I ask . . . God answers!

The past few weeks have been very discouraging for me. I've seen my offerings and promises of support dry up, as gas and grocery prices continue to raise. It's a natural response: our wallets get a little tighter. People start trying to make their money stretch as far as possible in this descending economy. I know that feeling myself, so I can certainly understand the pastors who keep telling me that they want to support me, but they are limited by declining offerings and empty bank accounts.

It's taken it's toll, though, emotionally. I've felt like a failure because I'm not able to raise this money like "super missionaries" do and get back to the field on time. I've been listless and totally unmotivated to keep making phone calls and appointments. At the worst point, I started to wonder if I could go back on the field at all.

Last weekend, while staying with my best friend Beth, I broke down and talked to her about a lot of frustration that I've been feeling lately. Like most times of discouragement, once you believe one lie ("I'll never get this budget raised"), you will easily believe the thousand that come after it. "It's all your fault. You obviously don't have what it takes. Life would be easier in the US anyway. Maybe its time to give up. I can't keep on like this." I sat in her church parking lot and cried minutes before I had to get up in front of her church and "turn on" my smile and my enthusiasm for missions. I sat at her kitchen table and cried for an hour after the service. I'm ashamed to admit that much of it was self-pitying, "If God is faithful, why isn't He faithful to me?" It was the whine of an exhausted, frustrated, and pouty missionary.

Her challenge to me was this: Are you called to go back on the field? She agreed with me that maybe my time was done. I served my years, did my missions service. Maybe God was releasing me. Did I feel that God was still calling me NOW? If not, then decisions could be made about quitting. If God's call was still present, then I needed to trust Him with all of it.

All three hours of the drive from Fairview to Hagerstown last Sunday afternoon, I thought about that. I couldn't escape the still, small voice of God in my heart, reminding me of my ever-present calling, no matter how much I wanted to give up. I know without doubt that God isn't done with me on the missionfield. And like Beth said, my only choice then is to trust Him, whatever my needs are (and however insurmountable they seem!)

Here's the best part . . . this week someone sent me a check for $5,000. I literally stood at the mailbox and stared at the zeros. I've never, NEVER received a check from a donor for that amount of money. To put a different perspective on it, that's essentially the same as someone sending me $100 a month for the next four years on the field. I was stunned. As I stood at the mailbox, staring at that check, God had the last word in the argument I'd been waging internally for weeks--He will provide. It's the ultimate, "I'll buy, you fly" deal.

In the next two days, I picked up a couple of new churches that sent in their pledge forms and I heard about a few more. I'll probably get offerings tomorrow at the two churches I'll be speaking in. I believe that people are sacrificing to give to missions in this economy and I value EVERY gift I receive. I don't believe that a $5,000 check is better than anyone's five dollar bill put into an offering plate, but I will say that God used that check to get my attention!
Ariel Rainey