the wrap-up

We’re thrilled.  No, seriously.

We still get questions and comments from people who feel bad for us.  I get where they’re coming from and appreciate the attempt at empathy; but they’ve misread the event; they didn’t understand the good news of what’s happening.

The past few blog posts have given a good idea of the transition we’ve been going through and what that’s meant for Soma.  It would be easy as an observer to see these things as sad endings.  In fact, we’ve been around other similar events for people and churches and they ARE sad events; some of them tragic even.  This one isn’t.

God is so good, so generous, so gracious, and wow does he ever seem to have a big picture in mind!

Soma is officially being dissolved/closed (effective Dec 31st, for you detail types).  Months ago we heard our leg of the mission was complete, and we began praying to find out what the next leg was going to be.  We now have an answer.  God has sent replacements!  It’s another church, and this Summer three families moved into the same area we left at the beginning of the Summer!  It’s been just exciting and wonderful to hear how God is truly targeting our old neighborhood.  This new crew, though we’ve never met them, are doing missional communities, going door to door with cookies and offering prayer, and are already seeing people healed and lives changed.

How great is our God?  That He would have the next leg in the journey already lined up.  That He would give us a chance to hear the story of how He is moving there.  That He would reassure us that the well-being of where we were once doing mission is NOT actually ours, but His; and He will look out for it even after we’re gone.

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So, yes, Soma is closing.  Yes, it’s good news.  Yes, we are excited about what this means for the neighborhood we’ve left.  Yes, we’re excited about where we’re going.

This blog site will cease updates effective immediately, but will remain live indefinitely so that people can always have access to read the story of God’s faithfulness, generosity, and movement through Southern Orchards and Wilson Avenue in Columbus, OH.

gifted and chapter completion

There seemed to be only one fittng way to wrap up this season of Soma:  CELEBRATION.  In the past 4 years, a diverse group of people came together, locked shields and embraced a vision for discipleship and mission.

We’ve been changed, transformed, for the better.  We have grown in love, the mark of Christ’s disciples (John 13:35). We have been family; sacrificing and supporting one another in practical ways; learning to accept the gifts, time, and resources of others in mutual love and navigating challenge and conflict.  We have grown in rhythms. We must rest to work and can find rest in various forms. We have grown in faith. We have witnessed food multiplied, spontaneous baptisms, help in trials, and the constant voice of God. We have grown in accountability. We operate more consistently in the mindset of “What is God saying and what am I going to do about it?”  We look more like Christ, and we continue to journey with fellow Christians. God is good and He is generous.

In His generosity we have received many gifts and we have tried to show generosity to those around us. There is more ahead in this adventure and we trust that we have each been built up and readied to go into new spheres and help people find and follow Jesus. We have loved sharing the journey with each and every one of you!

The next step on the journey for Soma is transitioning to rest / hibernation.  As we look out over our purpose for discipleship and mission, we see nothing but His work and presence.  It’s been refreshing and exciting to complete and close chapter 1 for Soma and prepare for the ‘page intentionally left blank’ before the start of chapter 2.  Chapter 2 hasn’t yet been titled, but one of the things we’ve certainly learned is if rest comes before work on an individual level, then it should also at the community level.

The intent is for Soma (and all of us!) to rest for a time (oh, say a year or so) and during that time we will be praying and abiding in His presence as he prepares us for the next season for Soma; at which point we will gear up and launch again, rested and ready for His work for us.  We will be looking to build relationships for support, partnership, leadership, followership, and recreation.  We are already excited and thankful for those He will put us in family and community with to start the next thing, even as we prepare to rest first.

For the past few weeks and for the next week or so, our team motto has been, “finish strong; don’t puke.” 🙂

As you may have noticed, updates have been less frequent lately as we’ve been busy working on finishing strong this leg of the race.  While resting, updates will be infrequent (we hope not non-existent, but who knows…).  I’d recommend checking back every so often.

Contact information will remain the same, so if you have an email address or phone number for us or Soma, keep it; we will still be reachable there.

the more He stays the same, the more things change

In the books of Malachi, Hebrews, James, and Revelation (and more!) in the Bible we are told in various ways that God doesn’t change; that He is, “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  This is a comforting thing.  It means as we learn more and more about our perfect Dad of Dad and what he and his Son are up to, we can count on the promises He’s made and trust His character and will.

