Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sacrificial Giving and Other Things to be Grateful For...

Now that I'm about a week out of my meltdown, I feel like my mind has cleared quite a bit and I'm able to see things with a little more clarity... and gratitude.

I know that a lot of people have been concerned about me and have been praying for me and I want to thank you all so much.

As the title of this blog suggests, one of my many many things I have to be grateful for has been being a witness to the selfless sacrifice of others on my behalf.

One of the many areas I've allowed myself to be concerned with has been paying for the trip... that's been an area I've been praying for wisdom about.. A LOT. Should I send out support letters? If I do, who do I send them to... the same people as last time or should I not send them to people who have supported me in the past? Or, should I just pay for it all myself? Last year I had initially planned on just paying for the trip myself. I had savings and I just couldn't even imagine asking others to give me money; but, then in one of our planning meetings, Pastor Clayton, who was leading the trip, said that even if we could afford to write out a check and pay for our entire trip, he would encourage us not to because this could be a great opportunity to stretch and grow our faith in the Lord and it also, of equal importance, could be giving people who couldn't go on these trips, the opportunity to participate in it through financial support and it would, in turn, be a blessing to them. So, I gave it a whirl. I drafted up a support letter and sent them out, not really knowing what to expect. It was amazing. Practically everyday I was getting one of those blue Saddleback support envelopes back in the mail- I never, in my life, had so looked forward to checking my mailbox everyday! It got to the point where I had raised, through these donations, 2800 of the 3500 that I needed to go to Africa. Then I was in a small car accident and long story short, my insurance refused to pay for a particular repair that in my mechanics words, "if it was not done, then I could expect to end up along the side of the road at some point in the future." So, aside from the $500 deductible, I now had to come up with an extra $300 for the other repairs... and I still had $700 to go on the trip... the money of which was due that week. I went into an empty office and just started praying. I remember telling God that I really believed that He wanted me on this trip and that I had to believe that He would financially provide for me to go (not sure how, but I had to trust that He'd come through). I got home that day and there was an email awaiting me. The email was from the family of my Pastor. They had established a scholarship foundation in memory of Pastor Rick's brother and, to sum it up, the letter told me that they had noticed that I was a little short on money for the trip and that they were happy to let me know that they were granting me a scholarship in the amount of $700.

So, fast forward to this trip, this year. I didn't really send out as many support letters. I really wasn't sure if it would be appropriate to ask the same people for support. So, I sent out letters to new acquaintances/friends. The response has been nothing short of a God-thing. I'm not even talking about the actual money. It's been who the money has come from.

The money has come from such places of sacrifice. I've received support from friends who are unemployed, a friend who lost her job on a Thursday handed me a check on Saturday, someone who had to completely re-budget their month and sacrifice in order to contribute, a friend who is a new mother, friends who live paycheck to paycheck, people who have no income to speak of, a friend in the middle of planning and trying to pay for a wedding, family who has handed over money without a second thought, and on and on and on. Not only that, but people who contributed last time, found out that I was going on another trip and they approached me asking if they could contribute again. It's been so humbling. And encouraging. After this week I really know that God has been using all of these people to encourage me and my prayer is that they will be blessed and encouraged for their steps of faith.

I know that I've been going through struggles lately, but I really want to make sure that I'm not putting out the wrong impression. So, to make sure there aren't any doubts... I feel extremely blessed by God to have the opportunity to go to Thailand. Yes, it's scary and I don't know how I'm going to react to certain things and I still have concerns; but, although I may not know what is going to happen or how little 'ol me can make any sort of difference, I do know the One who does know what is going to happen and does know how He can use me. I thank You God for your guidance and direction and for leading me to this place in my life. I thank You for placing all of these wonderful friends, family, co-workers and even strangers in my life who have acted as such a form of encouragement in pushing me closer and closer to where You want me to be. I'm done letting myself be consumed by fear and, with a great sigh of relief, I'm casting all of those fears onto the One who can handle them (because I definitely cannot).