Story Time: Loving Through Lasagna
Christin: God, I know you’ve called us to church plant, but what do I do while I wait? God: Love me and love your neighbor. Christin: *Knocks on a random guy’s house and offers him a lasagna.*
The rain fell in fat, sloppy drops, splattering against the windshield as I rehearsed my introduction. I double checked the address, grateful for the technology which directed me there. Five months of living in a new area was not enough time to have found my way around each part of town, and it’s always been a challenge for me to learn streets and neighborhoods. I was comfortable getting gas and groceries and getting to church, but delivering meals with Lasagna Love took me all over Benicia, making online directions invaluable. I pulled my hood up and gathered the prepared meal–two 8x8 pans and a bagged salad–and a flier with my contact information, baking instructions, and the reasons “why” behind the gift. Balancing everything precariously I pushed the van door open and slid out. The rain made a “tink-tink” sound against the foil as I rushed down the steps toward apartment number 9. Shifting my bundle I knocked on the door. And waited. I knocked again. And waited. I rang the doorbell and wrangled my phone out of my pocket to send a text. “Hi! I’m standing outside your door with lasagna! Would you like me to leave it on the porch for you?” Just as I hit send the door opened and a gentleman poked his head out, his neatly trimmed goatee shifting around his smile as he looked at the food and then at me. “Hello?” “Hi, I’m Christin, from Lasagna Love. Is Florine here?” “No, there’s no one by that name.” “Oh! I’m so sorry! Google sent me to the wrong place I guess.” “No worries. I betcha you’re needing to get to those apartments across the way. You’ll have to get back to the main street, then hook around.” His genuine smile and graciousness was so encouraging and his kindness was appreciated, especially as he explained he had been working from home. “I saw the food, though, and figured I’d better figure out what was going on.” I explained that Lasagna Love is an organization that matches volunteer chefs with households who would be blessed by a home-cooked meal and that I was looking for a family who had signed up to receive a meal. “As it happens, though, I ended up with extra ingredients, and made an extra lasagna… Would you like dinner for tonight?” His eyes lit up in that unique “I’m about to get free food” way, and he happily accepted. I handed him the flier, explaining that our church ladies donated the food and helped assemble the meal, and that he’s welcome to join us for church on Sunday evening. At that moment my phone dinged with a reply from Florine, letting me know she was waiting at her door. I excused myself, drove over to the apartments the gentleman had pointed out, and met with Florine and her husband. They were a sweet couple, and incredibly thankful for the meal, as health challenges had made food prep difficult for them. Heading home I texted a friend and told her I got a twofer. “I guess you had a God appointment,” was her reply. Indeed!
“Thank you so much, Christin. We are so blessed by you and your church. It’s a tough time right now and life has been a struggle in fear of losing our place to live. This really brightened up our week. Just to know there are people out there who care.” -Lasagna Love Recipient
Growing up in the church I took for granted that, if you were sick, or sad, or weary, or in any way in need of tangible/edible encouragement, you’d talk to your ladies ministry team and, pretty soon, you’d be swimming in casseroles for at least two weeks. Something I realized through the height of Covid, however, is that unchurched people rarely have that type of community. Signing myself up to do Lasagna Love with my girls and getting our church excited to serve with us has been one of the sweetest ways to reach into the hearts of our neighbors. In just the last few weeks we’ve served 53 people in 12 households (including our bonus man!), and each time we’ve been able to introduce ourselves as the church plant down the way, explaining that we are sharing the love of Jesus through feeding our neighbors. Cooking and delivering lasagnas has resulted in the most visible fruit in our five months in Benicia, and it is hugely encouraging to see that we’re making a difference.
Missions Update: NAMB & SEND
The North American Mission Board and their equipping ministry, SEND, have been so encouraging to Jason and me! In November we went to an assessment conference, where we met with several church planters for interviews regarding every aspect of our lives, from marriage and family, finances, our expectations for church planting, our level of comfort in theology, Jason’s preaching skills, my views on being a pastor’s wife, and how to interact with the community, both in sharing the gospel and in inviting others to partner with us. Before SEND can bring us on as official missionaries, the organization encouraged us to show that we can start and grow a ministry. This request is completely reasonable as church planting is just that- starting something from scratch and building it into a healthy, reproducible body. Before now Jason and I have jumped into many ministries, served faithfully and seen growth, but we hadn’t had the opportunity to start something from the ground up. Working with Trinity, however, as they are a brand new start-up themselves (their first anniversary is coming up this Easter), has presented the opportunity to start and grow the youth group as a perfect way to meet SEND’s request. We will meet with SEND reps (date TBD), give them a report, and we hope to be full-fledged missionaries with NAMB by the end of Spring! Woohoo!
