This weekend Russ performed at Faith Church in St. Louis, and I went with him.
This doesn’t really happen very often these days since I am usually home with the girls, but you know what? They are now 18 and 14 years old, and they’re more than capable of staying home alone for 48 hours. Or at least that’s what I kept repeating over and over to myself as I sat on a plane winging my way towards the Gateway City and trying not to hyperventilate at the thought of LEAVING MAH BAAAAAABIES!!!
So here’s how this came to be: Our pastors at the Oasis Church (Danny and Jillian Chambers) are good friends with the pastors of Faith Church (David and Nicole Crank). They introduced us to them and we all hung out together and hit it off immediately so it was a big ol’ lovefest blah di blah blah and long story short, (TOO LATE) when Russ was scheduled to go perform at their church David and Nicole graciously invited me to come with him. We stayed with them at their lovely home, and I was delighted to discover that they had a small yappy dog so I immediately felt at home. They also have a 6 year old daughter Ashtyn, who is just a ball of fun, so within the first five minutes I was down on the floor playing with both of them — the weekend was off to a great start!
There was one small detail about our weekend plans that somehow didn’t really sink in. Or maybe I didn’t actually hear it. Or maybe I heard it, but I didn’t think they were serious. Here’s the deal– we went to church SEVEN TIMES IN TWO DAYS! I am not even kidding. Just stop and think about that a minute. We’re talking ME and CHURCH and SEVEN TIMES IN TWO DAYS. What is wrong with this picture? I mean, I go every Sunday and love it, and I knew the services would be really good and everything, but come on. I’m not exactly what you would call the churchiest of churchgoers, and let’s face it– that’s a crapload of church! (she says delicately.)
Now to be fair, nobody made me go to church SEVEN TIMES IN TWO DAYS; in fact David and Nicole assumed that we would maybe choose one service to go to, and the rest of the time we’d just hang out at the house and relax. But then we got there and they were so warm and welcoming, and we exchanged gift baskets for crying out loud… and suddenly the idea of sitting around by ourselves didn’t sound fun at all– hey, if they could do it every weekend, then we could definitely keep up with them for just a couple of days, right?
Wait, it gets even better.
The actual schedule for that whole SEVEN CHURCH SERVICES IN TWO DAYS thing is as follows: One service was on the night we arrived, which was Saturday, then on Sunday morning there were five services, and then Russ would do kind of a mini-concert on Sunday night. And yes, I did say FIVE services on Sunday morning, but here’s the kicker– they’re at two totally different locations! Faith Church was just officially named the 5th fastest-growing church in the country. They outgrew their original facility pretty quickly, so they bought and refurbished another bigger one and now they are kind of outgrowing both of them, so they have to do multiple services– which means David goes back and forth between the two churches, about a 15-20 minute drive, and preaches five times in a row every Sunday. Which would kill a lesser man. Like for instance, ME. But I was up for it, and after hearing David’s great sermon Saturday night I had to agree with Russ who leaned over after it was over and said in my ear, “Yeah– I can hear that five more times.”
I should also mention that on top of their usual SEVEN CHURCH SERVICES IN TWO DAYS, this had been an especially hectic week around Faith Church. On Tuesday evening, the roof fell in at their children’s ministry building! Miraculously, not a single person was injured. An alert children’s minister heard some weird noises and got all the kids out of the building minutes before the whole thing came down.
So before their houseguests even arrived, David and Nicole’s week had already been just a wee bit full dealing with a major building disaster, local government officials, inspectors, contractors and the media. And that’s before the SEVEN CHURCH SERVICES IN TWO DAYS even started!
Sunday morning dawned bright and glorious, and after some good strong coffee we were off to the dang races. Russ sang one song in each service, so he stuck with David as they raced back and forth across town from service to service. I hung with Nicole– we only ran back and forth a couple of times. Their church staff is incredibly well-organized, they all have their specific areas of expertise and they do everything they can to make things go as smoothly as possible, but honestly, this is a crazy grueling schedule. It was amazing to watch David deliver the same sermon, but somehow manage to slightly change it up enough to keep things fresh and make it feel like he was preaching it for the first time. I have to tell you though, by the end of that fifth service, our collective gospel butts were a-draggin’. We went back to the house long enough to eat massive amounts of Chinese take-out and grab a nap before we headed out for the evening service.
Once a month they have something called ‘Super Sunday’ at this church. They choose a theme of some kind and do all kinds of crazy things like contests and prizes and stuff. It’s a fun family event and they really do it up right. The theme for this particular Super Sunday was “The ’80′s”, so you know, Russ and I fit right in. The worship team had a bunch of oldie songs worked up, and there was a live band and dancers and skateboarders and a costume contest– and yes, this IS still a church, it’s just a really fun one. It totally reminds me of our beloved Oasis Worship Centre in Nashville, and I completely understand why our pastors and these pastors are crazy about each other.
When David introduced Russ and brought him up onstage, the two of them were having so much fun together they ended up just sitting around talking– and then every once in a while Russ would stand up and sing something. It was a great night, the place was packed out and the audience was rowdy. It’s been a while since I have actually seen Russ perform more than the couple of songs a night he does as part of the Homecoming tour, so it was a real treat to hear him sing some of his songs from the 80′s and 90′s and watch him absolutely rock the house down! The boy’s still got it.
There was a lot of this going on between David and Russ all night…
Annnnd some more of this–
They took turns telling stories–
I had a brief Vanna White moment when Russ asked me to hand him his notebook–
And by the end of the evening it looked like David and Nicole had definitely managed to turn the week around and end it on a high note.
It was a great weekend. Russ decided he wants us to do this more often– as much as I love our family trips, it was kind of good to travel together again just the two of us, like the old days. The girls survived beautifully, no wild parties, drunken tattoos or arrests, and they were actually really happy to see us when we finally got home. I am crazy tired, but I just couldn’t wait to show you guys all of these great pictures, and of course, to make sure you understand that I totally went to church SEVEN TIMES IN TWO DAYS.
Because I knew once you picked yourself up off of the floor and stopped snickering, you’d all be really proud of me.
**These excellent concert photos are courtesy of Linda Roufa.