My way of living, as some of you know, is a little different to most others! In December 1978, I knew that God was dragging me, kicking and screaming (then!) out of my career in banking, into a ministry that would mean a faith ‘walk’ that would mean no known means of income. For a banker, that involved some massive mental gymnastics, as you can imagine! So, my last known salary payment was January 18, 1979….
…So, for 36½ years, God has been faithful to the words he spoke then: ‘trust me for your home, your security, and your income’. Over the years, I’ve been blessed with a few wonderful folk who have regularly supported me, and for that – and to them – I am eternally grateful.
You can imagine that, with the calling that God’s put on my life – and in my spirit – that it’d be a healing evangelistic ministry to ‘the four corners of the earth’, living ‘on air’ instead of a salary, has been a challenge. Never yet, in the 29 years I’ve been travelling (the other 7 or so were with Youth for Christ, in the UK, then as a ‘non-stipend’ Youth Pastor with a church in south-east England), have I NOT been able to go on a trip, or pay rent, bills, or buy food. No trips have been cancelled, and in those 29 years, God’s allowed me to go to Romania 131 times, the USA well over 100, Colombia 66, Mexico 38, plus many, many more…
What THAT has meant, as my regular support is, at best, about 25-30% of what I need to accomplish what God puts in front of me, that a lot of praying gets done! Airfares account for a huge amount a year: but worth it to see lives transformed, miracles become the ‘norm’, people from western world countries going with me turned upside down and inside out, churches planted, old people loved and cared for in homes and not in danger or dying on the streets, toilet blocks built in Africa, lives saved (as they were) in Romania 25 years ago and more recent…. To give an example, to fly to Cali, Colombia, which I do three times a year, costs around £250 return Belfast to London, and generally somewhere between £900-1400 for London to Cali.
The bank ‘crash’ of 2008 knocked a massive ‘hole’ in support for people like me. Regular support was cancelled (I lost 50% of my regular support in a very short space of time). Of course I understand that people’s circumstances change, all sorts of things can happen that cause people to make changes in their giving.
One thing that IS particularly hard, though, on THIS end of the wonderful privilege of being blessed, is when support stops without warning…. it’s pretty hard to budget anyway, when you can only budget for about a third of what you need. So regular support is such an amazing blessing in that respect, until it stops, and the first I know is when I see I was £X short in my bank account last month, two months ago….
It’s a blessing to live in a country that has written into its charity laws the ability to claim tax back on some gifts. Adding 20% to a gift makes an amazing difference. Stewardship are great for people like me. I’ve never wanted to have anything that is called ‘Paul Bennison Ministries’ or like it: I’ve always felt that personally that organisations often become self-serving. Stewardship take the stress out of that by processing gifts and claiming back the gift aid from HMRC for a very nominal amount (I think it’s 2½% of the reclaimed tax). Now it’s possible to set up support with them on-line, it’s easy. And they’ve now gone one stage further, by setting up www.give.net, with a dedicated page for me 🙂
Every now and again, it seems that God ‘digs around’ what has become a ‘comfort zone’ financially – even if it’s not the amount I need! – to stretch my faith again in that area (and in all the other areas of faith!), in preparation for a new ‘season’ in what he wants me to do. Sometimes, I’m also aware that the enemy rides in and sticks his oar in to try and make things especially difficult: that often coincides with a particularly fruitful time of ministry, strangely enough!
The last 10 months has been one of those times. Two significant regular amounts disappeared from my ‘life’ last October without any warning, accounting for about 20% of my regular income. I didn’t know until two months after it had stopped. You can imagine what that’s like if you think about next month’s salary – or pension! – and discover it’s it’s only 75-80% of last month’s…. I haven’t even begun to recover that lost income, about £2500 a year….add to that the ‘regulars’ of £10, £20. £25 a month that occasionally disappear, and it mounts up. Many people say that they would like to help, but ‘I could only manage £X (maybe 5) a month and it’s nothing’ – believe me, it IS!! I send out around 1500 newsletters a month: I have about 3000 friends on Facebook: I visit a number of churches in the UK each year (I wish it were more!)…. if 10% of those people were able to give £5, it would be revolutionary!
An old school friend occasionally puts on Facebook (without my knowledge, I’d hasten to add!) an ‘appeal’ – for people to send £1 a month through Paypal… 500 doing that would be incredible! These last 10 months have been very, very difficult: I always look forward to God taking me to a new ‘level’ of faith, but while ‘wading through the process’, it is tough. I’ve put the situation to people I listen to, take advice and input from, asking if God’s telling me it’s time to quit. I don’t want to gaily carry on doing what I do just because I WANT to. But the response was a unanimous ‘KEEP GOING’ – God’s not stopping you….
If you read my stuff regularly, you know my heat is for the poor. Hence the Colombias, Mexicos, Romanias of this world filling my diary. I desperately need to widen my regular support base: recently I had some people promise to do that, then it never happened. That’s tough, too… so, after reading this, if you can help, you know I’d be eternally grateful….
www.stewardship.org.uk Account Number: 20028331
Halifax Bank Acct: P A Bennison Sort Code: 11-08-75 Acct No: 00256003
Other gifts – cheques to P A Bennison – home address in a message if you need it!