Well it has been about a year since I have posted one of these and there is not really a specific reason why but I feel that I should put into detailed words what my life for the past year and a half has looked like. This is not supposed to be insulting or offensive to anyone but just me laying my heart out for all to see.
One of the hardest things that I have ever had to do so far in my life was to leave. Leave family, friends, job, work, vehicle, my own place... and in so many ways myself. I was living a very comfortable life but as soon as I knew that God was calling me to give it all up the greatest war I could ever have imagined broke out deep inside of me only to surface very soon.
I remember vividly driving away from the all I ever knew in a huge 26ft U-Haul truck with a 14ft trailer attached to the back of it with all the possessions that were left and wrestling with God every moment in every state from Florida to California. I never knew that I had so many tears. I felt in so many ways that I was letting down those that I was leaving behind felt like, "Mike doesn't care anymore" or even "Mike doesn't think this is good enough anymore and is going to the next thing and on to even the next" and 100% of my focus and dedication was on those thoughts and feelings which made life legitimately horrible.
January 17, 2011 I board a very large boat to leave the mainland and head to my mission destination that God was calling me to. Everything that I was talking about and building up months prior to this all came down to today. I could not stand the thought anymore of doing this and it had not even started yet. I left the main cabin of the boat walked to the back where I was by myself (or it at least seemed that way) and I watched as California drifted away and I remember apologizing in my head to all those that "I have let down" and thinking to myself that the first opportunity I get to leave this mission I will take in a heart beat. I arrived on Catalina Island with very little strength but a lot of posing (I had a lot of experience). I remember getting off of the boat and there were so many to greet and welcome the "new comers" and all I could do is put on a smile and try to think of something "Godly" to say because after all I am now a missionary. This continued for the first couple months. So many nice people giving all of themselves to make me feel welcome and at home but in my head home was 3,000 miles back east and NO ONE UNDERSTOOD! (satan’s lies are pouring on at this point).
With all this pain and frustration going on I then decided that there has to be someway of making it all go away or maybe even a way of numbing it all and I found it. Work. Something that I was not a big fan of before but it was now my salvation. It is amazing that on an island as small as Catalina how much work there is that can be done and how much work there really is to do and believe me I found every bit of the first. From working in the grocery store to helping clean out houses (now let me say that doing those things are not wrong in anyway shape or form when done with the right heart and my heart was anything but right at that time) there was never a quiet moment for me which was great because then my thoughts could not be consumed with Florida and what was left behind. I found a solution! I was then offered a job working on boats with the Santa Catalina Island Company which was an answer to prayers because now I can work and get paid. It has to be a “God” thing right? As a missionary I need some way of making money I mean after all Paul was a tent maker so there's nothing wrong with it... Right? (again my hearts condition) I was caught up working a schedule of about 6 days a week from 8 hr days to 12 hr days and the one day I had off I was either leading "worship" at one of the churches or I was gone. Hiking was my thing so when I had the chance I would make myself as scarce as possible by going out for a hike into the interior by myself. I had no more of a connection with the people on Catalina Island 8 months into it then I did on Jan 17th and to be honest deep down inside I was ok with that because why would I want to build a relationship with these people. They are the reason why God took me away from my family, friends and my comfortable life (my Jonah-Nineveh moment I guess).
By September I was drained in every way that you can think of. Physically I was weighing around 165 lbs which is about a 100lb difference than 2 years before. Spiritually I was still pursuing Jesus but on my terms and only when I wanted to. Emotionally I was checked out but the poser was really working overtime and getting me by. I started hearing from God at this point that it was time to go back to Florida and that was it for me. There were no more questions to be asked. Of course I will go back to Florida I mean that is what God is saying and I get my old life back.
In October I left Catalina for about 2 weeks to seek out a job (my dream job) that I was offered and since God was calling me back then this had to be the job that He was calling me to. I interviewed for the job and was offered the position. I was going to have the “good life” back again and maybe even better this time around since I sacrificed a year of my life for Gods work. I was going to have my dream job, my own place to live again, a vehicle that is not a golf cart! I went back to Catalina Island with a new purpose. Saying goodbye. I finished out the month of November and prepared for my departure and as I was doing that God kept on giving me a dream of the island and that the island was a completely black place but there was light that was penetrating the blackness from the people of the island (this will come into play a little bit later). December the 1st came and this was now my last day on the island. I was leaving on a 3:00pm boat and I had to say the rest of my goodbyes but something was wrong. My heart was breaking and at that moment I did not want to leave but I kept pushing on through the day. I met up with Andrew Hobbs first because he had to go into work and He gave me a verse from Joshua 1:7 about being strong and courageous through this next journey and then he started to tear up and he began to thank me for helping him and being a part of his family. He drove off to work and I was standing outside of his house and I collapsed to the ground and I could not stop crying (shake it off Mike you have more goodbyes and you cant be crying the whole day). The day went on and it was finally time for me to drive down to the boat and now it was all setting in that my life for the past year almost seemed to have been for nothing. I arrived at the boats and there were a bunch of people from the different churches and even the guys that I worked with on the boats were there to say their goodbyes and the emotions were flooding in like a dam that was broken but I somehow found a way to plug it. It was time to get on the boat and leave. I picked up my bags and started to give my last hugs to everyone there. I then reached the Hobbs kids and that plug came flying out and the emotions released and released hard so I had to quickly leave that moment because I couldn’t let anyone see this part of me. I got on the boat and went right to the back where I was by myself again and I started asking God, “Why? Why all this pain? Why cant it all just be like the old days? Why cant life be the way I WANT IT!”
