International Ministries

Tough times, good times

August 17, 2009 Journal
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"Are you coming back?"  Since April that has been a common question in conversations with our Congolese colleagues.  The question popped up again as we arrived in Southern California for the Biennial and the start of 12 months US assignment.  Certainly it traveled with us to the Conference for Overseas Missionaries (CFOM) two weeks ago at Eastern University near Philadelphia. In today's climate of uncertainty it is not an unreasonable question at all. Our colleagues and friends are anxious. 

CFOM brought us together for a week of reflection, listening to God speak through His word, through IM staff people and through our missionary colleagues.  A remarkable consensus developed, a conviction: "Absolutely, we are going back."  No vehemence borne of a need to psyche ourselves up for an ordeal.  Just the quiet assurance that the Lord of Heaven is working in you and in us to complete a work in our areas of service that is not yet finished, and in some places just beginning.

Not that this is an easy deal.  If I understood the figures correctly, IM must close a gap of $2 million per year for each of the next 3 years.  This is serious money.  We're all going to feel the squeeze.  Budget cuts are already pinching.  Soon they will really hurt.  Still staff and missionaries trust God to leave us standing, tempered, sharpened and prepared for more rigorous service.

That's exactly what seems to be happening.  Dave Worth told us that 1300 new people became missionary supporting partners in the last five months.  In the same period people have given about $800,000, much of which has been matched by major supporters.  Many people are serious enough about the mission that they give monthly or quarterly to one or more missionaries.

Were seeing the same thing in those of you who support us.  At the beginning of the year commitments from our network amounted to barely 50% of basic support (salary, retirement and medical insurance.)  Since then, twenty-one churches, groups or individuals gave for the first time. Two small rural churches in the Pacific Northwest alone give almost 4% of our basic support.  Enough people have joined the group of regular givers to bring the monthly total to 87% of this years goal.  Thats still $970 per month short, a gap we need to close by September 30.  But God is wooing people to join us in being His hands and feet in Congo.  We are surrounded by people with a quiet determination to be disciples and disciple makers.  We are not surprised at all to find each day that Jesus is here with us.

For years we have asked participants in community development workshops to do a simple exercise.  As a group we stand in two rows on either side of a heavy wooden bench.  Each person extends a forefinger, puts it under the bench seat and lifts in unison.  We easily lift a bench that none of us would be able to handle alone.  The trick is getting people with a common vision together and lifting in unison.  Our shared conviction at International Ministries is that God is already assembling the team.  More fingers certainly are needed.  But, WOW!, look what we are already doing as God brings us together.

In the next four months we will have a chance to see many of you face to face.  Church visits will take us to all of western Oregon, western Washington, southeastern Washington and Idaho, northern California, Illinois and Indiana, and West Virginia.  This will be a time of reporting on what God is doing in Congo, thanking people who have walked with us in ministry, and inviting those who God may already calling to join us in this shared mission.  Pray that the Spirit of God rules our hearts, orders our steps, and equips all of us to follow Jesus on mission in this world.

God keep you, God guide you, God give you the power to shine with His glory,

Ed and Miriam