Countdown to departure for Uganda: T-37 days
I am very excited to announce that I am fully funded for my upcoming mission trip to Uganda! Hooray! Please praise the Lord with me for His provision for the trip!
I sent many, many letters to dear, dear family and friends. And Faith and I are so very grateful for all the generous support so many have given us. We weren’t at all worried about whether or not God would provide for us, but we also weren’t sure exactly how He would do it. And I’m certainly very uncomfortable asking people for money, but God is explicitly working on me in that regard. He’s teaching me humility, as well as to serve others by extending to them the opportunity to be involved in God’s work in my family’s life both prayerfully and financially, just as we would want to be involved in the lives of others in that way. That’s part of what it means to be the Church!
So, having reached another milestone in preparation for the trip, I thought I’d share a few things God taught me in the fundraising process…
1) Start early
I’m really glad I didn’t wait to get started on communication and fundraising. It took a lot more time than I guess I thought it would. In my experience, it didn’t take a lot of hard work, per se, to raise these funds. It’s not like I put in hours and hours every week setting up meetings, making presentations and so forth. I can imagine that this kind of rigorous engagement might have been necessary if I had been raising much more money or if I had a different circle of friends, etc. Everyone’s situation is different. But in my case, it just took time for people to respond. So, I’m glad that we got started early.
How early? Well, my trip is 5/15/2017. We wrote our support letter over Christmas break, mentioned it in our Christmas letter, and then sent out the first fundraising email on 1/14/2017. My first blog post about the trip was that same day. On the other end, the last dollars we needed just came in — early May, 2017. And in between, there were several emails, physical letters, coffees with people, discussions with the church, etc. So, it took time.
2) Cast a broad net
Send out lots of letters. Ask lots of people to get involved. Not just because that helps you raise money, but more importantly (I mean that!), because it includes more people in the blessing of participating in missions with you. Every person you don’t talk to about your trip is a lost opportunity to deepen your connection to them, to bear witness to the gospel, and to be God’s instrument to expand their view of the world or to grow their heart for people who are a) likely in great need and b) not like you. God is doing amazing work in my heart in these areas as I approach the trip. Doesn’t it stand to reason that He might use me to be a catalyst to do that same work in the lives of others … even if they’re not physically getting on a plane with me? I think so. Plus, the trip needs prayer, I need prayer, and we all need to pray. The trip needs funding, I need funding, and we all need to grow in generosity. Etc.
So don’t think of a missions trip as “I have to ask people for money.” Think of it — as God has been teaching me — as, “I’m so excited to include you in what God is doing in my life!”
3) Involve your church
Faith and I love our church. We’ve been attending there for 6-7 months, since shortly after we moved to Wauconda. No church is perfect, but ours is a wonderful place. As we’ve gotten to know people there, they have welcomed us so graciously and generously. We were encouraged early-on to talk to the missions team about assistance in funding the trip and certainly to ask for prayer. We did, and they joyfully and generously responded … not just by officially sponsoring us, but with prayer, with encouragement, with interested questions, and with the personal contributions of loving, missions-minded brothers and sisters, even those who don’t know us terribly well yet. Another member, who is embarking on a long-term mission in June, and I are even being given the opportunity to share about our trips with the congregation. All up, it has been a huge blessing to be “sent” by my local church, and I suspect we’re just at the beginning of that. I look forward to sharing further and discussing more with them about the trip in the weeks and months ahead.
4) Pray and trust the Lord
I suppose this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s clear to me that the success of fundraising for my trip has very little to do with how skillful I am at writing fundraising letters, the approach I take to “marketing” my trip, the fact that I’m blogging about it, the size of my church, the composition of my friend group, etc. Instead, it’s clear to me that it’s all about God’s being faithful to do what He wants to do … which is always right, and the highest good. It’s about prayer. It’s about trusting God to act. Yes, I worked hard and labored long to write a “good” letter, but my focus was more on glorifying God and testifying to His work than on establishing an air-tight, tremendously-compelling, unavoidably-persuasive case for why sending money was the spiritual and loyal (to me and God) thing to do. Or whatever. Our church is small. Our friends are not a bunch of millionaires. Our family isn’t exactly listed in Forbes. But God provided for this trip, as He has provided for everything else. And we never doubted that He would.
5) Check (or flat-out discard) your expectations
God didn’t do this the way I thought He would. I thought money would come in faster than it did. When I played the mental game about who I thought would do what, I was totally wrong. People I would never have guessed would send much money sent a lot, and people I thought would be a key contributor didn’t respond. A couple conversations at church went it directions I didn’t predict. I encountered negativity from places I didn’t expect and positive encouraging support from people I never dreamed would even notice I was going. In other words, God in His sovereignty does what He wants, and what He wants is always good. If I had gone into this guns-blazing with expectations that needed to be met in order for me to be happy, I’d have been anxious and miserable. Instead, glory to God!, our posture as a family was teachable and flexible, and that served us well.
My recommendation to anyone entering this process: Stand in awe of God proactively, before the first domino falls. Before you even start, resign yourself to the fact that you have NO idea what God is going to do, and then choose to be certain that when you see it (which might be long after the fact), that it’s going to be amazing!
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:13-14)