Many of you may know that this September, Jack and I have the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia together for a mission trip. It has long been a dream of mine to go to Africa. I clearly remember being in middle school and knowing that God was going to one day give me an opportunity to go to Africa. And then two and a half years ago, Jack was given the opportunity to head up a partnership between our church and our friend Matt and the mission organization Matt works for, Innovative Mission Opportunities, to travel to Ethiopia. In 2008, Jack traveled with Matt on a vision trip so that he would be able to lead groups from our church in the future. In 2009, Jack led a group from our church to Ethiopia. And now again this year, Jack will be leading a team from our church. And I am on that team. I am very excited about this opportunity. I am thrilled to be going to Africa. I am thrilled I get to go with my husband. And I am very thrilled that on this trip part of our ministry focus will be children's ministry. When all of this information came out, I was sure God was opening this door for me. It is Africa, with Jack and working with children- something I feel God has gifted me for and given me a passion for. And so we began fundraising for our trip. We needed to raise $3,450. This amount consisted of the entire cost of the trip for me, $2300, and half of the cost of the trip for Jack, $1150 (since he is leading the trip as a staff member of the church, the church was paying for half of his trip). We sent out support letters and we were blown away by the generosity of our friends. In very little time we have raised $2,875. Awesome!
And then we've hit some road blocks. The first road block was that due to budget constraints the church was no longer going to be funding half of Jack's trip. So now instead of $3450 we need $4600. And instead of having all of Jack's trip paid for and all but $575 of mine paid for, we now have all of Jack's trip paid for and only $575 towards my trip. But we both felt like God was still opening this door. We looked ahead and saw that Jack had the opportunity to be a Project Coordinator for World Changers this summer and he was going to be writing again for the North American Mission Board. The stipends he would receive for these two things would cover whatever amount we didn't raise. We're all good!
And then another road block.... and it is a big one. The budget constraints at the church are even worse now. So much so that cuts were made in the personnel area. Starting in July the church is no longer able to fully cover our health benefits- they will cover half and we must make up the difference. The church is no longer covering our dental insurance or Jack's cell phone. These cuts meant we need to find an extra $400 a month in our budget to continue our benefit coverage. But unfortunately that is not all. In the month of July and the month of August, Jack must take a total of 10 furlough days (5 each month). Furlough days are days that you are not working and not receiving pay. Jack gets paid twice a month so these furlough days mean that for half of a pay period he will not be paid- i.e. his July 31 paycheck and August 31 paychecks will each be cut in half- a total loss of an entire paycheck.
All of these cuts really threw us for a loop. But God is so good and through it all I've really had a peace. I am resting in His provision and His sovereignty. I'm trying to "Think like Keith" and be faithful. God has already provided. We have taken our budget and cut just about everywhere and we've found the $400 we need to keep up our benefits. We've had to sacrifice some things like preschool for Noah and Caleb, but the money is there. And thanks to Jack's writing and the World Changers stipends we have the missing income coming in. We don't know what will happen after September. If things don't improve, there will be more cuts. Where and how exactly, we don't know. But we are living day by day in faith that God does know. I know that God is bigger than wallets and budgets. There is no recession in God's economy and I know that through it all He will provide for our needs. We may have to let go of a lot of wants, but we will not worry about our needs- our Father already knows them:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
But all of this of course means we no longer have Jack's stipend money for my trip to Ethiopia. We are so thankful that God has provided for Jack to lead this trip again. But if I am to go with him, it will have to be an act of God to bring in the money. I am praying and seeking Him in all of this. And truthfully I don't know what to make of it all. Is this God closing this door for me? Or am I to continue in faith that I am to go? I honestly don't know. When I think of not going my heart is heavy. But in all of this I most of all desire for His will to be done and for Him to be glorified above all else. Like Keith said, that's really all that matters. And if He will be most glorified by my staying, then I will stay. And if He will be most glorified by my going, then I will go. Right now we are continuing to prepare for me to go. I am getting the immunizations and attending the meetings and training. But I am also preparing my heart for the possibility that this is not my time.
Will you please pray for us? Here are some specific ways you can pray:
~ Pray for our family as we face the coming months financially. Pray we would be good stewards, that we would remain rested in His provision and not worry.
~Pray for our church.
~Pray for me as Jack's wife. Pray that I will be the helpmate and encourager that he needs.
~Pray that God's will would be clear with regards to my traveling to Ethiopia. Pray that the necessary funds would be provided if I am to go. Pray that my heart will be prepared to go or to stay.
~Pray that above all else, in all of this that God is glorified. Pray that He would be glorified as the mission team works in His name among the people of Ethiopia. Pray that people would be forever changed by His message of redemption. Pray that He would be glorified in our trust and faithfulness here at home.
Thank you so much, friends, for reading my heart and for praying for us. It means so much- more than anything- knowing that we are being lifted up to our Father who will supply all of our needs.
If you want to make a tax-deductible donation towards our trip here's how you can do that: Make a check out to Ewing Road Baptist Church. Write "Ethiopia Mission" in the memo. Do not put our names on the check or the IRS may not count it as a donation. Mail the check to us and Jack will ensure it gets credited correctly at the church. If you do not have our address, sent me a message and I will get it to you.