So, for a God who doesn’t change, why can He seem so hard to follow at times? 

He moves.  He is forever in motion and his direction is constant, always at his work of restoring what is broken to righteousness in his Kingdom.  This movement is why there is mystery to the Spirit and why sometimes it seems like He changes and why it can be hard to follow him.  And it’s also why from time to time, as we seek his Kingdom, we are the ones who have to be transformed, we are the ones who have to pick up and move to his grace.

This is not an announcement.  Yet…
This is a heads up and a request to pray with us and help us consider and watch for his grace and movement.

So, here’s where we’re at:

Soma ‘launched’ in Jan 2012.  From then until now, we celebrate:
– stretching the definition of ‘church planting’ and realizing we’re more like domestic missionaries
– being given LOTS of amazing resources to steward, most of which have been people
– people committing to intentional discipleship
– being witnesses to 35 decisions to follow Christ and being part of as many baptisms
– seeing marriages and relationships restored
– being there when hearts no longer seek violence
– people being delivered from ‘less than pious jobs and cultures’
– many around us having learned their heart follows their treasure
– learning (and are still learning) how to hear His voice and obey
– countless mouths literally being fed
– … and more!  (We hope this blog has been a decent place to follow stories of His movement here in Southern Orchards, Columbus.)

By the end of 2014 we were perceiving things slowing down, orbits expanding, and missional partners moving on.  There are pieces of this that can be painful and difficult to understand.  So we prayed.  And we were reminded that any kind of pruning can be just that:  painful and difficult to understand.  But almost all of this pruning was indeed out of our control.  Throughout this time, our Father has been gracious, encouraging, generous, and even gentle.  He is good.  Let me repeat that:  He is good.

So, here we are just into 2015 and we’re asking Him if His grace for our part here has moved on (either in mission, mission context, or location), or if we are being tasked with persevering where we are and doing what we do.  This is our request to you, that you will pray alongside us in this ask.  Perhaps it’s the missionary hearts within us, but we are completely open to whatever His answer is; though we are not emotionless in the potential changes.

Pray hard and stay tuned.  🙂

– Nate

stories


picstitch

Did they tell You [Jesus] stories ’bout the saints of old?
Stories about their faith?
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold.
Stories like that make a man walk straight.

(from Rich Mullin’s Boy Like Me, Man Like You)

We sat around the supper table last Sunday evening enjoying a meal together of fried fish and milk-soaked juneberry and strawberry shortcakes. The gathering was both spontaneous and planned. Aimee and I had already invited Phil and John and Emily and their two children over to help pick a bumper crop of juneberries, when Jay and Anita called to invite us over for wine and stories about Jay’s mission trip to Zambia. Knowing that Jay knew Phil and John from our mission trip together to Henryville last year, Aimee and I thought “What’s two more good friends over for company?” With anticipation of a wonderful evening of good friends, good food, and good story-telling we invited Jay and Anita to our place as well.

With genuine curiosity Anita started us off by demanding that we tell our stories from our mission trip.

So for the next couple of hours stories flew back and forth. Stories of twin mission trips…one to assist with micro-economic development projects at a pastor’s school at Kaffakumba, Zambia, Africa and one to assist with neighborhood service projects and a backyard Vacation Bible School for Soma Church in inner city Columbus, Ohio. Stories of how God used both groups to bless others and how God blessed us in turn. Stories of the faithfulness of God and our faithfulness to following Jesus’ call to make disciples.

From our weeklong trip, we recounted how we were used by God from the onset since the VBS almost didn’t happen due to a lack of adult workers from Soma’s missional community until our team of eight servants offered to help. We recounted how Phil used his growing “skill” at dumpster-diving at the local grocers to provide extra food for the host families and the neighborhood VBS kids. We recounted how John encouraged four young brothers who were attending VBS in the evenings to work alongside us during the day as we grubbed weeds and overgrown brush from the yard to make room for more play space and a vegetable garden. We told how Chelsea used her cheery disposition and winsome smile to help make VBS kids feel comfortable in the presence of us outsiders. We told the story of Mike and Jen’s conversation with the neighbor for whom we house-painted…how our act of service had restored his faith in humanity because he was still reeling from being robbed at gunpoint the week before. We told how the experience of being a participant in and recipient of acts of extravagant generosity and genuine love in action “raised the bar” for Zach, the newest follower of Jesus in our group.  And we told Aimee’s favorite story of how God was faithful and allowed us to experience eighteen VBS kids become our brothers and sisters in Jesus as they decided to “follow Jesus the rest of their lives”…and how after receiving personal copies of the Jesus Storybook Bible, they spontaneously sat in groups of three and four in the grass to read aloud to each other and to us adults God’s creation story as it had been read to them every night that week.

