Transitioning Back to Texas…
As many already know, two years ago this May, my family and I made the move from Denton, TX out to Fresno, CA to work with The Well Community Church as pastor of the Fig Garden Campus. While it was tough to leave behind all of our friends and family, the state we had spent the majority of our 34 years of life in at the time, as well as our beloved home church (Denton Bible Church) – we felt a strong sense of the Lord’s lead out here to Fresno. From the moment we touched ground here, The Well instantly became our family away from family and Fresno became our new home & mission field. These past two years have been an amazing time for us. In our time here we have experienced tremendous blessing in our lives…
- Had the privilege of working with an incredible church alongside an amazing staff in the midst of a great city
- Felt the pleasure of God in seeking to invest the Gospel into the city of Fresno- and specifically in the lives I’ve been so privileged to shepherd at the Fig Campus
- Have used my gifts & talents in ways & places I have never experienced before
- Made some amazing friendships that have challenged & encouraged my family
- Tapped into the wisdom of some wonderful mentors
- Dialed into a neighborhood & school that have been better than we could have ever dreamed of being involved with
- Experienced some of the most beautiful geography the U.S. has to offer!
- Seen tremendous spiritual fruit take place in the lives of The Well Community- and it’s many partnerships in the city
- And the list goes on…
Fresno has become home for us in these two years and we’ve been incredibly grateful to the Lord for bringing us out here to this amazing opportunity!
As many of you know, however, just a few months ago we received some tragic news that has had my family and I on our knees ever since… Right around Christmas, my wife’s mother was diagnosed with Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma (an aggressive and terminal form of cancer) at the age of 58. It’s a cancer that typically carries with it a survival rate of a few months to maybe 2 or 3 years. Sadly, she did not make it past two months, and went to be with the Lord on February 24, 2011. In the midst of a great loss, we did have the wonderful pleasure of seeing my mother-in-law come to faith in Jesus Christ shortly before she passed- and I had the privilege of honoring the Lord’s work in her life by officiating her funeral.
In the days prior to her death, the Lord began a stirring within our hearts concerning a possible relocation back to Texas. And in the days since she passed, that stirring became even greater. And after much prayer & fasting, along with a tremendous amount of counsel- we have decided to transition back.
I want to tell you that this decision has not been easy… And the reason why I take the time to write all of this, is because I want to be completely transparent with friends and family (both in California & Texas) as to how and why we have come to this decision…
First of all, I want to be up front and say that The Well Community Church has been absolutely AMAZING in this whole process. Both the elders, Brad Bell, and the staff have been completely supportive to my family in this time. I could not have asked for a more supportive church family to walk through this with us as the Well has done. Brad & the elders have prayed for us throughout this entire process. They were very quick to offer up multiple scenarios that involved keeping us here in Fresno- while at the same time allowing us to get back to Texas as often as we can for visits… And even after we still felt led to move forward with a transition- they were the first to offer up encouragement and support for our decision. I can honestly say, there’s probably not too many churches, companies, organizations, etc… that would offer to go the distance with us like The Well has done. For that my wife and I have been extremely grateful!
But again, even with some amazing scenarios in front of us that would allow us to stay put, there was still a ‘peace’ that was missing in my wife & I’s heart… the peace of just knowing “you’re there”, “you’re anchored nearby”, and now accessible to minister to our family in a way that had not existed before… A family who’s DNA has been catastrophically changed through this event. Believe me when I say, we had no desire to leave Fresno, we had no desire to uproot yet again… and in no way were we looking for an opportunity to “get away” from where we’re at… but after much prayer, fasting, and seeking godly counsel- we have come to an absolute & 100%, unified peace about the decision we’ve landed on. Either decision can leave a husband and wife with a sense of regret, but the ‘law of least regret’ led us to the conviction to move back. During this process, I have wrestled greatly with vocational “calling” vs. “comfort”, passages such as Luke 9:59-62, and the feeling of ‘selling out’ as a pastor (all feelings any pastor worth his salt has probably wrestled with)… but I’ve also wrestled with what it means to be a servant-leader husband, a steward of my family in a time of need (1 Timothy 5:8)- and resting on the deep conviction of knowing that wherever I go (whether California or Texas), whatever job I hold (whether teaching from a pulpit or flippin’ burgers at McDonald’s)- our heart will always be to invest in Christ’s Kingdom first and foremost (Matthew 6:33). So with that in mind, we feel a confident peace in our obedience to the Lord on this, and we will be heading back to Texas the first week of April.
Now I’m also excited to report that God is always faithful to resource where He leads. In praying for this decision, my wife & I have sought to ensure that this move had a long-term perspective in mind… We asked that if God would have us move again, that He would provide not only financially and vocationally, but that He might provide a spot where our family could anchor and invest the Gospel in the community around us for a long time to come… We prayed very specifically, that if it were His lead, that He would provide the right role with the right church in the right city… And He has indeed provided above and beyond what we even prayed for…
Through God’s clear provision, I have officially accepted a position with The Village Church as their Flower Mound Campus Pastor. I became acquainted with the Village during my years as the college pastor of Denton Bible Church, and have maintained friendships with several pastors on staff ever since. To those who know The Well- The Village is very similar in doctrine, philosophy, culture & mission. I consider it a high honor to have the opportunity to be a part of what God’s doing there. While my family and I are sad to leave The Well community out here in Fresno, we are excited about the opportunity to come on board with the Village and look forward to having a long-term investment in the Flower Mound /Highland Village /Lewisville area. Already the Village family has been extremely welcoming and gracious to my family and I. I’ll be working with a phenomenal staff, embedded in a great community, and serving with the same passion for Christ I’ve always had. We look forward to what God has in store for us ahead.
To The Well family that we leave behind… thank you for the incredible support, patience, and love you’ve demonstrated to us in the two years we’ve been here. You’ve invested in us in more ways we can possibly thank you for. We’ll continue to pray for the Lord’s blessing upon The Well and the city she serves. Know you will be deeply missed.
We’ll continue to keep everyone posted as the transition progresses. Thanks for the many prayers and support offered up by so many in this journey.
The Sumlin Family