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The Sending of the Hartsells

August 14, 2014

This Sunday, we’ll be celebrating the Hartsell family’s nearly two decades of life and ministry at Resurrection. I [Trevor] have known Keith for the ten years that I’ve been at Rez, and he has so many stories about his nineteen years here. The first one involves a deal made with a priest late at night outside a minivan. Sound intriguing? Read on.

So this Priest Drives Up to a Party in a Minivan with a Baby

It was August of 2001 and Keith was at a party at Phil Kenyon’s apartment when Stewart Ruch stopped by. “Stewart asked me to follow him down to his van while he got baby Madeleine into the car,” Keith said. [Keith and I both try to remember when the Ruchs only had one baby.]Keith continues, “So I walked down with him, and he said, ‘We’ve got a position. I can’t tell you what you’ll be doing, how much you’ll be paid, or how many hours it’ll be. But I need you to tell me now if you can do it because the person you’ll be assisting is out of the country but we have to make the decision right now.’” [Keith and I both laugh.] “Our hiring process has changed a little bit over the years, I suppose” he says. Yeah, a little bit.

Keith had come to Resurrection as a Wheaton College freshman in 1995. I think a lot of people who end up here have vivid memories of their first experiences worshiping at Rez. Thinking back, Keith remembers not noticing the processional for the first couple weeks. “The first time I saw it, I almost jumped. I didn’t know what was happening and it was an exciting feeling. Like there was a moment that I hadn’t experienced before, something that was present and happening right then.”

He also remembers being struck by the sight of families worshipping. ”I saw fathers and sons worshipping together. I saw brothers side by side. As one point I saw two priests with their arms around each other worshiping the Lord. All of those images really affected me deeply. I started experiencing genuine worship for the first time in my life. I had to stay.”

Sabbath and New Work

As Keith and Dawn approached their time of sabbatical this summer, they knew that they needed time and space to reflect on the last thirteen years of ministry on staff at Resurrection and to hear from the Lord about what he was calling them to next. “As the thought of being sent out by Resurrection to join Greenhouse became a possibility, Stewart, Karen, Dawn and I set aside intentional time for listening and discerning and praying, and we felt the Lord calling us to move into that new season with the Greenhouse.”

Keith will be the assisting rector of the Redeemer Anglican parish on the North side of Chicago. Redeemer is made up of seven congregations; some are Hispanic, some are on college campuses, and others are in nursing homes.

The Many Hats of Keith Hartsell

Serving in many contexts, however, isn’t a new endeavor for Keith. In his time at Resurrection as a lay leader, then staff member, and then clergy, Keith has served the church in a lot of different ways. In every area of his ministry, Keith has always been passionate about raising up new leaders. “When I started at Resurrection, people like Trevor McMaken were teenagers.” [I protest—I wasn’t that young—but then I realize that I was nineteen when I first started attending.] “Yeah,” Keith says, vindicated, "nd Brett Crull was a teenager, and Chris Easley was a teenager.” [Fact check: Chris was actually only in 4th grade] “Spending time with young people is investing in the future of the church!” Keith says with all the energy of a former youth pastor.

Another passion of Keith’s is reaching the lost, and one of the most effective ways to evangelize is by planting new churches. Now in Greenhouse, Keith will invest his time in both of those areas—planting congregations and raising up leaders.

And during his time at Resurrection, he says that’s what others did for him. “I came to Resurrection as a broken, single young man, and Resurrection first took the time to love me unconditionally and administer the healing power of Jesus.” Resurrection invested in Keith as a person, trained him as a leader, and now she is sending him out to plant churches.

Leaving Home

I asked him what it’s like to leave a place that has been his home for so long, where he and Dawn were married, and where all four of their kids were baptized and have spent their first years. He talked about the mixture of sadness and excitement, but also about the connections that are now possible because of our new diocese. “That’s what’s so great!” he says excitedly, “we stay connected relationally and geographically and there are opportunities to partner together in ministry and for training!”

I can see the wheels turning in that brilliant organizational mind of his and I also get excited about what the Lord is bringing for all of us in the Upper Midwest.

Dawn comes in from the other room and says ‘hi.’ I ask them both how Resurrection can support them in this new season of being sent out and stepping out in faith. She replies, “We need as much prayer as we can get. We feel that over the last year we’ve seen a lot of moments where God has stretched forth his hand and performed miracles for us as a result of prayer.”

I think about the seven months last year that the Hartsells were without housing and staying in friends’ basements and how the Lord miraculously provided a home for them. They have seen God move in answer to prayer; and they need it again as they move into a season of financial vulnerability as missionaries.

Keith describes his churches: “We are working to build congregations among those who are really underserved and under-resourced. Some of my congregations are living underneath the poverty line, are living off of Social Security. They’re either immigrants, the elderly, or students.”

This year, Keith and Dawn will need to raise $45,000 of support. They’re looking for monthly supporters from Resurrection and would love to meet with those who would consider joining their ministry partner team to support them prayerfully and financially. To contact Keith, email him at keith.hartsell@gmail.com. You can also give by clicking here.

Thank You from the Hartsells

It’s about time to go, so I ask Keith if there’s anything he wants to say to Resurrection. Here it is:

“We’re really grateful to all the people of Resurrection who have been there for us, befriended us, cared for us, and loved us. I can’t imagine a better church than Resurrection to be raised up as a leader, pastor, and priest. Now we feel sent out to be missionaries for the sake of the future church.”

Story by Trevor McMaken

Photo by Kim Johnson