To Ohio and Back

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Last week Kelly and Emily and I embarked on a road trip to Ohio to attend the wedding of two former students of ours. When Annie called to tell us the good news that she and Matt were getting married, we had only recently found out that we were parents-to-be. We couldn’t miss the wedding, so we put it on the calendar. Despite the challenges of traveling and attending a wedding with a 3 month old, it was a beautiful and joyful event.

Leaving the reception in Southeast Ohio to continue on to our old home in Northeast Ohio, we were surprised by a growing sense of sadness. The closer we got to our old home, the sadder we felt. You see, that’s an odd emotion (at least to some) because no one really seems to care that much about Akron, OH. To be fair, there are some people I know who rabidly love the place. Most would agree that Ohio isn’t high on the list of vacation destinations or retirement locations. That’s even more true of Akron in particular. The first bumper sticker I saw when we moved to Ohio said “Stuck in Ohio.” Interesting.

But in the three years we lived in Ohio, it became more than the place we lived – it became home. So a year ago (almost exactly now) when we began our transition back to NC, we were overcome with emotion and running short on time. This all started flooding back over us as we drove into town, saw our old house, our neighborhood, and friends. There even came a moment while driving through Akron when Kelly said, “I just want to take some pictures of everything.” We laughed about how that might have been the first time anyone has ever said that.

As we spent the next couple of days visiting with friends, the sadness began to subside. We were able to enjoy being present with people we love, but we both had a deep sense of confirmation that we had done what the Lord wanted us to do. We are where he wants us to be. It was a wonderful reminder that even when God calls us to say goodbye to people and places that are near and dear to us, he will bring us through it and he will give us joy in our obedience.

It was a surreal experience to be back in Ohio, but it is encouraging to see what the Lord is doing with us even now here in Boone and through BCM of the High Country.

The Spring is for New Things

Last time I checked, it’s been just over 8 months since I’ve posted a new update here. Certainly that’s not for lack of new things happening in the lives of us Pucketts, but maybe because of all the newness. Last time I checked in, we were just getting settled after a mostly unexpected move from Akron, OH to Charlotte, NC to Boone, NC. I alluded to lots of changes happening in the NC BCM world, and that has only progressed and continued to develop. When I accepted this position with ASU BCM, I assumed I would be taking over a fairly static ministry role with a reliable trajectory.

What I knew coming in was that the Baptist State Convention of NC (BSCNC) had made the decision to relieve their campus ministry staff of their duties and shift the ownership of the respective BCMs from BSCNC back to the local churches that surround each of the campuses. A shift this drastic is anything but painless, but the idea is to call the local churches to account for the mission fields in their own front yards. This was the rapidly unfolding situation that met us as we arrived in Boone. I can’t speak for other regions and campuses, but I can happily report that the Lord is at work here in the High Country.

Denominations and churches are not known for agile and speedy decision making – especially in a time of major transition, but in a period of around 6 months, the major building blocks were put in place to move us from Convention ownership to the launching of a non-profit organization (BCM of the High Country) overseen by a diverse Board of Directors. I am honored to serve as the Executive Director and Lead Missionary. During this time of transition, some things will remain relatively the same. The main thing that will remain is our outward focus on reaching students who are far from God. If BCM is anything, it must be a missionary hub.

There’s so much to tell that I’ll returning here to post about life and about ministry vision and updates for BCM of the High Country. Just know that I am thrilled to be where I am, and to be doing what I’m doing. Would you pray for me and my family as we hit our stride in Boone and at ASU?

Updates on Life

BCM House

 

Just over a week ago Kelly and I moved from Charlotte to Boone. We are settling into our new home and I am just getting started with my new job as the Campus Minister for Appalachian State Baptist Campus Ministries. Kelly and I both graduated from ASU and we were both involved with the BCM. When we left Boone, we never thought we would end up here again. God has been at work in major ways, far out in front of us. Nothing else could explain this transition. I’m simply thankful to have this opportunity.

There has been a lot of change happening in the NC BCM world these days. ASU BCM isn’t going anywhere. I’m thankful for that. I have only seen the very beginning of what I’m getting into here at App, but I can see God doing some really exciting things already. This is going to be a good year!

Time for Reflection

My life has been different since the move back to NC. The biggest difference has been characterized by disconnection. There are some negative aspects of that, sure. But overall, I think it’s been a good thing.

Let me illustrate what I mean:
I’ve moved away from social media.

I no longer have “a ministry” I’m responsible for.

I’m near to family and a few local friends, but mostly, I’m disconnected from my deepest community.

But I’ve needed time to think. To process. To prepare before moving forward again. Time to breathe.

It feels unnatural, but it’s beginning to feel more normal. The good and bad thing is that I know this is a temporary phase. We are in a bit of a holding pattern.

I’m excited for what’s ahead – especially because I have no idea what that is. But I’m open and preparing.

I think we all need time for reflection.

Identity

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Today marks just over a week and a half since we moved back to North Carolina from Ohio. Just 11 days ago we were Midwesterners and today we are Southerners. It doesn’t totally feel real yet, but a lot has changed in a short period of time. Even before we made the decision to relocate permanently, I knew that not doing full time traditional ministry would be a challenge as it would no longer be my “identity.” I wouldn’t be a campus minister or a pastor for a while. This is even more true now that I am in the very beginning stages of a transition into the next stage of my life and ministry.

