THE FOLLOWING IS THE SECOND INSTALLMENT IN A SERIES OF BLOGS, EACH WRITTEN BY A DIFFERENT MEMBER OF OUR LIVE OAK CHURCH FAMILY.
From Grace Brookshire
Joel and I sat together in the small room just off the cabin gear shed. The rest of the cabin was communal, shared by Joel, myself, our boss and his daughter. But this room, with our bed, the deep freezer and a few spiders, had become our little home in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. It was nearing midnight and after a full day of running the crab gear, we had finally stepped off the boat, slipped out of our rain gear and eaten a meal. Joel and I were cold, we were tired and we were longing to come home.
The irony, though, was that Joel and I weren’t really sure where our home would be. In our two years of marriage, we had never stopped long enough to collectively call a place home. He and I grew up in separate states and since our wedding day, we’d been traveling. Alaska was our last destination, but before Alaska we were living aboard our sailboat traveling down the East Coast.
In the excitement of new adventures, it wasn’t immediately evident what we had left behind. Joel and I had both spent much of our college careers volunteering as Young Life leaders. Our lives before marriage had been saturated with ministry, community and Christ-centered friendships. All of which aren’t easily acquired through full time travel. Of course, we met some amazing people, but we slowly began to recognize that nothing would be the same as the community we had left behind. Still, our thirst for adventure blinded us to our longing for Christ-centered community.
For some reason, it took the exhaustion of commercial fishing and the loneliness of remote Kodiak, Alaska to make us realize we wanted that Christ-centered community back. So, that night in our little room, we started praying about a place to “land;” a place to immerse ourselves in community. After a couple of weeks, we both agreed that God was leading our hearts towards Wilmington.
In October, once the last salmon had been caught and the crab gear had all been hauled out of the water, we eagerly boarded a plane - East Coast-bound. With some searching, we found a place to rent and moved our lives here, to the Port City. We spent a few Sundays church hopping, until one morning we wandered into Live Oak’s gathering. Joel’s sister, who previously lived in Wilmington, had suggested Live Oak to us, describing it as “hipster.” We had laughed, but understood what she meant - Live Oak Church was down to earth. And, we found it to be true as we stood amongst Live Oak’s smaller crowd, singing worship. We saw it through the worship leaders and in Brian’s message. There was no fine-tuned machine performing in front of us, this was a collection of raw hearts, presenting themselves to God and doing their best to let Him work through them. Joel and I respected that and left church discussing how comfortable and relatable we found Live Oak to be.
This particular Sunday happened to have been the day that the church deacons introduced themselves on stage. So, when we saw Don and Laurel Senick out after church, I recognized Don from his debut on stage. Joel and I intruded on their meal to introduce ourselves. They both greeted us with that same down to earth demeanor we had encountered at Live Oak earlier that morning. Laurel and I exchanged contact information and she immediately started inviting me to all kinds of things. If you don’t know Laurel, she’s great at that - welcoming people into her life and connecting them in any way she can.
Thirsty for community, Joel and I knew we wanted to connect with a small group. When I asked Laurel how to find one, she jumped right into inviting us to the group meeting at her house that Tuesday night. So, we went and met a group of people who we quickly loved. It’s been a little over a month and though we are new to the group and to Live Oak as a whole, the Christ-centered community we’ve experienced has been an answer to prayers. After running ourselves dry through two years of travel, the friendships we have found at Live Oak are exactly what our hearts needed. We could not be more thankful to find ourselves here, nor more stoked to grow with this Body of Christ at Live Oak Church.