LifeBridge

We are moving to Oregon: Something Worth Risking Your Career For.

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"Ask God to burden you with something worth risking your career for." - Andy Stanley

This is something I've asked a time or two throughout the years. I'm not trying to beat my own drum or make myself seem more spiritual than I am—those of you who know me really well, know this is definitely not the case. The fact is however, I have asked God for this a few times throughout the years.

I want to cut to the chase. I explain the full story in the rest of this blog post. It is unusual for me to write such long blog post, but I wanted to give you— my readers as much of the full story as possible. BUT for those of you who just want to know the current status of what is going on in the Puentes family, I will tell you up front...

This past year I have asked God that question, "God give me a burden worth risking my career for..." No, not necessarily in those words, but nevertheless with the same heart, meaning and intention—and He answered.

We are moving to Oregon! I have accepted a position as the new lead pastor of Ascent Christian Church in Prineville, OR. The Ascent is a four year old church plant, planted by the OCEF. There are some good things happening at The Ascent, and I am very grateful for the people, who have from the beginning, made Ascent Christian Church the best church for the city of Prineville.

Ascentcc header image 2We are super excited for this new opportunity to serve God in a new and different way! While this is a great opportunity with many positives, there will be some challenges. In many ways, The Ascent is still a church in it's infancy.

Since it is still a "new church," the church meets in a high school auditorium, there is still many ministry opportunities that need to happen, directional leadership and organization clarity need to take place, and the people need discipling and pastoring.

I will be the only paid pastor on staff, and since the church is not yet financially self-sustaining, Fina and I will have to raise a portion of our salary—which is a challenge for us because we're newbies at this... But we will trust God and follow His lead.

Our desire for The Ascent is to reach the city of Prineville, OR for the gospel of Jesus Christ! To allow the Holy Spirit to use the church to bring hope to hopeless, healing to the hurting, belonging to the marginalized, and grace to all. As a church we want to be disciples of Jesus who reflect our passion and mission to "becoming more like Jesus... together."

Our dream is that Ascent Christian Church will be a reproducible church and plant churches both locally and globally for the advancement of the gospel and the exponential movement of the kingdom of God.

Ascent 2 logo 2We would be honored to have you to partner with us by investing in us and in what God is doing through Ascent Christian Church for the city of Prineville, Oregon. We'd humbly appreciate your prayer and financial support. You can follow along with us on this journey, know how to pray for us, and hear about all that God is doing, by receiving email or snail mail updates.

Click here "Contact Page" and then click on the mail icon to send me an email. Once you send me an email, I'll add you to an email or snail mailing list—your choice, which will be sent out in January and then monthly after that. You can always call me too if you have my phone number...

ALSO... You can partner with us financially. Yep. I got to pay the bills and feed the kids, and that takes money—unfortunately... Our commitment to the church is to raise support for two years (That's $1800 a month for two years—a total of $43,200...). Any way you can help us financially would be great!

You can send financial contributions to: Ascent Christian Church P O Box 2117 Prineville, OR 97754 Make checks payable to Ascent Christian Church... Please indicate on the check "Puentes Missions" so we can apply it to the correct account. (Your contribution is a tax deductible donation).

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The church website is still being developed. However, online giving is available: http://www.ascentcc.com/giving/  (Be sure to check the box - I would like to designate this donation to a specific fund AND select: “Help Pastor Joe Puentes & Family”).

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December 15th will be my last day on staff at LifeBridge Christian Church, and we will be moving to Oregon in January 2014. We will make a quick stop-off in California for Christmas (It's been 13 years since we last spent Christmas with our family. Yep, December of 2000 was the last time...) We hope you do decide to partner with us on this journey. I'm sure you will get a glimpse of what is happening in either this blog, Facebook, or on Twitter...

If you want to read more about the journey that led up to this decision, please continue reading this blog post.

The rest of the story...

The first time I asked the question "God give me a burden worth risking my career for..." it resulted in major life-change for my family and me. We left all that we had known, family, friends, church, great career, and a beautiful area of the country we grew up in (Sonoma County, CA). We, my wife and three small kids, moved to the middle of the good ol' U.S.A and stopped in Joplin, MO. We did this so we could faithfully follow God's nudging and attend Ozark Christian College and pursue a calling into full time vocational ministry.

I was twenty-eight years old, my kids were 8, 6, and 4 years of age at the time, and I left a really good job and career. This wasn't something that was leading us to bigger and better things necessarily—it was a call to trust in God fully and trust Him alone; we either stepped out in faith or not do it.

Missouri...

We took root in Oronogo, MO (Just outside of Joplin, MO), and felt like we were going to live there for the rest of our lives. We loved our church, our friends, and the community we called home. My wife worked at Ozark Christian College and I served on the staff at Christ's Church of Oronogo; both great ministries for the advancement of the gospel and the kingdom of God. WE LOVED it!

ccoWebHeader 2The second time I sort of asked God the question, "Ask God to burden you with something worth risking your career for" big changes again happened to the Puentes family. I need to clarify by what I mean "sort of." What I mean when I said "sort of," I was feeling a nudge from God to think beyond our comfort-zone and beyond ourselves. I was feeling a nudge to faithfully seek Him out and His leading.

