Once Upon A Sled Dog Race….
It was early March, 2012. My wife was ready to birth our fourth baby girl. I was taking over the pastor duties at our young and bustling little U.P. church. So much was going on: rumors, uneasiness, trepidation, insecurity, gossip, backbiting…wow, yeah it was a tough time. So, along with trying to find the Lord’s good, pleasing, and perfect will…and simultaneously filling out a 30+ page pastors examination, drafting new bylaws (whatever those are), and not go crazy in the process…the Lord dropped another, even wilder, idea in our lap.
You wanna minister to your community, right? You wanna reach out with the love of Christ and show the world He loves them? You want to turn your world upside down and see revival, wasn’t that what you were praying for???
Yes. Ok, Jesus says, then do a sled dog race.
Uh….what? This can’t be the Lord. How past left-field is this?! Although, it is a bit exciting and adventurous (two things more Christians need), it has to be the craziest thing I have ever heard a small, transitioning church getting involved with. This can’t be You, whatever…I’ll just put it out of my mind.
Then it came back and my wife and I talked it over, while she was in birth and right after. Life is hectic and challenging, living by faith…let’s bring an utter logistical nightmare into our lives (NOT referring to baby #4). We better pray.
And pray we did.
Then I put out a fleece. Ok Father, if I send an email to the organizers of another race and they, some how, respond even a bit favorably, we will press on with this ridiculous venture. So we did, and they did. And we set up a meeting last April. We showed up, completely greenhorning it. They were nice, dropped a stack of fifty printed documents in our laps, tried to scare us off…and a challenge was presented. Then we left, swimming in possibilities. And prayed.
Men, especially adventurous northern pioneers and their tireless wives, should always pray and not lose heart. And pray all the more, we sure did.
We looked at everything, sought the Lord and His Word. Doors were opening. We called the organizers back. Invited them to our modest, little Iron River. Called a community meeting in May and asked a few progressive types (generous title for our town) to join us. Somewhere around 12 people showed up. Great presentation with videos from our friends from the Copperdog sled dog race. Lots of big eyes and cocked heads. Pray.
Pray and pray and pray. Some answers started to come.
So, we planned some monthly brainstorming meetings. And, until somewhere around October, we only had a few more than our core group of six to ten, really-new-at-this, folks. I hesitated even sharing this venture with the church, thinking, “I can’t put these people through this..they already have to deal with a bearded, spastic young pastor who’s cuckoo for the Holy Spirit and has huge holes in his ears.” And transition and poverty and everything else. Anyway, I think at least half of the people I told about this thing just patted me on the shoulder and thought—in Christ’s love—that I was probably off on this one and it might just fizzle. Honestly, I don’t blame them one bit. I seriously was starting to think that I was losing grip on reality a bit. I mean, I started getting crazy “words” and Scriptures and thoughts about mission trips to Alaska and building a sled dog kennel along with our ministry…which already had a coffee shop (with another on the way), a recording studio, a community garden, a struggling discipleship program, and too much more. And a congregation of 30-40 adults. What in the world was I thinking???!!!
I didn’t know…so I prayed.
And, in praying, things were snapping. It didn’t matter. I was already in WAY over my head. Living the poor, church-mouse dream…living off of scraps off of the Master’s table. We already had a HUGE old church basically given to us through a $137,500-miracle. We started a coffee shop/music venue…and then another one. The Spirit has been upon us through adultery and suicide and fastings and tribulation and backslidings and triumph and salvation. We travelled in a converted city bus across the nation three times with nothing—NOTHING! Ok…I don’t know Jesus…maybe this sled dog thing isn’t too crazy.
Logo. Website. Blog. I am writing a book in there, or was, somewhere. Newspaper article. A little money started showing up, making tiny dents in a $20,000 need. More people started showing up to meetings. Chamber of Commerce backed us (thanks!). Appeared before the City Board—interesting looks all around. Appeared before the DDA—downtown development authority—same looks. Then a second time, so they would know we were serious. Then came the County Board for use of the trail; that’s where The Lord told me to throw in there that I’m a pastor—could have framed those looks! Then DNR permits. Then some sponsors got on board. Then some more. By this time, mushers (the even crazier people who race sled dogs, care for them, and train them) started hitting up our Facebook and website with a barrage of questions we could barely answer. They WERE excited nonetheless.
We continued to pray. It was all starting to be this scattered, rocket-boosted blur. At that point, we had no idea what we were getting into….
To be continued.