I’ve had to write some difficult emails over the past nine years, but the one I just sent out ranks among the most difficult.
A few weeks ago, our teammates Rich and Jil Elledge informed us that they wouldn’t be coming back to Argentina. The rigors and instability of cross-cultural over-seas ministry pose special challenges, and they’ve decided that the lifestyle isn’t right for their family. It’s obviously a difficult and painful decision, but one that anyone who has ever tried it can understand and support. Not all ministries are right for all people, and not every phase of life is conducive to the unique stresses posed by this life. The Gorniks and we are united in our support for Rich and Jil, and are glad they are making the best choice for their family right now.
Because of the kind of team we have and ministry we do, that decision has significant consequences for the Gorniks and us. We’ve spent the last month trying to explore options that would allow us to stay in La Plata and continue the church plant here. Unfortunately, none of those options for adding additional teammates fully panned out. Ultimately, we have been faced with the reality that given the impending birth of the Gorniks’ fourth child and a completely unavoidable 5-6 month absence already scheduled for us later this year, that there is simply no way to effectively continue church planting here in La Plata. We have explored all options for staying, but to perfectly frank, we felt that projecting one year into the future, the ministry would be no further along than it is now, and may well even regress.
As you all know, our calling has never been to La Plata specifically, but to work with the Spanish-speaking urban poor. La Plata was chosen for strictly strategic reasons. We now believe there is no viable way to advance the work here in the near future without extracting and impossible toll on us and our families. Because of that, we have collectively decided to leave Argentina.
To describe this process as devastating and traumatic would be an understatement. It is not something we have done lightly or without considering all the possible options. It breaks our hearts, but we are convinced it is the best way to continue pursuing our long term goals and calling. Understand that this was not the ‘easy’ choice. This was the hard choice, but the one we see as unquestionably correct.
Functionally, this decision means that the Dunlevy family will be leaving the country in two months. The Gorniks will stay a few months more as they have to secure paper work for their new baby. After that…well, that’s the big question.
We are still exploring options with GBIM for future ministry with the mission. It is not our desire to resign from GBIM, though that might become a necessary intermediate step in the future.
We have been seeking guidance from the mission, from the elders at Community of Hope (the sending church for us and the Elledges), and from our community who was part of the original Madison House vision. Now, we are asking for your prayers as well.
The Gorniks and we have committed to taking this next step together. We have affirmed our commitment to all of our base principles and practices, and are now seeking wisdom as to how to most effectively pursue our long-term goals of planting churches and preaching the gospel among the Spanish-speaking, urban poor.
In summary, this is a change of venue (and possibly a change of vocation), but not a change in the trajectory of our lives. We are about the same things we have always been about, and will continue to be about those things no matter where we live.
More coming later…