I was feeling there was something beyond what we were doing, something new, and something different. NOT something better or something bigger, but something that would lead us to grow closer to Him and grow our faith more—it would cause us to trust God fully and Him alone—we either stepped out in faith or not do it.

Colorado...

What happened next was we found ourselves moving to gorgeous Colorado and to the scenic views of the majestic Rocky Mountains. We took a ministry position at a great church! LifeBridge Christian Church is a church that truly lives up to being the best church FOR the city and not the best church IN the city. LifeBridge is a dynamic church, both locally and globally. The best part about the church is the people and it's externally focused DNA! The people truly are the ones who make this church a special place to be.

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I've never been a part of a church where her people mobilize in unprecedented ways in both dollars and physical man-hours; nothing exemplifies this more than when the recent floods that struck all up and down the state of Colorado. I say all this because I am thankful for coming to LifeBridge and for the blessing I have received. This is the place and time in my life I have matured the most.

I have learned so much about leadership, ministry, the local and global church, neighboring and missional living, being gospel-centered—and thinking bigger about church and ministry in general. I can never thank the leadership of the LifeBridge enough for letting me come and be a part of this church!

I was 34 when we left Missouri and moved to Colorado. My kids were 15, 12, 10 years of age at the time we moved to Colorado. We have made so many friends and memories during this season of life. Just like our friends in Missouri, we also consider our friends in Colorado more than friends—they are family!

Wrestling with God...

Within the past couple of years, I have been wrestling with God. I kept feeling that God was moving in my heart to do something different. I wasn't sure what it was. I thought maybe it was to leave full time ministry, live in the mountains, move to another country, become a farmer, but the one thing I knew for sure was I was suppose to not do youth ministry full time anymore.

This was huge for me to discover. I have been a youth pastor for over seventeen years and saw myself as a lifer! So I approached my senior pastor about a year ago and told him I was that it was time for me to not do youth ministry anymore—long story short, I resigned my position as youth pastor at LifeBridge and he graciously offered me a neighborhood pastor position at the church.

Well another long story short—we've had an amazing past year serving as a neighborhood pastor at LifeBridge. We have been so blessed to be a part of the story that God is writing through this great church! BUT as you have already read, we are moving on—not to something bigger or better, but to something new and different. Something that will challenge and stretch us. It will move us to a deeper faith and trust in Jesus—and Him alone.

In the end...

Photo Credit: Mullermarc, Unsplash

So me at 40 years old, and my kids being 20, 17, and 15 years of age, we are moving to Prineville, OR. We're on another adventure! We are anticipating God to do all that He has promised and more.

In the end. What I realize is that Fina and I have been writing a bigger story for our kids and ourselves. We are putting into tangible and actionable steps, a story of what it means to surrender to Jesus and faithfully follow Him wherever He leads and no matter the cost.

To be honest, we aren't some Super-Christians who have it all together. We don't always read the Bible, we don't always begin with prayer, I don't always understand the big churchy words or complex church things, we aren't always joyful, and we don't always have peace—especially when we are trying to faithfully follow Jesus.

We have a willing heart and simply obey and ask Jesus "What's my next step?" We are just trying to be obedient to our Father in heaven—we love Him because He first loved us.

This journey isn't ours alone—it also belongs to the people we've met along the way, it's the cities we have lived in, it belongs to the church locally and globally that we unite with, and ultimately it is Jesus' story because without Him, the depth and meaning to what we are living out wouldn't be there.

A flood and a church's response...

Photo Credit: Scott Brooks and The Great Colorado Flood Relief Project, Stephanie Baum As I have written previously, I haven’t blogged in sometime. My last post was about National Coffee Day, if that gives you a snapshot of where my mind has been lately (I need me some coffee).

The reason for this is the area in Northern Colorado where I live was hit hard by flood waters, which the National Weather Service called, “a flood of biblical proportions…”…

The church I am on staff at took a huge role of serving as an evacuation center and now we are in full recovery mode helping our city and the surrounding communities which were affected by the this natural disaster. My role morphed into being involved in helping lead some of the work being done in both the evacuation center and now the recovery phase.

As the days and weeks go on, I hope to write several posts about all we are experiencing and learning as we served our community as an evacuation center and now as a leader in the recovery phase.

Here are a few facts about the flood and what our church and others have done in response to the devastating flood waters:

IMG_4537The Flood...

These are preliminary assessments of damage caused by flooding in Lyons, Jamestown and unincorporated Boulder County.

