I’ve almost always been this way. In fact, it has been suggested at times that I’m more of a rebel than anything. Be that as it may, status quo has never set well with me. Maybe I’m the one who likes change for the sake of change. I doubt it, though.
It’s the negative voices that fuel me lately. Those who have told me I don’t belong in ministry (my personal favorite) or those who can’t quite get a reasonable handle on what we do and why we exist. Then there are the “you are too deep” comments that add fuel to the fire and you have the makings of a roaring bonfire of passion or an equally impassioned despair.
Once again we find ourselves facing some scary circumstances. Costs are simply higher than income. Twice we’ve emptied our retirement to remain on the field pursuing our passion and to live in our gifting. Twice we’ve had board members tell us to call it quits since “God provides where he guides”. And since supply is low, guidance is in question. Don’t get me started on this one, some of the most well supplied people on the planet are card carrying atheists, so I don’t think income (or the lack of it) is a good litmus test of God’s smile.
The task at hand for all non-profits is to “find” money. I receive no less than 3 emails a week from someone wanting me to attend their webinar (for a price) on how to raise funds in this depressed economy. Strategies of how best to use facebook and online mailings come at me from all over. but in the end, none of these systems encourage a quiet heart or discernment. Rather than feeling energized, they leave me feeling tired and desperate – the furthest thing from Christ’s “yoke” that leads to rest.
Toward the end of 1998, Jeanni and I stalled out in our fund raising for Budapest. We attended gatherings of all kinds hosted by friends that simply were unattended. And on the odd occasion someone did attend, they were not there to determine how best to invest in missions. We decided that further effort was useless so we informed our board we felt our best strategy was to only pray and stop seeking funds. When they heard that they were ready to ship us off to a padded cell.
About a year later we figured we could no longer justify just working and letting those who were on our support team keep giving without us actively working to go overseas. A decision had to be made. We set a date for when to pull the plug. During our board meeting our Treasurer informed us that giving had increased from 35% to almost 65%. How was this possible since we’ve not been seeking support? God only knows. Obviously there was more going on behind the scenes than we could see.
Well, it looks like we’ve hit a similar wall. I’ve made over 100 calls to date and many of those I spoke to offered to help find other donors in their sphere of influence. Approximately 20% of the needed funds have come in, which has increased our overall income by 10% of our overall budget/costs. It’s not enough to stay on the field by any stretch of the imagination. And while we are in a familiar boat, the circumstances are a bit different. We have children with special learning needs (the school here has just what is needed for their particular needs). We cannot work to supplement our income and to make a transition back to the states would completely deplete our account. Fund raising at that point would be like starting over. I’m feeling stuck. Just where He likes me, I suppose.
One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When confronted with whether or not they would bow to the kings edict to worship a statue they ‘rebelled’ and did not do it – even knowing the punishment for such a crime was being thrown into a fiery furnace. When their rebellion was found out (by snitches) the king was so angry he had the furnace stoked to 7 times hotter than usual. When given a chance to relent here’s what they said: “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us, O king. But even if he doesn’t, we would not serve your gods or worship the golden statue you set up.” (See Dan 3 for the whole story) They didn’t bow, they didn’t bend and they didn’t burn. It’s my reminder of why I do what I do.
So, back to my rebellion. I will not bow under the pressure and circumstances to throw in the towel. I will not bend, in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. I will, however, continue to burn with passion to see Christ formed in others. I cannot walk away from this holy vocation. Circumstances do not determine the measure of my faith (i.e. rejecting the no funds no guidance approach to life). Our plan is to spend some time on our knees listening. What is He up to? How does He plan to meet our needs? What is He unfolding in our lives and and through our lives? What is my responsibility here and now?
You see, I’m not convinced God is done with us and Ministry Essentials. I believe He’s just beginning. So, hang on tight. We are in for the ride of our lives.