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-->THIS IS A LONG ONE...HANG IN THERE..(Tom and Julia)
When we moved to Lake Lure, Tom was concerned that the mountains there were too small and the temperature too hot (yes, insert chuckle/scoff/snarl here).  Yet, over the course of 9 years, our hearts filled with love for this place and its people.  Lake Lure became a home we never thought we’d leave as we discovered just what these mountains had to offer.  I (Julia) birthed 2 new lives here and figured my hair would grey and face would wrinkle watching our children forge friendships with families at the small church and hometown school we love.  We lived alongside ESBS students, saw them come and learn and grow, and saw God grow a wonderful staff community around the school.  We grew too, as ESBS flourished where God planted us.

Over the past two years, God has continued to grow the ESBS community, as He's made our hearts ready to respond to the next adventure ahead...a move...a rebirth for the school...and a call to leave this wonderful mountain town, for the place He’s taking us next.

We’re moving the school to a community called Oviedo, just outside of Orlando, to plant it at a thriving and exciting conference center there.  Here's how this all came about:

In November 2014, Tom and Caleb met for lunch in Lake Lure with Jon Davis, the Executive Director of Canterbury Conference Center in Oviedo, Florida.  He happened to be in Lake Lure and Caleb knew him, partly because Canterbury was the place Caleb first heard about ESBS and made the decision to come and be a student here.  As Tom and Caleb shared about our search for a new location, Jon was instantly excited and invited us to come check out Canterbury.  Our program was a perfect match for his vision of seeing a long-term discipleship community form at Canterbury. 

A week after meeting Jon, Tom and I were in Hawaii.  He was teaching at a YWAM school and we were also celebrating our 10 year anniversary.  On our first morning there we stepped out onto the streets of Kona at 5:30 a.m. and the first person we ran into "randomly" was a man named Dave Behring, someone we’d never met, but who happens to be on the Board of Directors for Canterbury, and who was the one who initially encouraged Caleb Ives to apply for ESBS (while they were at Canterbury together 4 years ago).  He and his wife were in Kona for an art show.  We were surprised to meet him like that, and we chatted about what had just happened at Canterbury.  He had already heard about it.  He prayed for us right there on the sidewalk.  It was a wonderfully weird experience!

As we've searched for a new location over the past year we’ve sensed the Lord saying that He’s going to provide the place and when He does, it will be like a sailboat whose sails become full of wind blowing and pushing it.  It will be like the sun rising and where there was darkness, there will all of the sudden be illumination.  It will be like opening a present on Christmas morning.  We feel like now the Lord is bringing these words to fulfillment by providing Canterbury Conference Center as the new home for the ESBS. 

In December 2014 six of us from the ESBS community flew to Canterbury to officially explore a partnership.  After several great days of meetings we said “no” to the partnership and decided to continue to pursue a location in Lake Lure.  In may ways Tom led that decision, keeping the school in Lake Lure was something he’d always wanted to do, and we had an open door with a property there at the time. We announced the decision to stay in Lake Lure in January 2015.

In April plans to remain in Lake Lure began to deteriorate.  Our ministry model had already outgrown the facility we were moving into.  As we began to move in, it became clear to us all that we couldn’t do what God was asking us to do there.  The property couldn't  facilitate growth.  After discussions with the owners, we chose to discontinue the planned rental agreement.

A partnership with Canterbury was obviously an open door we needed to re-investigate.

By early May we had been back down to Oviedo once more, for three more days of meetings with Canterbury, and we’d achieved a working partnership. By May 11th both boards had approved the move, and by June 3 all of our ministry supplies had been relocated to Florida.  When God moves…sometimes you just have to hold on tight.

Our first morning at Canterbury in May, before the meetings began, Julia and I participated in morning prayer on the campus.  There were two scripture readings for the day.  We were asked to read them both.  The first one was from Deuteronomy 8.  “Remember the long way that the Lord your God has lead you these 40 years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, to test you to see what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments….for the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land…where you will lack nothing…you will bless the Lord your God for the good land he is bringing you into…(Deut 8:2-10 parts omitted).  Julia was asked to read that scripture, and I saw the tears well up in her eyes as we both felt those words impacting our hearts.  Next I (Tom) was asked to read from Luke 9:18-27 “If any want to become my followers, let them take up their cross and follow me, for those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

God was speaking.  The meetings were a huge success, and a strong partnership was created.

Emmaus Ministries will operate in partnership with Canterbury much like it did with Lurecrest.  We will maintain our own 501(c)3 status.  Our curriculum, calendar, costs and staff will not change.  What WILL change is that we will be integrating ourselves into a campus that has deep connections in Central Florida, and where the school will have a much higher visibility than it ever did in Lake Lure.  College groups and ecumenical ministry fellowships meet on Canterbury’s campus on a weekly basis.  Youth ministry training, and church leadership training also happen there regularly.  Additionally Canterbury operates in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, which is the most conservative and orthodox Episcopal diocese we’ve ever seen.  The diocese has been very receptive to the partnership we’ve created, and we’re so excited to see all the ways that God will plug us into what He’s doing there. 

So, we’re excited about this new season for Emmaus, and for our community of staff members.  Currently we have three families and two singles transitioning out of Lake Lure and towards Oviedo.  The past month has been a wild ride for all of us, but we’re so confident that God is up to something good.  After 9 years at Lurecrest, we are THRILLED to follow God into this new adventure.  We all feel like Emmaus Ministries is positioned to really grow and thrive in Florida.  This partnership is replete with signs of God’s providence.  We stand in awe of His provision, and with heart of faith we say “yes” to the leading of God towards the “Good land” he is calling us into.

Tom and Julia