Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Shepherd Family Returns to the US

Little is Much, When God is in it.
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There's a crown, and you can win it.
If you go in Jesus Name.
~Kittie L. Suffield

I can remember my Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa, Eldon and Elsie singing that song around the old upright piano in their Baltimore Street house in Middletown. Those words have echoed in my mind through the years during times of transition. I hear them strongly today. 

Kellie and I have tried to live life boldly and obediently. The most significant times of our life have been marked with affirmations of prayer. About ten days ago, Kellie and I agreed to both retreat into prayer on a matter, asking God to speak to our hearts and provide His direction.

This has been a holy moment for our family. It reminds us of several crossroads that have defined both who we are, and to whom we belong. We prayed this way when we were considering adopting a little girl named Aleksandra. The doctors told us that she might die... and the judge said we had to make a choice. 

We prayed this prayer before traveling to China to adopt a little girl that had been abandoned for dead in a public park. And we also prayed this prayer when we were struggling with the conviction that God might be calling us to work for Him in Guatemala.

Each time we sought the face of God, He answered with a solid affirmation. Each time Kellie and I were given the same strong answer... "Be Bold. Love. Adopt. Go." Even when the way has been unclear, we've moved forward and we've met God along the road. 

And so... as we faced the knowledge of Towne Boulevard Church of God without a pastor, we agreed once again to dedicate a week in seeking the face of God on the matter.

I had been quietly wrestling with the question on my own, not knowing that it had also been on the heart of Kellie. I had a friend ask, "Why haven't you applied?", and I had a list of reasons ready that I could rattle off: (1) God is blessing our work here in Guatemala, (2) I'm already a pastor, (3) No one could ever fill Mitchell Burch's shoes, (3) I'm not qualified, (4) I'm too young, (5) My life isn't perfect, (6) We have everything planned out already. It is so easy to give reasons of why not.

And yet, the question nagged at my soul. And so, Kellie and I agreed to pray on the matter and I submitted my name to the Pulpit Committee at Towne Boulevard Church of God in Ohio.

After several days of silent individual prayers, after returning from leading Emmaus (a group of 10 students from the US) through Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador for five weeks, Kellie said to me, "So, I think God has told me something." I held my breath because God had also spoken to me... but, what He told me sounded ridiculous!

I said, "Ok, let's hear it."

Kellie said, "I think that God has called you to be a pastor for your whole life. Just like Brother George Mitchell, Clifford Hutchinson, and your grandpa Carmel always tried to tell you. I just think that it's taken Guatemala for God to finally get you to believe it. I think we've been sent here to be shaped for that purpose and to learn to be obedient. Now we're meant to go and pastor where we're called to go."

I was trembling and in shock... I had felt God reminding me of the stories of Abraham, of Moses, of even Paul. Stories where God had to get their attention, sometimes through the desert, the wilderness, or facedown on the road. God reminded me of the Children of Israel who had to be discipled  as they wandered for forty years while He shaped them for their purpose. God told me that He had used this time in Guatemala to prepare me... and for me to learn to yield to His voice.

And so... within the last 48 hours Kellie and I have consulted with pastors that we trust, and dear partners here with whom we walk. We have made plans to sell two vehicles, made arrangements with our mission to take possession of our house, sold appliances and furniture, and our family will return to Ohio on August 1st to begin exploring a relationship with Towne Boulevard Church of God, or wherever God leads.

My heart is with Towne. I am their son. I sat on those pews listening to the Spirit of God through Billy T. Ball, the teachings of Henry Howard, George Mitchell, and Clifford Hutchinson. I saw my great-grandma, grandma, and mother sing from that stage. I learned under Charles Tarr and then Kellie and I were married by Tom Planck while Frank Curtis was the pastor at Towne. 

I was baptized there. I met my wife there. I dedicated my son there. And I hurt with them as they still face a series of difficult loses. It's no mistake that God is speaking to my heart now. It's no mistake that this moment is here. It's no mistake that I've spent the last three years in Guatemala reconciling relationships, healing divisions, and bringing together churches, schools, and organizations to focus in on the mission of God... restoring humanity back to Him.

My heart is yearning to walk with His people in Middletown and Franklin Ohio as together we find, healing, peace, and restoration in Him. Even so, I humbly submit to the wisdom of those women and men whom God has placed at the church to also yield to His divine calling. All I know... is that I must be willing, obedient, and display full on a heart that shouts out, "Here am I, LORD. Send me!"

I don't know the outcome, but I hear God commanding me in obedience to extend my heart, my life, and all that I have to them in this moment. Where He leads, I will follow. I trust His outcome in this moment. 

Sometimes God commands us like he did Abraham. "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you" (Gn 12:1). 

In my words... "Go and I will explain more to you along the way. But first, you must step out."

And so... to our friends here in Guatemala, our walk with you has been invaluable. You have our hearts. You have captured us fully and we will continue to send support to this beautiful country and God's great work here. 

To our family, friends, and supporters in the US... our mission is not changing. As always, we seek obedience above anything else. All that is changing here is our geography.

To everyone, we ask for your prayers along with ours as we step out in obedience, seeking the face of God, and we pray for continued discernment as we boldly live out lives of faith.

Below is my letter to our friends and our congregation here in Guatemala. Kellie and I invite your conversations, questions, and we make ourselves available to all who love us and seek the face of God. You can also hit the link HERE to see it.


  1. Glory to God for your exemplary lives of faith and obedience. May God strength you all your paths, family and ministry. We will miss your blessed preaches, and my children to play and run with yours. Thankyou for your courage to continue in obedience way.

    1. Thank you my dear sister and friend, Milvia. Your family is such a blessing and encouragement, both to our family and to Journey Church. I believe that greater things are yet to come! It is no mistake that we have all come together in this church. Journey Church will always and forever be one of the most special and holy times of my life. I love that the barriers of the world have no power as we gather as sons and daughters of God. Amen.

  2. Chad & Kellie
    Do you also remember singing "Trust and obey; for there's no other way; to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." If someone asked me for words to describe you, they would be the words "trust" and "obey." I am thrilled on a personal level that you are coming home. But I have joy in my heart that you have accepted to shepherd the congregation at Towne. You will not be alone in your prayers for guidance. I have been praying for the Shepherd family too long to stop now. I love you and will always support you in God's work in your lives. I am willing to help you make this transition in any way that God directs. Don't rob me of my joy-call on me. I pray for an easy and safe transition for you all. Love in Christ our Lord, Rene

    1. Rene, yes absolutely I remember that song. Those words echo with power in my heart. Kellie and I are waiting in obedience on the LORD. We do not yet know where He will place us, but we are thrilled to walk this path.