As we are coming closer to leaving for Africa, I am in awe of how God is providing all that we need. The idea of having enough money in our bank account to pay all our bills (house,insurance, utilities) while we are away and having enough for 5 of us to travel was overwhelming to say the least. It was the "mountain" that had to be moved in order for this dream to become a reality. It was also the sign that we would know this was God giving us these desires, because if He was not behind this trip there would be no way that we could make it happen. It has been a faith journey from the very beginning, but to be honest, that journey began with our family long before this mission trip.
Back in the late 80's, when my young marriage failed and I found myself parenting alone, I realized I could not make it on my own. I saw for the first time how my decisions and selfishness had got me to a place that was very hard. For the first time I really understood my need for a Savior and surrendered my future to my Lord Jesus Christ. I had a lot to learn along that road (and I am still learning), but it was the best decision I have ever made. As a single Mom, things were tight even though I had a full time job with good benefits. One day I was reading in Malachi where God is talking about tithing and it says to "test Me in this". I had no money and didn't even know how I was going to pay my house payment that month. I chose to take the Bible at it's word and test God in this area. I tithed that next paycheck and had a peace and a security that I had not felt before. In addition to that, God provided in so many amazing ways that my faith was strengthened. I know some of you will read this and say that Malachi is in the Old Testament so we don't need to follow the idea of tithing the first 10% of your income. I'm not here to debate, I'm here to tell my story that God has been faithful and my experience is that he really has provided all that I have needed. As New Testament Christians, I believe that it's all God's money anyway, we should be giving at least 10%. I did go through a short time when a well meaning Christian advised me that God didn't intend for the poor to have to give back to be provided for. That time was a time of worry and anxiety and I will not go back to that type of thinking.
When I met Drew, one thing that attracted me to him was his conviction and practice of tithing. I knew that most marriages struggle because of money issues and this was an important foundation for both of us. We have been married for over 18 years now and Drew has been in seasonal construction for all of those years. We have had years of plenty and especially in the past few, years of lean. God has been our provider through them all. As long as I have my eyes fixed on Him and not on circumstances, my heart is at peace. As soon as I take them off my real source of income, I get anxious, worried and filled with doubt. My friends know that most years as winter approaches I start to get worried and have to remind myself that God has never let us down.
Last year's winter season had Drew feeling very anxious. The season before his income had dropped quite a bit from previous years and we didn't have as much money in the bank for the long winter as we liked. This was also right about the time that I brought up our whole family going to Africa. A couple of things happened that helped calm his nerves, and had nothing to do with us getting more money. The first was when we started praying for Africa, we were reminded of all the ways God had provided for us in the past. We also realized how it was out of our control in many ways. The second was that Drew had a lead part in a musical that the kids were in at the church where they had attended AWANA. The part was a bit cheesy but most of his lines were directly from scripture. For an hour most days he would go over and over the lines from this play, which was all about taking our burdens to the "Rock" of our Salvation. Something about saying these truths out loud day after day, transformed my husband. The timing of this musical couldn't have been more perfect.
Once we made the decision to move forward with our trip to Africa we still had no idea where the money would come from. Knowing many of you have hearts for missions, we sent out support letters for those who may want to partner with us on this adventure. That has been humbling and encouraging to see so many people come up along side us and help make this happen. We are so thankful for the gifts that have come in. We have received large sums from anonymous givers and some from names we don't even know, as well as from our friends and family. The Bible talks about faith without works being dead and we have worked hard this year to do our part. A friend had been talking for 2 years with Drew about "flipping" a house together but the right house just never came along. Right in the middle of us trying to find a way to make this work, the perfect house came along that our whole family could work on. We appreciate the fact that he would take the risk to have us work on this huge investment. It was hard work but has provided all that we need to pay the bills while we are gone. Ellie and I have sold Norwex products and cleaned houses together. The boys have done lawn work and other odd jobs to pitch in for the expenses coming up. Drew has had many side job opportunities, almost more than he has time in a day to do. Drew's sister gave us a laptop that we can use to stay in communication while we are away. It has been so cool for all of us to see God's hand in providing opportunity as well as money for our needs.
My faith has grown so much this year and reading this makes it look as if it all came right when I thought it should. We have had deadlines along the way for expenses and I don't think we have had enough in our account for any of them. As each deadline has come (like for airline tickets), we have prayed like crazy for God to show us what to do. In the end, we felt at peace and went forward with the purchase not knowing if all the funds would be there or not. Each time at just the right moment (but later than I would have preferred), the money has been there. I'm embarrassed to say that I still have moments of doubt even after seeing God's hand provide time after time. I don't want to be so stressed that I can't see where the last money is going to come from, or if we will have enough in our savings for all our bills after paying out what needs to be paid. I feel so unworthy of all these blessings that have been showered down on us.
I'm amazed at God's patience with me. Even this weekend as I was once again praying and asking (and even doubting a little), a number of random people came up to us and gave us gifts of $100 each. I'm like a little child that has to see and touch to believe. Lord help me in my unbelief as we continue waiting on you!