People used to ask me two questions pretty often –
So, how do you find the people you minister to? and
How do you raise the money to run the ministry?
To both questions, I had two responses:
I used to say all kinds of stuff – formulas, graphs, projections, plans, statistics, would come barreling out of my mouth like some slickly packaged network marketing life coach.
but now, a little grayer, a little broken by the Lover of my soul…
I just stick to the wiser truth that’s been beaten into my head dozens of times over the past 4-1/2 years with a spiritual 2″x4″ by the loving God who has called us to do this work:
“I… Don’t… Know.”
God Doesn’t Need Our Help
It’s the best and smartest answer I can come up with sometimes. God brings people our way who need what He is all about: love and truth for those He created and ultimate glory to Him. He encourages me from time to time to make known the ministry’s material needs and connects the dots with the givers. Yet, I so often try to “help” Him out.
Recently, my friend Dan Diaddigo published on of his incredibly cogent and insightful newsletters where he notes:
“Inside normal men are gods. Because inside normal we can manage events and predict our outcomes. A wise man knows that life is not normal and that he is not God.”
See, in the past, when I’ve answered either of those questions, my answer came from a veiled arrogance fueled by a need to prove myself competent to wiser men. All the while, I was showing myself to be a fool to those who’ve ever answered the call to “walk by faith, not by sight”. Humbling.
Today, I published a brief story about a local family in need. I did it out of a sense of knee-jerk desperation because… well… more than 12 hours had gone by since my first post and fundraising wasn’t going according to my plan. You know, “managing events and predicting outcomes…” What’s annoying about this is I’ve done this kind of thing before. What’s amazing about this is that God has answered my prayers often within hours of me “helping Him out”, reminding me that it is He who is God and not me, He who is provider, not me, He who holds outcomes in His hands… not me.
Is this a pity party? No! It’s a humble “Go, God!” party. I can’t imagine the article was up for more than 10 minutes before the $140 need we had made known was satisfied in full by one donation made by a friend who we haven’t seen personally in at least a year. God, in His mercy, used someone I’d never have written a support letter to, never have texted or inboxed on Facebook to answer a call for this family in need. So, party on you awesome lover of Christ – and thank you, publicly and anonymously for your hair trigger obedience to God’s prompting to give. Thank you, for Speaking Life to a family in need of a little sunlight on their leaves. And, party on, God – You who made the heavens and earth and see the depths of my heart, yet love me the same.
For those who read the story – the family in need will now have a roof over their head for the next week, maybe even more. We can still use a gas card or two to keep them on the road to their jobs, but the matching gift has been met. If you read their story and still feel compelled to help them or Seasons of Life Ministries, we welcome you to support now or anytime at http://bit.ly/solmsupport.
Praise God, for His amazing faithfulness, mercy, and grace.
Covered Up This morning, our young daughter, Presleigh, went outside with Mommy to water some flowers in our yard and tend the garden growing in several 18 gallon plastic bins we’ve planted. When I followed up on their work, I noticed there were a few leaves on a sweet potato plant that were turning yellow. Not cool. However, with just a single lifted finger, I was able to move the soil off the leaf and expose it to the sun again. Tomorrow, I expect to see that leaf thriving and in a few more weeks, producing.
After several phone calls and a bit of prayer, I finally got to meet “Alex”. He called us yesterday after searching the internet for ministries in this part of town. Frankly, I was skeptical even getting the call, as we’ve never had someone just “look us up” on the web like that. After his wife, had suffered a hernia, she missed a lot of work and found themselves in a very hard place. About a week ago, they found help from St. Vincent’s. He and his family of 3 had been put up at a local extended stay hotel for the week while they tried to get back on their feet. He seemed a little frantic when he called, explained his story, and asked if we could help.
I did a little asking. He did some more explaining. They had been covered by the soil of circumstance and turning a bit yellow, like my sweet potato leaves. But, there was still life in them. They still had hope – in the Lord, in the work they were already doing, and in the belief that with a few fingers lifted on their behalf, they would again see the same vibrant life my flimsy sweet potato plant is destined to produce.
