"Where will we get the money?" students ask as they consider joining this pioneering adventure. They are overwhelmed at the thought of buying transatlantic airline tickets, and then finding the money for a year's worth of rent, food, and insurance coverage. The best thing we can tell them is this: If volunteering a year to world missions is God's will, He will make a way to get the funding.
The development of support systems for each volunteer is part of the tapestry story. We've discovered that this tapestry has some very long threads in it. Those are the threads of prayer support and financial assistance that stretch across thousands of miles.
None of the young people graduating from college had enough money in the bank to get to Bulgaria and live there for a year. After all, they'd just spent four years in a Christian college. A few faced large student loans that needed repaying. Ways had to be found to appropriately solicit support from family and friends.
A key question was: Would people help these volunteers without cutting back on their support for the Nazarene World Evangelism Fund? Would they give beyond what they were already doing for the denominational missions program? If not, all we would be doing would be shifting the same dollars from one area to another. In the long run, it would be damaging if this new volunteer program detracted from the World Evangelism Fund. In talking about doors we could not enter for lack of money, we didn't want to cast aspersions on the World Evangelism Fund system. That very effective system has made the Church of the Nazarene one of the top missionary-sending denominations.
When missionary Hermann Gschwandtner talked with new team members, he told them to primarily seek prayer support, not finances. "It's primarily a spiritual battle," he has said repeatedly.
Prayer support did come from back home. One critical issue was that of permission from the Bulgarian government for team members to be there. The first team members arrived with only tourist visas, hoping to get long-term visas after they arrived. That hope was in vain. Christmas of that first year was a critical time. Government officials were cracking down on foreigners coming to Bulgaria for religious reasons. A couple of religious organizations actually had to withdraw all their personnel. Would our group be able to stay? People prayed. Miracles happened.
"Do they remember us?" comes the plea every so often from Bulgaria. Students and faculty at Southern Nazarene University always assure them that people do. Over the months, boxes sent by SNU staff and from home churches gave tangible evidence of that support. SNU had a bulletin board in the Commons building entryway devoted to photos and news from Bulgaria.
"We flourish on the prayers of those back home," Philip Rodebush said to someone from SNU visiting Bulgaria. What Philip said struck me so deeply that I scribbled it on a napkin to bring back to the U.S. to share with the university community.
What about the money? Could they come up with it? Each volunteer has assembled a prayer and financial support team of friends, family, and local churches. The best way to explain how people came up with their funding is to say that they prayed it in. In one instance, a college sophomore gave money from an accident settlement she received. The company had given her a settlement for "pain and suffering." She invested part of that in the Bulgaria project!
Philip's home district, led by Nazarene Missions International president Lou Noel, earlier had raised the money to put him in Russia for a summer. So, they turned around and helped Philip with funds for his year in Bulgaria. They did this without reducing their World Evangelism Fund support.
An SNU employee gave $15 per month to one team member. A faculty member gave $50 per month to another one. A couple of Baptist churches jumped in with support for Rudy Reyes, a member of the second group.
There are the churches that prayed. Ron McCormick, Nazarene pastor in Little Rock, AR, called Southern Nazarene University one day to ask: "How can we help with Bulgaria?"
None of the volunteers that year were from his church. However, seeking to personalize missions for his congregation, Ron wanted to financially support at least one team member. So that year, Little Rock First Church of the Nazarene picked up half of Rob Burgess' support and part of the Ogden family's support. They have also helped the Don Moores financially. By adopting these volunteers, Ron hoped to increase world missions visibility in the church (and thereby help out the very important Nazarene World Evangelism Fund).
These long threads of greenbacks and intercessory prayer have been crucial to the tapestry design. . . . [ more ]
1: Weaving the Tapestry |
2: A Presidential Thread
3: Thread from Empty Spools | 4: Directors' Threads
| 5: A German thread
6: A Kazakhstan Colored Thread |
7: Broken Threads &n
bsp;| 8: A Youthful Thread
9: Of Shuttles or
Spinning Wheels | 10: Faded Red and
Gold Threads |
11: Discarded Threads
12: Some West Coast Threads |
13: A Very Weak Thread |
14: Some Mexican Thread |
15: Threads of Greenbacks and Tears |
6: The Compassionate Ministry Thread
17: Some Parental Threads | 18: The Emerging Pattern
-- Howard Culbertson,
|In Bulgaria, we have to show that born-again Christians are people who care deeply. We are fitted to do that. Nazarenes aren't into "excursion evangelism." We don't grandly go somewhere, make a big splash, report "thousands" of converts to supporters back home, and move on. That's not our style. Indeed, our long-term goals for Bulgaria center on planting loving, caring communities of Bulgarian believers. That will not happen overnight; it will take time. . . . [ more ]