For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain.” And, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1Timothy 5:18 WEB)
Growing up I heard missionaries share their ministries in church. My most vivid memory was being bored out of my skull. The endless slides, monotone speeches and sad appearances distracted me from the work God was performing around the world. How could God condone boring people to death? Maybe I missed the point when I was young. Then again, maybe the point wasn’t clear.
My desire was to be different. But, I wasn’t a dynamic public speaker. As a matter of fact, I was afraid to speak in front of more than one person, and one person made me nervous. Here the Lord carefully molded me and taught me, through the help of other believers, to present the ministry from very humble, stumbling beginnings to eventually preaching and teaching. God can mold a mushy lump of clay into something useful!
Unbeknown to me God started a couple of years before we were appointed. We regularly attended the Young Adult Sunday School Class at our church. A friend of mine, Chip, was teaching class. Chip completed his seminary education and was about to move to Pennsylvania. This left our class in need of a teacher. Chip approached me to take over the class.
I was resistant to the idea. I didn’t think I was prepared. I didn’t know enough to teach a class of young adults, many who were more educated and churched than me. I was too young. God used Chip to get me moving. He had confidence in my abilities and knowledge of scripture to take over the class. God used this experience to teach me to speak in public and share the ministry.
As appointees with TWR we shared our new found direction and calling in life at every opportunity. We were dismayed to find not everyone felt as excited as we did. Church, family, and friends provided a gamut of responses from contagious joy to curiosity to downright concern for our mental welfare. Some thought it a great step of faith while others thought we were crazy to enter into a faith ministry. Then there were those who just couldn’t quite figure out what was happening so they just smiled and said, “Very interesting.”
It’s like a magic potion. Start talking about raising financial support and people suddenly develop attention deficit disorder. If you’re in front of a church board their eyes start to glaze over and shoulders slump. Everybody knows everyone else needs support. The pastor knows, the board knows, the missionary knows but no one wants to talk about it. Why? Because, if they discuss it they will be challenged to make a final decision, yes or no.
Our support need wasn’t quickly or spectacularly met as we had hoped and prayed. For three years we worked on raising our support. We met with pastors, shared with churches, individuals, friends, and family. All our efforts resulted in only modest commitments of support. It is exciting, now, after many years of ministry, to see these first partners still underwriting our ministry. With few contacts we were on our own to find churches, discover the denominations which were for or against the ministry, and seek opportunities to share the ministry and our financial need.
We made a choice concerning our support. It was God’s support to raise and maintain. We chose not to share, from the pulpit, our financial need or plea for funds. Our goal was to present what God was doing in our lives, the ministry and the world, then pray. Pray for the Lord to work in people’s hearts. When asked about our needs we were more than glad to share the financial need. We felt this was the Lord’s guidance.
During our initial deputation we weren’t as sure of our calling because of the meager results and became discouraged. We questioned whether God really called us to serve or that we had only followed our personal desires. Now, with 20/20 hindsight, we look back and see how the Lord blessed again and again to meet our needs in regular support and personal needs over the years.
One day after three years of deputation we talked about the situation. Our leads were run dry. Our energy was run down. I could only afford so many days off from my job and still provide for the family. We discussed the plus and minus factors of our deputation and determined to wait another thirty days to see what would happen. If the Lord provided a significant increase we’d continue forward. If there wasn’t a change we would resign. It was a tough decision to place a fleece before the Lord. We asked for a direct yes or no response. We committed ourselves to act accordingly, regardless of personal desires and dreams.
A couple of weeks later things didn’t look good. Then we received a visit from the mission area representative. We expected a proper lecture on our lack of forward momentum. The representative had other ideas in mind.
TWR needed someone on Guam right away. Would we be interested? We didn’t know where Guam was located. We didn’t have our support. No problem, he told us, our support would be covered for a one year term of service. After that we’d return to the USA to raise the remaining support. We gave the offer careful thought. About ten minutes was all it took to see God was sending us forward in an unexpected way. We agreed. They wanted us there in less than three weeks!
It’s amazing how much packing you can do, how fast you can quit a job, how many friends you can tell, and how much rejoicing you can enjoy in a few short weeks. Our furniture and belongings were sold, discarded, or stored in friend’s basements and attics until we were left with just a few suitcases.
We climbed aboard a plane, stopped in California for a couple days to visit my brother and Disneyland, then on to Hawaii and finally Guam. What a whirlwind of emotions and changes moved through our family. We headed across the Pacific to a little dot on the map we didn’t know existed only a few weeks earlier. God brought us this far . . . now what?
God, at times, wants us to understand more fully that He is in control. During these times He cleanses us from our own accomplishments and reveals His hand of grace and provision.