The Hole in Our Gospel 2011

I started my collection when I was 12 years old. I collected as a teen and kept in up in college. I still remember the first one I bought and I have been buying and collecting for 50 plus years. I’ve been to every flea market known to man in Florida and to every collector’s show within in a days drive from Angola I could get to. I could not go anywhere without collecting. It has been my life for all my life. I treasured it and my whole heart was in it. My collection controlled me and I put it above everything. I was very proud of it.
Now I have had my eyes opened and my heart changed by The Hole in Our Gospel book and sermon series and I am selling it all. I was going to donate it to a museum but now I feel by selling it I can help others in Jesus’ name who cannot even afford food for their table. I used to think that the work of a Christian was to just get people saved and to hand out Bibles. Now I see God has called us to help the poor and to use our resources to help people get the most basic of life’s necessities. I am starting to live with eternity in mind like never before. I don’t want to die knowing I kept all these things for myself while others went without. It would not hurt me to sell everything I’ve got. It would be hard for me to walk through the gates of Heaven and know I kept so much for myself. I am building for a future in Heaven for now on. I have quickly come to learn that the best things in life are not things. I have only just begun to get rid of my things so I can help the poor. My treasure is now with helping the poor.

After sitting through this past Sunday’s service, in tears most of the time, God gave me a message that was abundantly clear. I have been putting back a small rainy day/ emergency fund, unknown to my family. As I sat in the service, God was asking me “How hard does it have to rain?” or “How big does the emergency have to be?” I knew without a doubt what God was saying. We are not a wealthy family, but God told me this should be done. I am only the person whom God chose to deliver a blessing that came from Him anyway and wasn’t ours to begin with. I only wish we could do more. Please allocate at Project Help as needed.

I have been on two missions trips to the Dominican Republic and saw firsthand what poverty looks like in the town of Cielo (means “heaven” in Spanish). This was the furthest thing from heaven I could imagine and yet it was so exciting to worship with these physically impoverished but wealthy Christians. They love the Lord and worship with an excitement and enthusiasm that I had not seen before.

Unfortunately, time and getting back to daily living diminishes the experience and over the years it is moved to the back of my mind and thoughts. Reading “The Hole in our Gospel” and the Sunday services have brought back many memories of my experience in the Dominican Republic. It has reminded me that just one person can make a difference in some way. I liked that illustration of the star fish on the beach when the man threw one star fish back in the sea and said “I made a difference to that one.”
Thanks for the reminder through the services and the book that there is “something ‘I’ can do.”

I hope we never stop this series. We are going to need reminders and encouragement so we don’t slide back into our old ways.

Did you read the article in the Everance Magazine? (The one about the lawyers.) I think everyone in the church should get a copy. It just gives an idea that such giving is possible.

I found a scrap of a torn tract on the floor. It said, “Where will you spend Eternity?” But at first glance I thought it said, “How will you spend Eternity?” I do know WHERE–Heaven by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. But HOW? Will I spend it regretting that I treated possessions like they were owed to me and ignored the pain of those who had nothing at all? Or will I meet people who thank me for the mosquito net or the water filter that kept them alive so that they could come to know Jesus? That’s what I want to have happening in Eternity!

I was impressed right in the beginning of the series, and I don’t recall where the statement came from. “What is it you really love doing? Figure out a way that thing you love doing can bless other people!” So simple, really! We can all do that. I love to sew, especially to make quilts (comforters) and baby clothes. Now I know Project Help and the Compassion Pregnancy Center really have more than they need, but I know Mennonite Relief and other such organizations can get these where needed most. Woo-Hoo, I’m in for some pure pleasure that will bless someone else!

Regarding the shoe challenge, and to add to the conversation I had with you last Sunday, God showed me that I had actually become a little prideful of the fact that I only own 3 and a half pairs of shoes. I had even shared that sense of “pride” with my kids earlier in a dinner table conversation. Surely I was a saint because the average American owns 17 pairs of shoes–I was off-the-hook with respect to the whole shoe topic. Then, when you challenged us to either leave our shoes at the church or write a check, God seemed to say to me, “Just because you’re a tightwad with yourself doesn’t mean you should be a tightwad toward others.” Could it be that my “tightwadnesss” with myself is actually an enabler so that I can be that much more generous toward others? Maybe that’s the whole point.

