we had three offers and we accepted the one over asking price. Immediately after we signed escrow papers, Kevin drove to Bend to meet with an agent to look at houses. Meanwhile, I left the escrow office to return to work. I immediately walked into my manager’s office and told her I was giving my four-week notice because we were selling our home and moving to Bend. In this conversation with my manager I inquired if working remotely would be a possibility and the answer was a resounding “yes.”  Kevin made it to our real estate agent’s office in Bend the next morning. When he did, I called them to say that of all the houses I looked at online since May, there was a particular house that had everything we needed for a house church. They went, they saw and Kevin put in an offer of $9,000 less than list price and they accepted our offer. We were now in escrow on two houses – one we were selling and one we were purchasing.

During the month of August when we were in escrow on two houses, Kevin hiked the John Muir trail, a 220-mile trek across Yosemite Valley to Mt. Whitney. He had been planning this hike for eight months and believed that he could make it happen even though we were getting ready to move. Kevin did all the heavy lifting to get the house packed and left Lian and I to coordinate with the moving company and get our two cars up to Bend. The week and a half before both escrows’ simultaneously closed, I had no contact with Kevin because he was in a remote location. It was during this time my faith and trust in God grew by leaps and bounds.

mitchell family new home bend oregon
The Mitchell family at their new home in Bend.

Kevin left the trail after 16 days of hiking a little over than 150 miles and met up with my daughter and I and the Hines’s family in Sacramento on September 3, 2016. This was a surprise to my daughter and I and the reunion with Kevin was an answered prayer. The caravan to Bend now included one more car and we made it into Bend at 4:00 p.m. on September 4, 2016 where our agent was waiting for us with our keys.

Now that we have reached our goal of moving to Bend, a new journey is about to begin, and that is one of building a ministry in this beautiful city. In the short few days we have been in Bend, we now understand why God has called us so swiftly to this place. The city is growing by leaps and bounds for there are construction projects going on all across the city. People are moving to this city because it is a desirable place to live. I believe that God is eager for us to reach out to all the people he has been preparing for us. Our journey to Bend has become our destiny and we will fulfill it for the glory of God.

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