church planting

Landing in Chicagoland

After six weeks as house guests enjoying the generosity and hospitality of Bonnie and Bill Miller in Houston, Megan’s family in Kansas City, and Howell and LoisAnn Risinger in Illinois, we finally crossed the threshold of 10100 Maple Ave. in Oak Lawn on Tuesday, August 14 as first-time homeowners.  We had signed our name on the dotted line (about fifty times each) and handed over a check for a rather large sum of money, and the house at the corner of 101st St. and Maple Ave. is now home to the Stidham family.  It is here, in a small 1960’s home with its little front porch and three rectangular skylights gracing the main living area, that our little girl will take her first steps and say her first words.  She may even have a sibling (or two), pack her backpack for kindergarten, and walk down the street to middle school while living under this roof.  For the first time in our four years of marriage, we have settled into a place it feels truly natural to call “home.”  

On moving day at our new home :)

On moving day at our new home :)

 

Our home also has a story to tell.  Many years ago the house was owned by members of Calvin Church (soon to be Calvary Oak Lawn), where Daniel now serves as a campus pastor.  To this day many church members still live in our neighborhood.  The little house on Maple Ave. has also been well cared for by its latest owner, Pat, a pipe fitter by trade who spent the last three years replacing floors, upgrading the main living space, putting new tile in the bathroom, you name it.  As Pat told Daniel, “I put my heart and soul into this house,” and I, for one, believe it.  Several years ago he hired the next door neighbor to install the gorgeous skylights in the living room and dining area, with the result that even on a cloudy day the living room is flushed with natural light.

Bob, the carpenter who made the skylights, recently celebrated 50 years of marriage with his wife.  They have lived on Maple Ave. for most of that time and are known for their two enormous St. Bernards (think Beethoven the movie).  Bob and Pat were good neighbors and friends to each other over the years, so, when Pat realized we had some plumbing trouble (yes…already) and were having a hard time finding a second opinion, he called Bob who then called his plumber for me.  The plumber was here within the hour.  

 

Calvin Christian Reformed Church on Central Ave, Oak Lawn, IL

Calvin Christian Reformed Church on Central Ave, Oak Lawn, IL

Across Central Avenue the proud columns of Calvin Christian Reformed Church support a tall steeple that holds a cross against the open sky.  Just four months ago we shared Chicago’s famous Lou Malnati’s pizza with a group of Calvin members.  It was at this meeting that we first began to understand the many sacrifices and hard choices these beloved people made in order to make it possible for us to live and minister among them.  At a time when many churches would have chosen the easy way out, allowing themselves to slowly slip away or giving their buildings to the denomination as an asset, the members of Calvin chose to dig in and find a new way to bless their neighborhood.  And, when they realized they couldn’t do it on their own, they asked for help.  They have walked a long road of sorrow, joy, uncertainty, and hope together, and we feel privileged to join them.

The people of Calvin have received us with breath-taking warmth and generosity.  It was Roger, a long-time Calvin member and devoted church leader, who found the house on Maple Ave. which Pat was selling himself without the help of a realtor.  After visiting the house no less than three times on our behalf, Roger negotiated a price.  Even though we no longer needed the formal services of our realtor, Tom gave us referrals to an excellent lawyer and inspector.  

Fast forward to Sunday, August 12, Daniel’s first Sunday to preach at Calvin as the church’s new pastor.  He is understandably nervous, and I was trying my best to be the calm, supportive one.  As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one determined to support Daniel that morning.  The first person to greet me as I entered Calvin’s doors was Joyce, Roger’s wife, a incredibly resourceful and hospitable woman.  Joyce looked lovely, per her usual, but she was wearing a rather conspicuous accessory.  I blinked once, twice…and had to ask.  “Joyce…are you wearing a fanny pack?” Indeed.  And not only Joyce, but practically the entire congregation was bedecked in royal blue fanny packs bearing the inscription, “Calvary Church of Oak Lawn.”  I kid you not.  I call that love.

To show their support, they all sported a fifth pocket :)

To show their support, they all sported a fifth pocket :)

 

Daniel speaking – please pardon the dramatic decline in writing quality – but I figured I’d do more than look over Megan’s shoulder by giving a short update on the ministry side of things. Having Ron Citlau (Senior Pastor of Calvary Church of Orland Park) as a mentor has been invaluable. He does everything between texting to check-in and setting up meetings with important members of the church. He gives me sound wisdom and reminds me to take things slow. I am so grateful to navigate these unchartered waters alongside him.

Right now I am a pastor between two churches (Calvary Orland and Calvin), who is simultaneously casting vision for a new church (Calvary Oak Lawn).  This new church will be an expression of both church traditions with a Holy Spirit infused fervor for intimacy with God and His missional movement into the world.  We are continually praying that the Lord of Harvest would raise up laborers for the harvest here in Oak Lawn.

We have met some incredible people here in Oak Lawn. My biggest challenge is mining the treasure trove of people from both churches while also maintaining a pulse on the community at large. But I have enjoyed every moment of it. I am looking forward to see how the Lord will shape and guide the Vision Team (leaders from Calvin and Calvary combining forces to do the work of ministry at the new campus) and to see how the Lord leads us through our first 90 days. /end of Daniel speaking

We are incredibly grateful for God’s extravagance to us in our first weeks in Oak Lawn.  Thank you for each of the ways you have supported us through your prayers, your gifts, and your encouragement in this season of change.  We are anticipating the work God will do among all of us in the days to come!

Pray with Us: 

  • Leaders: We are asking the Lord to raise up people from Calvary Church (Orland Park) and from our community in Oak Lawn who are passionate about seeking God’s heart for Oak Lawn. We are praying for four more families or individuals who are committed to prayer, willing to engage the community, and eager to learn how to share the gospel.  
  • Opportunities to minster to local High School students: Calvin is down the street from one of Oak Lawn’s High Schools, Richards, where one of our members is a teacher and football coach.  Historically, the district has been closed to churches and other Christian ministries.  Please pray for Daniel to be able to connect with the administration and for the members of Calvin to have opportunities to minister to teachers and students.   
  • Opportunities to befriend our Muslim neighbors: Oak Lawn is home to a surprising number of Arab immigrants, most of whom are Muslim.  Many of these Muslim families live in the apartment complexes across from our neighborhood park and are therefore within walking distance of the church.  Please pray for God to open miraculous doors to connect with the Muslim community. Pray for us to have wisdom and gentleness in forming friendships and shaping a ministry that is respectful, sustainable, and beneficial to our neighbors.  

The Weekly Funny

Daniel: “I enjoy being your husband more than you enjoy being my wife.” (Characteristically outrageous comment designed to get a particularly shrill response which, admittedly, I instinctively give him.)

Megan: “That’s not true!”

Daniel: “It is true, because I know how good I’ve got it, and you’re still figuring that out.”    

 

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen.