If you’ve been following the blog for a while now, you know that we are thrilled to have Jeff Gautney coming on staff as our Associate Pastor of Missions. Jeff and his family have been living in Letetcia, Colombia as missionaries with the International Mission Board. In his final newsletter, Jeff explains their journey to Gateway.
“We never considered this but… here we are. Many of you have already heard, but the IMB needs to reduce its personnel due to financial constraints. I want to stop right here and praise the LORD for David Platt and his leadership of the IMB. I could not be more proud of this man and more excited about the IMB and the direction it is headed. He is doing what has needed to be done for years now, and I know that this pleases the LORD. He has, unfortunately, had to deal with some financial issues that began long before he was elected. In order to do this, two phases were created to help reduce our personnel in order to be able to continue fully supporting our missionaries. The first phase offered retirement age missionaries the voluntary retirement incentive (VRI). We were all asked to seek the LORD to see if HE might be leading us to return to the US. As we began to seek prayer support over this decision, an opportunity was presented to us that has proven to be God’s hand guiding us to return to the U.S. The opportunity offered to us was to serve with one of our connecting churches (Gateway Baptist Church in Atoka, TN) as the Associate Pastor of Missions. I began exploring this option with the Pastor, Steve Carpenter, and it was evident that the timing for them was as equally confirming of God’s moving as it was for us. I can’t even begin to do it justice, but the LORD has provided for us and confirmed this move in the most amazing ways.
Then the second phase of reduction of personnel, called the Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO), was presented to all personnel. So following the Lord’s leading, we are accepting the HRO. So please know these two things: We are NOT being forced to resign and we KNOW that we are exactly where the LORD wants us! I can’t emphasize this enough! We will be accepting the HRO and as of March 1st of this year, I will begin serving as the Associate Pastor of Missions. This role (and this part really amazes me) allows me to equip teams through discipleship and take them quarterly back to Leticia to engage our people group! So as we began to pack our things up, we didn’t have to say goodbye to our amazing friends, but simply, “Hasta luego!” (See you later!)
One story I want to share with you is about when we broke the news to our boys. We, of course, thought they would burst with excitement at the news of returning to the U.S. However, when I told them that Mommy and Daddy were following the LORD’s direction to return to the U.S., Jace’s first response was, “But Daddy, our work here isn’t done is it? There are still people here who don’t know Jesus!” Amazed at my little man’s response, I replied, “I know buddy. Our work is never done. There are people in the U.S. who need Jesus too.” He sat there and pondered over all that was happening and then said, “But Daddy, some of the people in the woods (jungle), have accepted Christ and they will teach their children and then they could tell their neighbors. So….the work will CONTINUE!!!” In that proud moment, I could see the impact our past five years have had on him and how it has shaped this little 9 year old boy’s worldview to consider Christ over comfort. Titus, right after this conversation, grabbed Jace by his shoulders, looked him square in the eyes and said, “But Jace! There will be hundreds and hundreds of kids that speak English there!!!!!” Then they began to shout and dance around the living room.
We can not begin to thank you enough for your unbelievable prayer support, financial support, and constant encouragement during this journey! There is no way we would have survived without our mighty warriors in battle for us daily! We know that more today than ever before. We fear that that prayer support and encouragement will stop now that we are back in the U.S. and we want to plead with you to keep praying! We see the great need for Christ in this country now more than ever before. This will not be an easy transition for us and our kiddos so please continue to lift us up! I will be traveling back to Colombia on the 8th to pack up our belongings, visit our dear friends in Operation 10, and make plans for our continued work there. We love you and would love for you to visit us in Tennessee! Thank you so much!
Jeff, Erin, Jace, Titus, and Micaiah