I wanted to send you a quick(hopefully) note on what has happened to us through this series.
We started tithing about a year ago when we did Dave Ramsey and then you did a sermon and talked about tithing and I told my husband it was something that we HAD to do and it really isn’t a choice so we did. It was so amazing how much faith that that took. Obviously we weren’t doing to well because we were doing that course and to give in one week more than we had normally given in a month was hard at first and it has actually been really hard this past year because my husband had a really rough time at his previous job for about 5 months so to give money when we actually didn’t know when or if we would get anymore took a lot of faith but every time we did something would come through. I can’t even tell you how many times that happened. One day my money actually multiplied like 4 times when I thought I was out, I kept finding a 20 here and a 20 there, it was crazy. Back to the Gospel-although tithing is still hard, it has become somewhat robotic in that I don’t question or think about it when I write out the check and to be asked to give more than that never really entered my mind. I thought tithing was enough and now I see how more can and should be given. I so wish everyone would do it and see how GREAT it feels to give when it is hard.

We had already cut back on many things because of the Dave Ramsey course, like getting rid of garbage service. We started recycling about 3 years ago so we just had to compost and burn papers and was able to cut that bill out. I can’t even remember the last time we ate out, we don’t buy coffees or cappuccinos, I guess what I am saying is that we had cut most, but not all, of the “wine & oil” out of our lives but we saw a few more little things like not buying the bottled water, cut that out and I really enjoy not buying that heavy thing weekly at the store. We also purchased a HD antennae and hopefully within a week will get that up and are canceling our dish network. With that money we are going to sponsor a child (or maybe 3(haven’t talked to my husband about the extra 2 yet, just decided that today, 1 for each of our kids to become friends with).

The last thing that has been heavy on my heart since this started is the fact that we are going to Disney world in September, which are kids have never been to. Although we haven’t saved up the money for it yet, I can see that it will most likely happen. We will spend a lot of money on this vacation and I went to my husband and the kids with the idea of taking all that money and instead of Disney using it to go on a missions trip somewhere to do something good. I did not want to make this decision for my kids, they have been looking forward to this for already over a year and they are only 7 & 4 and I didn’t want to make them feel guilty for wanting to go to Disney either. But I did ask them what they thought of that idea and of course my little girl screamed Disney! My son said he wanted to do both and my other son said how about we go to Disney and then save up again for a missions trip. Rob thought it best to possibly just spend a day in FL doing something for others like finding a homeless shelter or soup kitchen or something. I know this is the best year for the kids to go to Disney while their young, not too young, not too old but I also wanted this to be a true sacrifice and completely selfless act. It hurts my heart to think of taking this away from my kids but hurts just as much to think of how much money we will spend and what good that could do and I never would have even thought twice about this vacation if it wasn’t for this series. So, right now we don’t even have the money for either but I think we will soon and when we do I will ask them again with most likely the same answer but if it would be the answer I would hope for I can’t imagine how much happier we all would be from that decision. If they pick what most children would I believe that we will at least spend some time down there doing something to reach out and help others.

How would a day without shoes affect me. I am a stay at home mom. I do not have the same opportunities as others to impact those around me. So I had to think about how this is effecting me. I was going to go to the grocery store and I realized that they would not allow me in without shoes. I was going to meet a friend for coffee and conversation, but would not be allowed in the Coffee Shop. BUT, I can stay at home and I will do those things tomorrow with shoes on!

Our series ends this Sunday. I do not want to go back to normal life. I do not want our church to go back to normal. Too many people have not been effected by this series. And it should not be a series it should be our way of life. We do not know what God is calling us to, but He is calling each of us to something. Just throwing money at something makes it easy to walk away and feel good. Next week I can go back to my normal giving and attending and maybe think about poverty occasionally, but DID I CHANGE?

This is our fear. The community has been in our building for the funerals last week. (Thanks you for opening our doors). But as a church we are not the building. We are the church that God will use to bring healing to the world. Now just “My Own Little World”, but the whole world. It is said that the world is getting smaller, if this is true, then we should have a bigger impact in it. God calls us to touch not only those in poverty, but those that are hurting.

Thank you for taking the time to read my rambling. I will be praying for you. How will you show our congregation how this book, this series has effected you?