Jason preaching at Trinity
Ministry & Outreach
YOUTH GROUP Jason has been setting up gatherings for the Jr and Sr Highers, and our house has been the hub for a few game nights and pizza parties. Trinity’s growing congregation has a good handful of young people and we’ve been averaging about eight kids each group night. It’s been fun getting to know them. Jason is looking forward to diving into some fun topics with them (developing biblical friendships, knowing what God wants you to do with your life, standing out for the gospel), and I’m excited to get to know the girls more.
OUTREACH Our first weeks in town saw us at the December Benicia Tree Lighting event, where thousands of people mill around First Street, visiting vendors, shopping for Christmas gifts, and taking selfies against the beautiful Benicia Bay backdrop. Jason headed up a gathering of Trinity Church folks and they handed out candy and invitation cards, letting the community know about the church’s existence just a few blocks away. Jason and I also led a caroling tour, singing door to door in the frigid cold around our neighborhood. Those who popped their heads out seemed delighted to see us, and one lady even tossed on a jacket and followed us around like a groupie, filming videos for her friends. Apparently there had never been carolers there before, and it was a great way to meet people and introduce them to Trinity.
PREACHING Part of Jason’s internship as Associate Pastor is to cover the pulpit when needed. He and our Sr. Pastor, Ryan Rippee, are diving into 1 John, taking turns expositing the Word. The theme is the Assurance of Salvation and it has been wonderful! As our church meets at 4pm on Sundays Jason has been available to lead worship and preach at other churches in the area when they have a need.
Jason leading worship at a nearby church
SEMINARY Jason is continuing with The Cornerstone Bible College and Seminary (TCBS), and is currently in finals week for this third quarter. Having started in January of 2021 he has roughly 18 months left to earn his MDiv. Taking five classes a quarter has been challenging (especially in learning Hebrew!), but we are learning to budget time with a careful schedule to include his pastoral responsibilities and making time for family. We anticipate him graduating near the end of 2024, which is also our projected date to move to our future church plant.
Finances & Future Needs
FINANCES The abundant generosity of Trinity Church has blessed us with a living wage with enough padding to be generous with others and tuck a little aside to save. The church is also footing the bill for all Jason’s seminary costs, both tuition and books. The high cost of living in the Bay Area, however, has been an adjustment, and groceries, gas, and bridge tolls have encouraged us to get creative with budgeting! FUTURE NEEDS As soon as we are officially registered with NAMB we will have the privilege of inviting others to partner with us financially. Those funds will help offset the cost of future ministry (children’s curriculum, counseling training, folding chairs, printer ink, light bulbs, and all the things necessary to start a church from the ground up), in addition to assisting us with lodging. Due to exorbitant housing costs, even the smallest apartment will run nearly $4000/month, with the purchase of too-small homes in the $600K range. There are so many unknowns for the future, but we have every confidence that Jesus will provide for us, even if we end up camping in the church building for a year. He is good, and we will trust him.
Trinity Church meets in an old Post Office. We share the space with Benicia Fellowship who meets on Sunday mornings and has graciously allowed our congregation to use the building in the evenings.
How To Pray
Endurance for Jason: Between school, pastoring, starting new ministries, learning the ins and outs of starting a church, and caring for our family, Jason is having to be careful with his time and energy. Please pray that this season will teach us to find our rest in Jesus, and that we would grow in diligence to steward our time and resources well, especially knowing that we will desperately need those skills as we dive deeper into church planting. Wisdom in Schooling: Winter is still upon us, yet I’m already needing to make decisions regarding the kids’ schooling for next year. Kaden will be in 10th grade, Thea in 7th, and Auna in 4th. Knowing we will most likely be in the area for less than two years there is an added level of decision making regarding co-ops, college courses, and extracurricular activities. Please pray that we will be faithful with what we have where we are, for wisdom in discerning which opportunities to pursue, and boldness in doing new things. Writing/Speaking: I have been invited to submit a book proposal to a few agents and publishers at the upcoming Inspire Christian Writers Conference at Mt. Hermon the first week of April. I hope to make connections and collect skills to eventually supplement our income through books and articles. Additionally I will be speaking/leading music at a few webinars and women’s conferences this year. The opportunity to share what Jesus has been teaching me is a delight, and the occasional honorarium is a boon to our family. Please pray that I would be a good steward of these skills and that Jesus would use them to encourage others to know him. Relationships: Between women’s ministries, American Heritage Girls, Men’s Gaming Nights, and Youth Group we have been able to connect with a number of like minded people, both in and out of Trinity Church. We hope to foster these friendships, stay connected with friends back in previous home towns, and interact with our community, while understanding our time in Benicia is limited. Please pray for continued connections, and wisdom in building new friendships. Moving Forward: Our job now is to invest in our local church body, share the love of Jesus with our neighbors, and pursue knowledge, skill and wise counselors for our future church plant.
Please pray that we would grow in love for those whom Jesus loves, that we would continue to trust God to supply our every need, and that Jesus would even now be preparing our future community to receive him.
THIS UPDATE WAS ORIGINALLY SHARED HERE (WITH ADDITIONAL PHOTOS).