Planting a Beachhead
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Logan has an African-American father and a white mother. Gabriella was born and raised in Bahrain. The well-traveled couple, who attended a Church Multiplication Network Launch training event recently in Springfield, Missouri, believe their life experiences will serve them well as they prepare to open Ignite Church next year in Redondo Beach, California. The city of 68,000 is one of the largest-populated communities in the U.S. without an Assemblies of God church. In addition to English, Logan speaks Spanish and Gabriella speaks Arabic.
The Lees, married since 2013, have been involved in lay ministry at Good News, a church with 1,800 regular attendees. They oversee the prayer/altar ministry on Sundays, are part of a leadership development team, and lead a young adult small group. They are in the process of obtaining ministerial credentials and taking Global University leadership courses. Gabriella’s Syrian grandfather served as one of the first Christian missionaries to Bahrain. At the age of 17 she left Bahrain to attend business school at Bellevue University in suburban Omaha.
“Our ministry calling didn’t start when we met,” Gabriella says. “It happened way before.”
Gabriella, 33, lived in Los Angeles County, where Redondo Beach is located, for a couple of years. She knows the challenges ahead.
“It can be a hard place to reach people,” she says. “Many Californians don’t think God is relevant to their everyday life.”
But the Lees believe planting a church in such a location — a center for global trade and filmmaking — can be an influential bridge to the marketplace. They have both worked in project management.
“If you reach L.A., you can reach more of the world,” Gabriella says. “We want to reach all nations, people groups, and ethnicities. We want people to experience the power of God.”
The recent training event opened the couple’s eyes to how complex launching a church in uncharted territory can be. Yet they felt exhorted by peer attendees and CMN staff. The Lees won a competition against eight other couples by articulating their church planting vision, winning $1,500 and tickets to next year’s annual CMN conference in Dallas in the process.
“The conference gave us infrastructure,” says the 29-year-old Logan, who attended Southeastern University. “The level of encouragement from our peers helped confirm that we are on the right path.”
Rafael A. Aristy, 43, executive pastor at Good News Church, has no doubt that the Lees will do well in their new ministry quest.
“They are very passionate about sharing the gospel and also about relationships,” says Aristy, a native of the Dominican Republic who officiated at the couple’s wedding. “Gabriella’s background in Bahrain is all about being relational — welcoming people into the home and investing in their lives. These are key elements for church planters. They also are passionate about the mission of the Church: making disciples.”