Kevin and Kristi Cabe don’t believe God is done with them yet in the Northeast.
About two years ago the couple uprooted from their life in Knoxville, Tenn., and moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., to help Cornerstone Church in Bay Ridge — the only Baptist church in a community of 70,000. Since then, the couple’s calling to the area has strengthened, but with that they have had to lean heavily on their faith while working in bivocational ministry.
The Cabes, who were Mission Service Corps missionaries for the North American Mission Board at the time they arrived in the city, had raised enough support from churches to begin their work. But eventually that support began to dwindle with the expense of living in New York for nearly two years.
And the pressures of finding employment that didn’t pull away from their ministry also proved to be more difficult than they initially expected. Last fall, the Cabes began to wonder if God was moving them in another direction.
“I think the role that we came up here to play was to really assist a church planter,” said Cabe, who was associate pastor at the church.
“… We weren’t the lead planter. … We were more of the support role. So I feel like from that standpoint it was really tough [with] the fundraising.”
Ministry in New York City is difficult enough, Cabe said, but the added pressure of raising enough support to pay the rent and buy groceries made their move to the city that much tougher.
“Everybody has financial stress, … [but] I felt the pressure of ‘I don’t want to go home broke,'” he said. “We don’t want to leave because we ran out of money. … And I think that kind of magnified everything.”
Still, the couple rested in their calling to help plant churches in the Northeast.
“We were like, ‘Lord, you called us to this city to serve in this city,'” Kevin said.
Kevin ended up finding a full-time job working in development at a faith-based homeless shelter to help pay bills. But the hours often pulled him away from his ministry time with Cornerstone.
On many days, Kevin would leave the Cabes’ apartment at 7:30 a.m. and wouldn’t return home until 9 p.m. The daily grind often conflicted with the weekly Bible studies they hosted in their apartment.
“At the time it was the easiest place for people to come and so I would let all of the men in and I would leave and [Kevin] would not be there,” said Kristi, who led women’s ministry at the church. “Or, he would get there at the end or midway through.
“That’s how the Lord chose to provide at the time,” she added, “but it was just one of those things where at a certain point we kind of sat down and we were just like ‘This isn’t why we’re here.'”
Last July, after a month of prayer, Kevin decided “in faith” to step away from his full-time job.
“We had about 15 people back home praying with us … and whether we should make the decision to do that because we’re leaving a salary,” he said. “We’re leaving health insurance … benefits.”
In the fall, the Cabes wondered if God wanted to move them to another part of the city. Cornerstone Church continued developing more leaders in the church and showing signs of sustainable growth.
“We felt a sense that God was closing the door of ministry where we were. … We saw that church go from seven people to as many as 60,” Cabe said. “Again our desire was to always come in and help a church plant set up for success.”
The couple soon connected with Sterling Edwards, a church planter and lead pastor of another congregation called Crossroads Church in Farmingdale on Long Island. Edwards also leads a second campus in East Islip.
Edwards is in the middle of leading his church to help start 20 churches in the next 20 years in the area — a daunting challenge in Long Island. He offered the Cabes an opportunity to help the church make that vision a reality.
The Cabes are now leading a small group for the church. Kevin is pastor of adult ministries; Kristi is director of women’s ministry. The North American Mission Board also has offered the Cabes a church planter internship that will help sustain them financially for at least another year.
The new opportunity for the Cabes not only provided a new start but also free housing. Crossroads has offered the couple a parsonage for housing while they are working with the church.
Edwards expressed his appreciation for the Cabes to provide help in a “highly unevangelized” area where he said only 2.7 percent of the population is evangelical.
“Our research from the area [shows] 94 percent of our community that’s 27 years of age and younger do not plan to attend a worship service of any kind over the next year,” Edwards said, citing research gathered from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that has an ongoing church planting partnership with New York. He added that 86 percent of the 37-and-younger population has no plans to attend a worship service of any kind in the next year.
“What Kevin and Kristi really do for us is they’re just an extension of allowing us to build more relationships,” Edwards said. “That’s evidenced by them building relationships within the church but also outside of the church.”
“It’s never easy to transition a move from one place to another,” said Edwards, who experienced the challenge of moving his family from Texas to New York more than seven years ago.
“Ultimately following Jesus requires some determination and definitely some resolve to say that when we say we’ll go, we’re gonna go,” he said. “Transition isn’t easy but it is just a privilege to respond to the One who [has] called us.”
— Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.