Following what’s in your heart

Do you follow your heart? This story stirs happiness and heartache as our dear friends, the Chris Embler and Stan Benton families, pack up and pursue divine plans in other places. The oldie goldie that tells of leaving on a jet plane – not knowing when they’ll be back again plays in my mind as I reflect on the love and respect Sampson folks have for these families. Selfishly, I would like for them to stay here in our hometown sharing their talents and shining with love and leadership in all they do. Spiritually, I celebrate the move for both families, knowing they are leaving with heartstrings attached here as they journey faithfully to new places. Oh, the places we go when hearts are in tune to our Maker.

We never know when we’ll be back again ( or if we will return at all) when we leave home, whether on a short trip across town or a move to Virginia or Ocracoke Island – as the Bentons and Emblers are embarking in June. Yet, we keep moving in faith and trusting God’s Hand of protection and blessing to get us where we’re going…short or long distances. Destinations can change – as do seasons – according to HIs plans and our obedience to trust, obey, and follow HIs will for our lives. Have you changed your address or remained in one place? God’s plans are different for each of us. We don’t have to move to move mountains. Yet, when He redirects our route, it is wise to follow where He leads. How exciting when we walk in faith and enjoy the journey!

Stan and Shannon Benton made Clinton home many moons ago. Their lives have synced harmoniously while raising their son, teaching children to love music, planning and directing more school and church programs than either can recall, directing choirs, being organist and pianist in different churches, playing for thousands of weddings, playing and singing for funerals – school and community functions – civic events – and social gatherings, caring for their parents, reaching retirement, and finally deciding to live their dream and move to another place with new adventures awaiting them there. Stan and Shannon will be missed here as they continue singing, playing, and writing their love story in the sunset season of their lives…there! I remember with gratitude the joy Stan brought to my sister, Glenda Honeycutt, as she nurtured

Chris and Rachel came to Clinton in 2013 bringing their three little children with them. Chris has served as Youth Pastor at First United Methodist Church. In 2007, Chris and Rachel started a 501C3 called Faith Walkers and have continued it while moving in faith wherever God leads. He led them on a seventeen month journey to South America. They didn’t leave on a jet plane. Chris and Rachel sold all their worldly possessions and set out on foot from Smithfield for Brazil with no money – only stuffed backpacks and love for Jesus overflowing with every faithful step they took. A jet plane did bring them home, thanks to a church in Texas (one they stopped to visit on their faith walk) that prayed for them and paid for two tickets for their journey home. Their obedience to “go and share the good news” wherever God leads has led them (and those who know them and witness their living testimonies) to blessings beyond measure. Serving together through Faith Walkers and as Youth Pastor in Smithfield and Topsail while witnessing the births of their children – Asher, Anna, and Simeon – brought them even closer to Christ and His commission for their family. At Topsail, (Chris watched a parade of people celebrate the release of a healed turtle heading back home into the sea) God birthed G.A.I.N. (God’s Annointed In Need)! God spoke to Chris’ heart that wounded turtles received help and time away from their surroundings for healing before going back home. Chris felt God’s gentle nudge to do the same for the wounded and weary who faithfully serve in ministry. He and Rachel prayed earnestly and waited on the Lord. In His perfect timing, through divine friendships and miraculous happenings, ‘God’s Annointed In Need’ began operation at The Berkley on Ocracoke Island. This amazing place offers opportunities for help, healing, and time to grow closer to the Father and one’s family in a nurturing environment. I have been blessed to attend two G.A.I.N. sessions, as a participant and a volunteer. Experiencing G.A.I.N. opens the eyes of your heart to His amazing grace.

Coming to First United Methodist Church in CLinton was a divine destination for The Emblers. Many prayers preceded their Sampson assignment which has flourished as they have walked in faith serving the Lord and bringing unity to the body of Christ here. Their family (which has grown to six with the birth of their daughter, Selah, in March of 2015) has embraced our community sharing God’s grace through humble service and powerful evangelism. God has blessed many people through The Emblers. I am one of those blessed ones, and oh the stories I have stored in my heart to share with you in HIs per fect timing.

Until then, there is much packing and planning for The Bentons and Emblers to do in preparation for their next destination. First United Methodist Church bids farewell to their church organist and youth pastor. We, the people of Sampson County and beyond, say good bye to dear friends who have given their best in service to Christ and community. May we embrace our friends with gratitude and grace and pray for God to protect and bless them as they follow His lead to new places. They aren’t leaving on a jet plane, we don’t know when they’ll be back …but we have blessed assurance that God has them (and us) in His keeping until we meet again.