God’s Promises, Obedience, and a Test
God’s promises are connected to our obedience! Obedience is not easy but it is so worth it! Are you willing to go through the wilderness to make it to your promised land? What starts as a dream in your heart takes time, dedication, sacrifice and most importantly, the Holy Spirit to achieve!
When God spoke to us to start a new faith community (church), I was all ears, until I realized he was leading us to Los Angeles. The city I never wanted to go back to ever again—I had lived there for a bit after I graduated college and it was not a very pleasant experience. So, when I heard my husband mention Los Angeles, I pushed back a little. I did, however, tell God that I was willing to go anywhere and do anything he wanted as long as I knew he was with me! I knew that moving to a big city like LA could end up in a disaster if it was not a God-move!
I prayed for a month so I could hear him clearly! But I also did not want to get it wrong. I could not afford to make any mistakes, so I gave God my conditions: he had to speak to me directly, but not in my spirit, not by people, and not in a dream. Looking back at it now, it makes me laugh. I thought I could escape this by making it hard on God to speak. But God was up to the challenge. One day, after I prayed with my husband about confirming the location, he showed me a vision while I was awake. At that point, I knew that this was from God. And if God was with me and with us, everything would be just fine. God continued to open doors and show us so many miraculous signs pointing us to California and LA.
We Never Saw This Coming
Many of you might think that this would be the end of the story, and that we would move to Los Angeles and plant a church. The end. But that is not the case. Even God-given dreams and callings demand hard work and sacrifice. They each come with their own set of struggles as well as doubts.
I remember packing up and saying goodbye to all of my friends and my church. It was bittersweet. But, we felt celebrated and sent out! We also had the SoCal Network waiting for us on the other side, so we were so excited to make it to LA. We sent out our moving POD with all of our belongings and packed a bag for a couple of weeks to tide us over until we found a place to live.
I remember the excitement building up while driving and crossing over the border into California. We were worshiping and praying that God would give us favor in LA and with its people. But we had no idea what was awaiting us! There was no water, and I mean no filtered water being sold. There was a shortage of food. There wasn’t any toilet paper and stores were closed. There was a curfew. There were riots. The list goes on and on.
During the four days it took us to drive from Nebraska to California, the pandemic had hit California hard and now there was chaos and fear. We struggled! We stayed at an extended-stay hotel for a while, as we were trying to find a permanent place to live, but no one was showing any rental properties. So, we soon realized that we needed to act and get an Airbnb, which was a cheaper option. But we ended up with another disappointment: all Airbnbs were closed for a time due to the pandemic.
To top it off, we were alone! We tried to connect with the people of our network and the pastors of a cohort we were going to be a part of in Orange County, but sadly, we could not. Most pastors and leaders were running around trying to figure out how the pandemic was going to affect their churches. This was devastating for me. The excitement I was building up was now all gone. I felt alone and confused. We were in a new city during a hard time with no community or friends.
Through a connection we found a very small studio, more like a room to rent. It was a one-car garage that was renovated into a room. There was no oven, just a mini fridge and a sink. It was so hot that our food would rot overnight. I remember making dinner while bending down and mixing the food in a bowl on the ground, and I thought to myself, I feel like I am in a third world country. Soon, I was running out of clothes since we only packed for two weeks. And our POD was delayed due to the pandemic.
To make matters worse, a few weeks later, it rained hard, and all of a sudden, the room was infested with bugs. I almost lost my mind. I remember going on long walks in the evening and just crying out to God, asking him why he allowed us to leave our home to come to this!
God’s Hand Was Always There
I might never know the answers, but I do know that if God told me in advance what I was about to go through I probably would not have left. I would still be in Nebraska right now. God knew, but he was right there with me. You see, before I left, I had given my two weeks’ notice at work, thinking I would just get a job when I got to LA. But my manager approached me and asked if I wanted to work remotely. At that time, no one at my company worked remotely, so I was so surprised, but God knew that the pandemic was going to hit, so he provided for us through this job.
God is good! After a little over three months, in the darkest time in my life, we were able to find a permanent place to live. I believe that time was a time of testing. Will I hold on to what God told me? Or will I retreat and go back home?
I had a few people ask us to come back to Nebraska until things got better. But, is that what God said? He asked us to go to LA! Will we persevere through the suffering and the doubts? Will we stay for the city and the people we were called to? What kind of leaders would we be if we abandoned the people and the place we were called to and instead retreated to comfort?
Well, we stuck it out and stayed right beside all the people of California, suffering through the pandemic with them.
Holding On to the Promises of God
When you do not hear God, go back to the last thing he said and hold on to it! He would not take you to a place to desert you! He is right there with you! Just like the Israelites, they left slavery but they still had to go through the wilderness to get to the promise land.
You have to have grit to do what God has called you to do. Obedience takes risk and courage and is the most important thing we’ll ever do. Even when we don’t understand why things are happening, we have to believe that God is good, that he has a plan, that things will turn around, and that he is with us!
The Enemy Is There Too
The enemy will come to confuse you! He will tell you that you got it wrong and you did not hear God correctly. And if he can’t do that, then he will try to tell you that God has abandoned you and that you are alone. These are all lies! We have to hold on to God’s character for dear life! We can’t afford to doubt God’s goodness. The belief that God is good no matter what life brings!
Are you willing to hold on to what God told you? Holding firm to his promises and his directions no matter what? Or will you retreat the moment things get tough?
After starting our faith community, we have met so many people that have told us that they have been praying and waiting for people like us. Five people have been healed, several people have accepted Jesus, and people are growing in their faith.
So, ask me: “Was it worth it? Would you go through it all over again?”
Absolutely! I love Los Angeles and its people! And I would do it all over again for just one of them to come to know Jesus.
Please remember that God would never ask you to do something he has not equipped you to do! Our story is still going, with ups and downs. But, knowing that he is with me is enough!
Gabriella Saeed Lee is a pastor, church planter, and communicator. In 2020, Gabriella, along with her husband, Logan Lee, moved from Omaha, Nebraska, to plant Ignite LA Church, a new church in Los Angeles, California. Ignite LA Church’s vision is to be a place where anyone can be transformed by the person of Jesus.
Gabriella moved to the US from Bahrain, in the Middle East, to attend college in Nebraska. After graduating with a degree in business, she worked in the marketplace and met her husband through the young adult ministry at their church, a ministry that they would later help co-lead.