We just wanted to share a few updates and ask your for prayers, encouragement & words of wisdom for the decisions and needs that lay ahead of us.
We had an encouraging time meeting with our pastor last Thursday. He was wise and helpful in helping us to untangle all of our "but there's this.." and "we could do this.." and remind us that we have some pretty big things figured out already. We have a really solid sense of where we ultimately want to be. You all already know about our intentions to move to West Philly, and now we will let you in on another exciting intention that God has raised up in us.
Practically, we have figured out and accepted that it's not sustainable for the long haul for Frank & I to share a support-raised salary. Even with our part time gigs that help to supplement that salary, chopping up our time & efforts into ministry here, a paid doula gig there, some volunteer work at the local parenting center here, a few days a month of paid electrical work add up to satisfaction, but a very unstable situation. We've been tossed back & forth between health insurance options over the years, and wiped out the little retirement I had on fixing our kitchen & bathroom. We recognize that for the long haul, at least one of us needs to be in a stable, full-time position that will provide an adequate base salary for our family, health insurance and retirement savings. This doesn't change our hearts or our motivation to be a part of God's work in Philadelphia. But it does adapt our strategy, and as it turns out, it's a strategy that already has a name -- "Tentmaking." (Spell check is telling me that "tentmaking" is not a word, but here is a link with a description of tentmaking that begs to differ.)
More and more people are being sent as missionaries overseas and even within our nation, and rather than raising financial support to cover their salary, they are finding ways to use marketable skills to provide for their family's needs AND provide opportunities to engage with people in a workplace and culture with the intentions of sharing the Good News of Jesus. It's our desire to land in a place where at least one of us is able to do this, and it fits with a nudge that Frank has been feeling for years. I always joke that Frank's aunts & uncles on his mom's side are like a who's-who of all of the typical career choices that kids in elementary school come up with. There is a mail carrier, a firefighter, a police officer and a handful of nurses. It reminds me of the "People in Your Neighborhood" song on Sesame Street! But the nurses far outnumber any other carrier choices in Frank's family. His mom is a nurse, his older sister is a nurse and a his younger sister just recently finished nursing school. See where this is going? If you know Frank, your response is likely to be just like everyone who we have discussed this with - "Oh my goodness, Frank would make such a GREAT nurse!" I have to agree! And because I love and value him so much, I have to say that I think becoming a nurse is something that Frank would be great at, but it's something that would be great forhim. He has such an amazing heart and strength of character and as always been such a hard worker. He has sacrificed himself, his time and his opportunity for any kind of recognition or advancement in order to be in ministry, to be a hands on and present father and to let me develop skills and opportunities to become a birth worker. I'm thrilled at the thought of him getting the chance to do something that I know he can excel at and be compensated for in a way that he really deserves.
So that is the other part of the "big picture" that our pastor was correct in encouraging us for having had figured out. In the big picture, we see ourselves living in West Philly as active members of our church, either partially or fully funded as tentmakers compliments of Francis J. Varaso III, R.N.
It will not be a short or easy road. Along with the options & needs associated with moving to West Philly, we have been trying to figure out how the path & timeline for Frank to attend nursing school fits into it all. But as our pastor said, knowing where we are headed is a pretty big thing! One potential starting point is for Frank to be able to train as an EMT in order to get some experience. Another option would be to just get reintroduced to the world of academia and get some prerequisite courses under his belt at the local community college. (Which, as it turns out has a campus in West Philly. One of my hero-friends did all of her prerequisites for nursing at this campus.)
We would greatly appreciate your prayers and cheering on as we figure this all out. It really is incredibly exciting to have a passion and vision for the future. We are going to need the continued support of those who have carried us for all of these years even when we arrive at a day when we may no longer have to raise financial support. And in the meantime on the journey to get there, we will especially need both the practical and spiritual support.
I named this post "Houses and Tents" because I do actually have an update on the house/relocation options. This Friday morning we are going to go see some homes in West Philly with a realtor. Through this past week we have almost certainly arrived at the conclusion that trying to fix our house to get top-market value is and endeavor that requires far too much effort, time & expense for far too little promised benefit. We are going to see what kind of location, size & condition homes are available for what we could walk away with from selling our house as-is.
What we already know about West Philly is that houses in decent condition seem to cluster into two distinct price ranges based on whether they are 2 story or 3 story houses. There is not much middle ground between the two. We are likely to be able to snag a 2 story which might feel more roomy compared to our current 980 square feet, but doesn't provide the size & location that will satisfy our heart for hospitality and nearness to our church community. It's entirely possible that we could stand inside one of these houses on Friday and say, "Yep, this is it!" However, if we walk away from Friday with a sense that the size & location that's right for us requires significantly more than our cash-in-hand, we will be needing to figure out how God's favor can fill the gap. We'll be sure to share how things go along with our reflections & plan of actions by this time next week.
Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement thus far! We love you all and are so grateful to be a part of God's family alongside you!