December 2, 2012 I stepped foot off the plane right back into the thick Florida humidity but this time it had such a nice feeling to it (weird I know). I was back and ready to hit the ground running. Before I had to start my job a couple of very close friends and myself decided we wanted to go on a vacation to Seattle and by this time I needed a vacation. I spent about 4 days in Florida before flying back out west and to be honest for the most part those 4 days were a blur. A lot of resting, thinking and eating. My friends and I flew out to Seattle on December the 6th and I remember feeling so free. I was back with friends and going on trips where I did not have to worry about being “someone” but just having fun. Throughout the trip I remember multiple times where I went through major culture shock because of living on an island the year before and now in a huge city like Seattle. I look back on that trip and to this day (only 6 months later) I feel that it was the most fun I have had in a very long time and more importantly my heart started to open back up and the poser started to release somewhat. We spent a little over a week there and then flew back to Florida where it was time for me to get back to work.
I had to get back into the swing of things and I remember sitting in numerous meetings with people and they would all ask the same thing “How was it being a missionary on Catalina Island?“ I would tell them all pretty much the same thing about how the past year had been amazing and great and that God did some awesome things but not really touching on the little part on how my life at times really SUCKED! Denial? Maybe. I didn’t want to feel that the past year was all for nothing but at the same time I truly believed that it was. The more life went back to “normal” for me the weirder it became. I no longer was feeling happy being back and to go a step further I was completely miserable but in my mind I just had to get back into it all again and everything would be fine. That was not the case at all. I spent some time with family for the holidays and that I remember being one of the best times that I spent with them that I could remember and it was fun but right after that ended, life went right back to being miserable. “What is going on? God I followed you back to Florida and now it seems even worse now than on Catalina.”
I went in to work on a Wednesday and I was sitting in my office when this feeling became so overwhelming I decided to take a drive around town. I was driving only a couple minutes when I passed by a church and I felt such a strong conviction to go in. I pulled in to the church went inside and sat away from everyone and just opened my ears to hear. The pastor that night was talking about Gods calling on your life and how you know if it is God calling you or not. He continued by explaining that if its God calling you then you will have a peace that passes all understanding and if not there will be a ton of confusion and how God is not a God of confusion. As I was listening the only thing that came to my mind was, “What the heck! Where are You calling me to God? What do You want me to do?”. I left the church and decided to drive around a little more and I called a few friends to talk and get my mind off of this. I finally arrived at home for the night and decided to just relax and give it a break but that is not what God had in mind. I walked in and there was a Bible that friend handed to me and I remember holding the Bible asking God, “Make it clear what You want from me.” I opened up the Bible and there were these old sermon notes inside the Bible and they had a few points to them. Point number one said, “God wants to use you to help penetrate the darkness” (well this could just be a coincidence about the dream I was having). Point number two said “Yes this means you” (getting kind of weird at this point). Point number three stated something along the lines of “Follow God in obedience”. I then looked at the passage where the sermon notes were sitting next to and it was Isaiah 61 which talks about pulling others our of the darkness! I then felt like I should call a missionary back on Catalina Island and explain to her all that just happened and when I got to the part of Isaiah 61 she started to flip out (a good flip out not a bad one) and she went on to tell me that God had recently given that passage to the church leaders on the island and that right before I called she was talking to the church leadership about how that passage is going to change the island. That was it for me. I knew God was telling me to go back to Catalina and to go now.
I packed my belongings, left my job, gave away my truck and within a week I was back on Catalina Island. Since being back God has made it very clear to be working with the youth on the island and it has been such an amazing and defiantly trying time. Since January of this year there have been about 10 salvations here on the island and God is moving in a lot of ways. He made it clear to me that it is ok to work but not as much and to mainly focus on ministry so I have cut my work schedule down to only 3 days of work each week and the other 4 are ministry. It has not been any easier this time around but the huge difference is this time I am letting God Father me in it ALL and not letting myself live it the way I want. The posing side of me still lives but with the help of God it is being put aside on a daily basis. The Bible says “For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Focus on the part that says “That which was lost.” For me I lost my heart somewhere on the journey and my life was burdened down with wounds that accumulated over the years and then from those wounds agreements were made. Agreements that this is how life is and should be but despite all of that junk something amazing happened. Jesus came pursuing after me and gave me my heart back. Jesus sought out that which was lost and saved it.
My journey continues on and for now it is Catalina Island and I must live in this moment and not focus on what is next because to hear clearly what Gods mission is for me here and now I must listen in the here and now and not tomorrow. There have been many people that have been hurt by things I have done or even put off with my actions and I do apologize and I yearn to make that right. Whatever the mission God has called you on let Him be the one doing the calling and just as important let Him be the one leading you through it all. “The lives of many rest in the hands of a few.” Believe it or not you can make a difference but only through Him.
Your brother in Christ,