Much of my work involves helping churches discover their unique gifts and talents that they can contribute to the work of World Renew. Sometimes I hear, "my church is too small to really get involved," or "we have a hard enough time paying our ministry shares; we can't take on another offering or missions project."
Sometimes I want to say, "Yours is exactly the kind of church I want to work with!"
How much easier is it to relate to churches in developing countries when you DON'T have all the financial resources or answers?
Consider, for example, the case of Community CRC in Fort Wayne, IN. Pastor Jim took a leap of faith by deciding to partner with a church in Honduras, El Protrero CRC. While he was there, he saw that the church had been washed away by flooding. He was moved to help, although he had no idea where they would get the money. He pledged $5,000. They were able to raise $5,500, much of which was from people outside their church who heard about the project. The churches in Honduras matched that contribution - a blessing and a sacrifice for such "poor" churches.
In another instance, the Pease CRC Guatemala Team made and sold about 3,000 homemade apple pies to fund their trip. Someone from the area happened to attend their church the morning of their commissioning service, and this gentleman was moved by the service, and by what they were doing. He had recently come into some money, and he decided that God wanted him to help the Pease team. He handed someone from the team $2,000 in cash and said that he wanted to match what the team had already decided to give to the Juan Calvino seminary run by Emanuel Presbyterian church in Quetzaltenango. So instead of $2,000, they were able to give $4,000 to the seminary.
Finally, if you are still unsure whether you have the resources to get involved, consider this example from West Africa:
“We can’t ask villagers to help us buy a motorcycle!” said the president of one of our partner organizations. “How could we possibly explain to them that the development organization that is there to help them needs help?”
As we sat under a Neem tree, meeting with the denominational board, they looked at us as though we were from a different planet. “If you understood the realities of our people,” he continued, “you would never ask us to do such a thing.” For a moment, I wondered if perhaps he was right, perhaps we really just don’t understand the suffering of the people we are trying to serve. It was a good reminder to me that I need to set aside more time to just “be” in villages to understand these farmers’ lives better. And yet, I firmly believed that our partner organization would benefit from the fundraising experience and that the communities who are benefiting the most from the work could contribute something. We don’t want to be seen as just an outside donor, but rather as co-laborers in the process.
The old motorcycle was costing so much in repairs that they had had to sell it long ago. The organization that had lent them one “for a few months” wanted it back, since it had already been over a year! World Renew had already helped to raise most of the needed funds, but felt it was very important for our partner to raise the rest. Yet, despite many hours of meetings over the course of several months, no money had been raised.
We had shared various strategies of breaking down the cost, and those of us sitting under the tree that day pitched in our token contribution toward the local fundraising drive. By the end of the meeting they had about $4. The journey would be long. Despite our hopes, doubt crowded our minds.
After we left, however, the board stayed behind and made a plan. Soon thereafter one staff person reluctantly went to a village and very ashamedly explained the need for a new motorcycle to a community group member. The response was not at all what he had expected.
“Of course we’ll contribute toward your new motorcycle,” the villager said excitedly. “Your visits are very important to us. In fact, I’m going to go to surrounding villages and tell them that you need a new motorcycle and that they can contribute toward it.”
Before the board even had a chance to get to all the planned villages, community groups started sending in contributions by whatever means they could. Even a new group that had not yet received any material assistance sent in a contribution. Within six weeks the goal had been surpassed by more than 30 percent.
When the deadline came, the program coordinator went to see the president of the denomination to tell him how much had been raised. The president was completely awe-struck. “Are you sure you counted correctly?” he asked the staff member. What an encouragement to see how their work is valued!
Yes, even in the midst of a year when much of the population is suffering from food shortages, people are willing to help with whatever they have. The coordinator can now continue his critical work on a brand new motorcycle, and group members know they played a part in that. Thanks be to God!
Hopefully, these stories will inspire you to think beyond the budget, to realize that God has all the resources He needs to accomplish His tasks — we just need to seek them!