I’m Michael Houbre, and this is how I’m living deeply with my wife Lindsey and my family.
I grew up with the importance of serving instilled in me through my family’s faith and things like Boy Scouts. That grew as I got involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes in college and started to develop my own faith more deliberately. But that concept really reignited for Lindsey and me after we completed college, started having kids, moved back to Knoxville about 11 years ago and ended up at CSPC. Through some tough times we went through – a child’s health issues, the loss of a job – we were surrounded by folks at CSPC helping us out. It was really an example for us of what community is. And it reawakened what we already believed about what faith in action looks like. Our second child, Madelyn, ended up with health issues – not eating well, not taking in food – from the ages of three months to nine months. We were at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for treatment two different weeks, following many visits to other doctors and hospitals. That made 2013 and 2014 very difficult. Later that year and into 2015, I went through a job loss and seven months of unemployment. Our church friends jumped in to meet our family’s needs- meals, prayers and financial support. There was also a job club launching at the church that proved so helpful – I had mentors there who walked with me through my joblessness. Everybody I knew through the church was trying to help us network to find the next opportunity. We couldn’t have made it without the support we had. So since then, we’ve looked for ways to serve that fit our season of life. Our missions activities started with our heart for service. When we would do CSPC’s ‘Come Serve With Us’ initiative, I would often coordinate group projects with our Sunday school class, and our class leader saw that and asked me to serve as the Pursuit Sunday school class missions coordinator.
I’d also been involved in service work in a previous job, and Kathryn Ann Holt was a friend of mine through that job. When she started working at CSPC as Director of Home Missions, she said, ‘Hey, I know you have interest in this and a heart for this. I need some new folks from your generation to serve on the Home Missions team.’ So I thought that was a great way I could get involved that fit my gifts and interests, and more recently Lindsey has joined as well. We also just started serving as a host family with a CSPC local missions partner, Safe Families for Children. We had a really great child we hosted a couple of months ago, and we just loved being able to serve in that way as a family. Our own kids are ages 6, 8, and 11, and we get them involved wherever we can. That’s one reason Safe Families is such a good fit. We moved into a new home last year with extra space to allow for hosting. And the kids understand they may have to give up their room or their space or their toys – all those things – to help some other kids who just need a safe place to stay for a bit. Lindsey and I believe it’s healthy for our kids to be involved in service alongside us whenever possible. I remember one summer, through Come Serve With Us, we were able to get a group together to make cards for KARM (Knox Area Rescue Ministries). If you’ve been there, you know they have this big bed area, kind of like a huge dorm. The main goal of the visit was to go there, see the place, explain to the kids what goes on there and why KARM exists. But the kids also made a bunch of cards and went around and put one on each bed and prayed over each bed. We had a nice sized group of probably 25 – several families with their kids – and the kids had fun with it, but also took it so seriously and so well. You’d see kids of all ages on their knees, praying for whoever was going to be sleeping there that night. We could see them processing that the folks there didn’t have much and needed Jesus, and the kids were just hoping they could bring a little bit of light to them through their cards.
It’s easy in a church the size of CSPC to blend in and not go deep with anybody else. But if you do that, you’ll largely miss out on the joy that comes from being involved in service to others. The best thing we ever did was join our Sunday school class right away, within a month of starting to attend. That led to various friend groups and Bible studies. Some of my best friends in the church and service opportunities stem from that. We are part of a large and diverse church with various types of people – different gifts and different callings – and getting into those smaller groups is where people get to know each other more deeply. By getting to know you better, others can help connect you with ways to serve that make sense for you. Often, it’s a matter of where your gifts, passions and calling lie, but sometimes it’s just a matter of meeting a need. For instance, Lindsey and I serve in the two-year-old nursery even though I don’t particularly feel that’s within my gifting. But the church always has a need there, and I am capable of keeping the kids safe and teaching them a Bible lesson. We can over-focus on calling – sometimes you just need someone in your class or small group to say ‘Hey, the church or this ministry has a need here.’ The biggest development we’ve seen recently is a real need for the younger generations to step up, be intentional about finding places to serve, start being mentored, and prepare to be future leaders in the church. There are so many places where there’s a need and an opportunity, but you may not know about them if you’re not involved with smaller groups. If you want to serve at CSPC, there is a place for you.”