Soccer and the Gospel
Changing Our Geography
An Interview by Bill and Brenda Evans
Last year, 38.7 million Americans packed up and moved. That’s 12% of us to different neighborhoods or counties, other states or countries. Why do so many change their geography? Many move for Christian ministry, job opportunities, to be nearer to (or farther from) family, for better health care, or to warm frozen toes in the South. Members of the military move because Uncle Sam tells them to. And a few of us simply yield to wanderlust and haul off to a new location just for the pleasure of it.
Whatever the reasons, a mobile lifestyle has its ups and downs. We sat down with two seasoned movers for some insights on the subject. Retired army chaplain Colonel Kerry Steedley has moved 26 times and his wife Brenda, 20 times.
Evans: If there is a “moving quota,” you two have met it. What are you first thoughts on this mobile lifestyle you chose all those years ago?
Kerry: I see the sovereignty of God through all of it. Though we moved a great deal in chaplaincy, it was the best life for me. My life verse is 2 Timothy 2:4, which talks about pleasing your commanding officer, in my case, the Lord who called me, not a general or colonel. That needs to be the case for all of us.
Evans: Paul’s soldier metaphor works for civilians, too, doesn’t it? Whatever our reason for packing up, we need to be sure the Lord is directing and presiding over it.
Kerry: It’s always about people first, then place. Because I was a chaplain, I had the privilege of wearing the cross on my uniform, but I never knew what the next job would entail. I just knew those people and that place were His assignment for me, even when it was hard.
Evans: What were some of those hard places?
Brenda: For Kerry, the hardest was Washington, D.C., because of the exposure and visibility of his position.
Kerry: I’m an introvert. We both are. I go into this big room with all these people, knowing I need to start a conversation. It’s not always easy, but you do what you’re called to do.
Brenda: For me, Hawaii was hard.
Kerry: Sometimes they don’t tell you about paradise until you get there [laughter].
Brenda: Our first tour there, the house was a cinderblock bunker with bright yellow walls and six colors of tiles. We had a dehumidifier but no heat, no A/C. I quickly learned to live with geckos because they ate roaches. But the worst was that we were empty nesters. Our son and daughter were gone, so I was lonely, and I complained. Eventually, I had to apologize to the Lord. After three years, I came to love that house, even without our children. If I wrote a book about lessons I’ve learned from my homes, that one would be in it. It’s not the house but who you are with that makes the difference.
Kerry: Moving can be hard, and some wives just won’t do it. I’m blessed to have Brenda as my wife. We are partners. I would have been a dropout if it hadn’t been for her.
Brenda: I took it seriously that God called me to be Kerry’s wife. Wherever he was sent, I was sent, and had a role as chaplain’s wife to be responsible for spouses. As Kerry moved up, my role moved up, too.
Kerry: I’m sure I was sometimes evaluated well because of Brenda. They thought I must have good judgment to have a wife like her [laughter]. Back to Hawaii, the second time there, our house was a doublewide on stilts on a hillside. At night, wild pigs came to root under our porch. You know…paradise!
Brenda: At least we had a screened-in lanai.
Evans: Wild pigs, geckos running across your feet, cockroaches—what kind of person do you need to be to survive a mobile lifestyle?
Kerry: Everywhere we’ve ever lived, I’ve worked with people who are unhappy and complain all the time because of where they are. I’ve told them to get out and go home, because if God calls you to a work and a place, He is going to direct, and it’ll be your best life. I didn’t say easiest, I said best. I firmly believe the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, so you look forward, not back. In the military, we had a preference sheet. We called it a “dream sheet,” and it was mostly dream because when orders came, you went or you got out. No negotiation. Whatever the calling, you have to look at it that way and not worry about the unknown.
Brenda: Another thing about moving a lot—you need to be organized. Kerry makes lists and checks things off, but as a former teacher I make a whole lesson plan. I want to know the end, how it’s going to turn out. But still be flexible because you will have to adjust. I’ve been on my knees many times because of those adjustments: “Lord, do something.” It may be about the children’s school, a house, or job—whatever. “Lord, help us. Do something.” Adjusting is part of it.
Kerry: Another thing, wherever God moved us, He always had people waiting to help us grow in faith. You have to be the kind of person who looks for that.
Brenda: When my parents died, I knew God had sent us to Fort Benning because of the way the people nurtured me and loved me. The Lord put us there at that time.
Kerry: A negative side of moving—I like my stuff. I’m a packrat. If I had it to do over again, I think I’d live with less and do without some of my stuff. But the hardest thing for me to let go of is people, and I’ve done a lot of that.
Brenda: But positives come out of negatives. It grew us. Moving brought us closer. We learned to cling to one another. I think of Germany.
Kerry: Tracy and Kevin were in third and sixth grade. It was winter and cold when we came in at the airport and moved into a little apartment on an upper floor of what had once been German barracks. We all cried that first night. I told them, “We’ll try to stick it out until summer then I’ll resign.” Then came steam heat and frozen pipes and lots of stuff, but by summer, we all loved it. Kevin had gotten into baseball, and we traveled throughout Europe, even into East Germany. Kevin cried when we left. I think we all did.
Evans: What about the moving process itself and finding a place to live? How have you juggled that?
Brenda: I always worked myself to death, organizing, sorting, labeling, but you have to do it. I hated to see strangers come in to move us. Over the years we lost two pianos, and a young mover stole a ring Kerry had given me. But overall, the moving experience itself was good, and I got my ring back four months later along with a lesson in faith.
Kerry: My warning is to be smart and don’t expect people to be honest.
Brenda: Finding a home is harder. With children, you think about a good school and good neighborhood. Home is your haven and place to be alone. I need that.
Kerry: I would look for motivated sellers and pick five houses for Brenda to look at. We’d ask ourselves: could this be home, not just a house? If not, we kept looking. We typically had ten to 30 days, so we always felt pressure.
Brenda: From Germany, where we’d been so happy, we moved to Ozark, Alabama. Nice brick house, children had their own rooms, but some things were hard. Kevin had played baseball all over Germany. In Ozark, he had to prove himself again and again. Hometown boys played together. When it’s hard for your children, it’s hard for you. Finally, a new coach was hired who recognized Kevin’s talent. Eventually, Ozark was wonderful. It was home. And that’s what you want, wherever you are, a place you call home.
About the Writers: Over 55 years of marriage and ministry, Bill and Brenda Evans have had 13 “moving adventures” in six states from New Hampshire to California. They now live in Ashland, Kentucky.