I was leaving for my daily torture session at the gym and Tim was getting dressed to go to his first department meeting at his new school, I went to hug him before I left and I said “Have a great first meeting” and as I was walking away “Just be you, that is enough. It is always enough…” I was a little surprised by the tears that sprang to my eyes and the emotion that followed but when I thought about it I knew the emotion was wrapped in gratitude to a God who knows that sometimes He must trust us in the hard place so he can take us to a new place.
It was 4 summers ago that Tim got the call and invitation to come and talk to a pastor about teaching Bible in his school. The pastor’s wife has been like a daughter to us since we taught her in our very first ministry place in the bay area.The invitation had been extended to me as well but God had a different path for me. It is no easy task starting life over in your early 50’s after having lost everything and being betrayed by people who say they are Christ followers so when you are disoriented and not sure what God is doing or why a safe place feels right. So Tim agreed to a part time position teaching Bible to middle schoolers while starting his MDIV program online. We knew this pastor and his wife who were fairly new first time lead pastors to this church and school had inherited a very difficult and complicated situation. We thought that maybe our presence might be helpful to them too. When you are pushing a boulder uphill it is nice to have friends.
The next year Tim’s position turned into full time and while he was pouring his pastoral gifts and talents into his students, God was using his students to heal him. Tim coached, was involved in middle school chapels and just really loved being with the kids. He has been commuting 50 minutes from Elk Grove and we thought often of moving closer but we are working with limited resources and wanted to make sure that a move was wise.
It is a multifaceted, complex, complicated journey that this organization has been navigating in the last 4 years and because it is not my story to tell I will just say that VALIANT efforts were made to maintain the organization (church/school) but by December it became clear that both would not survive if this pastor and board were unwilling to make painfully difficult choices, after prayerful consideration they knew they must follow God’s leading. When it was all said and done a parent group and some investors were going to take on the school and take it forward into the future.
In March in an evaluation meeting Tim was asked by the High School Principal if he would be interested in moving up to the High School as Campus Pastor and Bible Teacher. Tim was very interested in the possibility and so even though he had not been offered a contract yet we felt it might be time to make the move to be closer so he could fully invest in this new opportunity and continue to be involved at the church as a preaching pastor and back up worship leader on occasion. We were confident that this was the next step for us. The teaching staff had been told that their salaries could include raises that the church had been unable to give and so based on that possibility we began to look for places to live in the Manteca area.
Our current lease would be up at the end of May. All through the month of April we looked for a place, we even filled out applications and thought we had an option all to no avail. We were so sure about the next step and we were trying to be obedient to what we believed God wanted us to do. We felt discouraged and a little hopeless on some days and because Tim still had no contract we had to look at very conservative options.
Finally on May 13th after having turned in our intent to vacate our apartment (still trying to follow God in obedience) Tim received his contract. There was a slight increase but not what we had been asking the Lord for and not enough to incur the cost of a move and the higher prices in Manteca. We immediately rescinded our intent to vacate and renewed our lease for another 6 months. This just didn’t make sense to us at all but at this stage in life we know better than to shove closed doors open.
At the beginning of the next week some events transpired that made us wonder if God was doing something different on our behalf. Tim and I always say that when the Manna (God’s daily provision) dries up it is time to look to him for direction and be ready to move. I wrote in my prayer journal “I surrender God. I do not want to leave this job I love and I am not sure about full time vocational pastoral ministry but you are doing something that I do not understand so I surrender.” Surrender is a powerful thing when seeking God for direction, it opens the door to all the possibilities.
The next day another development occurred that made me seek God while I was at school…in my heart while going about my day I prayed “God give me wisdom…show me what to do…help me sense your nudge of direction.” All of the sudden I felt like I was supposed to reach out to Jon and Rhonda Pritikin asking them to let us know if they heard of any High School Bible teacher openings. It felt a little crazy at the time but I knew I had felt that nudge that only God gives.
Rhonda was also a student in the same school in our first place of ministry. So I got my students started on some independent work and private messaged them both. The next time I checked my phone I had heard from Rhonda telling me she would love it if Tim could teach at the private Christian school Jaden now attends or Jim Elliott Christian High School where she would be attending next year. Would we be interested in that? “Yes” I messaged back and could she message me contact information.
The next day she sent me another message asking permission for Jon to email both principals directly. We were so encouraged and gave our permission. John included Tim in his email to the principals, what he wrote and how he represented us was just so meaningful to us both. It is no small thing when someone will put their name next to yours and say these are people we believe in and I will recommend them even though I have a very public ministry that needs to be protected for the cause of Christ. We were humbled and immensely grateful.
