This is my city
It’s time to share my story.
Or at least how I’ve come to where I’m at now. Of course all stories continue; issues come up when we focus on one particular season or want as the End, as if everything were a means to bring us to that point. This is just a highlight of several significant chapters in my life. A lot of you, my friends, have recently asked questions about the past year of my life and this seemed like the best way to communicate.
I want to be very clear about two facts upfront: God is good. and Faith acts with no circumstantial evidence to back it up.
On December 3, 2011 I journaled these thoughts: “Is this how God is saying that I’m here in Greenville for good? God, I struggle with this so much. You have done so much in my heart and life that has given me a passion for the Gosepl where there is no voice or very little. I feel like Greenville is so saturated and stagnant. People know Jesus but they refuse because their stuff and relationships and lives are worth more. We are so plush here. Send me somewhere else.”
I had recently sat through a church service where Tim Keesee had shared exciting stories of travel and Kingdom advancement around the world. I’m not exactly sure why it happened, but I fell apart. I cried all throughout the service, wept during my drive home, pulled myself together while some friends came over, and then wept again once they left. I felt so jaded. Like I was given a taste of something that I couldn’t have as my own. Purpose seemed to have evaded me and my desires went unfulfilled.
I didn’t want to be in Greenville. Of all places I’ve been, Greenville was my last choice. In my life I’ve lived in 7 states, traveled to 3 foreign countries, and have been personally involved in dozens of churches, ministries and cultures. Yet something was still aching, missing. I knew I had to find it or I would die. Moving away seemed the logical answer.
In May 2012 several circumstances climaxed in my life. Quite frankly, life was terrible. I finally said, “Ok God, I’ll move to California if that’s what you want. I can’t just sit here anymore.” Why California? I had visited Menifee, CA in the past and loved the area, the people, and church plant there. I even tried to move there once before. But now seemed like the best time. I had nothing to lose. I didn’t really have possessions, deep relationships, or even purpose. I didn’t even laugh anymore. which was scary. and sad. I couldn’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t incessantly laugh.
This move, however, was very fearful for me because I had no external evidence to support it, but I claimed faith to move on. As soon as I took that first step, crazy stuff started happening. A hospital in the LA area called me about my online resume, and by the end of the first conversation they had set up a time to fly me out for an interview with the Board and CEO for the Director of Marketing position.
*cue freak out moment* I went from nothing to suddently an all-expense paid trip to Southern California during the week of the 4th of July to interview for a dream job! Simply. Unbelievable. I remember driving in my rental through the amazing California scenery, biking around Menifee, and visiting San Diego thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
The job though? I knew the moment the interview was over I wasn’t supposed to accept that job. I loved them, they loved me, but it wasn’t mine to have. I ended up officially turning it down a week later. Yet at the end of my visit I told Tim Lovegrove, the pastor at Grace Bible in Menifee, “I want to be here. I can’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t move. There’s nothing holding me down in Greenville.”
I would literally be starting life over. I made plans to pack my stuff, sell what I could, terminate my leases and contracts, and end my chapter in Greenville. I even had Plan A and Plan B written out, complete with financials. This was real, people.
But oh the fun had just started. August 1, right at the tipping point of change, something relatively insignificant happened, yet it was like God whispered, “Wait.” Hm, ok.
Friday night August 3 I walked into a small theatre building in downtown Greenville for a service with some church I had never heard of before: City Church. 2 friends at outreach had invited me but contra-dancing had conveniently conflicted for several weeks. Needless to say, I showed up that night.
And so did God.
You know how some moments in your life you remember even the smallest details? This was one of those nights. My mind was blown so many times. Something was different. I saw normal, everyday people that really cared about their city. and they weren’t “missionaries.” Like, they intentionally pursued the people and prosperity of the city. It was like the church existed for the city and not the city for the church. This was new to me. I was intrigued.
They had also just started a 21 day fast with other churches in Greenville called The Hinge. They actually believed that real prayer was the hinge to open up a door of kingdom advancement and revival in Greenville. They had been praying for years for the kingdom to come to Greenville as it is in heaven. They believed that you don’t have to go find the kingdom; if you are a child of God, where you go the kingdom goes with you. The power of Jesus really does dwell in your heart and affects you and everyone around you.
