By Brenda Neuhaus | Photo by Christa Eskridge
Being the spiritual leader of a family is never easy. But when that family is made up of four daughters (two teenagers in the home and two young married adults) plus a wife who takes her personal ministry quite seriously, it can be a daunting task.
Mike Harrelson lives that role on a daily basis. When he felt God calling him to move his family from the comfortable church they had attended for 15 years, he was nervous. He says he “fretted about it for a month” before talking to his wife. But God was working in Lisa’s heart and she immediately agreed: God was calling them to go.
But where? Where could they make a fresh, new start together as a family? Where would God connect them and help them thrive? If God was calling them to leave a ministry that they were so invested in what did he have in store for them elsewhere? So they prayed and they waited.
Then they received a mailing at their home in Colwich and a personal invitation from one of their daughter’s school friends to try Pathway. As soon as they entered the doors, they were warmly greeted and connections started being made.
Hannah, their high schooler, was set up to meet with a small group led by Brad Goetz and Diane Rotha. Brad asked Hannah to “try the group for a month” before she made any decisions. She’s been with the group since that first night. Tori, their 7th grader, loves working with special needs kids at her school. She was so excited to find a special needs program at Pathway where she can volunteer. She bubbles with enthusiasm as she explains her love for these children and her heart for this ministry.
Mike and Lisa were thrilled with the connections their daughters had made and felt the same desire to serve. But with each effort they gave they came up empty, like something was holding them back. They felt exhausted and deflated and even began to question whether Pathway was the church for them. But each Sunday they would show up and feel an unmistakable connection to God and His people at Pathway. In hindsight they now recognize that God was healing and preparing their hearts to more fully understand His love for them.
It was during a sermon that Todd was giving on serving that they felt like he was talking directly to them. He said Life on the Path was the place to start and they signed up that day. Over the course of the next four weeks they discovered why God had been holding them back; He wanted to start them in the right place. Life on the Path helped them unpack some baggage they had been carrying for years and helped them connect to the real mission and vision God had for them and their family.
They also connected to a Home Team where they feel right at home. Their Home Team knows the things they are going through and prays for their family each week. Lisa describes it as, “So rich: we’ve grown spiritually there by leaps and bounds.” Through their Home Team, Mike and Lisa finally found their serving sweet spot. Both of them now volunteer in the Café. Volunteering in this new ministry has allowed them to connect with more new people and be challenged to serve them in ways that are stretching them far outside their comfort zones. Lisa sums it up: “It wasn’t until we got here that we realized what had happened. God was pulling us to a greater place.”