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It’s been pleasantly surprising to see Sabbath Thoughts develop an international footprint, which brings a smile to the face of this former missionary. WordPress provides tools that inform me of its global reach, and I try to take that broad audience into account when I write (shout out to my readers last month in Nepal – both of you).

But today’s post is meant for a narrower audience – specifically, the people at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita, CA, which has been my home for over 13 years. We refer to it as the “Grace family,” and I like that. I call us Gracers, and I like that too.

We announced in services this weekend that my wife and I are in the midst of a major transition as a result of an invitation from the leaders of Heights Church in Prescott, Arizona. I preached there in early January (had a wonderful time), and Murf and I spent a week there earlier this month to get to know the staff and the elder team. At the close of that week, they invited me to join their pastoral team. We have accepted that invitation, and are preparing to conclude our time at Grace in mid-March and plan to begin our ministry in Prescott later in the Spring.

This is not something that we do lightly. Grace welcomed us back from our international ministry (after supporting us for 15 years), provided a place for us to use our gifts, cared for us through several family crises, and enthusiastically embraced opportunities for gospel impact both locally and around the world. It has been a wonderful place to serve, and we’ve been involved in exciting ministries that created deep and lasting friendships. Senior Pastor David Hegg and other church leaders have affirmed us and encouraged us as they have prayed us through this decision. They made clear what I already knew, that I would be welcome to stay at Grace as long as I felt God wanted me there.

But we do sense God leading us to Arizona. The Lead Pastor at Heights, my friend Ron Merrell, served on the Grace pastoral team until leaving for Prescott almost three years ago. He has asked me to assume the role of Shepherding Pastor, a job title that I’ve never seen but that I really like – it’s redundant, but in a way that excites me! It will encompass a fairly wide variety of pastoral responsibilities, including being part of the preaching team. We sense a good connection with the congregation and with our future colleagues, and we are eager to be part of what God is doing at Heights. There is of course no way to know exactly what lies ahead – but that’s not a bad thing. It makes us lean on the Lord.

A case could be made that we are crazy to leave a town where we have regular contact with our daughter and her family, and it’s true that the upcoming birth of our second grandson in May made our decision much more difficult. To be honest, when Ron called last Fall (ironically the day after we learned that Amy was pregnant), it was hard to imagine leaving. But having spent 15 years overseas, raising our children far from their grandparents, we realized that this would not be the first time that we left family for the sake of ministry. We’re glad that Josh and Amy support our decision, and their encouragement matters a lot to us. Still, leaving our family is by far the hardest part of this move. Our moments with them (especially with little Corban) these last few weeks have been especially meaningful, since we know they will soon be much less frequent. That is a hard sentence to write.

I’m grateful to Pastor David for inviting me to preach at Grace on March 14 and 15, on a passage from Acts that will be especially appropriate for the occasion. I am both looking forward to that opportunity, and dreading it. It will be my last weekend on the staff of a church that I love. Your prayers heading into that weekend, for the goodbyes that will take place and for all the details of moving that will follow, will be appreciated. And if you are in town, I would love to see you there.

How do you end a post like this one? I wish I had something pithy and clever, but I really don’t. I just know that it has been a privilege to serve the people of Grace, and that it will be a privilege to serve the people of Heights. We worship a God who loves both churches. Thanks for praying for us as we strive to do the same.

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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25 Responses to Transitions

  1. Jenny Moyer says:

    Im am so sad you and Murf are leaving, I am speechless. I did not see this coming. All I can think of is probably silly to you but as you were announcing your relocation, the rain sound just seemed to magnify, just like when my grandmother died when I was a child and recently as it did two years ago when my daddy died. As morbid as that may sound, I am just so sad you are leaving. I respect and firmly believe that God’s Will be done, as a sinner, human being, I just am sad that you are leaving Pastor Mike.

  2. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Jenny.

  3. Mary Lively says:

    I’m sad you’re leaving Grace even though we have been at our church almost 8 years now. You have had a tremendous impact on our family over the years. My Bible is all marked up with
    Mike-isms which help me remember much of your tremendous preaching. We love you and appreciate your years of ministry at Grace. Ya know that roses don’t really like Arizona very much? But, you will find some awesome hikes!! Love you Murf and Mike, friends forever.

  4. Charity says:

    Wow! I have been so impressed with all the missions minded ministry that has gone on at Grace under your lead! I hope it can continue on without you. I’m thankful that 3 of our 5 children have been able to go on foreign mission trips because of the opportunities provided at Grace. I will always appreciate and admire your enthusiastic heart for missions, whether it be the lost and needy that are here in the SCV or those who are thousands of miles away! I also appreciate your thoughts about being away from family. Over the past couple of years, cross country moves have been in the discussion at our house due to our caring for a widowed mother in law in Florida, but I’ve always been insistent on staying here in CA where our 2 granddaughters are. Now that I read your perspective, my mind is a little more open to moving if that is where the Lord wants us to be. I pray the Lord’s blessing on you and Murf as you follow the Lord on this next part of your journey.

