We’re Moving to Texas!

            “It’s official!”  I always think that if it’s been announced from the pulpit at church- it’s official.  Actually it became official when we sat with our church board chair in his office on Monday morning and handed in our resignations.  Twenty-three combined years of ministry at Southport Christian, for us, have now come to a close.  We turn our eyes toward Texas, where the First Christian Church in Lufkin awaits our arrival as we join them in their labors of ministry where I will be senior minister.
            We’re very excited, but we are also sad.  In many ways Southport Christian has grown us up.  We finished seminary while there, we got married there, had 2 children while there and now are looking at opportunities beyond the nest.  “It’s time” – that’s what many of you said to us Sunday as you passed the doors to embrace us.  You know the changes we’ve been through.  You know the changes Southport has been through.  You’ve identified how we’ve been there to support and sometimes carry the ministries through transitional states.  It’s been a joy.  It’s been an honor.  It’s brought us so many wonderful blessings to be engaged with such caring people as we’ve labored together in the name of Jesus.  Mission trips, Bible studies, meals and picnics, renovations, youth groups, baptisms and funerals, sabbaticals and senior ministers- we’ve done it all together.  It is my hope that you all continue to carry the love of God in your hearts as you seek the future of your church.  It’s been quite a ride!
            “Texas?” we repeatedly heard Sunday morning from church friends as they began to congratulate us.  Yes, Texas.  God doesn’t always deal us the obvious answers.  Texas surprised us!  There was no doubt about half way through our visit that this was indeed the place for us.  We found the people to be wonderfully friendly and the church to be very dedicated to active discipleship!  Typically they say that the search team of a church is composed of some of the congregation’s best members, top-notch.  Well, this search team was awesome and if that reflects the quality of the congregants- then we are in for a wonderful ride!  I am really looking forward to making this transition- especially since we’ll be beginning in November!  (Hopefully no 100 degree days then!)
            “Texas?” my 7-year-old daughter asked.  Yes, Texas.  They have great schools in Lufkin, a zoo, a great little Tex-Mex restaurant where there’s always ice cream in the foyer, and the youth building of this church has 4 big screen tvs for Wii and X-box.  She jumped for joy!  It will be hard to make the change for her, leaving friendships just starting to have meaning, but we have no doubt that in some ways she’ll be a rock star as she becomes the “new girl” for a while.  No doubt she will make new friends with new meaning in her own life.  After all, she won’t be just a little girl for much longer.
             “Texas?” my mother exclaimed!  “But what about my girls?”  “Yes, Texas” I assured her.  It has been nothing but miraculous that we have had the luxury of being no more than 3 hours apart for this long.  Many of my seminary friends are spread all over this country by now!  My parents have been overwhelmingly generous and supportive with their time in visiting with our girls and caring for them as well.  They have given gifts of the heart through these years, as they too have been a part of every step of growing up.  But, truthfully, it will no longer be a 3 hour drive.  It will be hard to settle into, I’m sure, but it is time for this nest to change.  It is time for us to embrace what God has given to us.  But you better believe that my mother will find a way to get herself to Lufkin Texas every chance she can get.  We’re certain that her new favorite cruising port will be Galveston TX, because it’s only 3 hours away!  We are so grateful to God for the support and love of both JC and Caroline Steele, and Paul and Pat Lantis.  We’d never have gotten this far without them!
            Texas?  God is mysterious.  God is surprising.  We know that God has something in store for us, that we can’t even envision.  The mystery of letting yourself be led by the spirit is something that people too seldom experience.  But, we worked hard to be open to God’s leading through this whole process.  It was not our will that we would chat with FCC Lufkin and find some amazing and familiar people.  It was not our will that in a skype conversation we would see just how wonderful the spirit of hope was in FCC Lufkin.  It was not our will that the city was really welcoming and easy to get to know.  It was clearly and directly influenced by the greater power.  It was the right fit.  On top of their beautifully bright sanctuary, they had the ministries that spoke to us and I had the gifts that spoke to them.  God had the match in mind before we even spoke.  That’s the mystery of this great life of service to our Lord- the idea that if we truly let go of control, our lives are shaped in amazing ways! 

