So – how did it work out for the Wiles family and FBC Arlington?
After we finished our mission trip to Africa, our family traveled to England for a few weeks of Sabbatical. Cindy and I had the opportunity to visit about our future while we were in Africa. We had consulted with our spiritual mentors, Ron and Sharon Hill. We also conferred with our closest friends in Huntsville, Jim and Patty Atherton. We all agreed that God was calling and we needed to respond.
Once we were alone as a family, we shared the news with our children. We believed that God was leading us to Arlington to lead FBC Arlington. Our children received the news as well as could be expected. It was shocking at first.
How could we do it? What about our friends? What about cheerleading and basketball? Would we make new friends? What was Arlington like? What will our church think about it? How do we know we are supposed to do it? These were the questions we explored as a family.
We did our best to stick to our plans for our Sabbatical. I was studying the phenomenon of a spiritual awakening in the charismatic branch of Anglicanism. I was also studying the work of contemporary Baptists in England. We agreed to take my picture in front of every Baptist church we found.
We rented a car and drove across England. It was a standard. So, I was driving on the wrong side of the road and shifting gears with the wrong hand. It was an adventure! We spent about 10 minutes in our first round-about before I got up the courage to change lanes and make the correct turn!
About two weeks into our Sabbatical, our family was struggling. The news of a potential move had settled in and it was hard. We needed God’s intervention. We had a terrible night in Stratford-upon-Avon. Our daughter was really struggling and we were truly starting to wonder if we could follow through with what we knew God was leading us to do. We needed some affirmation.
I awoke early that morning – about 3:30 or so. I prayed and prayed. I asked God to give our family some peace. I asked Him for a sign. I’ll admit it. I did. I asked God to speak to us in a clear way that no one could doubt was from Him.
It is a long story – but let me give you a quick summary. That day we loaded up our family with no real direction. We were headed in a general direction, but no firm plans. It was raining – both inside the car (tears flowing) and outside. Cindy consulted a travel guide and said, “Why do we go to Bibury? This guide shows it is not very far and it is a picturesque village.” I replied, “Why not?”
We drove into this lovely village and the first sign we saw was a sign directing us to a Baptist Church. No name – just a brown sign, “Baptist Church” with an arrow pointing the way. I said, “Let’s go and get my picture made and then we will explore this town.” The kids argued, “Do we have to?” “Yes,” I replied. So, off we went. After a good while and much complaining, we saw another sign pointing us to the church. I was the first one to see the church. It was an old stone building. I could see it up the road. “Come on,” I yelled, “There it is.”
I’ll never forget the feeling when I arrived at the front of that church. It had an old stone sign out front, surrounded by an old gate. “Arlington Baptist Church” was the name of the church. One by one, my family arrived behind me. We all stood in amazement at this sign. We laughed and cried. We prayed together. Our hearts were knit as we stood hand-in-hand around that ancient church sign. We all knew – we were moving to Arlington.