Friday, August 21, 2009

Pastor's Perspective - Just As Much Today

I love my congregation just as much today as the day we rolled into town.

Earlier this month, my family and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary in the community and at First Christian! Being a sentimentalist at heart, I stopped to reflect on our arrival in late July 2004.

I’ll never forget the phone call we received that Sunday evening. The church had flown Michelle and I out for an intensive interview weekend. After being bumped around the country by our air carrier, we arrived at the Sacramento Airport weary and a bit slap-happy from a marathon day. There to meet us with his signature grin, holding a sign that read ‘KIEFER’, was Steve Strem! He drove us to our hotel then to the church where a group was waiting eagerly to feed us and ask us a wide spectrum of questions. Throughout the weekend we met in people’s homes and continued to eat and answer questions. That Sunday morning I preached twice in a new outfit Michelle had bought me. Afterward we went back to our hotel and literally crashed! That night the church met to vote on us, while we continued to recover in our room in Fairfield. The phone rang and Steve Strem asked if I would accept their invitation to come and be their pastor. When I answered “Yes”, my heart jumped for joy, as a deafening cheer rose up on the other end of the line. Unknown to me, I was on a speaker phone with the entire congregation listening in! Many of us met for pizza afterwards to celebrate. What a beautiful unforgettable memory.

The 7-day drive out here from central Florida was another unforgettable memory. On the sixth day as we were entering the Mojave Desert, our air conditioning went out in our minivan, while I drove ahead in our big rental truck. Through God’s kindness we were able to get to Bakersfield for the evening. By that time in the trip we were exhausted, hot, frustrated and bit over it all. I remember my call to Mike Kleeman. Though I didn’t really know Mike, I knew he was an Elder and that he probably needed to know where and what his new pastor and his family were and were doing. After explaining our air conditioning challenge, I’ll never forget Mike’s words – “Sit tight. We’ll come get you.” So, the Kleeman family and the Lum family left at 3AM to get to us in Bakersfield by breakfast-time at 8! Talk about a wonderful memory and first impression of the selfless love found at FCC.

Later that evening our arrival in our new community was more of a hobble than a triumphant entry! Here we were, already leaning on our new church family, riding in among a caravan of mismatched vehicles. There to eagerly meet us and welcome us, at the house we had never seen before, ready to unload our packed Penske moving truck was the entire church!

Friends, that deep love and open-armed hospitality was here at FCC long before anybody heard of the Kiefer family. And I can say today, with fullest confidence, still exists for anyone who is looking for a real place to belong.

I love my congregation just as much today as the day we rolled into town.


Nicholle said...

Oh man the tears this brought on! I have no clue why!! So glad you are here!

Here to many more years of being a family!!

Love you all!!

Love the picture!! Can you see how hard I was working? I was holding the doggie's leash! Funny!! The kids looks so young! So cute

Jeramy Sossaman said...

seems like so long ago. i think you can call yourself a californian now. :-)

Pastor's Perspective said...

Thanks J! Since you are a born & raised northern Californian, I'll GLADLY take that title. Guess I passed my probationary period. Vested in the company now! Though I've still got a bit of (Florida) sand in my shoes, I can honestly say that I'm honored to raise my family here. If you're gonna walk with God, California is a GREAT & BEAUTIFUL PLACE to do it!

Jeramy Sossaman said...

tru dat