Their Story: They’re both employed right now, her here in Cumming and him about 20 miles away at a fast food restaurant. With a 6 year old son, they alternate work while the other is watching him. But, because of her physical limitations and his time taking care of her while she was injured, their checks for this past week were about $60 each after taxes. Alex had already begun looking for work that would lower their gas consumption. For now, he’s remained faithful to his employer while battling the uncertainty of “how” God would bridge the gap between now and next paycheck.
“I’ve got to get to work today, but I just don’t know where the gas is going to come from to get me from Cumming to Gainesville and back…” A little soil, a little yellow, but a lot of hope on the horizon: today when we met, he was back from an interview for a second job, here in Cumming. He was completely overwhelmed and noticeably choked up when we handed him the gas card you supporters provided him. “When God does something for you [in Christ] that you can never repay, it’s just really humbling.” I was unsure whether the tears were because of what he knows in Christ or the gift he’d just received. Neither was he.
Thank you, to those who are helping.
We talked about faith, God’s ability to provide, and His amazing track record in “Alex’s” family up to now. With one eye looking up, he remembers God is faithful. But, with the other eye on the clock he knows that tomorrow morning at 11AM if he hasn’t paid for another week or even another day, they’ve got to move out of the hotel and into their minivan. Today’s interview went well – good chance he’ll get hired within the next few days. But, that doesn’t bring a paycheck in for another few weeks.
Speak Life: Speak Life is the part of this ministry that provides food for families like this in situations just like this one. It’s also the initiative designed to help people to recover financially, emotionally, and relationally from challenging seasons of life by bringing enough “sunlight” to their situation to help them thrive on their own again. As of this morning, Seasons of Life has about $140 in matching funds committed to raising funds to help Alex’s family get back on their feet. This means: for every dollar given to Speak Life this month up to $140, a matching dollar will go to help this family – give $10, they get $20. Give $140, they’ve got $280 – enough to buy them another week and almost enough time until their next paycheck(s) – this time, full week’s work of paychecks.
The cool part about this family is that when they discovered how deep the hole was that they were standing in, they looked up. They also “looked up” ministries and churches – members of the body of Christ that were designed to help people get up and over. They realize they can make phone calls, get interviews, fill out applications, and all the rest. But, ultimately, the outcomes and help is from the Lord.
Would you consider helping this family out on a deadline? Yes, gas cards are still a great gift to help them out. Food is taken care of. But, if you would consider them in your financial support – they would greatly appreciate it. If you or someone you know would be willing to take in a family of 3 for a few weeks or even a month, we can tell it will make a world of difference. In the meantime, we’re only $140 away from buying them the breathing room [or sunlight] of another week in their extended stay, but this is a pretty time sensitive situation. Help us keep them indoors.
Life happens. Trials are here to make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, right? Ever think “if that’s true, then this year, I should be pretty close to perfect“? 2011-2012 has been the most challenging on the job training we’ve ever received. Despite the fact that I’ve had time to send out ZERO support letters in 6 months, God has provided between 60 and 80% of budgeted support in some way or another – almost twice our normal program funding level. The Lord has been wildly faithful and we are extremely grateful! More on that and some BIG NEWS below.
Earlier this month, Aarron was asked to stand in for ministry leader Casey Sanders at Gwinnett’s Men Step Up.
For first quarter, 2012, alone –
Men have received regular 1 on 1 encouragement, wisdom, and discipleship from God’s word, dealing with everything from pornography addiction, blending families from a biblical perspective, deeper quiet time with God, to “pastoring your wife’s heart”.
DivorceCare leaders have been equipped and have run for a full quarter reaching a dozen men, women, & children directly and dozens beyond that where they work, live, and recover.
Couples have received couple on couple discipleship, wisdom, and encouragement and even been sent to a local marriage conference followed by one on one or couples’ “debriefing”.
Through a partnership with another local
ministry, God has provided food for a dozen
families a year with about 6 of them on a
Weekly food runs through Divine Resourcing have brought food to more than a half dozen families as part of our “Speak Life” programming.
We’ve run a panel discussion for divorced men on “Single Sexuality”.
