In less that a couple of months’ time, I’ll have been ‘in ministry’ full time – whatever that word ministry means – for 36 years. Right at the outset, when the ‘call’ came from God, money – for me – was a big factor – as I’d quit a job in banking to go full-time. For the next few years, I had a ‘notional’ salary, working for Youth for Christ: but I only got that notional salary if I’d raised the money through churches and individual support for our work. Then the big ‘crunch’ came – at the end of 1983, with the very clear word from God to go for some Bible/ministry training, which involved selling the house to pay the fees with the equity. As an ex-banker, that was tough, and I wanted to know from God where the next home after the training, was going to come from.
There are not too many times when I can say that I’ve heard God speak audibly: this time was one of them, and loud, too! ‘Trust me for your home, security, and income’. You might think it’s easy to jump off the cliff with something so clear and direct as that. I think it would be easier for me NOW: it wasn’t then. But it happened. Finished the time at Roffey Place Ministry Training Centre…but a couple of months prior to the end, I’d realised that God was struggling to get the ‘trust me for your home’ bit together, as I really needed to know – then – where ‘home’ would be. So often I get in God’s way, trying to help him out. And, as a result, ended up homeless for a while, until God had ‘persuaded’ me to realise that I didn’t actually NEED to know until the course was over, and the college accommodation ceased to be available. Then began the marvel of the next 30 years, with God providing – through wonderful Christians – homes, or the money to pay rent.
In these 36 years, there have often been times of immense blessing, ALWAYS in the ministry side, and often from a personal perspective: but there have been, too, a good number of ‘wilderness’ experiences: times of great testing, especially where money is concerned, as is often the case with people involved in ministry. I’ve never, in the 28 years I’ve been travelling, almost literally from one side of the world to the other, and from (almost!) top to (almost!) bottom, had a shortage of invitations to preach/teach/pray/encourage. Wonderfully, too, I’ve never had to ASK for invitations, they’ve always come on the basis of relationship, word of mouth, and through a variety of means. The testing times are never easy: but always beneficial – normally with hindsight! – as I look back and see what God has done IN me as well as what he does through me. The IN me bit is far more important in God’s eyes than the through me bit.
Just recently, I was corresponding with a friend, Simon Guillebaud, who some (most?) of you will have heard of: he and Lizzie, and their kids, have been living in Burundi for many years, as missionaries. I told Simon what was happening, and I described it as a ‘Faith MOT’. For those outside of the United Kingdom, the MOT (Ministry of Transport) test is a compulsory annual test of your car if it’s over 3 years old. It’s pretty stringent, and the smallest detail can ‘fail’ it, after which it is theoretically illegal on the roads! I feel that God is walking me through a Faith MOT right now. It’s tough, especially when it occurs whilst away on a ministry trip (I’m in Romania until 18th November, and back here again next month). Last week, I had to try and make GB£0.40 (yep, 40 pence: 45 eurocents, US$0.55 cents) last for 3 days. If I was Bear Grylls, doubtless I could have done it, eating caterpillars, slugs, etc! Unfortunately, I neither have his good looks ad physique, nor his cast iron stomach!
One of the things I hate most, in ministry is sharing needs. Truth is, it is Biblical to share needs, but it’s flipping difficult to when the need arises. I am happy to try and raise funds for projects and people in the places I go to – if you regularly read my blog you’ll know, for example, Ana Beiba, in Cali, Colombia. Over the years, God has blessed countless people in many nations through the generosity of people who know me. This particular wilderness has been tough: tougher than I’ve ever known, to be honest: maybe, as you get ‘older’ in the ministry, the test gets tougher, like an older car going through the MOT! So far, I think I’ve managed to ‘hold on’ – and I’m just praying that I’m nearer the end of the MOT than the beginning of it…
This was sparked in me today when I read a great quote from Danny Silk, one of the amazing preachers to come from Bethel Church, Redding, California. This is it:
I’m so very grateful for the dear friends who have responded to cries for help. Truth is, the cry is still there. I’m involved in a fair bit of ministry here in Romania, and it is as expensive (for Brits) to live here as it is back home. I don’t honestly know how Romanians manage, as the average monthly salary is around £160, 200 euros, $225.
One of the reasons it’s tough to ask, is that, many times over the years, people have said such helpful things as ‘So you’re living by faith and hints now, then’ or ‘So you’re not trusting God anymore, then’… Acts 2:42-47 is the answer to comments like those, but it does make you NOT want to share needs if you even think you’re going to get a response like that.
The purpose of this post is to say: if you have people around you in need, please – help them. If you have missionaries – please, bless them. If you have old people struggling to keep warm – help them. And if you’re reading this, and love what I write/what I do/stories I tell, and you can help me, then I’d be eternally grateful.
What I don’t want is for the wilderness to win. It’s an abrasive place, especially, as I’ve said, when you’re away, in a place where you need to help people rather than look to them to help you. I’ve never charged – because God said not to – for any ministry in these 36 years, as I believe the God News and the gifts of the Spirit are to be given away freely – freely you have received, freely give. In this abrasive place, it is easy for ‘cracks’ to appear. I haven’t cracked – at least, I don’t think I have! – yet: but the thought has gone through my mind, ‘Is this the end?’ of my itinerant days. The confirmation from people who have been in touch with me say it isn’t: thank you for those words, because I don’t feel it’s the end, either. In fact, my hospitalisation 2-3 months back seemed to me to be a release into a whole new lease of life, as I shouldn’t have lived, according to consultants.
Please, not for myself, but for people around you, look and see if they’re in need, and help them. Someone said to me a while back, that if everyone on my mailing list, or friends list on Facebook, gave £1 a month, it would be revolutionary. It certainly would! If you CAN help me, then – thank you, I’ll be so very grateful.