It was indeed a good week of good experiences and good risks. I was reminded how stories and storytelling play such a vital role in building our faith in God. And how they play a vital role in passing on the tradition of building his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  According to scripture, the faithful ones (Hebrews 10.39) tell stories of their and their ancestors’ faith (Hebrews 11). This motivates brothers and sisters in the faith to think of ways to carry out acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10.24).

And again:

Your faithful followers will praise you.
 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
they will give examples of your power.
 They will tell about your mighty deeds

and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
You rule throughout all generations.

(Psalms 145.10-13)

Oh, and around that table we were enamored with and encouraged by Jay’s stories as well. Our twin trips and twin stories were very similar in theme but varied in detail. I do not wonder why. It is the story that God is telling…through people. First through faithful followers of old. Then through Jesus. And now through us. Yes, tell the stories of the everlasting kingdom.

-Nate (Simons)

tiny obedience

baptismWhen a four year old says, “Mom, I wanna get baptist,” it’s definitely time to pause and listen to what he and God have to say.  Two of our youngest decided to announce their faith in Christ through baptism last month.  It’s neat to see how being on mission as a family begins to affect even the smallest of the family.  As we were setting up the kiddie pool for swimming, Courben was reminded of when Rebecca got baptised a little while ago.  He brought up the topic and followed it up with deep understanding of who Jesus is.  As we prepared for the event, a bit of fear and hesitancy set in.  We all prayed for peace and obedience.  When the day arrived, Courben decided he was still ready to take the plunge.  One of the most exciting parts of the day came afterwards; Mathias, Courben’s best buddy, announced that he, too, wanted to get baptised.  His parents decided to let the idea soak in during dinner and see if it was truly what he was hearing from God or just an urge to play in the pool.  Sure enough, after his food had settled, he was set on showing his obedience to Jesus as well.  So, without skipping a beat, this little guy got in the pool with his daddy and unashamedly and quite boldly pronounced his faith in Jesus, who died on the cross for his sins.  We were all reminded of Acts 8, when the Ethiopian eunuch wanted to baptised immediately.  There was no big to-do, no preparations,  just water and obedience.  We’re so proud of these young boys and anxious to see how they follow Jesus in their unique ways.

Natalie - blog signature (black BG)

faithful in silence – a short story

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERABack in the fall, I started praying everyday for Persons of Peace in our neighborhood.  I knew finding people was going to be difficult because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and spent a lot of my time at home.  One of the families that is part of our Missional Community asked if I could help walk her little boy home from the bus stop, it was right by our home and she knew I was free at 3:45p.  I, of course, said, “Yes.” So, before I walked to the bus stop, I would stop at my back door and ask God to prepare me to talk to people.

The first week there was no one!  All the parents would magically show up in their cars mind you, as the bus pulled up.  I was discouraged.  The next week, some parents walked but they stood across the street and still managed to come right when the bus got to the stop.  I resorted to waving and smiling, this got me some funny looks.  I was giving up on speaking with anyone at the bus stop, so I resorted to bringing treats to the little boy I was walking home and figured we could get to know one another better.

Finally, I walked out of the alley one evening, turned the corner and there was a woman standing right where the bus stop is.  I got all giddy inside, “Woohoo!”  I walked over and asked her if she was waiting on the school bus?  She said, “Yep.”  I said, “Me too!  Hi, I’m Danielle!  I help pick up my friend’s kid.  I live right there in the yellow house; my husband and I just moved in back in January.”  She said “Hi, nice to meet you.  I’m Rebecca.”

After the greetings she asked why we moved down here to the ‘hood’.  I explained that my husband and I felt called to help start a church in the neighborhood.  She asked if we had a brochure she could read, I smiled and told her no, but we do have a website and a blog.  I told her that we have church out of our friend’s house and we live life together just like Jesus did with the disciples.  I invited her to come and see what I was talking about.  She was interested and I was elated to finally talk to someone.  I started to pray for her even before she had  come to our MC.  I knew it was not up to me to push her into coming.  In the following months, I managed to meet her mom, her boyfriend, her sister, and her nieces she helps get off the bus.  Our conversations were small talk most of the time about our baby, her family, her schooling, and I tried to fit God in the conversations but there was never enough time.