Thanks for opening our minds to the needs of others. This series has brought home to my wife and I a desire to do the will of Jesus. As I told you we decided to sponsor a little girl from Haiti. She is 5yrs old her name is Lifranzcia Cemecier. She has 3 brothers, and a sister, Her parents are farmers. The area she lives in is highly effected by the AIDS epidemic. World Vision gives you plenty of information about the child and the family you are sponsoring. I also chose to give up my shoes Sunday. As I walked to the car on the wet asphalt my feet started aching. I told my wife what if this was the beginning and I could not go where it was warm, and get my other shoes on. God has blessed us. You are right we do need to pass some of the blessings on. The sponsoring of Lifrranzcia is not over when the series is over. We will be sponsoring her long after the Hole on the Gospel is forgotten.

Trying to make this short has taken me hours. Ha!! Bottom line, I am so glad to have been a part of this series. God has opened my mind, heart, and pocketbook even more than before. With little to no sacrifice.
The price you said that shoes cost, is far more than I ordinarily would pay for them. I am very careful with God’s money, since He put His hand on my purse nearly three years ago. He keeps me alerted to needs and helps me to meet them. Out of obedience. I know He doesn’t need money from me. I keep my eyes and ears open to needs and try to help every time I feel His prompting. Fairview is my idea of what a church should be, and my small service has helped me to stretch myself and meet so many people.
God’s blessings to our family are many and coming from every direction. I pray for those who don’t tithe, to begin to. They are missing blessings of every kind. They will find themselves needing less.
Now, about the shoes. I told you that, some time ago, you challenged the congregation to just put in all their one dollar bills for a special offering. I carry little money, except when I know I will have a need. That morning I put between $20 and $30 ones in my purse. And, nothing more. I went home broke. All of 15 minutes. What a sacrifice!!!!!! Then, you challenged us for our shoes!!! Well, I had just bought my new shoes and guess what. I had paid about $50 for them. They were the first shoes and the only color that I needed, that I couldn’t find at Good Will. That is where I buy most of my clothing. Also, Project Help. And, I love it. The truth is, that these shoes have a special sort of oil in them and would have been ruined the first time they were dumped into the shoe box. God had prepared me for the challenge, though. Praise His Name!!!!
And by the way, I walked to my car barefooted. I didn’t want to ruin my shoes in the rain. More fun. Also, when I am finished with my shoes, many of which are 20 years old, no one would want them.
For all that you do and for your caring, tender heart and your feeding of the congregation, thank you. It is our pleasure to have you as a Pastor!!!!
This week has been amazing! I have always believed that I was rich spiritually being a child of “THE KING” but most of my adult life I have been among our country’s poor. That has always been OK but this week I realized how wealthy I really am materially. My eyes have been opened to how much more I have than most in the world.. We have been so blessed by God, even at our lowest points God has been faithful to send us someone to fill in our gaps.
I have never before had the opportunity to really compare myself with others in the world, just in the USA. When I went online and put our income in to see where we were compared with the rest of the world, I about fell off my chair. We were in the top 11% of the world’s wealth. When I put in our lowest yearly income of $780 per year we were still in the top 60%. God revealed to me that we also had other benefits besides just our cash income during that time, things like food stamps and rental assistance. These are things that other countries don’t provide for their citizens.
Even today we are amazingly blessed. There are people at Fairview who bless us each month with Angel Food, something without which would leave us without food to eat some weeks. They give it anonymously, it is precious to us and we never fail to thank God for their generosity and seek His blessing on their lives.
But now I see and understand that there is more I can do even as a “poor American”. WOW! I am so excited – this has given me a whole new perspective on everything. My excitement is shining through as I talk with others. Even at the jail I find myself reminding them that we all need to take inventory of what we have and what we can and should be doing for others. The first thing most people say to me is that there are starving people here in the USA, like if we help people in another country we stop helping the US poor. We have so many resources available to our countrymen all they have to do is use them. Others don’t have any resources except what is provided by others, like us. All my generosity must be as filthy rags to God, I have been so selfish. Thinking I could not do more because I was poor myself. God forgive me for my blindness. Thank you, Pastor Norm, for allowing God to use you to bring this “light” to us.
I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me next!