Sent Out: Zhangs Minister in Cincinnati and Beyond

It feels like we just left Boston yesterday because we have so many good memories and good friends in New England. Looking at how much our lives have changed reminded me that almost three years have gone by since we moved back to Ohio.  We still miss the East Coast culture and history, and we certainly miss the proximity to the ocean, but many things over the last three years have affirmed that God has called us to Cincinnati and to our church here.

In August 2016, Abigail and I moved back to my hometown to take a job at New City Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH.  The church is located about 10 minutes north of downtown Cincinnati, with about 550 members and regular attenders, plus about 200 kids.  As you can see from those numbers, we have a lot of young families at our church, making us a very young and energetic community.  About a year after coming to New City, I passed my ordination exams and was ordained as an assistant pastor at the church.  My good friend from Christ the King, Pastor Nathan Barczi, gave us the honor of coming to preach at my ordination service. 

I am one of the four pastors at the church, on a team with eight other part-time staff members. I have constantly said that the best part of my job is the people that I work with. My work is primarily directed at helping our deacons in mercy ministry and equipping our members to serve in the neighborhood.  In addition, I have also had the opportunity to lead mission trips to London and Mazatlan, Mexico (during which I was injured by a stingray!).

While I was still in Boston, a member of CTK connected me with this organization called China Partnership.  Our current church has given me the freedom to take one day a week to continue to help China Partnership with their translation and mission work.  This connection has given me a unique opportunity to read and meet Reformed pastors from house churches in China, many of whom are facing increasing pressure and persecution by the government.  Their writing has transformed my understanding of sanctification and of the church, and this transformation has given me a unique perspective as I preach and lead with our team here in Cincinnati.  I am grateful to have this opportunity to connect our local church to the global body of Christ.

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While we were in Boston, Abigail was studying toward a masters in Museum Education at Tufts University.  She was able to finish that degree with an internship in the Cincinnati Art Museum right after our move. Starting last fall, Abigail has been working as the marketing and programming coordinator at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House.  Unbeknownst to us, Harriet Beecher Stowe (who is one of Abigail's distant relatives) lived in Cincinnati for eighteen years.  These years living in a city bordering a slave state and exposure to local Presbyterian abolitionists prepared her to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Abigail loves her work and being part of a piece of Cincinnati's local history.  

On the first day of my job at New City, while I was copying keys at Lowes with one of the other pastors, I received a phone call from Abigail that we are pregnant with our first child.  It was a huge answer to our prayers since we have been trying to become pregnant for most of our time in Boston.  On April 15, 2016, we welcomed Edmond into our family.  He has been one of the greatest sources of joy (and sometimes frustration) in our family over the last two years, especially because a month before his birth, we also found out that my dad had stage-four lung cancer.  We have enjoyed living only 30 minutes from my parents, but that joy was dampened by hospital visits and doctor’s appointments. My dad passed away on April 18, 2017, just three days after our son's first birthday.  God has ordained that the anniversary of my dad's passing will always come on the heels of our son's birthday, both of which will also be shaped by the light of the Easter season.  Now we are a few weeks away from the birth of our second child – a girl we are naming "Caroline" as a homage to our time in Boston – and we still feel this loss and sadness.  But perhaps there is no better way to summarize our Christian faith, we are always living in the tension between deep sorrow and great joy, under the light of Christ's resurrection.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share this update with you, we miss you and you are always in our prayers.