May 4/5, 2019
Dear Northwest Church,
Thank you for the prayers, cards, and gifts you sent when you heard that I had cardiac bypass surgery.
Your loving support was a great strength to us. If all of this seemed sudden and unexpected to you, it did to us, too. I went in for an angiogram to see if there were any vessels blocked in my heart, and when the doctor saw my heart on the screen he was shocked. The vessel they call the “widow-maker” was 100% blocked, and two other major vessels that feed the heart were blocked 80-90%. In other words, I was ready for a heart attack, but mercifully did not have one. Less than a year before that, a test showed only a small vessel blocked, so I had carried on with normal activities, though I have to admit, as the year progressed I felt more and more pressure when I exerted. I would feel fine when I preached, but would then let down and feel very weak afterward. Through all of this, God’s protection and provision have been wonderfully evident. Over the previous months He took control of my calendar and protected me from some activities that may well have been too strenuous. I look back now and marvel at His sovereign care.
Though I went into the hospital for an angiogram, it was apparent that I couldn’t safely leave without surgery. So another miracle was needed to find a surgeon on such short notice. Again, through God’s blessing, one of the best surgeons on the west coast had just returned from vacation and happened to be available the next day. It was a real surprise when I was told I needed a triple bypass, but I have to admit, it was also a relief. By that point in time I could tell something was wrong and was grateful to have the problem addressed before I had a heart attack.
We could feel your prayers, and the whole experience in the hospital was almost a pleasure. I was released after four days and was forbidden to lift, push or pull anything over ten pounds for six weeks. That season finished on Friday the 19th of April, and now I go three times a week to cardiac-rehabilitation, which is a guided exercise program to rebuild my strength. All of this resting has left me pretty weak. I’m supposed to be in rehab for three months.
So, that has been our focus for the past season. Mary and I have tried to stay engaged with the Ministry Directors and Business Council. We have watched services on weekends and have seen the church continue to minister effectively. We have rejoiced at your generosity to the summer Kids’ Camp and Royal Family Kids’ Camp, and to the church in general. Thank you! But in the course of all this it has become clear to us that the Lord is asking us to step into a new season of ministry and to make way for a younger pastor to lead the church. Actually, the Lord began talking to me last August. He told me it was time to step aside and let the church move forward with new energy. When I heard that, I asked Him for one more year, and He said He was pleased to give it to me. And I am very grateful for this past year. But He told me that I now have a specific assignment to edit and publish all the verse-by-verse commentaries (Daily Bible Studies) and sermons that we have gone through together over the years. Because I have preached through books of the Bible, and because you have loved to hear the Word and encouraged me all these years, I have a huge backlog of material to edit. The two books on Romans that we have already published are, hopefully, the first of many. Someday, with God’s strength, there will be a commentary and a book of sermons on Genesis, Exodus, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Hebrews, and Revelation, as well as a book on the Holy Spirit.
If I am to fulfill my new assignment, I must step out in obedience. Mary and I have been partnering with David and Windy Veach, our Supervisor, to find the person and family the Lord has prepared to lead Northwest Church into the next season. Once the Lord made it clear that “it’s time” (His words), we contacted our Supervisor and have been working diligently on this process. Naturally, we have been watching and listening for who the Lord was choosing for years, actually decades. David will make the final decision because that is our Foursquare polity, and we are grateful for it. But he has been wonderful to work with and brings wisdom and compassion to this decision. At this point, we are praying between some extremely fine leaders. I have long sensed God’s love for Northwest Church, and that love was there before Mary and I arrived. I believe this congregation is a “planting of the Lord,” meaning it is not a work of human flesh. And what God plants will not be uprooted. So we have no doubt the leadership and blessing of God will carry the church into a new generation of fruitfulness. In fact, I feel I must leave when He says to leave because there is a specific window of time for Him to bring the right person. If I hang on, and I have seriously considered it, I would ruin God’s plan. So, as hard as it is to say goodbye to you, and it is as hard as anything we have ever had to do, it is also joyful because God is guiding this process and will cause it to work for good for the church, and for Mary and me.
We don’t know the exact timetable, but our Supervisor will coach us through this season. Our plan is to be done by June 30th. But until we leave, we will remain fully engaged and care for the church as well as we know how. At some point, we would like to say goodbye and to speak to many of you personally. We have been here for over 27 years, and you will always be in our hearts. May the Lord guide and strengthen us all in the season ahead.
With our love and prayers,
Steve and Mary