At MC one week, the mom that needed my help walking her little boy home said he had transferred schools and the new bus would be dropping him off right in front of her house.  Fall was coming to an end and I was somewhat relieved.  I had been by the bus stop a few times and hadn’t seen Rebecca and the girls.  After a few more months had passed, I started to feel that praying for Rebecca was not doing anything.  I had not seen her in the neighborhood and it was quickly becoming winter; our community does a good job of staying indoors when it is cold.  So I told God, “Okay, I’m done.  I will focus on praying for other things.”  I’m hardly outside since I’m pregnant and I figured this would be a better use of my prayer time.  The next day (seriously, not joking, the next day), my husband and I were stopping over at the house where we have MC.  I stepped out of the car onto the sidewalk and heard someone call out my name.  There was Rebecca and her sister with the girls just a block away.  She greeted me with a hug and asked how the pregnancy was going.  I was shocked; “clearly I’m not done praying for her,” I thought to myself.  We didn’t talk long because it was getting dark and they were walking home in the cold.  We stood there talking long enough for me to introduce my husband and point over to the house and say, “this is where we come for church, you’re all welcome to come Sundays at 4p.”  I spent the rest of the winter praying for her and her family.

I spend a lot of time with Nate and Natalie, the MC leaders.  One day I was over watching their boys while Natalie was working in the morning, I decided to stay all day since my husband and I were going to watch the boys in the evening to give them a date night.  Once we got the boys down for nap, I passed out on their couch.  Natalie later heard a knock at the front door and she started talking to someone and prayed with them.  I was half asleep.  Once she walked into the room, I asked her if she just prayed with the mailman.  She said no, it was Rebecca.  She was feeling like she has been being attacked spiritually and wanted prayer.  Later on in the evening, Rebecca came back to the house; she wanted to pray again.  So Natalie and I prayed for her again and she said she felt something leave her.  She asked to hang around the house and talk, so we did.  We exchanged cell numbers and she left for home.  It was now March and we texted, talked, and hung out with her regularly.  She was becoming part of the family.  This month, she told Natalie and I on separate occasions she felt ready to be baptized.  So, last Sunday we stood in a freezing cold kiddie pool and baptized Rebecca.  Afterwards,  we prayed in groups for one another and celebrated with cake!  All the kids helped in letting the water out of the pool and we played in the huge, muddy puddle together.  It was a wonderful day and I’m so happy I got to be a part of what God is doing!

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Danielle - blog signature (black BG)

Happy Easter!

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAQuestion of the week, how long would it take a group of kids to pick up nearly 1,500 Easter eggs?  The answer is less than 5 minutes.  This past Sunday we set up at our local park (Roosevelt Park), kids were itching and waiting for us at least an hour ahead of time!  After scattering the eggs, dividing kids into age groups (so the little ones didn’t get trampled by the older kids), we started our prayer and said we would do a count down.  The kids were so excited that right after our “Amen,” they raced towards the eggs.  With chaos, confusion, laughter, and egg shells in the air, in the blink of an eye, the field that was colorful thanks to the eggs was now an empty, green, grassy area again.  The kids showed off what they got, exchanged candies with their friends for their favorites, and played at the playground.  And of course we joined them.  It was great to also talk to some of the adults, learning of new neighbors, and the possibility of new relationships beginning.

It’s amazing to see how God works.  We remember this day as the day Jesus came back to us, three days after taking our death on himself.  Sometimes that escapes me, but I was reminded and filled with the Holy Spirit as we went back to our home afterwards and ate dinner together.  Before eating dinner we broke bread and had Communion.  We have had Communion a lot already, but sitting around the table, all of us discussing what it meant to us or what we have learned from it, it hit me that this is what true family is supposed to do.  Family is sharing communion around the table, sharing dinner, and sharing our stories from the day.  This is what Jesus wanted, sharing our lives together.  It truly excites me for the future, and all the future members of my family that will join us in our mission and in our lives, remembering Jesus and the amazing thing He has done for us all.  Happy Easter.

Dustin - blog signature (black BG)