As we move into a new season of ministry and work in Oakland we wanted to give you an update on what that is looking like, the changes that are taking place and the goals for the future. It is our hope that as you read this you will be as encouraged as we are - believing that God is always at work even when our plans change and shift.
When we first had the idea and desire to plant a church we never thought we would start with a team - for some reason, bringing people along with us to do something we didn't know how to do ourselves seemed a bit frightening. Although our plans were to venture out by ourselves, we thank God that He brought together a small team of people to join together as a family during this last season. The things that were accomplished, lessons that were learned and hearts that were changed would have never happened the way they did a part from the sacrifice, investment and commitment of these individuals and families. We saw God work in and through every person on the team to spread the joy and life of Jesus. It really has been a blessing to do life and ministry together. Yet, I feel like I would be doing you a disfavor if I told you that it was all peaches, unicorns and angelic harps. One of the greatest things we learned through experience was that real, life-giving, Gospel-saturated community is messy, painful and takes a lot of work. It won't come without people sinning against one another, feelings being hurt and reconciliation and repentance having to happen more often than not. I know I am forever better because and grateful for the grace, forgiveness and patience extended to me from the team as I stumbled toward Jesus.
With that said, the small team that we did have living in Oakland and Martinez are changing scenery in this next season. Some are moving for schooling, others because of financial needs and necessities and others because of new living opportunities and marriage. Whatever the reason (and all of them are cause for joy), the change in team is something that is bittersweet. It is bitter because we know God has grown us together in ways we could have never fabricated in our own power. It is sweet because we know that God used this last year + to do something in each our hearts that was needed as we move into new commitments and adventures. We are excited for what lies ahead for each of our friends and believe in Jesus and His call on their lives! This last season has truly proved to be a necessary time of preparation, learning, growth and affliction. It's true that one of God's main tools for shaping us more into the image and character of Jesus is through His people. We experienced that and we are grateful for God's faithfulness and grace to work through us, as messy as we were, to spread the Gospel.
still the same mission
Our unique circumstance has placed us in a position we didn't see unfolding when we started. That's okay though, because although we didn't see it or plan for it, God did. With that said, it would seem fitting to give you a clear view of where we see things for the present and the future.
We (The Stites Family) will be the only ones remaining in Oakland in this next season. We will be living in the same apartment we moved into back in February 2015 - maintaining the growing relationships we have with our neighbors. We still have the same passion and vision of planting the Gospel in this city with the hopes of launching groups across the city that gather as a local church for the glory of Jesus, the good of the city and the multiplication of disciples. We still love Oakland (more than ever) and plan to raise up our two children here, putting our roots down for the long-term. We still own and operate the business we started last year, Slojoy Coffee Roasters and plan to spend much of our focus in growing and preparing the business for a permanent location in Oakland. If you didn't know, Slojoy has proven greatly fruitful in helping us immerse into the city/culture, serve others, share the joy of Jesus and provide for our family. Lastly, we still love Jesus and His people - we aren't giving up on the Church, isolating ourselves from community or running away from the original calling. We know our great need for a local community of people who love Jesus and the role of elders and spiritual leaders above us. That is why, as you will read below, this is something we will be continuing in joyfully!
Although we will reveal more on this as specifics are drawn up and finalized, our family will be joining a local, two-year old church plant in Oakland. These people love Jesus, have hearts for the city and want to help build up the Kingdom through making disciples and planting churches. This new transition will allow us to remain in community and under leadership / authority while being better equipped not only with necessary training but with the opportunity to gather and build a team of people from Oakland who want to join in on Jesus' mission in our specefic context.
To sum it all up, although the scenery looks a bit different for us and our plant - the destination hasn't changed. We believe in the hope of Jesus' mission, we see the need for the Gospel in our city and we are joyfully resolved to play our part in unfolding the Kingdom of God here in Oakland by the power of the Spirit.
God is good. The Spirit is faithful. Jesus is better. And the local church is the hope of this world. Although we are thinking up future plans, we don't know where this will all end up - and that's okay. This time around, we are holding onto our plans with a lighter grip and a bigger view of the Gospel.
Thanks for journeying with us so far!
We know the BEST is yet to come.
It's All About Jesus,
The Stites Family
support & monthly updates
In light of this new season, we are gathering up more and more people to stand behind us and with us in support. If you want to learn more about how you can support through finances, check out our support page and please reach out over email (email@example.com) - we would love to sit down and answer any questions and simply share our hearts and plans for this next season! All current funds help with our monthly living in Oakland, enabling us to gather a team of people in Oakland as well as grow our business to reach people for the Gospel.
If you would like to learn more about Slojoy Coffee and support the work in Oakland by purchasing good coffee for you, your church or your business, you can learn more through our website!
And lastly, if you would like to receive monthly updates and prayer requests from our family and journey, sign-up below! We appreciate you and your ongoing support and encouragement in the Gospel - it is a sure sign of God's grace and constant presence with us!