One year ago I was a part of a small group of people who were praying for God’s direction in the life of our friends, Catherine and Russ McCullum. As 2013 draws quickly to a close I am reflecting on the mighty and awesome God we serve! Before I tell you about the prayer being raised to the heavens just one year ago I fondly reminisce about how I met Catherine and Russ.
Remember how I have written about the bed and breakfast my husband and I owned in Shelbyville, Tennessee? It was in 2005 when Russ had just returned from serving in Iraq and Catherine’s business brought her to Shelbyville. She needed a place to stay for part of every month. Staying at a bed and breakfast afforded her a home-like atmosphere and through a quick phone call and a visit to our home our friendship began. For over a year Catherine and Russ stayed in our home for one week out of every month. Our businesses brought us together but the four of us quickly become personal friends. The love we share for Jesus Christ became the foundation our friendship was built on and continues to this day.
During the time they were staying with us they experienced the personal loss of the twin babies Catherine was carrying. To this day, this experience holds great emotion for them and for us. Through this tragedy we saw first hand their incredibly strong faith and reliance on the Lord. Walking with them required us to call upon our own faith and reliance on the Lord as well.
Eight years have passed. We sold our bed and breakfast, Catherine and Russ settled in a beautiful new home in Brentwood Tennessee and life went on. Both Catherine and Russ climbed the corporate ladder in their respective jobs. They served their church, went on a mission trip to Mongolia, and lived a very busy and fulfilling life. They introduced us to their friends, who became our friends. We introduced them to my mother, who quickly became “mom” to them. Even when weeks or months passed in between our visits we still stayed close. When we needed prayer, they prayed. When they needed prayer, we prayed. God blesses us all in this friendship.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2012. Catherine tells me she and Russ are going to New York City to visit a long-time family friend, Lois, who is the director of Hephzibah House. “What is Hephzibah House” I asked. Catherine told me about this historic brownstone house, sitting just off Central Park, that serves as a guest house (and so much more) for anyone in full-time ministry visiting New York City and needs an affordable place to stay. She and Russ were going to help their friend and the staff, prepare and serve some 75+ international students a Thanksgiving meal!
We spoke on the phone while they were in New York and they were having a fabulous time. They had seen the Macy’s Day parade, which literally starts just at the end of the block from Hephzibah House. They LOVED the ministry and serving the International Students, and the wonderful time with this wise woman, Lois.
However, when she arrived back in Tennessee she called and said “ we need to pray.” She shared with me that while having breakfast with Lois one morning, Lois confided that she had a long-standing prayer that God would bring a married couple to replace her. Lois and her husband had come to Hephzibah House some 40 years earlier, serving the ministry, raising their children, and striving to make a difference in the lives of many in NYC including international students, prisoners, and neighbors. Lois is 82 years old, her husband has passed away. So she has continued to serve alone for the last 9 years. She is ready, Lord willing, to pass on the baton of this glorious ministry to the couple the Lord chooses. Would they consider this ministry?
Emotionally, Catherine tells me that when Lois spoke she felt a significant stirring in her heart. But she felt a strong leading by the Holy Spirit not to speak. So, she pondered this and then that evening, her husband “out of the blue” asked, what she thought about what Lois talked about at breakfast? Wanting to make sure she didn’t speak out of turn, she asked Russ, “What are you talking about?” Russ then said he’d been thinking about what Lois had shared, and how they had sought how to serve the Lord, and well, maybe they should consider Hephzibah House and Ministries as the Lord’s answer to that question. Catherine could only respond with great emotion and they took the next several weeks to seek the Lord in prayer about this life altering decision.
After much petition to the Lord, speaking with us as trusted friends, and their families and church family, they decided to step out in faith and leave life as they knew it and serve the Lord full-time at Hephzibah House and Ministries in NYC.
This required leaving 2 careers, and Russ retiring from the US Army Reserves (after 27 years of service) and the sale of one of their homes, and the renting out of their other home, and downsizing from 2 homes to go live in 2 rooms as they now serve that beautiful ministry.
Every report from them since their move in mid-November 2013 has been full of joy and praise to God, who finally led them to His plan for their lives. To Hephzibah House in NYC where they serve alongside two interns who live at the house with them, and the staff of 7, who are there to take care of the guest house (reservations and housecleaning.) I am in awe how the Lord has given them a family to care for and mentor and a ministry all in one!
As they over-see this 120 year old work that the Lord started, will you join with me and keep them in your prayers?
Will you also let anyone you know that serves in full-time ministry (paid or volunteer), of this wonderful and affordable guest house in the desirable area between Central Park West & Columbus Avenue where they could stay in a home-like setting and see the city? Guests may stay whether in New York on business or pleasure!
Hephzibah House 51 W. 75th Street New York, NY 10023 (212) 787-6150
“You shall be called Hephzibah…for the Lord delights in you.” Isaiah 62:4
History of Hephzibah House
Established in 1866, Incorporated in 1893 * Initially a Training school for woman missionaries * Now run as a guest house for people in (or retired from) full-time ministry to have affordable temporary lodging while visiting the City * Outreach to Internationals (students, nannies, immigrants) with ESL & Bible studies * A very long/strong Prison ministry with a Discipleship program at Sing Sing Prison * Work being started in the Theatre community * Ministering to Veterans in the NYC area
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14