• Ava Hoffman

Left Behind?

I made a somewhat spontaneous decision to leave Iowa for a week and drive to East Lansing, Michigan. It is weird to be homesick for a place that is not home, people that are not family, and a city that you do not know. And yet, there I was. Here I am. East Lansing, Michigan.

This summer has been hard on many fronts. One particularly sore area has been that of being left behind. Forgotten. Cast aside and put on the shelf. Discarded, nothing but a dusty memory. I’ll explain.

When I realized I would be staying behind, my heart did not know what to expect. I did not fully grasp the brokenness that watching people move to where God has called my heart would create. I did not know how deeply I would mourn watching from 563 miles away. I did not imagine how difficult it would be to remain invested where I am still planted.

I could not imagine the envy I would fight as I watched homes made, pregnancies announced, relationships established, God move, and this baby church outgrow the basement it started in. Envy mixed with awe and honor to be a part of it from the beginning.

I did not realize how quickly the pictures would change – how few people I would soon know. I did not comprehend how quickly life would move, friendships strengthen and bonds form. I knew life would move on in Michigan…I wasn’t prepared for the swiftness of it, though.

As I watched friend after friend move to EL, my heart grew heavier with longing and loneliness. As I saw God work in the church and in the community, it multiplied. As I witnessed from afar the milestones of this church I have been called to, I grew frustrated. I do not like being left behind. I do not like being separated. I do not like the feeling of missing out. I do not like not being there.

By the grace of my Father, in the middle of my angst, I finally called out to God. He placed my half-finished Bible study in my hands. The word “WAIT” on the cover hit my heart all over again. I dug in. I dug deep.

And He spoke.

He is not finished with me in Ames, Iowa. My story in this cornfield I was first led to is not over. There is another chapter to be written in Iowa. Lessons to learn. People to meet. Stories to hear. Residents to walk alongside. The healing God started in my life is not complete, and in His wisdom, He has chosen to finish this portion in Ames.

As I have sought clarity and peace in remaining in my chosen college town this summer, God chose this time, these brief moments in EL, to overwhelm my heart and humble my spirit. He poured into me, reminding me of His truth, His promises, flooding my spirit with the affirming words of my Commons Church family.

My Father is choosing to use my absence in EL to touch those that are there. The church leaders ask about me weekly. The way I (allegedly) talk about Jesus naturally, unapologetically, and continuously has been used as an example to others. When girls I know (but not well) greet me with open arms, telling me I am much missed. How so many of the people new to the church know my name, sought me out while I was there. The simple excitement news of my presence brought.

Oh how I celebrated and mourned in those moments. How my spirit was humbled with the sweet reminder - I am not forgotten! Not by God. Not by the place He has called me to. Not by the people in my next chapter.

He was not finished, though.

He spoke again, bringing phrases to mind that have been spoken over me since I first made the decision to remain behind. Helper. Reinforcement. An encouragement. A breath of fresh air. A light. All characteristics that are not needed in EL this moment. Therefore, I remain in Iowa. This is why I wait.

Church planting is hard. Forsaking the comfortable is hard. Heart-breaking. When my team in EL is weary, frustrated, homesick, and hurting, I will move there. I will walk into their pain and remind them why. Why this is important. Why this is necessary. Why they specifically were called to EL. I will come alongside them, lift their face to their Father, and remind them this is worth it. They have been used. They are being used. They will continue to influence, impact, and imprint the community around them.

This is why I wait.

I won’t lie…I am not completely sure what God has planned for this last season in Iowa. But don’t confuse that with restlessness. I do not need to know precisely what this last semester holds. I rest in what I know and Who I know.

I am called to wait. This has been made abundantly clear. I wait to graduate, to move, to heal, to walk forward. I am waiting on my future. That does not mean I wait in the present, though. Rather, the opposite. I am still planted here in Ames, Iowa. I still have deep roots in this place.

While I wait, I am instructed to flourish. To grow strong amidst the relationships I have here, among the mentors who continue to invest in me, among the friends who still tangibly need my presence. I am called to remain rooted here. To pray hard here. To look to my left, to my right, and deeply cherish and love those around me here. To do life here. The pain of being separated from the Commons Church and the family there still remains. There will always be pain when you are away from the ones you love, the places you love. But there is peace. I have purpose in EL one day, but right now, in the present, my purpose is to serve the community in a cornfield. Am I left behind? No. Not at all. I am right where I am supposed to be

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