a letter from Pastor Jake
Arbor began out of heartbreak.
For seventeen years, I served as a pastor at Overlake Christian Church. I absolutely loved my job, but in 2014 our three-year-old daughter, Magnolia, was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, so I stepped back from my role at church to be with my family.
The nine short months that followed were bittersweet. On one hand, being aware of the fleeting time with our daughter gave an unspeakable richness and depth to our relationships. It was beautiful. But simultaneously, the pain of what was to come, anticipatory grief, was utterly suffocating. So we tried our best. We tried to make the most of every little moment, trusting in Jesus, until the moment came when we were forced to say “goodbye for now” to our little girl. Maggie stepped into eternity, and our hearts have been broken ever since.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to walk the path we’ve walked and not be forever changed. Through our loss, we feel like God offered us the unexpected gift of a new perspective. The temporal stuff in our lives that too often distracts simply faded away… while what mattered most became crystal clear! Everything was different. I was different! I still desired to serve Jesus, but there was this unbridled passion rising up inside me. I felt compelled to tell anyone and everyone about the heaven our little girl was now playing in. I asked God for direction, and I was honestly up for whatever His reply might be. God carried us through the worst of the worst, and consequently I was no longer afraid. It was in that sacred moment I felt Jesus call me to start a new church… so we did!
People came out of the woodwork to help. It was incredible! God provided everything we needed to get started, including a space to meet smack-dab in the middle of Woodinville. And on January 29, 2017, the seed of Arbor Church was planted with a bang. We sprouted quickly… really quickly! God was clearly blessing us as we did our best to build a church for His name’s sake.
We choose to call the church ‘Arbor’ because of its meaning. When most people hear the word, they typically think of the wooden structure people get married under. But there is second definition, which is my favorite. An ‘arbor’ is also a grouping of trees that grow up and together to create a pathway… and that’s exactly what we want to be!
Our roots stem from the soil of loss, which makes us uniquely shaped to help the hurting. And it’s from that foundational place that we form a group of people, growing up and together, to create a pathway which points straight to the hope of heaven through Jesus Christ.
If I’m honest, I yearn for the day when I’ll see and hug my daughter again. But in the meantime, while we’re breathing, why not do our part to build God’s Church? Together we continue Christ’s great commission of making disciples, which means helping anyone and everyone find and follow Jesus. In many ways, I feel like we’re just getting started!
This is a message I gave a few months after Maggie went to heaven. It’s the story of what we walked through, what we learned, and why we left to plant Arbor Church.