This week I bequeath my column to Pastor Harold Armstrong. Harold has served the Journey family with grace, dignity,  and compassion for over six years. He has a “detour ” to tell you about and I thought it best to come straight from him.

Harold ArmstrongEarly in 2009, the Elders asked me to become the Interim Minister and help guide Journey and her leadership from a period of turmoil through the transition to a new Pastor. With acceptance and the invaluable support and help from my wife, Marilyn, we began the ministry of healing and uniting the church, while helping to find and launch the ministry of John and Melinda Hampton at Journey. A few weeks after arriving, John graciously asked me to continue to lead the Pastoral Care Ministry of Journey.   During these years, Journey has experienced the joy of moving from uncertainty to optimism, from 1200 – 1300 to more than 2000 weekly participants, and now greatly anticipates the growth — strongly enhanced by “The Promise” to accommodate increasing numbers of children, teens, and adults.

Partners in marriage and ministry for over 46 years, Marilyn and I have been significantly enriched in our time at Journey. We have continued to depend on each other’s strengths and challenge each other’s development for His glory. Teaching fourth graders, spawning initiatives for adults, hosting groups in our home, sharing in invited settings, or meeting with women one-on-one, Marilyn’s commitment to help people (now especially in the college setting) reach deeper into their God-designed potential continues to bubble up. In my time at Journey, my greatest satisfaction has been caring for people in life’s greatest joys and deepest tragedies. Whether one of the first to hold a newborn or one of the few to await a surgeon’s consultation, walk through the ups and downs of long illnesses and share the dying moments in the lives of friends, all my years in pastoral ministry and, especially those with you, have prepared me for God’s next challenge and call.

Over two years ago, John and I mapped out a plan toward retirement from local church ministry to be completed in December 2015. As I began to reflect on life after 45 years as a spiritual shepherd, I explored possibilities for “what’s next” by volunteering to serve as a Chaplain at Nemours Children’s Hospital five miles from our home. Volunteering one morning a week, I was asked early-on to enroll in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). I have now completed four 20-week units to be certified as a hospital chaplain by the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP). Two months ago the Department of Patient and Family Care of Nemours unexpectedly asked me to consider becoming a full-time resident Chaplain at the hospital. Thankful to John for allowing me the opportunity to share this announcement in this forum, I have accepted the offer to be a Chaplain at Nemours and will officially begin this new challenge on May 11, 2015. My last official day at Journey will be April 30, 2015.

I make this announcement with mixed emotions. I am excited to begin a new challenge – supporting families in crisis as well as doctors, nurses, and other associates, all who work in high stress endeavors to bring the best healthcare possible to children and their families. In saying goodbye, I also feel the loss and sadness of leaving the weekly association with the Journey family whom we love and who have been an integral part of our weekly life for more than six years.

With Marilyn’s increasing opportunities, we look forward to sharing a common forum, beyond the church, to “cross train” and expand our development and influence for God’s glory. Each of you have contributed to the Christ followers we have become. Marilyn joins me in expressing our deep gratitude for what you have meant and will continue to mean to us. You will be part of our ministry wherever God leads.

Pastor Harold will be preaching in our weekend services on May 30-31. He will be speaking on the text in James 4 that speaks of life’s uncertainties and ever-changing nature. How appropriate.

Loving the Journey!