Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jon and Jenny

Last week Kim and I said goodbye to some dear friends who came to mean so much to us in the short two years that we knew them. Jon and Jenny James (in the picture above, with Andrew in the middle, for reasons only Andrew could probably explain) were part of the launch team of Story Church. (In case you don't know what that is, it's basically the handful of people who commit themselves to helping to get a brand new church off the ground.) We had been meeting in my house with about three other families on a weekly basis when Jon emailed me one day out of the blue. He and his family were looking for a church and he said that they would like to come to one of our meetings to get to know us. Little did we know that we were about to meet some of the most critical team members Story Church would have in our first two years.

Over time as we began to get to know them, Jon and Jenny fit like a glove. I quickly learned that Jon was not only very smart, but an incredibly gifted strategic thinker. I had always heard that God would provide just the right people at just the right time for our church, but this was really unbelievable. Jon and I met at least once a week to talk about the church, to dream big dreams and to talk about how to create the systems that would make Story Church sustainable. He saved me time and time again from myself as I would start down some trail without a plan. Where I tend to be big picture, Jon always helped me to think practically and to ask the important questions of how we get there.

Jon played in the band, rarely missing a week. He set up our sound system. He built the carts we use for our setup. He created the online tools we use to track and measure the health and effectiveness of our church. He gave generously from day one. He managed our volunteers - from the first time they served to the scheduling to the shepherding of each one. For the first year of our church Jon even pulled the trailer with his truck.

Jenny served in our kids ministry from day one. When she wasn't with our kids, she was the first face people would connect with as she would welcome them from the stage. And all this while carrying around a small man / large baby we know and love as Jimmy.

On a personal level, Jon really helped me to get to know this city that I've come to love in Durham. Jon introduced me to Cosmic Cantina - where we regularly debated the merits of the Chicken Burrito vs. the "Old School" Chicken Burrito. He introduced me to Parker and Otis, now one of my favorites. And then there's Bali Hai and the unceasing quest to get the most food for the best value. No one can stack food better or create a more complete bridge of food than Jon. I should also credit Jon for my transition to coffee - as he introduced me to the mocha, the gateway drug I needed to make the jump. He took me to a Duke football game, but more importantly, he got me in to Cameron to see my first Duke hoops game.

Jon and I laughed a lot. Which to me was maybe the most important thing of all. Jon became a friend for me in what were some of the most lonely times of my life - those first two years of the church planting process. I don't know if I would have made it without a friend like Jon.

We always knew that Jon and Jenny would only be here a short time as he finished up his PhD. I can only say the time was too short. It's hard to completely explain how much Jon and Jenny have meant to my family, and to the Story Church family. Our church may not have made it this far, but certainly not in its present form if it hadn't been for this amazing couple.

Jon and Jenny have moved on to Cleveland where Jon goes to work for the Federal Reserve. I know one thing for sure - Cleveland just became a better city. I thank God for the time we had with the James family and pray that He blesses them in every way in the years to come.

We had hoped to have one last Sunday with Jon and Jenny to publicly acknowledge them and the contribution they made to Story Church. In the end, that wasn't possible. But if you have benefited in any way from the ministry of Story Church it is only because of people like Jon and Jenny. Please don't hesitate to let them know how thankful you are for them by responding here, or send them a message on Facebook here, or here.


i could not have said this better. we are going to miss them tons. they are a true gift from God

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