Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hearts Wide Open (the Journey)



In the beginning God spoke everything into existence. Galaxies exploded from His mouth and from His imagination. He is the God of all things creative and expansive, and humanity was the pinnacle of His creation, filled with His breath and marked with His image. We carry His characteristics of building, restoring, and multiplying.

Nearly twelve years ago God instilled a vision in the heart of a man in Guatemala who was opening an English School. The man was deeply impressed that the school was a gift from God and that in turn it should be given to a church. 

While this sense of giving back was by no means unique, what made it extraordinary was his conviction that the church should be an English speaking church and pastored by a man from the United States. 

The idea was crazy and most just laughed as the years passed. Surely he must have felt a little like Noah as he built a boat on dry land while the neighbors humiliated his efforts.

While God was speaking to the owner of the school, I was being groomed by a Fortune 50 company in Cincinnati, Ohio where I learned how to manage people and projects. Certainly the Spirit of God was not communicating these things to me as I chased a career. Pastoring an English speaking church in Guatemala would have sounded like a ridiculous, disruptive, and ill-conceived notion.

I think back at how closed my heart was during those times when God was preparing my life for a wide open Journey. Even when we limit ourselves, we still bear the image of an expansive God.

Two years ago we nearly packed up and ran home. Our life savings was gone, our house in Ohio was approaching foreclosure, and we had lost key financial donors due to a failing economy in the US. Our vision of founding an orphanage in Guatemala had collapsed and I viewed myself as a failure and a fool.

Of course, we had experienced some success with the Journey Church campus that met in a school... across the street from the school founded by the man with a vision. But pastoring the church didn't put a penny in my pocket and to make ends meet I began to substitute teach at the school across the street.

The owner of that school was astounded to find that an English speaking pastor was working on his campus! Over time a relationship formed between my family and his as we became friends and partners. I went from a substitute teacher, to Academic Director, to Principal of Christian American School (CAS). 

Journey Church remained across the street, but we began to hold events on the CAS campus, such as: Big Student Ministries and small gatherings of evening worship. A conversation began as Erico shared his vision with me and we started to discuss what it might be like if Journey transitioned to his campus. Could I possibly be the pastor that God had shown to him so many years ago?

This past year has been a faith walk. I resigned my position as Principal with the school (releasing the salary) in order to dedicate more time to our church and our mission. Through hosting interns and God's divine providence we have remained financially sound. Each month is still a faith walk, but God has honored our steps. 

On May the 15th at 10:00 AM, the Journey Church House Band will hit the first chord of our relocation to Christian American School. The school owners, Erico and Vivian have built two new classrooms for Journey Church to expand our children's ministries, constructed a beautiful office at the entrance of the school that will become Journey Church Guest Services, made structural and parking changes, provided storage space, and given the church a full time office... all at no charge.


Main Entrance and Guest Services
Two classrooms complete with whiteboards,
projectors, and WiFi.

The Auditorium with seating for 200,
(CAS Chapel service pictured).
The vision given to Erico so many years ago has now become reality. Again, the words spoken from the mouth of God are creative and expansive. The imagination of God far surpasses our wildest dreams. Surely it should be no surprise that the God of creation has the ability to pluck up a retail manager from Ohio and pair him with the owner of a school in Guatemala... and yet, I find myself simply and wholly amazed. 

Conversations are now beginning again as together we share visions of multiple campuses: Magdalena, Carretera El Salvador, and maybe even Antigua.

May God continually open our hearts so that we run unrestricted; filled with His breath, imprinted by His image, and seeing with His imagination.


"We have spoken freely to you... our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return... widen your hearts also."
2 Cor 6:11-13



Erico Can
Chad P. Shepherd