Sometimes when I take the kids to the park or go to a store and start a conversation with another mom, it comes up that I am not from the area. In fact, I live half way across the US. Most people then think we are on vacation, but when I explain that we are planting a church and traveling around to other churches, most people don’t completely understand, and if I use the word deputation, I usually get a blank stare. What is deputation anyway? I will try to explain it from the point of view of a wife of a church planter and a mom of two little kids.
The dictionary defines deputation as “the person or body of persons so appointed or authorized.” In our case, we are authorized by our mission board, Gospel Fellowship Association Missions, to go and share our desire to plant a church with other churches and to raise the needed support. So we are sharing our burden with others in hopes that they will partner with us in the ministry; but what does this mean in practical every day terms?
I must admit before we started our first two months away from home that I was a bit worried. Would I remember to pack everything? How would the kids do on the road? And would I keep my sanity living out of a suitcase and changing diapers in the back seat of the van? When we started deputation, my son was 9 months old and my daughter was 1 ½. Sometimes when we packed the van, it felt like we had brought everything but the kitchen sink.
We have a system for packing the van. If you have ever seen our van after a long trip you might not believe that; however, it does have order when we start. We always have our two pack and plays, two portable high chairs, little potty chair, stroller, baby back pack, toys, multiple mi-mis (kids blankets- we would have a crisis if we forgot these), 2 suitcases, 2 duffle bags, computer bag, display board, box of display stuff, 2 toiletries bags, hang up bag, and diaper bag. I think I remembered everything. If not there is always Wal-mart, right?
We spend a lot of time on the road. Our kids think of the van as a second home. If we are going to a church 12 hours or less away, we generally leave Saturday and come back home on Monday. If we have several meetings in the same general area that is more than 12 hours away, we will stay for a few weeks or a month or two in that area. While on the road, we try to break up the day with a few breaks. A ten hour day usually becomes a 12 hour day. We try to keep our stops to 30 minutes if possible. We try to leave at 4 or 5 in the morning if we have a long day ahead of us. If the kids fall asleep, we keep driving unless we are on E.
The kids do pretty well in the van. They look out the window, play with toys, eat crackers, and sleep. Now I must admit, they are great travelers, but that does not mean they do not cry. They have their meltdowns and even though it may only be five minutes it sometimes seems like five hours after a long day in the van. I remember when we left home for the first time we left with 12 pacifiers. Five months later, we had two left.
As the kids are getting older, travel is easier. We only have one is diapers now and we no longer have bottles or baby food. Kaylee is now able to get her own toys out and play with them, and Jonathan can now eat crackers out of a snack cup by himself.
You may wonder with all of our traveling where we stay. Usually the church puts us up in someone’s home or in a hotel for the time we are ministering at their church. This last trip to CA, we were blessed to have a mission house both in Northern and Southern CA that we could stay in during our time there. While we are at our home base in IN, we are blessed to stay in a house provided rent free by a family in our sending church.
Once when returning to a house we had stayed at previously, as we pulled up, Kaylee said “this home.” The kids adjust pretty well to the different housing situations we are in. Kaylee also has been known to call the people we stay with Grandma and Pop. This is fine unless they are under the age of 50. J
When we go to a church, we set up our display board, have prayer cards to give out, and provide a signup sheet for our newsletter. Nathan generally presents our ministry in the evening service, answers questions and preaches. Sometimes he also teaches Sunday school. Before and after the service he stands at the display and talks to people. I also try to talk with people at the display; however, my main focus is ministering to our own children. Before the service we “help” Daddy set up the display. The kids like to sit under the display table. They call it their tent. I then try to take them to the nursery 15 minutes or so before the service, so they can get used to it before I sneak out. If I just drop them off, it can sometimes be a bit traumatic. After the service I get the kids from the nursery, take Kaylee potty, and then try to talk to others. Sometimes after 15 or 20 minutes of fellowship, I take the kids back to play in the nursery or give them a snack. Of course as ages or circumstances change, we do different things. New walkers like to try out their legs, teething and tired babies like to held by Mommy (sometimes both at once), and hungry kids like to be fed. As we go along we learn new things.
One of the neat things about deputation is meeting new people. It is a blessing to fellowship and spend time with brothers and sisters in Christ. We have enjoyed the hospitality and the care that everyone has shown us along the way.
While we are at a church, it is neat to get to know the pastor and his wife and to ask questions about their ministry. We are always trying to learn new things as we look forward to planting the church in Roseville.
When we talk about support, we are not just talking about money. Of course the support we raise will pay the churches expenses and our salary for the first few years of the church, but we also need support in other ways. We need prayer support for us and for our church. Many times I know people are praying for us. We had people praying specifically for our health the first few months on the road, and we didn’t even have a runny nose. We had people praying for potty training Kaylee on the road, and she is doing great. We have people praying for our safety and sanity and the Lord has blessed us with both.
We also need people to help with our “Phone’s 4 You!” program, people to come out and help us for a week or two when we start, and people to join our team and move to Roseville. You can read more information on our website about ways to support us.
You may ask why we are traveling to churches across the US instead of just starting the church in Roseville right now. Wouldn’t it be easier? Well, God made it clear to us that we should raise support instead of trying to work full time in a secular job and start a church at the same time. We want our sole focus to be on planting the church, reaching others with the gospel, and discipling those who are saved. It may take longer to raise the needed funds; however, once we are in Roseville, we will be able to use all of our energy for the ministry.
Sometimes when my flesh is weak, I ask myself, “why deputation?” I want to have a pity party for myself because I have it so hard; however, all of us are in the circumstances God has given us and the great thing is God promises us that He will always be with us and give us the strength that we need!
Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
What a privilege to have the ministry of deputation before our ministry of church planting in Roseville!
Nathan and Katrina Bate are preparing to launch a new church in Roseville, California. You can find out more about their ministry at California Church Planting.