    • Thank you for your encouraging words, Charity. It was a hard evolution, but we did decide that the family issue would be an implication of our decision, not the driving force of it. It provides freedom, but comes with a certain amount of pain. We are confident it will be worth it.

  5. Linda Olson says:

    Your new Adventure With God sounds exciting! Praying for you and Murph?

  6. Tim Ryerson says:

    “He calls his own sheep by name. They will scatter at the sound of a stranger’s voice because they aren’t used to the sound of it. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep, and my own sheep know me. I put the sheep before myself” (John 10, The Message).

    Welcome to Prescott.

  7. Chris Abbott says:

    The announcement Saturday night brought tears to my eyes, but I thought, “I’ll still get to read Sabbath Thoughts”… Thanks for all you’ve done for the Lord at Grace and for your openness in sharing yourself. Many blessings to you and Murf in this new adventure. Grace and peace, Chris Abbott

  8. Holly Rogers says:

    Our prayers are with you and yours as you transition to this next stage of life and of ministry/service. Thanks for the years of ministry to our family. They mean more than words could ever express. Excited to see how He uses you in Arizona. Blessings!!!

  9. kim says:

    I’ve never really met you Mike but it doesn’t make me love you any less. I’ve always enjoyed your enthusiastic, heartfelt sermons. I wish you and your wife the very best in Arizona and in your new adventure. Prescott is lucky to have you! May God use you for His glory. Peace. (FYI, Sedona has amazing hiking trails 🙂

  10. Faith says:

    So glad Sabbath Thoughts will still be here for us….tears flow easily when we selfishly tell God “I don’t like Your plan”….so glad He can handle it. 🙂 …words are not adequate to express our gratitude for your ministry to GBC and our family too…..there is so much teaching in this post….so much conviction that comes through your “tender surrender” expressed in these sentences…you always reach the heart with gentle words of wisdom.

    Oh Lord that we would be so quick and willing to lay down our desires for the sake of the call…realizing that indeed we are all part of one HUGE church family that You need to grow and feed through the ones you choose to send who are not just able, but willing to go where you lead….Thank you Jesus, for Mike and Murph and this amazing ministering time they have had at GBC these many years…and thank you for the example they are to us to be obedient to the call, bless their efforts, may the harvest be overwhelming and ministries flourish there in Prescott, and please make a way for them to come back and visit often Father….we will miss them. Amen

  11. Ken Royer says:


    Hi Mike and Murf,

    Wow, we sure have mixed emotions (we’re sure you must also). On the one hand, it’s really exciting to conceptualize new challenges, and have the privilege of being “Shepherding Pastor” — a perfect title for you both!

    On the other hand, we have so loved having you only 3 to 3 ½ hours away! Even though we haven’t been able to “stop by for coffee” very often, still, just knowing you are there has been so wonderful! We treasure your friendship and your being colleagues in ministry. We esteem you highly, and thank God for you. We count you as treasured friends.

    An idea: You may want to consider attending next January’s “Building Skills – Equipping to Serve” conference, Jan. 11-15, 2016. It was so helpful to many this year – focusing pretty much on “next steps in member care.”

    God bless you, Mike and Murf, as you will soon be headed to Arizona! We have a hunch the road between Prescott and Grandchildren will be well traveled (even as our travels to Laguna Hills!)

    Looking forward to more Sabbath Thoughts – and however our friendship communication continues to unfold.

    Ken & Mary

  12. Bill McNeil says:

    You will definitely be missed. It’s been fun from letters and emails to and from France to seeing you grow in your pastoral duties. You and Ron Merrill, that other ”short guy” from GBC, will make an impressive pair of bookends 🙂 Don’t leave the leg guards behind. AZ has many of the same critters we have here and I’ll expect more fantastic Sabbath Walk Thoughts. Tell Murph I’ll miss those quick tidbits “out back” when I usher. May you and your family continue to receive God’s blessings in this new chapter of your lives.
    Bill McNeil

  13. Elaine Atterbury says:

    Mike – Prescott, AZ ? Wow, that’s where my parents lived for 22 years … and I traveled to for 22 years!!
    It’s a beautiful place with lovely people, but I know it will be so tough to leave the lovely people of Grace. Burnie and I will be praying for your continued peace of mind, and relationships that survive distance! ~Elaine (

  14. Pingback: Restored | Sabbath Thoughts

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