We heard back quite quickly that the K-8 school was fully staffed for the year but were glad because Tim really wants to move to the High School level in preparation for Adjunct Professor work when he completes his MDIV which he will this fall.
And then an email from the new High School Principal/Superintendent came and he said he knew us from Bethany and that he would very much like to talk to Tim. We recognized Dr. Mark Stewart’s name and excitement began to grow in us, this is someone from the Bethany Family! Tim made an appointment for the Friday after he was out of school which was also my last day of school.
Tim had been praying for a mandate from God, clear direction about what the next part of his journey should look like. He wanted to feel like he was needed and that he be involved in something he could build.
Jim Elliot High School had at one time been a thriving Christian HS but in the last couple of years experienced some difficulties and that is why Dr. Stewart had been hired to help refocus the school and help it move forward, his start date was July 1 but he was already hard at work. I wasn’t quite sure what the meeting would produce and went off to school to participate in the promotion ceremony and end my school year. I was done by noon and sent a text to Tim to see if he was on his way home yet and see how the meeting had gone. He had lots to tell me and so we decided to meet at Round Table for the lunch special. You are officially old people when you meet for the lunch special!
When we finally got settled into our seat with food Tim looked at me and said “I think he offered me a job but I am not sure…” I said “Ok tell me everything!” Mark and Tim had enjoyed catching up and talking about shared experiences and friendships and recognized they had graduated from Bethany in the same class. They talked about theological philosophy and all kinds of things and Tim realized they had a similar heart beat for students really knowing and experiencing God. Dr. Stewart said to Tim “I have been praying for someone like you.” But before we go any further let me tell you this… I am not sure exactly what you will be teaching maybe a combination of Bible/History and this is what is pays, he said apologetically but then Dr. Stewart stopped himself without Tim asking for anything more and said” But I think I could move some things around and do this,” the amount he stated was the amount we had been praying for.
As Tim talked everything fell into place for me. I didn’t really want to move from the Sacramento area especially for Manteca but Lodi is a different matter entirely, Lodi has some of the things I like in a larger city but the charm of a small town too. It would put me much closer to my school which is in North Stockton but part of the Lodi Unified School District. It also would put us 30 minutes closer to Neighborhood Church so we can maintain our involvement there.
We of course loved the Bethany connection and all the possibilities for the future…we spent the afternoon talking, praying and feeling excited! So that evening Tim emailed Dr. Stewart and told him we wanted to take the next step, by the end of the next week Tim had a contract and we were on our way. God is so gracious to take care of even the smallest details, Jim Elliott’s school calendar sync’s with Lodi Unified so Tim and I will have a very similar school schedule with just a minor change or two. God is a God of details! And He looks at our hearts and he knows what we need even when we don’t know what that is.
When Tim came home from his first meeting, he had more details. He will be the Department chair for Bible and teach 11/12th Bible, History and Choir. When I ask Tim what he misses about pastoring the thing he always says first is leading worship and now my Shepherd Worshipper will be using his musical gifts to teach Choir every day. What a gift!
Tim contributed a lot to planning for the new school year and he experienced the partnership with Dr. Stewart that he felt began in their first meeting. Books are strewn all around our apartment as he is already digging in and brainstorming ideas…I love seeing him like this!
Our lives are really about seasons. That can look a million different ways because our God is creative and He places us where he is creating and working on His priorities. Tim and I have lived our lives in the last 4 years asking these questions every day: What is the “manna” for today and what is your divine appointment for today? It opens the heart to following what God intends for us and what He would have us do and not the other way around.
Tim’s season at MC is concluded, it was a meaningful season, a safe place for him to reenter the world of teaching, the opportunity to pour into the life of Gavin Lowell whose parents Lance and Tina are the Pastors of Neighborhood church, it is a precious thing to invest into the child of someone you have loved deeply. They feel like family to us, we love the 4 of them very much.
It is also very fun to think that in a year Tim may be teaching Jaden Pritikin just like he taught Rhonda when she was in High School. Doesn’t it make perfect sense that Jon and Rhonda who travel all over the world to minister to other people’s kids should have someone special to teach their daughter?Of course God would send Tim Clements to them!
Sometimes I think Tim and I are utility players for God, we have fulfilled more than one position in the body of Christ…we just kind of fill in the gaps. We just do what needs doing I guess! But we told God from the beginning that our lives belonged to Him and we would go where He sent us.
We got a letter from the NCN District that we will celebrate 25 years of ordination this year and we have served in so many capacities in those 25 years and all of them have enriched our lives in some way or another…but 25 years? Really?! Wow! Time flies when you are a utility player on the team that is eternal.