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Friday, March 1, 2013

Feb 2013 Newsletter: Urgent Updates!

It appears that God has answered two prayers in a very big way.  First, thank you all VERY much for your prayers for the Perspectives on the Christian World Movement class.  Through prayer, God’s providence, gracious donors, and new students signing up for the class, the course is now financially able to run for the full semester.  Though that may seem minor, it was very important for the students who were already taking it—including my girlfriend, Tella.  That brings me to the second answered prayer (or prayers)—my girlfriend Tella and I are now engaged!  We are both (obviously) very excited about it, and we are very much looking forward to what the future holds!

In both of these instances, I know that many believers were praying.  For Perspectives, many people responded to my email and said that they were praying, and others went out to see what God would provide.  In relatively short order, the needs of the course were taken care of.  Regarding my engagement, my family has been praying for me to end up with a good wife for many years.  I myself have long prayed that if God had one special person set aside for me that He would help me find her; I also prayed that if He did not have one specific person that He would help me make the wisest/best choice possible.  I further prayed that He would do whatever was necessary to help me get there since I can be very stubborn and hard-of-hearing in such matters.  Though I had thought a couple of my earlier relationships might be the one that I had been praying for, specific circumstances eventually made it obvious that they were not.  After a time, I gained more experience, and I believe that God helped me hear His voice a little better.  I noticed in Proverbs that it says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Prov 18:22), yet it also says in Proverbs 19:14, “Parents can provide their sons with an inheritance of houses and wealth, but only the Lord can give an understanding wife.”  Since only the Lord can give an understanding wife, and since my lifestyle of service to the Lord whatever He may ask very much requires an understanding wife, I began to pray that He would provide one.  I also began to realize that only if He provided one would I ever be able to have a companion and live how I desired to live.

After dating Tella for some time, I started to wonder if she might be that answer to prayer.  Even as my girlfriend, many of her attributes already fit with me very well and with what I needed, and who she was fit very well with who I was.  Our hearts and desires for the present and the future were also heavily in line.  Over time, it became obvious to me that I would want no one else as a companion to walk with me through life’s adventures and that I would much prefer to walk through life with her than without her.  She is such a great blessing to me that I do not have words to adequately describe it, and I myself receive joy beyond words seeking to be a blessing to her.  Now we are on our path together, and I thank God beyond words.

The way that those two prayers were answered is a good reminder for me to trust God to answer prayers in His way and His time.  While the prayers for Perspectives had an immediate answer, there was more than a decade between when I began praying about a potential partner and when it came about.  I also had numerous false leads that might have, at the time, led me to believe that God wasn’t answering my prayers.  Ultimately, we can now see that He has answered my prayers, and He answered them well.  Despite my stubbornness, He seems to have helped keep my earlier relationships from becoming what they shouldn’t have been, and then He ultimately blessed me with my relationship with Tella in a way that was even better than I could have asked for!  Thank God for such providence and for the fact that He is true to His Word and true to His nature!  

In the same way as He answered prayers for Perspectives and for me to have a wife, I trust that He will continue to provide for our basic needs if we continue to seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6) as we prepare to embark on this new journey.  I also believe that He’ll do even more than that!  Jesus on multiple occasions said that if we give up our lives for Him, He will give us true life and life to the full.  He has helped me slowly let go of my old life, and He has certainly given me life to the full!  I have been blessed beyond words—I have a fianc√© who is better than I could have dreamed of, I have a job that is not just a job but a passion, I have adventure and variety and the unknown in my life, and I am blessed with friends, loved ones, and a community.  What more could I ask for, truly?

Despite this tremendous providence, I have been questioned at times by those whom I love if God is really providing for me based on my income.  It is true that my income is small for the United States--$907 per month out of a goal income of $2,320 per month.  However, it is more than enough for what I need now.  He has always helped me meet all of my critical needs, and even on such a small income, I have been making aggressive repayments on my couple of small remaining school loans and my business/ministry startup loan.  Sometimes as my car breaks down or other things happen I take two steps forward and one step back, but I have still always been moving forward.  This, to me, is providence.  It is true that my expenses will increase when I marry; Tella is still a student for another year, so there will be no extra income, but my rent (which has been so low since four of us guys live in a three bedroom house) will increase when she and I move in together after the wedding, and I will have to look at private family health insurance options (I am currently uninsured).  Even so, I remain firmly convinced that God will provide for these things—our basic needs—as He always has.

However, in part due to some of my loved ones’ doubts and in part because I believe He will answer it, I have been praying and continue to pray that God would provide even more than that.  I have been praying that God will help move my income not just up to the most basic new needs, but up to the goal amount of $2,320 per month, which is equivalent to what I would earn if I left ministry and taught Math or Spanish at a high school (both of which I can do right now with my degrees).  It is also starting salary for many full time youth pastors and part-time salary for many college ministry workers.  Since I do more than full time college ministry and other missionary work, it seems to be an appropriate amount.  I have been praying this for some time, and I feel that God has begun slowly answering it; though my income has held at $907 per month, there have been occasional surprise one-time donations, and there is just a feeling I have that He will be showing more soon.  I have also recently had good conversations about approaching churches for financial support, and I feel peace to finally step out and do it in the same way that overseas missionaries and other in-state missionaries like me frequently do.  Many churches may not want to support me on a monthly basis, but if I look at this as a yearly goal, then only $16,400 needs to be raised by the end of this year to get my salary taken care of.  If just 32 churches vote to give $500 on a one-time or yearly basis, that would completely cover it!  When it comes down to it, I firmly believe in the vision of this ministry and what we can accomplish—and I do need funded to accomplish it!  As such, I am willing to work at this as hard as I work at the other parts of the ministry, too.  I continue this prayer, and I ask you to join with me in it.  I also ask you to seriously, prayerfully consider asking your church’s leadership if they would invite me to come out and speak about my mission work and seek to raise financial support for it.  Regardless of whether God answers this prayer quickly, slowly, or in a surprising way, I am convinced that He will answer it, too, and that however He does answer it, it will be for the best.  Thank you!

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