Mulling major milestones
The world says that “time flies when you're having fun.” Yes, time is passing swiftly, but for a Christian walking in the ways of the Lord, that “flying time” affords the perspective and opportunity to see multiplied examples of God's faithfulness. As this new year starts, I am filled with thankfulness over the milestones that 2018 is bringing:
Our 46th wedding anniversary. As we greet January 29th, “suddenly” Denise and I are within four years of our 50th wedding anniversary! “Whoever finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
- My 50th spiritual birthday: My soul's sentiments are best expressed in Charles Wesley's anniversary song. (Follow the link to one of my favorite hymns if you dare!)
Flag of Guatemala
Guatemalan 10-year anniversary: Last week it suddenly struck me-my first visit to Guatemala was in 2008. Lord willing, this May will see my 9th visit to teach these sold-out-for-Jesus leaders.
Pastors' Book Sets
36 book sets ordered! Remember The Sacred Treasure House Initiative? Six months later, just this past week, we sent a check for almost $3,700 to the Nicaraguan Bible Society via the American Bible Society for the Nicaraguan pastors' reference books. As the Lord supplies for travel (see below), I will be delivering these books on April 20th and training the leaders in their use. Add these to books in hand and 40 leaders will have their first Bible-study library.
Thank you to those who pray for us and our family. Thank you to those who have prayed for me over the years as I travel. And thanks to you who contributed towards the blessing of these books for pastors. I don't give thanks enough for being allowed to successfully challenge leaders in developing countries to read and and study and marinate in and devour the Scriptures…
…To wake 'em up, shake 'em up,
Teach 'em truth, and when
They're thrilled with God, filled with God,
Send 'em out and then
They'll be fishers of men, fishers of men.*
Pondering peanut butter
Yes, 2018 brings significant milestones at its start, but it's also bringing with it a major challenge, an opportunity for growing and stretching our faith. We have been through times in our lives when we have had to spread the peanut butter pretty thinly. This year, 2018, threatens to be one of those years. One of my goals for the new year is to communicate regularly, more clearly, and more transparently, especially about ministry needs, so here goes:
Crunchy peanut butter
- Think of our ministry finances this way: Our funds are divided into two types of peanut butter-Crunchy and Creamy. In our tasty analogy, Crunchy represents Designated Funds. Any money that comes in earmarked for purposes like missions trips, reference books for pastors, and the occasional gift for tuition for Guatemalan pastors' children all go into and come out of this jar. Crunchy Peanut Butter NEVER gets “spread” on anything else. That has been our rule for all the ten years since our formation and incorporation and we will never change it.
- Folks like you and us donate to the Crunchy Peanut Butter jar, but it's never full enough. Nevertheless, we have been able to fulfill all of our missions teaching commitments so far because we've been able to scoop dollops out of the Creamy Peanut Butter jar. That makes perfect sense because, after all, we're primarily a teaching/missions organization.
Creamy peanut butter
- This jar represents our General Fund-and that jar is looking mighty empty at the moment. In addition to making up the lack in the “Crunchy” jar, all of our “overhead” gets spread from this jar. I don't receive a salary, per se, though the Board of our 501(c)(3) non-profit grants us a modest housing allowance to help cover our expenses of living frugally in a lower-middle-class neighborhood. That helps to pay the rent, keep the lights on, and helps put gas in the 16-year-old vehicles in the driveway. (Talk about “milestones” – those cars have seen a few!) Our treasurer warns me that soon this allowance will drop by at least 50%, apart from God's intervention.
- Why is the “Creamy jar” almost empty? Well, circumstances change. Donors who go to heaven stop giving for some reason. 😉 Others retire and have less to give. Still others are led to put the Lord's money into other ministries. (All funds belong to King Jesus and He can send His treasure wherever He wishes!)
General fund (actual inside view)
But part of the lack is probably my fault. I've often asked for mission-trip support, but never been bold enough to ask for missionary support. To stick to our peanut-butter analogy, I've asked the Lord and our supporters for donations of trip- or project-based “Crunchy Peanut Butter”; but up until now it hasn't dawned on me that good stewardship requires seeking regular, monthly contributions of “Creamy Peanut Butter” to cover administrative expenses. We're like every missionary in that regard – without enough monthly support, we can't go to the field. I know of too many missionaries who can't go to their assignment because they can't raise enough support. I don't want to be one of those!
You can read this in a “jif”
(but don't “skippy” praying over this part).
If you now suddenly have the urge to run to the kitchen and slather peanut butter on a banana or to make a PB&J sandwich, forgive me (especially if you've made a New Year's resolution to lose weight!). But as you're praying over your snack (and as you spend time with the Lord each day and as you pray for us), please ask the Lord if He would like to use you to help challenge and “fill” and “thrill” the Latin-American leaders and others we teach by:
Honduras trip – March
Helping to fully fund our missions-trip “Crunchy” jar so that we no longer have to borrow from the “Creamy” jar. Upcoming trips this spring to Honduras (March), Nicaragua (April), and Guatemala (May) will require about $6,000 worth of “crunchy.” That would allow us to keep “spreading” the Word and teaching leaders. “Going” is not a given: Lack of both “Creamy” and “Crunchy” prohibited me from traveling in 2010 and '11. I don't want to repeat that “peanut butter famine” again!
Nicaragua trip – April
Making regular, monthly contributions to our general-fund “Creamy” jar. Twenty friends giving $50/month would be sufficient, I think, to help us keep “spreading the peanut butter” — literally and figuratively! — to keep our regular operation, um, “covered.”
So, consider that the peanut-butter prayer list. Thanks for all you do, and may the blessing of the Lord rest upon you and yours in 2018!
Image credits: Wedding photo: Mike Ollila; flags and pre-modified peanut-butter-jar images: Wikipedia; remainder: Jim Kerwin