Men have been encouraged to “think out loud” at ONE TH1NG, (a separate ministry led by Ron Dunn designed to “Spur men to walk with God”). Aarron and other men have led dozens of micro group discussions as part of their “ministry within a ministry” environment.
Aarron also recently led a conversation at Men Step Up, Gwinnett, on Friday, 5.11.2012 (see photo above) regarding contentment in current circumstances in light of present and eternal rewards. It hit home for a great majority of the men in attendance.
The SOLM blog & Facebook page have been enhanced and regular content added, reaching an audience in the hundreds, soon to be thousands.
Our skills have been sharpened through both counseling and impartation through Trinity Psychological Services, Free Chapel, and Jesus Spoken Here Ministries.
Aarron has begun preliminary preparation for a “That Day” performance in October and is in talks about another engagement before then.
Argentina? Recently, supporters of Seasons of Life and followers of our Facebook Fan Page helped a friend of ours take an unexpected “mission” trip to Argentina. We hope to have an official update from Lily Chauvin soon, but we can tell you it was a heartbreaking trip. While there were some who received her well, she found others to be hostile to her as well as the gospel. We know from scripture that God prepares the heart to receive the gospel, but gives man the opportunity to accept it or reject it. We’re grateful for all of you who jumped at the chance to help her in her calling and honored to have participated.
Fiscal Forecast – Sunny? Financially, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by God prompting a number of supporters to step up their giving, completely unsolicited. (In fact, whereas normally we’ve sent out support letters once or twice per quarter, it’s been almost six months since we’ve sent out a “make the need known” letter. Glory to God.)
As we approach the summer there are a few transitions on the horizon and we’d like to inform everyone of the possibilities ahead for 2012, 2013 and beyond. The Lord is broadening our territory in Gainesville, GA, where the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. This could mean carrying a wider load for Free Chapel’s DivorceCare program but also bringing Seasons of Life discipleship to a community lacking in a detailed one-on-one discipleship plan and budget to sustain it, yet rich in a deep and abiding need for it.
We are prayerfully moving forward one step at a time, one relationship at a time, one conversation & prayer at a time.
To help us capture a $2,500 matching donation for 2nd quarter, click here.
The Big News:
This presents a fantastic opportunity for people with a passion for para-church ministries, pastoral care for the hurt, broken, and addicted, as well as those who love to support missionaries in general. Currently, we are less than $3,000 from meeting our support need – for the quarter – this is a big deal for three reasons:
This is the shortest distance we’ve been from the mark, ever. And this is for the quarter, not the month. Wow, praise GOD!
Summer is historically one of the driest “seasons” of the year for many non-profits and ministries like Seasons of Life, yet this!
God has dropped a (ridiculously timely) $2,500 dollar-for-dollar matching gift on the table for 2nd Quarter!
What You Can Do: Your giving power is officially doubled. Anyone who supports Seasons of Life Ministries in new giving, whether one time, “seasonal” (once/month for three months), or joins as a new monthly support family member, will help us not only capture the funds needed for the quarter, but definitively help set us up for a smooth 3rd & 4th quarter and balance the scales moving into 2013. WOW, is right!
Pray it over, (as always), and consider whether this is the “sign” you’ve been waiting for: the need is great where we’re “growing to”. You may never personally experience the work God’s called us to do all the way up in North Forsyth and Hall Counties, but your giving will make a bold impact on men, marriages, couples, children, and disciples of Christ there. To help capture this timely gift, click here or enter “http://bit.ly/solmsupport” in your browser’s address bar.
Moving Forward Thank you, thank you, to all who are still lifting up this ministry, our family, and those we serve in your prayers. Great things are in the rear view mirror and on the horizon. Your “vertical” support has not been wasted. Please, keep us in prayer, join us in prayer, and tell anyone you can to follow us, fan us, like us, and pray for us.
Several years ago, God called us into full-time vocational ministry. As most fans of Seasons of Life Ministries already know, His call was a touch vague: “be available”. Most fans will also tell you this has allowed me a lot of room to get into trouble – overextended, wiped out, overcommitted trouble. However, last quarter – 4th quarter of 2011, it seems like (and I hope, this is in humility) both Cristine and I were in full agreement with what God wanted us to do, more importantly what He wanted us to not do. We did our best to stay out of His way.
