Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Manna Challenge of Obedience

 About a month ago, we started sharing with our congregation about the need for sacrificial giving for our missionaries.  We had been told there is a need for an extra 6 million dollars to keep all our missionaries in the harvest fields of the 152 world areas in which we present the gospel.  My wife and I have always given to missions above our regular tithes and God has always seemed to enable us to give what we never thought we could afford.  This past month I just did not see the source from which giving was to come.

We have been taking the Dave Ramsey course on Financial Peace University in our church.  It has been a great course with great lessons.  With that we have been striving to be totally debt free.  So, with learning to save, pay debts off and "Live like no one else so we can later live like no one else," giving sacrificially was feeling different.

We have two vans and a motorcycle.  The newest family van is not paid off and very far from it.  The other van was an old 1996 Windstar and ran well for the past 3 years after giving us 32,000 miles of its 230,000 miles.  About the time of the mission challenge, the old van was dying.  My daughter names it "the ghetto van' because it was wearing out but still was used for ministry of teens and kids.  You had to get out to let anyone out of the back because the side door would not open from the inside anymore.  The a/c died in the summer and the heat died in the winter.  Then, once in a while, it would work for a cool or warm treat and then die again.  We took teens on activities and picked up and dropped off kids with it regularly.  It was just part of the family and then part of the ministry.

Once, when a church attendee needed a way to Miami, it was loaned out in crisis and died 280 miles away.  But love and cash towed her home and a little fixin' got her going again.  Then, she was loaned out on and off to another family for about a month all total.  I just got used to letting it be used as life and ministry demanded.  Then the bad news came when Nick, the mechanic, said, "Peter, it will cost you around $1200 to fix her."  With that news, I knew it was time to say "good bye" with over 230,000 miles on her.

I sensed from the Lord when the end of the van was coming that I should sell it and give the money to missions.  At first, it was just a nice idea, but then it was a stronger and clearer voice.  Finally, I said to my wife, "I don't know what we will do, but I feel like we are supposed to sell it and give the money to missions as our offering for "Thanksgiving."  She was agreeable and trusting in me and the Lord that something would work out.  Years ago, when we had a need, we would just start looking at car lots and consider a loan.  But since the Dave Ramsey course, we had learned to think differently about loans and debt.

To make a longer story shorter, I sold the van for exactly what I had bought it for still running.  On Saturday before the Thanksgiving offering, I prayed and said, "Lord, if you will sell the van for xyz dollars before 4 p.m., I will give 100% to missions tomorrow."  Well, the car went to the street side and the calls came in.  With one hour left before 4 p.m., Victor showed up.  I explained everything I knew about the car's problems and he agreed to the price in cash.  I would mention the amount, but truly, the story is of obedience, sacrifice and faith…not the cash.  Anyway, the kids helped me clean it out through the process of that day.  We knew we prayed for the van to sell and would give it to missions.

Now, for the "Manna" side of things.  Wednesday was the day I voiced to sell the van for missions and on that day, we agreed to trust God.  Soon after that, I felt impressed to call a car sales manager I know, who attends our church, and who we bought our newer van through.  Knowing we did not plan to seek a loan again and had very few dollars to work with, I explained my dead van and need of basic transportation.  I asked if he had any ideas or solutions.

He told me that only that day, a lady had a car for trade and he could only offer her $100.  He told me he suggested to her that she would be better off donating it to a charity.  So, he said, "Peter, let me call her and see if she would donate it to your church."  Later the same day, he called back and said she agreed.  I was blown away.  So, I called a meeting of my leadership that night to tell them the story of the dead van, the phone call and the soon donated car and my need of a running car.  I then asked if they would give me the donation.  I know they thought I was a bit strange on this piece of business, but with smiles and an affirmative "Yes", they agreed.  They also did not know that I was planning to give to the Lord any money received from the sale of the van to missions.

On the day of my joyous family sacrificial offering, I heard the voice of the Lord say, "Peter, what if the car deal falls through.  Will you still want to give the money away to missions?"  I said, "Yes Lord.  I know I can trust you with this adventure."  The day after, we headed out on a week of family vacation and then we discussed the "what if" the car does not come through.  My wife said something like, "We don't need a second car this week because we are on vacation.  Relax and let's have a fun vacation."  I must admit she has great wisdom and perfect timing and brings great balance to me.  Thank God for mates with hearts of faith!  Within an hour, the dealership called me while driving down the highway.  They told me the car was ready to be picked up.  All I knew about it was that it was a 1992 running car with high mileage.

When I finally went to get the car (I did not know what make/model it was), I was pleased to hear it start and look half way drivable.  My associate pastor brought me over to pick it up and asked me what I was going to name it.  Within a few minutes, I heard the voice of the Lord speak to my spirit the name, "Manna."  Yes indeed, it is a Manna car.  Manna actually means "what is it" and until the day I went to see it and pick it up, all I knew was, it is a 1992 car.

As God provided food for his people in the wilderness calling "it" Manna each day, so is He still providing Manna for his people today.  Our family obedience and sacrifice will help some missionary now.  What a great adventure it truly is to follow the Lord and obey the promptings of faith along the journey of life.

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