Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Do I Ever Doubt?

This past Friday, I was once again confronted with the question, "Why do I ever doubt You, Lord?" You'd think that after so many years of walking with Him, knowing Him and experiencing the life that He has to offer with Him that I would never doubt His goodness and faithfulness to supply my every need. You'd think ... I know I have been silent on this blog now for literally a year, simply because I don't take the time to sit down and write. But I have been challenged lately that I should be. So ... at least for today, I am back at it. We are once again facing some huge changes in our lives. Last year (2013), our support base dropped by an average of $1,200 or so a month. Since we had a surplus that had been built up (because we need it for emergencies and for the expensive flights to the states on furlough, etc. this is important to have), we weren't too worried at first. But as the year went on, we continued to be behind and dipped into the reserves just in order to make it through the month. We went on furlough and this only compounded the problem. Some told us that it would change when we went on furlough and people would give more while we were home. While many did give, the situation only temporarily changed for one month. Then the dip returned. By October, the reserve was completely gone and we were barely able to draw out our basic salary. Money for ministry expenses had been nonexistent for a long time by then which means anything was paid for from our personal salary funds. To say the least, things have been more than tight. Any savings we had vanished quickly just for regular needs. Nothing for when the van breaks down or even regular maintenance, etc. But when October hit with our balance falling in the red, we discovered from the home office that unless we were within $500, we would not be sent our salary. This meant "no" money to live on! Wow. That was literal since no savings was left here in Uganda. We had to confront the problem straight on and honestly. We couldn't ignore the problem any longer or just wait for it to go away. Of course, this meant, we not only 'just prayed' about our situation to the Lord but we finally came to Him with completely open hearts, searching and asking what God has in mind for us. What did this mean for us? Did He want us to pack up and sell off our things, moving back to the states? Did He want us to change our lifestyle here somehow (we feel like we live frugally for Americans already but perhaps we could change even more, for instance)? Did He want us to go somewhere else to serve Him? What??? Send Bob back to the states just to fundraise? Many questions were suddenly asked as we sought His guidance with a new yearning and desire to know His will. Just about that time, one of our advisors from the home office "just happened" to be coming to Uganda. This meant we were able to sit down honestly and seek guidance face to face. His advice was to not only do the fundraising letter we had planned, explaining plainly our current situation, but to also ask some supporters to "friend raise" for us. We reluctantly complied but prayed and asked a number of folks if they would consider "friend raising" on our behalf. This meant asking and hosting friends in their home and directly asking them to consider supporting the Peterson family. We have never been "in your face" direct request type people, so this was uncomfortable for us to ask anyone else to do on our behalves. But we had prayed about it and believed we were supposed to follow this counsel. It definitely has worked for others and the documented statistics in terms of the rate of return and investment is much more successful than other methods. In short, those that responded to our requests said no and only one said no, but could they try something different that would be more appropriate for their situation. The latter was a fruitful one and one new supporting family resulted. Most likely, these efforts also brought forth much more prayer support. But what ensued after our fundraising efforts from a distance, feeble as they may have been, has truly been amazing to us! Literally, every week since then we have received word from someone that something is happening on our behalf. Either they have talked to their missions board chairman or their board is meeting next month and will decide if they will support us or even some new commitments have been made or a missions team is praying on our behalf (and didn't even receive one of our letters by that time), etc. God is so good! We are so grateful! During the month of December many gave sacrificially and added to our support account at the home office. We ended December with one of the highest giving months yet. It is not clear how many of those gifts were one time gifts and which ones will be ongoing monthly gifts. We won't really know that for sure for a number of months as we see what is consistently being given. But we were encouraged and continue to be encouraged. We are so grateful for everyone who has given and taken serious time to pray for our needs. God is obviously working for us! After much prayer, we do not believe God wants us to leave Uganda. Bob finishes writing the basic curriculum for pastor's training in the islands geared at the uneducated pastor next month. The first two year program ends in March and about