The Czerwonka’s Story

The Czerwonka team consists of Becki, Paul, Henry (12), Charlie (10), Jack (8) and Grace (5) and, of course, our chocolate lab Indy.

We were a typical Christian American family living what would look like, from the outside, a very typical American life. We didn’t have a picket fence, but we were striving to get one. We just couldn’t figure out how to finance one and add it to our debt. I was coaching several of our kids’ teams, and our typical week was packed.

We had no idea what God was about to unleash on us.

We started doing a community group with other people seeking God, and the more we dug into God’s words, the more the Holy Spirit rocked our foundation. First, and most revolutionary, was the idea that from the onset of human creation, God chose to partner with family, not individuals, to advance His plan of redemption. This was unsettling because we had sold out to the idea of raising individuals so they can move on and raise more individuals. That’s what good parents do, right? So we were blown away by the invitation to use the family unit as a disciple-making tool. In all honesty, we couldn’t even figure out how to be obedient as individuals, so working as a family felt daunting.

We started wrestling with what it might look like to tap into, not ignore, the collective gifting of the individuals in our family to operate under a unified vision. Could God have a unique design for how our family advances his Kingdom? How does that change our daily choices? We started shedding obligations and creating space for new things like date night, character training, and a full day of rest. We dropped all Spring sports (although one of our sons was so sad that we put him back on the field; we simply weren’t strong enough, yet).

Then in March, I had a moment where things totally crystallized. God spoke to me as audibly as the person sitting next to
me. He told me to sell our house, don’t buy another for several months, and sit under someone else’s teaching. Yikes. I had not heard from God previously in quite this way. Every hair on my body was tingling. I turned to Becki and told her what I had just heard. That was a moment like no other. Our lives were about to be turned inside out.

We started taking an honest look at the debt we had. We told our kids the good, bad and ugly of our debt and began open conversations about our desire to give them an inheritance both spiritual and financial. We were clear that we needed to stop making decisions that were not based on a generational perspective.

We decided to listen to God and put our home on the market for $30,000 more than a realtor told us we could possibly get. And in May, our house sold before we knew it was even listed. We didn’t even have a sign in the yard.

So we put our stuff into storage and unplugged for the summer. We were now officially on an adventure that would help to solidify our big question. Is our family enough? We spent the summer traveling to several cities and establishing new, daily rhythms.

While in New Orleans, we were negotiating a home in Cincinnati where we could have easily jumped back into the American dream. All we needed to do was drive back, walk through and get an inspection. At the same time, dear friends of ours presented us with a new way to process our decisions—the five capitals of how to invest, ranked as follows: Relational, Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual and Financial. We processed through these and leaned into our friends to guide us. We quickly and clearly decided that if we were to move ahead with the Cincinnati house, we would put on the backpack of debt. That night I went back to our room and paid off 100% of all our debt, leaving us no down payment for any house in the near future.

Obeying the second part of what God told us—to sit under the teaching of others—we met with some friends who ended up changing the direction of our family. They taught us about operating as a family on mission to disciple other families. They offered us a house to live in. We took it. We became their apprentices.

When that borrowed home eventually sold, we moved into Becki’s dad’s house. We waited and waited. We started getting antsy. We felt alone and desperate to get our family settled. Becki and I decided to take a quick weekend retreat to talk and pray about what our next step of faith would be. And then it happened: a random email ends up in the hands of my good friend, Tim.

Hi Tim,
I wanted to open this opportunity up to someone. Unfortunately, I will be moving for a longer term than I first thought and therefore I want to open my house up to a family in need of longer-term. Some requirements: 1) They really need it. 2) They are responsible and won’t trash the place and 3) If something comes up with work and I can move back, I need, with 30 days notice, to be able to move back. Know of anyone appropriate?… Thanks!

Tim tells Andy about our family’s story. And Andy says we’re exactly the type of family he was looking to find. After a 30-minute house tour and story-sharing, Andy gave us his house to use. Our paths crossed because God wanted them to cross.

So, in a joking way, we say the Czerwonkas are homeless. We continue to stay on a faith journey. We often hear these kind of remarks from Satan whispered in our ears: “Why don’t you have a house? All your friends have them. Why don’t you have a bunch of stuff like your friends?” While we struggle with our human limitations and often try to take control, I more and more realize that we are just part of God’s story and that if we remain available, He will use us as a family to change the world.

More to come…