Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Two-week Countdown

It's the last day of July. We're hovering between 71-72% of support raised. God has been so gracious in providing us with additional speaking engagements, and slowly but steadily, He's providing new sponsors. We only have $1585 left to raise in monthly pledges.

This would be the equivalent of:
     One hundred new donors making pledges of $15.85 monthly
     Seventy-five individuals giving $21.30 on a monthly basis
     Fifty people giving $31.70 each month
     Twenty-five people pledging $63.40 per month
     Ten people (or churches) giving $158.50 monthly
     Any combination of new pledge commitments. 
We are so incredibly grateful for everything which has already been given, and we continue to trust the Lord to provide for the remainder of our monthly needs.

We are still holding fast to our target date of August 15. That's just two weeks from now! There are many tasks to complete before this time, not the least of which is purchasing our airline tickets. We're finally in communication with a travel agent, so at least we're getting closer.

Today & tomorrow are our last days in Missouri - we're leaving Friday morning for Iowa & points north, so please continue to pray for us as we travel. Our greatest needs (aside from the last portion of our monthly support) are for safety, health and strength. We do not want to arrive in the Czech Republic completely worn out! 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Cannot Say "Thank You" Enough

We've been tremendously blessed to have had two baby showers before we leave for Prague. Friends back in Florida and now in Missouri have gathered to congratulate us and to celebrate Baby B's eventual arrival. We have been blessed with large gifts like a pack-n-play (which made it on to our shipping container before it departed!) all the way down to bibs & spoons, and our daughter has received so many darling clothes that we may have to pack a separate suitcase just for her outfits.

This evening, as Phil & I again looked through the assortment of gifts & cards we've received, it struck me that every single stitch of clothing we'll put on our baby girl will be something which has been provided by someone else. Even the occasional sleepers we've purchased for her were made possible because of donations which have been given to support us (and our soon-to-be-family).

I don't think I fully appreciated the fact that "My God shall supply all of my needs" now extends to the needs of this precious baby we're so anxious to meet in November. Everything - from her diapers to her onesies to her snowsuits to her teething gel - will be provided through the support we receive while on the mission field.

As I prepare to send out more thank you cards & prayer letters, I really don't feel that the words I put on paper will ever be enough to express my gratitude to the friends & family who have given so much. I am grateful today for the love that was "showered" on us in the form of baby clothes and books; I'll be grateful tomorrow as I try to pack all of this love into our duffle bags; I'll be tremendously grateful 3-and-a-half months from now, as I wrap Baby B in the beautifully hand-made blankets & booties we received.
I will never be able to say "Thank You" enough.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Counting the Cost, Part One

"Why are you raising your support?"
"Why is your budget so large?"
"Where does all that support go?"

These are questions we're asked frequently as we're crisscrossing the country. There are no simple answers - each one could have a multi-layered response. Here, in a series we're titling "Counting the Cost", we'll do our best to help you understand why we must raise our support & where it all goes during the course of a year.

Q: Why are you raising your support?

A: We are called to serve in international Christian schools. Some schools pay a salary; some offer partial stipends and/or housing allowances; some provide nothing at all. When we were praying over where it was God might want us to serve, it was tempting to look only at the schools which paid full salaries. Sure, we could have picked a place which offered at least a housing allowance, but that wasn't where we were being called to go. The Lord didn't lead us to serve in a large school where all benefits were provided. He asked us to serve a small school in the Czech Republic, which can't afford to offer us any financial support at this time.

Q: With which organization are you going?

A: We serve through Resourcing Christian Education (RCE) International. This is the same organization which helped us to serve in Russia. RCE's sole purpose is to see teachers sent to international Christian schools as quickly & efficiently as possible. Please visit the RCE website to learn more about our sending organization.

Q: What is your support for?

A: EVERYTHING. Although our salary, insurance, and ministry expenses are managed by RCE, we must raise 100% of the funds which will cover these costs. It's similar to being self-employed - not only must we raise the actual amount of support for our monthly living expenses, we must also raise enough money to cover all of the taxes (both employee & employer portions), the insurance premiums, and the 8% service fee.

Q: What does RCE provide for you?

A: RCE processes all of our donations, keeps records of all of our donors, issues tax-deductible receipts for every gift, mails a newsletter with every receipt, sends out reminders to any donors who may have lapsed, and supervises every deposit & debit made to our ministry account. They also provide us with a W2 every year, which helps tremendously in filing income tax returns.
Through RCE, we are able to purchase our medical insurance, which offers excellent international coverage as well as emergency evacuation insurance.

Q: Why not go with (insert name of nationally-known mission organization here)? Then you wouldn't have to raise so much! 

A: That's both true and false. While there are some mission agencies that would not require us to raise our own support, they have high demands in other areas, and they would require us to spend more time in training for a ministry with which we are already very familiar. Yes, there are some agencies that do provide insurance or cover employer taxes, but they also have a much higher service fee (12-14%) and their minimum monthly support goals are often higher. One of the things we've experienced during our time overseas is that teachers fall outside of the traditional missionary paradigm. Perhaps we'll address that in a separate post.

Q: How do you know what sort of a budget to set?

A: Our budget was made based on the recommendations of others already serving in Prague, on estimates given to us by other families serving in Eastern Europe, and on statistics we researched online. While $5500 per month does seem to be very high compared to the cost of living in Niceville, FL or Jefferson City, MO, it's actually on the average to lower side for where we will eventually be. Less than two-thirds of this comes to us as a "personal" salary. We will live as conservatively as possible.

Raising financial support is a challenging part of accepting the call to serve overseas. Yes, there are days we wish we didn't have to ask so often for so much - it's humbling, to say the least. God has called us to serve internationally, and we're choosing to be obedient to the direction He's taking us, even when it's difficult and uncomfortable. We've seen Him provide in amazing ways in the past; we know He is able to do so again.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

There is No "Plan B"

We've been back on the road for two weeks, and after multiple speaking engagements, meetings, and presentations of our power point we've reached 65% of our monthly support. We're thankful for each & every pledge.

Obviously, we're still not at 80%...which means we still haven't purchased plane tickets...which means we have no concrete plans to leave the country on August 15th, even though that's our intended departure date. Each time these details are revealed to our audience, there's always someone who asks, "So what will you do if you don't reach your support goal?"  Our answer is always the same:

"We have no 'Plan B'."

When we made the decision to return to the mission field, we did so without backward glances. Phil gave up his salaried job at the school. We didn't renew our lease. We packed the shipping container. We sold our car. When we left Florida two weeks ago, we did so with the mindset that we were headed to Prague on August 15th, because that was when we were asked to be there.

The support hasn't come in as we had hoped it might, so we have two choices - we can be distracted by discouragement and start concocting a contingency plan, or we can stay the course of our support tour, and continue to put our trust in God to work out all of the details. 

We invite you to pray & agree with us to see amazing things happen in the next two weeks. We know that we serve an awesome God, and we've already seen Him do remarkable things with our documents, our visas, and our hospital registration. This financial component is still a large hurdle, but there is no need so great that God is not greater still.