Homes destroyed: 349

Homes with major damage: 428

Homes with minor damage: 3,426

Commercial buildings destroyed: 4

Commercial buildings, major damage: 33

Commercial buildings, minor damage: 54

Damage to roads and bridges: $89 million

Damage to county buildings: $1.3 million

All told, there were nearly 4,000 homes damaged, not including government buildings, roads, and bridges; with a total price tag of at least $91.2 million. you can read a full article on this assessment here dailycamera.com: Report: Flood damaged 4,000 homes, $91M in infrastructure across unincorporated Boulder County

Photo Credit: Brian Mavis

In the town of Lyons...

  • Out of the 650 dwellings in the town of Lyons, 150 had been either destroyed or badly damaged.
  • The town park was completely destroyed and gone.
  • Highways 36 and 7, the main routes to Rocky Mountain National Park were severely damaged or completely washed away.
  • The town's infrastructure (electric power, gas, water, and sewer) was disabled and wiped out.
  • Almost all of our bridges had been washed away.  The bridges that remained led to nowhere, because the roadways on either sides had been completely washed away.
  • Rivers were re-routed.
  • Longtime elementary school teacher and basketball coach Gerald Boland, perished in the flood.

Paul Williams writes in an article about his experience of the flood, where some of this information was found. I encourage you to read Paul Williams article in the Christian Standard: A View from the Flood. Paul is a Lyons town resident and a member of LifeBridge. His article brought me to tears as I read it.

In the city of Longmont...

The city of Longmont was cut in two by the St. Vrain and Lefthand rivers. By the day's end, the city would evacuate a dozen neighborhoods totaling 7,000 homes, along with commercial areas such as the Harvest Junction shopping center.

Neighborhoods such as the "Greens" and "Southmoore Park" were hit hard by the flood waters. The neighborhoods of the Greens, Champions, and the "Wade Rd. neighborhood area" all in the area that I am neighborhood pastor of.

I have heard countless stories from friends and church family members. I'll never forget one family, after being evacuated from their home in the Greens, showing up at the church to volunteer and help evacuees from Lyons find a warm bed, hot food, and a glimpse of hope.

Phone call and LifeBridge's gymnasium

Photo Credit: Brian Mavis

Around 5:00p.m. on September 12th, as my wife and I stood, crying, and praying with some of our church members in their backyard as we watched the flood waters rush into the Greens (One of the areas in the city of Longmont hit hard by the flood); I received an urgent phone call from one of my fellow LifeBridge staff team members to hurry and come to the church building.

When my wife and I arrived ten minutes later, the proceeding is what followed in the coming hours, days, and weeks...

Initial Response...

  • LifeBridge was in full disaster recovery mode within hours of the initial flooding.
  • Our fellowship hall was beginning to fill up with evacuees from Lyons, who had been brought out on National Guard trucks and school buses, and continued to be so in the coming days.
  • The church's gymnasium housed Colorado rescue workers and the National Guard.
  • The Boulder County Office of Emergency Services was set up at the church building to assist those in need.
  • LifeBridge served as an evacuation center for three counties:  Boulder, Larimer, and Weld.
  • LifeBridge provided many days and nights of shelter to evacuees, fed 10,000 meals to evacuees and first responders, provided safety and wellness checks for 2700 people, and provided hundreds of volunteers giving thousands of hours to the initial phase of disaster response.

Many more things could be listed here. The focus and passion all the staff and volunteers had during these early hours and days of the flood to serve the evacuees was something that I am still trying to digest. I am completely humbled and honored to have served alongside these people.

Photo Credit: Drew Depler

Recovery Mode...

As simple as hitting a light-switch, LifeBridge shifted from an evacuee center to a recovery hub, or so it seemed...

Within ten days of the flood and five days into the recovery phase our church has:

  • Helped complete about 60 home clean-ups.
  • Provided around 2000 volunteer hours toward the recovery phase and this number is growing...
  • Is the spear-heading the clean-up efforts of the businesses in the town of Lyons.
  • Is helping provide relief and resources to the River Church, which is located in the town of Lyons. The church's building, property both land and other resources were destroyed in the flood.

This is just the beginning. As a church, we are humbly committed to the long-term recovery of our community. We know we are just scratching the surface of what lies ahead. We also know that by God's grace we will be able to accomplish the work that He has given to us to do.

I think Brian Mavis, my dear friend and fellow co-laborer in Christ at LifeBridge, summed up what is next for us when he said, "In this second phase of recovery we have been going out to muck and clean and pray and cry" with those whose lives have been upended.

Photo Credit: Drew Depler

Four ways you can help...

1. Monetary Donations for the flood relief can be made at the LifeBridge website: Monetary Donations | LifeBridge Christian Church.

2. If you want to volunteer please click on these links... One link is for basic information about volunteering and flood recovery efforts. Secondly, the other is volunteer and release forms... Information about volunteering and flood recovery efforts. AND Volunteer and Release Forms. *We are not currently coordinating and organizing out-of-town church groups.

3. Please helps become aware of people in need. It is hard to know all who need help. So please help us become aware of this... Click here Need Help?

4. Please pray for the people of our community, our church and other churches, and for the grace of God to be made evident in our community, so that God gets all the glory.