For the past few months, we have prayed and prayed that God would help us to reach our goals and make the move to GIAL in July. But, as of June, we seemed to be a very long ways from that goal. While we originally felt like God was leading us to GIAL in July, the numbers simply weren’t adding up, and so we felt God had effectively shut that door. This, in turn, left me a bit discouraged at the prospect of having to delay our training another six months, especially since balancing my job with my ministry and family had become increasingly difficult and was placing a lot of strain on our family. It seemed as if we were battling an unseen force that simply did not want us moving forward in our ministry!
But God’s timing is immaculate. About the time that I was struggling with all of this, I read a book that just so happened to discuss spiritual warfare (And the Word Came With Power, by Joanne Shetler). Then, our men’s ministry began a study on spiritual warfare called “The Invisible War.” Then our pastor began a sermon series on spiritual warfare! I’ve learned not to believe in coincidences, especially when they happen in rapid succession and in multiples. So, I realized that clearly God was trying to teach me an important lesson about spiritual warfare.
One night in men’s ministry, we briefly discussed a passage from Daniel 10, where Daniel has a vision of an angel after having fasted for 21 days. (“Coincidentally,” I did a 21 day fast modeled after Daniel’s fast in this passage earlier this year, which is the only fast I have ever done of that type and duration.) In Daniel’s vision, the angel gives the reason for his delayed response, which gives a telling insight into the nature of spiritual warfare and answered prayers:
“Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia…”
Daniel 10:12-13 (ESV)
What I could not see in the midst of my struggles was that “from the first day that [I] set [my] heart to understand and humbled [myself] before [my] God, [my] words [had] been heard.” God had already answered my prayers. Perhaps he even dispatched an angel or two on my behalf! Only heaven knows, but clearly there is a biblical precedent for such an idea. Whether God’s messengers were battling demons in the past couple months in order to bring about the next step in our ministry or not, I can’t be certain. But, I think that would explain a lot of the things that have been going on in our lives recently. Regardless, God has answered our prayers.
On Sunday, July 12, a generous ministry partner made a sizeable donation to our Wycliffe ministry. What they did not know was that their gift was exactly the difference between what we needed for our first semester of tuition, fees, and books at GIAL and what we had saved! The very next morning (Monday), I received an email from the Admissions department at GIAL, offering me a $1,200 scholarship if I would begin classes next week (July 22)! Jennifer and I were blown away. Could God really be moving things so that we could go to GIAL in July, like we had prayed? We prayed about it, thought about it, and consulted some of our partners for advice and prayers. While we had enough money for our first semester, we wouldn’t have any for the second semester. Plus, we were only at 49% of our ministry budget, and we needed to be at 80% to afford our living expenses. On top of that, the fully furnished home we had reserved was rented out, and wouldn’t be available until December 21. There were other concerns we had, but those were the big ones. When we went to sleep that night, we were still very unsure about where God was leading us.
Tuesday morning we received a lot of feedback from our partners. Some encouraged us to “Go for it!” while others advised caution. Their advice was extremely helpful, but definitely served to illustrate the conundrum we were in. Around noon on Tuesday, we had found a possible housing solution, but it wasn’t great, and we had also discovered that childcare would be expensive. Fearing that this would place an even greater strain on our already greatly stretched budget, we were about to decide that we would just stay in Arkansas. And then the phone rang. It was the GIAL Housing department calling to inform us that a generous homeowner had just called in his home for rent while he was in China for a year. It was 3 bedrooms, 2 baths with a garage and a yard. Best of all, he wanted some Wycliffe missionaries to stay in it RENT FREE and just pay utilities!!! We were completely blown away. The drastic reduction in our expenses meant that we could afford to live off of about 60% of our budget while we were at GIAL! Just that day, one new partner had joined, and another increased their giving, putting us at 53%, well within range of what we would need and be able to raise in the next couple months. Plus, that meant that we would soon have a surplus, which we could save for our second semester tuition and our other launching expenses! Jennifer and I knew that we couldn’t say “no” to that, so we accepted and began making arrangements to move to Dallas in less than a week.
I sit here tonight having finished one day of packing, with only three more days to finish packing for the move to Dallas, completely flabbergasted at God’s provision. Why he would care for little old me is completely beyond my understanding. I’ve been humbled to the point of tears several times today. Today, a friend from church came and folded and stuffed our paper newsletters for us, Jennifer’s mom and aunt helped us pack, another church friend gave us $200 for moving expenses and took our newsletters to be stamped and delivered, and the men’s ministry at church prayed over me.
I am in awe of God’s grace. I don’t deserve this kind of lavish grace! I’m just a sinner! Who am I that God should bless me like this!?!? I’m nobody! I feel like Isaiah in chapter six when he was confronted with God’s glory: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” I’m so humbled by his grace.
Why would we give our lives to serve as missionaries in the jungles of Papua New Guinea? It’s not just because there are lost people out there. There are lost people here, too. It’s not because we’re adventurous–we’re not, really. It’s because this is the kind of God we serve, and we want our lives to show that he’s worth it! He’s the kind of God who lavishes grace on “such a wretch as I.” And once you’ve met Jesus, there’s just nothing worth living for but him. He has saved me, given me a hope and a future, given me a purpose in life, forgiven my unforgivable sins, and adopted me as a son into his family, granting me an inheritance that is beyond comprehension! And just like Isaiah, the only response I can give to his grace is: “Here am I, Lord, send me!”
***Update: Since writing this post last night, we found out that I have been granted an additional $500 scholarship, and another new monthly partner just joined out team! God is good.