In 2011, God used us to reach hundreds of people through one on one discipleship, couples discipleship, DivorceCare, DivorceCare 4 Kids, through existing environments like ONE TH1NG and Men Step Up, our Speak Life programming, and That Day production. This is pretty mind blowing to me as I type it, because while I know I’m a pretty high capacity guy, to see all of this done despite going through what we went through personally is clearly an act of God. Me? Not capable of all of that in one year. Him? Able to do abundantly more than all we could ever ask or imagine.
For Q4, our goal was God sent – “only do what I tell you to do”. We were able to train two leaders for ONE TH1NG and several more for service at FreeChapel for their DivorceCare and DC4K program. But, again, only by God’s grace and not because we’re anything special. Totally “a God thing”. Goal met. As we’ve heeded God’s call to do less stuff for greater impact, He’s seen to this kind of impact:
More important than the numbers is the depth of effect – to have a guy call me on the phone or text me to say “we need to get together” or “thanks, for your prayers” is a humbling honor.
To see a man who’s been in the word, active in his church, and obedient in the marketplace finally break through the wall of “prays regularly with his wife” is a milestone. To watch a woman respect her husband when he’s not being respectable so that he may be “won over
As we look at God’s mission for Seasons of Life “Realigning lives with the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ”, we saw a great ROM (Return on Mission) in last year – God repositioned Cristine to speak into the lives of women who’ve undergone emotional and physical abuse, struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and now is able to speak out boldly about how God has redeemed the abortion she had over a decade ago. God has widened her ability to minister to the broken because He’s God and “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8.28)”
God has called me to begin the process of duplicating myself – in a few unique ways, He’s begun to bring that process to fruition as we’ve released a few leaders to shepherd others in pastoral care and men’s ministry. Where that may lead through the use of technology and improvements in our Social Media strategy is entirely up to Him, but we stand just past the threshold of 2012 with our ears open and feet “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of Peace”. What does that mean? We’re awaiting His next orders and you’ll hear about it both online and offline.
“Becky” was a single mom of three working hard to provide for her kids when her own mother was told she would need to begin dialysis and may need a kidney transplant. Becky had been growing in her walk with Christ and began attending a women’s small group bible study. Her small group had been praying for her needs, but what they didn’t know was something that came to another woman in a dream.
A friend of Seasons of Life Ministries (anonymous) had a dream about Becky’s car having trouble. She knew it seemed strange and was easy enough to dismiss it as “just a dream”, but on a whim contacted Becky and asked if she’d been having any car trouble. Becky was more than a little surprised and said “yes, I was actually going to let my small group know to start praying for me to get a new car.” Becky had also moved in with her mom, who now needed her help in the dialysis process. As a part of taking care of her mom, she’d be required to have “reliable transportation”.
It turns out that Becky’s friend who’d had the dream also had an extra car. She explained Becky’s situation and the story of her dream to her husband, who quickly replied – “I guess the Lord wants us to give her our car.” How great is our God? Recently, Becky’s mom was told she would need a kidney transplant. By the grace of God, the help of Seasons of Life Ministries and an oddly prophetic dream, Becky now has “reliable transportation” to bring her mom to dialysis!
What’s so amazing about discipleship to us is that God so often impresses on the hearts of believers “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10.8, italics mine)” God prepares hearts, knows our needs, and provides perfectly! We are so grateful to have a ring side seat to watch God knock out the enemy and provide for His children as any good Father would. Praise God and keep “Becky” in your prayers. He’ll know who you mean!
Seasons of Life could use your help to handle a few of incidental expenses in passing on this vehicle, but we’d also love to be able to help Becky with a gas card or an oil change. This month, if you’d consider giving to our “Speak Life” initiative, we’ll be committing a large percentage of that program’s resources to making sure Becky’s transition is a smooth ride. To help support, go to www.seasonsoflifeministries.org/SOLM/support.html!