Dear Friends of Story of God:
We have come to the end of one phase for Story of God and the beginning of another. Sometimes you cross a finish line and you don’t even know it. I would love to update you on that story, but first of all- You are amazing! God has enabled you to support a miracle! Story of God, a full blown musical production was written, produced, debuted, toured, and sustained a 10-week theatre run all in 2 years. This is exceptionally rare, but our God is the God of the impossible. We have had a miraculous ride together. Story of God is READY for phase two.
As you know, we have faced and overcome sizeable obstacles and challenges since the beginning of Story of God. For each one we have been enabled to press on by the provision of strength and resources. However, for the last 2 months we have been walking day to day and constantly seeking the Lord for his will. We knew the theatre run would be a great risk and most unlikely. But we weighed the risk and kept our overhead as low as possible, although marketing is very expensive. We budgeted our expenses and knew we could sustain the show if just 20 people bought tickets per show. Based on our trial run in March, we felt that was a realistic expectation and proceeded with the contract at the theatre. And the challenges and obstacles began to mount instantly;
1. Only 2 people came to most shows. We had to cancel several due to no one coming. Despite handing out hundreds of free tickets, inviting everyone we saw and knew, and literally walking into hotel breakfast rooms and inviting folks- our attendance remained at well under 10 people/show. The good news is that everyone who came loved the show! The bad news is that the McCready family could not personally support the financial burden of theatre rent, marketing, and supporting the 11 member team. If/when another theatre run opportunity comes it will need to come with the commitment and missional support of several area churches. Money doesn’t make people come to see the Story, the Church makes that happen.
2. We knew early on that this effort would not be sustainable without steady theatre attendance and reached out to you for prayer and support. You responded and we were able to keep pushing on one week at a time.
3. Then our theatre Manager, Buster Prine was diagnosed with cancer and began the fight for his life, obviously leaving the supportive role he had held for the Story.
4. A new owner came into the theatre and we were thrust into a period of confusion with our contract and the transition to the new.
5. The new owner changed the name of the theatre after all of our marketing was printed and billboards were up, so we were thrown deeper into that period of confusion.
6. We held on for 8 weeks and nothing changed in the theatre attendance. We were running out of funds and asked all the team to get second jobs to help us pay for groceries. They did- because they are all champs!
7. We knew September would be the month of decision. We wanted to hang on to our theatre run till mid-December and made every possible concession to do so. Then we found ourselves facing the most unexpected and difficult obstacle of them all, our daughter Annie suddenly passed out one day and began facing debilitating vertigo.
Sherri: THE MOMENT OF DECISION came on Sunday September 11th. Shannon and Elisa were driving to Houston, Texas to promote the Story at a Missions conference. Annie awakened that morning to severe symptoms and I called Shannon. He said when he ‘turned the car around to come home’ the Lord spoke to his heart. “It’s time to take care of your family.” One direction of the road led him to continue advancing the Story, the other direction sounded the ‘retreat.’
We took Annie to the ER and the journey of testing has begun for her to discover what is happening and for now she is on medical rest. Shannon fasted and prayed on Monday September 12th to make certain that he had heard the Lord. On Tuesday morning he shared his conclusion with me and I was broken and sad, but absolutely certain that he was correct.
8. We told the team on Wednesday that we needed them to return to their families to enable us to lower our expenses immediately. This is the hardest of all, we have faced every obstacle together over the last 20 months. This time we need to let go of each other in faith that God will show if, when, and how this team will tell the Story together again.
IS STORY OF GOD OVER?
It is simply a time to rest for now until the Lord shows when and how he will choose for us to advance again.
The Apostle Paul said he was prevented by the Spirit of Jesus from going to Asia. He doesn’t say more about how he experienced that prevention, but in some way I understand. There are moments when the door is not open.
We have many great stories of God helping us and ministering through the performing team to people we met across the country. But it is a lot of weight to bear on a two year-old ministry. Most fruit trees, don’t produce until their third or fourth year. The traveling and live performance phase, with all the above challenges has nearly bent this little sapling over to the ground.
So that phase is now coming to an end, and it is time for the performance team to pause. It’s time to take the weight off the sapling and let it try to stand up straight again. In a change of metaphor, we’ve told our team that it is a moving from ‘active duty’ to ‘reserves’. Each will be heading home to their own families, to rest and to discover what God has for them next.
We say things like ‘reserves’ and the beginning of a new phase, because we believe there is still more for Story of God. There is development work that will continue: VBS materials, Photo-Scripture book, “Why I Believe the Story is True” book, building missions relationships, and developing financial support. We plan to pull the performing team together again for filming the Story of God to put into DVD. There are still a few invitations in 2017, and Sherri will be trying to schedule those into a compact week or a few weekends, where the performing team could possibly come together.
Another shift in this new phase for Story of God will be for me as I, Shannon, move out of the paid role, back to a volunteer role on the Board of Directors. Currently, I hope there will be a chance to be paid by SOG again as I continue to oversee all of the closure details with the theatre run, but will plan on a specific resignation date and move back to a volunteer role on the Board of Directors. For the moment I will be substitute teaching and I’ve applied to work nights at Target. I have sensed over the past 6 months a renewal in my heart with thoughts towards a pastoral role again. I am seeking the Lord and looking for the opportunity in his timing.
Depending on how our monthly support continues, we hope to do 2 things:
· Keep Sherri financially enabled and prayerfully supported to continue her focus on building the Story of God and preparing it for international opportunities as well as booking 2017 opportunities and finishing the training materials.
· Take the team or contingent of the team (with filming of SOG) to Zambia in December of 2016 with Teen Missions to audition young Zambian missionaries and begin the work on our first International team. We need to buy tickets at the end of October, if funds become available.
Please pray for Sherri as she works and discerns steps for Story of God and develops resources. Pray for team members: Isaac, Emma, Annie, Elisa, Elec, Rachel, Daniel, Eliza, and Kara. They will be saying good-bye to each other after living so closely together in mission. Pray for Annie and her healing journey. Even though our little two year old SOG sapling isn’t old enough to really bear the fruit will believe she is capable of, I’ve seen such amazing growth in each of these young people over the past two years. We believe the beauty of Story of God isn’t just on the stage, it is best seen in the hearts of the Story tellers behind the curtain.
Your continued financial support and prayers would be appreciated as we undergo the transition to this new phase, wrapping up finance connected with the theater, and the changes for every team member.
We are sad for this one phase to end, but we have peace and curiosity as to what God will do next as Story of God lives on in a new way. We absolutely trust the leading of the Lord and will keep you posted to all that unfolds.
Shannon and Sherri McCready