Who am I?

Before this move, I could have answered that I was a campus minister or a college pastor. Now, not so much.

But before the move, and even now, I see this as a really good thing. Ministry can be dangerous in that those of us who do it vocationally are liable to make our ministry our identity. Strictly speaking, I am not a campus minister – I am a child of God who served as a campus minister. I loved my job, but I should love the Lord more. This transitional time is a good reminder of that.

I’m excited about what is ahead for me – but I’m trying to embrace this time I have to recalibrate.

So far, so good!

The Next Stage of my Ministry – Pt. II

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“You never know when God will change your plans.”

I’m pretty sure that I misquoted it, but the above quote captures the essence of something I heard from 2 different guys at church this past Wednesday. One was a younger guy (just a little older than me) and the other was a much older man. They said this to me separately and about different topics, but nonetheless, I heard them.

That comment, spoken in the best kind of ignorance, struck me. It struck me because I have just lived it over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been basically silent (at least here on the blog) about my upcoming transition – partly because I’ve had a lot going on, partly because I have been sorting everything out, and partly because of what this post is about in the first place.

God just threw us a curveball.

I received a call out of the blue with a tentative offer for a new ministry position back in North Carolina. The details aren’t important at this point, but it was something that we could not reject outright without thinking and praying through it.

Keeping things concise, we fluctuated from deciding between one job or another to feeling the need to be closer to our families in NC. We recognized that the issue wasn’t so much about choosing between two equally compelling jobs as it was feeling the deep desire to be closer to family, especially as we begin thinking about having kids one day.

Hello, curveball.

We have made the incredibly difficult decision to permanently relocate to NC. We have pulled out of the church plant, reluctantly at first, knowing that to stay could very easily become damaging for us.

With heavy hearts we will leave Ohio at the end of the month. But with deep excitement we will be heading back to North Carolina.

I suppose this is what it looks like to let God call the shots. It doesn’t always make sense, but that’s not the point. We’re just looking forward to what God will do and praying for the right doors to be opened.

The Next Stage of My Ministry

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This morning (Sunday, 3/24) at worship officially marked a new stage of my life and ministry. It was announced to the congregation from the pulpit that I will be transitioning out of Broadman this summer. There is much to say about this, and one single post will not contain it all. Expect to read more about this.

I have been chomping at the bit to talk about this openly, but these things take time and patience is a virtue. That being said, we are responding to God’s call to step out in faith to join the H2o campus church network to plant a church on the campus of The University of Akron. God has been at work far beyond what we’ve been doing ourselves, and this U Akron plant definitely has his fingerprints all over it.

We will be finishing up this semester as planned, then we will be engaging in support raising full time, mostly in our home state of North Carolina. This will be a major change for us, but one we are excited to take head on.

There are many changes ahead, but I feel deeply confident in God’s calling. The greatest blessing by far has been the overwhelming response we got from our Broadman family this morning. There were some tears and a lots of hugs. And lots of encouragement. We have a heaviness of heart in leaving Broadman but we are convinced that we must press on.

I am looking forward to what God will do in the comings days, months, and years.

Ditching the TV

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This is my mantle over my fireplace in my living room. A week or so ago, Kelly and I decided to ditch our TV. It used to sit where the picture frame is sitting, with a DVD player and a Nintendo Wii next to it. There were wires and remotes all over it. The reason we decided to ditch the TV, however, was that we were simply watching it far too much and far too often. It became our go-to activity. If we were in the room, Netflix would be playing.

We still watch Netflix from a laptop or iPad, but for much less time and much less often. Our sense of balance is better.

A nice side effect is that our living room feels much brighter and more open without all of that black electronic equipment. And we are being healthier and more productive.

Ditch your TV. Try it, anyway. See what you think.

Coffee Shops & Community

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Coffee shops make me smile. The cappuccino in the above picture really makes me smile. I drank this earlier today while talking about life and ministry with my friend and fellow associate pastor, Rick. We serve together at Broadman Baptist here in Northeast Ohio. We had lunch together and enjoyed some conversation but nearly as soon as we finished eating lunch, we decided to continue the conversation at the local coffee shop just a few doors down from our deli where we dined.

There’s just something about a coffee shop. This may be a totally subjective analysis, but there’s a certain depth of conversation that can be had over a cup of coffee that can’t be had over a meal. All I know is that I am drawn to coffee shops for the high quality brewed coffee and espresso, the buzz of conversation, and the space to connect more deeply with people.

I believe that God has wired humanity with a need for community. We are built for connecting with other people, so to me, it’s pretty obvious why I gravitate towards coffee shops. It’s not just because I love the drinks they serve. That much is true. But I love connecting with other people, especially college students, with one of those drinks in front of me.

The coffee shop is a pleasing locale for being in the community and experiencing community.

Certainly not everyone feels the way I do about coffee shops specifically. That’s not the important part. Where do you spend your time when you’re not at home or work? What do you like most about it?

Outreach on Campus

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One of my students at Kent State University, Eric, was given this flower by a guy handing them out to all passers-by on Valentine’s day. He was one of a few guys with an Islamic group on campus doing some outreach.

Christians aren’t the only ones doing outreach on campus. So far I’ve seen Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Adventists, and Communists doing outreach on campus. Seriously.

It’s a new day for us as campus-based college ministers.