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In early 2016, I found myself standing at the threshold of a revelation that would redefine my understanding of faith, leadership, and community service. My encounter with a church plant—Millcity Church in Wisconsin—opened my eyes to a world I hadn’t known existed. Up until that point, I wasn’t what you’d call a “believer,” but life had a way of preparing my heart for change, making it receptive to new possibilities.

Walking into Millcity Church on a chilly Wednesday evening, I experienced a palpable presence that I came to know as Jesus of Nazareth. This encounter wasn’t just another event; it marked the beginning of a profound transformation, touching every aspect of my life, including my marriage, and instilling in us a deep desire to contribute to something greater than ourselves.

Fueled by this newfound purpose, my wife and I felt called to the mission of church planting. Despite our lack of pastoral training, we were driven by a vision and a willingness to serve beyond the conventional boundaries. Partnering with like-minded individuals, we embarked on establishing a church in Waupaca County, unaware of the monumental challenges that lay ahead.

The journey of planting a church tested us in ways we never anticipated. It demanded an immense amount of dedication, resilience, and faith—challenging not only our physical and spiritual resources but also the very fabric of our family life. The dream we pursued, however, was met with unforeseen adversity. Just weeks before the launch, a divisive figure threatened to derail our efforts, revealing deep-seated issues within our leadership and community. Making the heart-wrenching decision to resign just days before the church’s inception was a pivotal moment for us, teaching us invaluable lessons about trust, leadership, and the importance of a solid foundation.

Amidst this turmoil, our personal lives were equally tumultuous. With our family growing and our home in transition, we navigated through a period marked by uncertainty, fear, and introspection. This season forced us to reevaluate our priorities, realizing that our alignment had been misplaced. The experience illuminated the true order of importance: faith, family, then ministry.

This challenging phase, however, set the stage for a deeper understanding of our calling. We recognized that to make a meaningful impact, we didn’t need organizational partners but rather a unified vision between us as husband and wife. Our eyes were opened to the realization that the people we aimed to serve—those struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues—needed compassion and support, not preconditioned offers of help.

This epiphany guided us towards creating a space where everyone, irrespective of their background or beliefs, could find refuge and support. Our mission evolved to focus on meeting people where they are, offering unconditional assistance to those in need within rural Central Wisconsin. This approach has allowed us to serve our community in the most authentic and impactful way possible.

Through the trials and transformations, we’ve learned invaluable lessons about what it means to lead and serve. Our journey taught us the essence of servant leadership—not through success stories but through witnessing failures and adopting a commitment to do better. We’ve dedicated ourselves to being a beacon of hope and a safe haven for those caught in the storm of addiction and mental health challenges.

As we reflect on our path, from the doors of Millcity Church to the creation of a sanctuary for the most vulnerable, we’re reminded of the beauty in resilience, the power of faith, and the transformative impact of serving with an open heart. Our story is one of overcoming, learning, and loving—principles that continue to guide us as we serve our community, leaving no one behind.