a dozen men will graduate. The program will be offered again but deeper in the islands of Lake Victoria. It has been so exciting to be a part of instilling God's Word into the hearts of these pastors, some who had never even heard the story of creation before! God's Word will not return void and we are already seeing an impact on their personal lives as they live out His Word practically before their people. Changed lives always inspire changed lives! And it is only by Him that the fruit can be wrought! But ... what does God want from us? We were convinced the shift in finances meant He intended a change to be made of some sort. We had become quite comfortable in our three bedroom house with a large, private compound where the kids could play freely and safely without care. For the first time ever, our children have had their own yard which meant we could finally have family dogs without worry of someone else needing the yard at any given moment since it wasn't really ours. Our home was truly a sanctuary where we could escape even the culture around us, to a degree, when needed and just be "Americans." We could even share that with friends when they needed a break. Hospitality (not my gifting) had even become a ministry frequently enjoyed here. But change? To what and how? To be concise, we believe God wants us to join the staff at Alpha Omega Seminary, also a Global Outreach International ministry. Alpha Omega Seminary is located outside Jinja a few miles and has land that borders the Nile River. Men in ministry come from all over East Africa to obtain a three or four year degree, certified in America. Everything is done in English since they come with many different languages. The students come for five week intensive sessions at a time and return with homework for twelve weeks while they continue to minister at their churches and ministry sites. Bob will be academic dean and a professor. They have offered us housing rent-free which will save us $600 a month which is huge. We are excited about this new phase of our lives. But we are also experiencing some anxiety over what the changes mean. Our children will have to give up their family dogs because we cannot take them with us. No more private compound with our "own" sanctuary. We will be a "fish in a fish bowl" again as we live our lives before everyone, this time in a new culture. We lose quite a bit of our own space inside and outside since the house is considerably smaller than what we have now. But we know that since God is in this, we will benefit and gain so much more than it "appears" that we are losing! Change is just hard. One of the things that was giving me anxiety about the move is that the duplex we are moving into is actually a two bedroom duplex. All of the rooms are smaller and we are losing a fair amount of storage space as well. On the end wall, there was an addition of two rooms, bathrooms and a porch. This area was used/intended for visiting teachers to stay in. We were offered this space in addition to the main duplex since it was clear that two bedrooms would not be large enough to accommodate us and the school room space. I was so grateful for this, but it meant that two of my children would be living outside of our house. While I requested security bars and a security door to resolve my fears, I knew it would be so difficult for me to be comfortable and to sleep well at night. How could I ever know if they needed me in the middle of the night and if they were okay? I quickly thought of baby monitors or some kind of intercom system, etc. anything that would help me with this fear. I finally realized I just needed to trust God with what He has provided. (with Bob's help, of course) I couldn't say I had forgotten this fear, but I had chosen to put my trust fully in Him over it and stopped worrying so much about it. This past Friday, we received a phone call, "Could you come out today and discuss the house with us?" Oh, my ... what did that mean? I had already figured out "mostly" how things could fit and how it "might" could work, especially since they were giving us some space in the maintenance shed for storage. Now what? When we arrived, Jim Clair was in the house with a pad of paper, pencil and a sketch already drawn. It had come to him that morning! He could push out part of the wall, move some plumbing and create a hallway to adjoin the two living spaces; thereby creating one four bedroom house on that end of the duplex!!! I was overwhelmed. Truly amazed. Once again, God was providing for ALL of our needs. Not just "some," but ALL. A mother's heart requires a knowledge that her children are safe and well cared for. Even this, He cared for. He knew that He could care for them without a remodel, that they could be safe because He is in charge and they are in His loving care. But He cared enough to give Jim this incredible plan which meets even the deeper emotional need of a mother. My need. I had surrendered it and He had given back beyond what I imagined. Now I know that it is going to take quite a bit of money to make this remodel happen. But I believe this is God's plan and even that He will provide. We have heard His call to Alpha Omega Seminary and answered, "Yes, Lord. We will go." And He? He is ever so faithful to reward us in even such things as a momma's heart. So I ask, "Why do I ever doubt You, my Lord?" And perhaps, just perhaps, next time I won't!