Before learning about the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of New England, Rhett and I assumed it was like most other places where we had visited or lived. Sure, there had to be brokenness, but weren’t there a lot of churches available to help those who need it? Maybe not everyone practiced Christianity, but most are familiar with the basic story of the Gospel, right?
We soon found out that the cultural landscape of the Northeast looks quite different from what we expected. Although the Northeast is the most influential part of the country, educating and raising many of our leaders, it is by far the least churched. There aren’t churches on every street corner; in fact, many of the ones that are there sit empty, even on Sundays. If someone wants to attend a Christian church, they can’t usually call up a neighbor or even check the White Pages to see what’s available. Most people don’t know much about Jesus at all, and there are lots of towns in New England that don’t have any Christian churches at all. In fact, Movement is one of only 24 independent Christian churches in all of New England (only 7 of those are located in New Hampshire).
It is also the only Christian church in Merrimack, a town of 30,000 people. With less than 1% of the town’s population attending church, this bedroom community was in desperate need for people who know and love Jesus to plant there. Many people in Merrimack know nothing about Jesus. If people are familiar with Him, it is often through the lens of the Catholic church. Unfortunately, this is also the area of the country where the news about abuse within the church first broke (Spotlight is an excellent movie to better understand this issue. You can also read about it here.) While most Catholics condemn these actions and the vast majority of clergy are not predators, some of the those who were exploiting children were in close proximity to where we will be. Unfortunately, this scandal hurt many people and pushed them further away from the love, truth and grace of the Gospel. Some now categorize New England as “post-Catholic.”
It is also interesting to learn about some of the physical needs in New England. Because of the incredibly high cost of living and lack of church support in the area, many hard-working people find themselves barely scraping by financially. People who could easily turn to a church-run program in many areas of the country to meet their physical needs simply do not have that option in New England. Unfortunately, issues such as the opioid crisis has caused the foster care system to place children in homes that are already over capacity, if they’re able to be placed at all.
At first, this was hard for Rhett and I to even wrap our minds around, after spending most of our lives in the Bible Belt! But, the more we learned, the more we felt God stir in our hearts a passion for the people who don’t know Him yet in a part of the country many have long written off as being too difficult to minister in. He has opened this door for us to be involved in a New England church plant, and we are so excited to come alongside Movement in ministry to countless people who need the Gospel community a church provides.
Learning about the ways Movement Christian Church is meeting these needs has been so powerful for the two of us. Movement’s mission is to move closer to Jesus and people. Through intentional relationships and missional living, SO many people have moved closer to Jesus in just a few months! We were able to witness this during our week in Merrimack. Not only were four people baptized over the course of the weekend, but many in the worship group shared prayer requests for friends and family that don’t yet know Christ, but are clearly being pursued by Him. The culture at Movement is focused on bringing more and more people into the family of God.
Just last week, Josh (the lead pastor) shared about a family that hadn’t ever attended church together. Since coming to Movement, they’ve decided to join a small group! He also told a story about a gentleman who has undergone relationship troubles since attending church. However, he told Josh that he was willing to follow Jesus no matter what the consequences would be. These people are passionately in love with our Lord! They are serving Him and loving Him with their whole hearts.
Not only is Movement working to reach people spiritually, but they also run a food pantry each week where neighbors can come and shop fresh meats, dairy, fruits, vegetables and other goods. These friends are treated with dignity and respect. Part of my role as a resident will be to figure out other ways for Movement to become more involved with meeting the needs of the community, whether through the food pantry, a local homeless shelter, foster care and more.
God is clearly moving in New England, and has been for years. Now, we can move with Him! We are able to pack up our bags and move to the Northeast, but we recognize that most simply cannot do this. However, each of you reading this post also has an opportunity to join in God’s work! We need help. We need your prayers; for us, for Movement, for the people in Merrimack who need to know Jesus. We’re also in the process of raising financial support. Our goal is to raise $2,000 dollars per month. starting in September. This would fund our living expenses and allow us to devote our time to investing in the people we get to meet.
While the finances are important to us, our hearts are mostly excited to get as many people involved in what God is doing in New England as possible! We want to inspire and captivate you with the ways Jesus is already at work there. If this leads you to give a one time financial gift or partner with us each month, we would be so thrilled and grateful! If you’re already committed elsewhere or can’t spare the cash, then please pray with us! God is so powerful, and He hears each of our prayers.
If this is something you’re interested in or want to hear more about, please reach out to us! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to give financially, clicking here will take you to Restoration House’s (the church planting organization we’re working with) website. Please specify with “Rhett and Elisa” in the memo. If you want to commit to praying with us or supporting us regularly, clicking here will let take you to a quick and easy form that allows you to join our team! For a list of prayer requests and answered prayers, please click here.
We are so thankful. We are thankful that God is giving us this opportunity and that He will provide for us. What a joy that He chooses to use silly little people like us to bring His great plans to life! We are also thankful for each one of you who is on this journey with us. Today, we pray that you would feel His love and power in your own life, in ways that best make sense to your heart.