Texas.  Lufkin Texas. 
            Southport Christian, Indianapolis- Thank you!  It’s been amazing!  We know there will be many goodbyes shared through the end of October.
            First Christian Church, Lufkin, we look forward to November, and sharing with you in worship and an imaginative future in God’s work together!

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6 Comments on “We’re Moving to Texas!”

  1. Gladys Arnett Guseck Says:

    Stephen and family, I am so extremely proud of you in your devotion to God’s calling in your life, and how you are following the Spirit of God in you. You write beautifully and I just know your sermons are a real blessing to those who hear. I haven’t seen you since you were quite young, mostly in Barberton, OH and Bluefield, WV when I’d visit there, and I think you were in Middle School (?) when I visited your parent’s home in Bellefontaine, OH, and to see you in pictures now, with your wonderful wife and daughters, it really thrills my heart!

    May God richly bless you as you make this big transition to TX in November, and I know he will bless your ministry there.

    Your family will always be very special to me.

    Love and Prayers to you and your family,
    Gladys Arnett Guseck

  2. Amanda Page Says:

    Stephen, I cencerely hope that as you transition, you still find time to write your”Spiritual Spokes.” I’ve enjoyed it…especially since I don’t get to here from you in Oasis anymore. I guess you could say I get my “Stephen fix” here.
    You know, Texas seems like a perfectly logical next home for you, but that may be because so many of my other family members have scattered to various parts of Texas. I hope you notice and don’t mind that I say “my other family,” because the Lantis family has elt like part of my family for years. In you, I found the “little brother” that I always bugged my mom for as a kid. And Jennifer feels like a sister, only without all the sarcasm.
    It has been such a joy to watch you and you family grow over the years. Especially to see you grow as a preacher + minister, has given me joy, encouragement, and hope for the future.
    And I can’t thant you enough for being there for us when we’ve faced scarry times (health issues and others). You have given our family peace that others could or would not, because of the way we have known you and trusted you. You’ve indeed, been a blessing to all of us!
    I want to thank you, too, for the way you’ve helped me to grow over the years. I wouldn’t be who and where I am now, if you hadn’t trusted me to help in serving God as we served in Oasis together. Thanks for you faith in me. Thanks for all the laughs. thanks through the tears. Thanks for Jennifer’s spirit!!! Thanks for the hugs. Thanks for it all!
    Bless you and your family as you start off on your new adventure. I’m a little jealous, but I have adventures to carry out as well. I hope and pray that our adventures lead us across each other again onthis earth. If not…meet me at Benjamin’s gate. I’ll be looking for you there!

  3. Tracey Wischmeyer Says:

    Hook’m horns…well I am excited for you four that you have a new adventure before you but deeply sad to see my friends leave. I have to admit in the time I have known the lantis’s I never have once thought of you Stephen or Jennifer as Rev. and Rev Lantis. I will be sad to watch my friends move. During church Alyssa sat with us and her eyes teared up as she heard the news from Jim Ream. I was sad for her since this is her first time a friend is moving away. But at the same time I think it is a great opportunity to learn about long distance friendships and the opportunity to make new friends. Hopefully we are still welcome in Lufkin for spring break. Good luck and stay in touch.

  4. Jim Says:

    Howdy, Rev Stephen! We look forward to serving our Lord along side of you. Welcome to East Texas (bring skeeter dope and a fan).

  5. Katie Condra Says:

    Hi Stephen,
    My husband Brazos and I look forward to serving closely with you. Your story resonates with ours; East Texas and FCC Lufkin were a surprise to us, too. God’s call is unpredictable,huh?

    I am most excited about meeting your girls; every child is a gift, and I know they will bless our church greatly! I can’t wait to get to know you and your family. We are praying for you!

    Love,
    Katie

  6. Janice Ann & Ernest Rowe Says:

    We are from Lufkin, Texas and I am a lifelong Lufkinite. We look forward to you joining us at First Christian Church and beginning your ministry with us. We can not wait to meet you and your family. See you at our Bean Supper October 6!!!!


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