Moore County Native Works to Plant a Church in Leland
BY STEVE CRAIN
Special to The Pilot
"This is the last thing I would ever have thought I'd be doing," says Heath Caddell. "I thought I'd be always a church youth guy."
Caddell, 36, a Moore County native, recently served as full-time youth pastor at Grace Church in Southern Pines.
He holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education and is studying with Grace College of Divinity for a divinity degree. He and his wife, Jodi, are now working at planting a church in Leland, part of Wilmington's metropolitan area. Grace Church plans to provide some financial support to the Caddells until January 2015.
The Caddells have moved to Leland, but meet periodically at Grace Church with "core families" planning to relocate to Leland to help establish "Reach Community Church."
The Caddells have three children: Lydia, 9; Noah, 8; and Allie, 3.
"Ten families plan to move with us," Caddell says. "Our launch date to be in a school, storefront or some kind of building is Sept. 9."
Caddell says he approached Randy Thornton, Grace Church's senior pastor, in 2009 and said, "Jodi and I feel we might plant a church, sometime."
Grace Churches International (now called "mPact Churches") held a March 2010 conference in Wilmington. The Caddells attended.
Clem Farris, a Chapel Hill minister, said at that conference, "I feel God's calling someone to start a church in Wilmington."
A next-day speaker said he felt God had spoken to some young men in the room "about future things, but you have gotten comfortable where you are."
"Jodi and I felt he was talking about us," Caddell says.
Caddell underwent a six-hour church-planting "assessment interview" which involved this philosophy: "What you did in the past predicts what you do in the future."
"I spent four or five months asking, 'Where?' Wilmington kept coming to mind," Caddell says.
Leland is located on the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County.
"More than 100,000 people reside in Brunswick County; more than 180,000 live in New Hanover County," Caddell says. "There're 18,000 people within a 5-mile radius from where we plan to plant the church; lots of families - very suburb-ish."
He talks about preparation for ministry.
"I was 'saved' at age 18 at a Young Life camp in Saranac, N.Y.," says Caddell, who then attended Culdee Presbyterian Church in West End. "I had the facts in my brain but no relationship with Jesus."
A 1994 Pinecrest graduate, Caddell studied for two years at Sandhills Community College. David Page of Young Life mentored him in Christianity. Page and his wife, Wendy, now live in Greensboro.
Caddell met Jodi Hamilton on his third day at Appalachian State University. They married 15 months later. They attended Boone's Banner Elk Christian Fellowship.
After college, the couple lived six months in Asheville. Caddell worked in sales at Auto Advantage. Jodi worked at The Gap.
They moved to Moore County and visited churches.
"One day I opened the phone book and saw 'Grace Church,'" Caddell says. "We visited and never left."
He served as Grace's part-time youth director from 2002 to 2008.
"During those years, I worked 50 hours per week for four-and-a-half years at McDonald Brothers (building supplies) and then at Cisco Industrial Supply," he says. Jodi worked as a homemaker.
"Around years four to six during that bi-vocational time, I almost quit the ministry," he says. "I've learned that it's my work to do what God's called me to do, and it's God's job to do what he's going to do. For a season, I felt I needed to be God for people. It's the Holy Spirit who does the work. We only have a part in their lives."
For about the first year after he became a Christian, Caddell wanted to become a minister, he says.
"I can see God's hand from the beginning, building me for where I'm going to be," he says. "I'm most excited about the faith that planting a church is going to require of me. I have the opportunity to see the greatest moves of God in my new adventure."
Steve Crain, a freelance writer, lives in Southern Pines.
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