Well, this was pretty cool. It was an invitation for me to join. I thought, I may be leaving, but I want to be a part of this, even if just briefly. I want to see the power of this kind of prayer.
So I entered into fasting and prayer unlike any other time in my life. And, well, stuff happened. A lot of crazy stuff. It was like my world stopped and God said, “Watch me.”
3 unpredictable weeks later The Hinge ended with a huge prayer gathering at Falls Park. I got to the park early and sat on a bench reading Romans 8. I was so confused. So much had happened in the past 3 weeks I didn’t know what to think or do. Where was I supposed to be?
As I was thinking, I happened to look past my bench. I saw a piece of trash, a straw specifically.
This is my city.
I sat up straight with a jolt. Did I say that? Uh, for real? …God? God, how can this be my city? Like, emphasis on “my.” You see, if I call something mine, I have to take care of it. Because I care. If something is broken, I fix it. If trash is on the ground, I pick it up.
I stared at the straw in disbelief. I knew that he was calling me to Greenville and asking me to pick up the straw and accept ownership. But, but… if this is true, then I would’ve been wrong the entire time! Was I really that blind? Had it really been right in front of me the whole time?
I closed my Bible, got up, picked up the straw, threw it away, and then walked down where everyone was gathering. The first people I saw were friends I had just met the night before at City Church. They asked, “How are you?” And I said in a bit of a haze, “uh, I think God just called me to Greenville.” “Oh that’s awesome!” one friend replied. “Because I just prayed for you this morning.”
And you know what I think is funny? God sent me all the way to California for a wild, expensive dream trip… and then used a piece of trash to call me to my own city. Hilarious! I had to come to the complete end of myself and be completely desperate for him. He asked me to start taking faith steps and then rewarded the obedience by giving me way more than I ever imagined.
From that moment on something changed in Angela’s inside area. Something was set free. I can’t even really explain it, but I guess that’s what love is like. I remember talking with my mom the following week and saying, “Mom, I don’t know what happened. I feel like I’m really light. It’s like I’m myself again. I’m laughing again.” Somehow, because he’s so good, he just took my oppression and chains of heaviness around my heart and broke them. And I didn’t even know the chains were there.
And I have experienced immense amounts of joy since then that I have never tasted before. And it’s tastes reeeeaaaally good.
From that point on God has led and told me that he would be bringing me into many new seasons in my life: work, church, community, marriage, outreach, and relationships. And this is where I’ve learned faith: I believe that they are a reality before they physically show up in my life. Kind of a crazy way to live, but actually in the Kingdom that’s normal.
Starting December 2012, God built the bridges for me to cross into several of these new seasons. My time working directly with the homeless was over and I would be reaching out to women with broken lives, whether they are connected with sex trafficking, strip clubs, or abused lives. This totally overlapped with a new job he sent me. As the trainer and manager of 9Rounds on Wade Hampton, my schedule didn’t allow me to work downtown anymore with the homeless, but he immediately sent me to a new outreach and community to minister in that fit in my schedule. And with this new community and outreach he led me to a new home church, which is City Church at the heart of downtown Greenville. Now my job, outreach, church and home are within a 5 mile radius. He’s really good like that.
And so the story continues. I don’t really know what’s next. Some things have really surprised me in the recent weeks, but honestly I’m done with being surprised to be surprised. That’s just how it is. I can never fully understand the love and joy of Jesus so every new experience of goodness is always a “WHOA! Now that’s a new awesome!”
So, to sum it all up, isn’t he a good story writer? I love a good story. I recently finished Harry Potter and The Half-Blooded Prince and I just had the experience during the story where I literally cried out, “Nooooooooooooo!! Say it ain’t so!” I know there’s one more book and that it’s going to end really well, but I’m kinda disappointed right now… yet captivated. Something good’s coming. Something better.
Every day, each moment of my story, your story, has that constant hope keeping us moving forward and expectant. Something good’s coming. It only gets better. And I’m not being optimistic. I’m being real. Because at some point we need to come to a place where the unseen is more real than the skin on our bones or the air that we breathe.