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Why New Bern?

The bench that started it allYou might be asking, Why New Bern? Here is part of that answer. This is such a beautiful story. Not because it is about me (Pastor Dave), but because it is about the lengths to which God goes to accomplish His Plans in and through each of us.

The paragraph below is from a journal I have been keeping that narrates my life story.

For a number of years my parents invited us to visit them at their timeshare unit in New Bern, North Carolina. We declined their offer several times, but in 2007 we decided to accept their invitation. They took us around the area and we began to fall in love with eastern North Carolina. We visited several towns and we just felt a “strange excitement” the whole time we were there. Driving home from that little vacation, I think we both knew God had taken us there for a reason. We have prayed over the past year and we sense that eastern North Carolina is where God is calling us to. In April 2009, Robyn and I spent a week in eastern North Carolina listening to all that God might have for us as well as “investigating” the area. Since that trip in 2007 I have sensed New Bern was to be the epicenter of our plans. Prior to our trip, we planned out an itinerary to check out a number of other areas in the region. I collected census and demographic data for much of the region. That sounded like to prudent thing to do. We arrived in New Bern on Easter night and were excited to begin our whirlwind tour the next day. Our timeshare unit was very nice and each morning we worked out at the recreation center and spent about 1-½ hour in devotions, quiet time, and prayer. (Sad commentary, I cannot remember the last time I just spent that much time with God without being distracted and planning what was next.) For the first three days we traveled to a number of areas (Beaufort, Crystal Coast beach resorts, Harkers Island near the lower tip of the Outer Banks, Topsail Island beach resorts, Jacksonville, and through the rural counties of Jones and Onslow), each day sensing the same thing – nice places, but nothing more than that. By Wednesday, I was very discouraged and feeling as if I had totally missed the mark. I was really questioning why we were even there. In addition, there were several moments of tension between Robyn and me, over really insignificant stuff. We then spent Thursday and Friday in and around New Bern and we had a calming peace the entire time. We really did have two wonderful days, and not surprising, the weather was absolutely beautiful. It does seem as if God is pointing us toward New Bern. We spent time in the downtown and historical district walking the streets, we found Union Point Park (a whole story in itself), we checked out a number of local restaurants, and we drove around to various residential communities and found some that “felt good” to us. On the trip home, Robyn made an observation that struck me right between the eyes. She said, “Your original inclination was for New Bern and as soon as we stepped out of that area the whole thing began to fall apart.”

While the paragraph above on its own might not necessarily cause anyone of sound mind to move from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, these next two paragraphs taken from my journal are not so easy to dismiss. The following two paragraphs are eleven years apart, but they are two bookends of the same dream. The first paragraph takes place in 1998 as we were contemplating a job offer that would require us to move from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Columbus, Ohio. The second paragraph takes place eleven years later, in 2009.

After some time we began to feel God’s presence and I accepted the chief financial officer job at the egg producer in Ohio, and we looked to relocate to Columbus (from Lancaster) in the summer (1998). We felt that maybe in some small way I could instill some godly influence and stability into a company struggling to find its way. I had two very clear dreams before accepting the job. In the first dream God spoke to me and said that “Dave, you are not going to Columbus because of the job but the job is a way to get you to Columbus.” In the second dream I saw myself leading a group of people through a foggy valley and up and over a mountain that led to a wooden park bench on a brick pathway overlooking a river. I saw the park bench clearly, down to the blue color of the frame and the wooden lattice making up the seats and back.        

Several months before our trip to North Carolina (April 2009) I re-dreamed the “park bench” dream from when God spoke to me as we looked to move to Columbus (in 1998). This time I had an even clearer picture of a wooden bench on a brick pathway overlooking a river. I had no idea as to the location of that particular bench, nor did I know we would soon find ourselves sitting on that bench. While we were in New Bern during our visit in April 2009, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at a downtown restaurant and it was a beautiful evening, so we decided to walk around town. A few blocks from the restaurant we came upon Union Point Park, which overlooks the point at which the Neuse and Trent rivers converge. As we walked through the park I stopped dead in my tracks, and just stared at what I saw. The “wooden bench on a brick pathway overlooking a river” is in Union Point Park. We had never been in that park, nor had I ever seen that bench before. And, in 1998, that park was not even in existence. Back then in 1998, no benches, no brick pathway, and no gazebo. Okay God, I’m listening!

If God is willing to go to those extremes to pursue me (and you), then just think of the ways in which He will provide as we walk the path He sets before us.

Dave Garrett

Originally written: 5/2/2011

Posted: 4/20/2015

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