“All you can do is pray.”
I said this to our Children’s Day Out (CDO) director this past Thursday after a conversation about the increasingly desperate need to purchase a van.
The program, CDO, had simply exploded, particularly in the last 20 months when it moved from preschool to a full-service daycare, including before and afterschool care. Which also means transporting a lot of students each day.
Determined fundraising had netted about $12,500, but a really good quality and safe van was going to cost much more.
The Director’s aging and inadequate personal van was barely functioning. It was not worth repairing because of its age and mileage. The need for a 12-15 passenger van had become acute.
She came to me asking for help and direction.
This is what I had to offer—“All you can do is pray.” Interesting, in retrospect, that I said, “that’s all I have to offer.”
About an hour after our conversation, I received an email from a friend. An unexpected financial windfall had occurred which led to this question, “Does the church need anything in particular?”
OK folks, if someone asks, I’m certainly going to answer. I wrote back, explaining the need and asked for $5000. I thought if we could come up with that much, perhaps we could float a loan for the rest of the cost. I also felt sure that this was an impossible “ask.”
A short while later, “I can’t do $5000, but I’ll do $2500 as a challenge gift—you’ve got to come with a matching $2500.”
Later, the CDO Director and I talked it over. I suggested she ask for a month to raise the matching funds—she said, “No, we need to do it this week.” I gave my blessing and thought, “There is no way.”
That evening, the CDO Board authorized a limited loan to cover the difference if the money could be raised and a suitable vehicle found.
Fast forward to Saturday evening. Another church member, very close friends with the owner of an auto dealership who has undertaken the ministry of helping churches find safe and affordable vans, phoned. “Christy, the right van has finally shown up. Year: 2102, one owner, 14,011 miles, under warranty, all the safety features we need, in perfect condition. “
These vans get snapped up within hours after being posted on the website, but the dealership owner said he’d put a pending on it until Monday morning. The listed cost was absolutely prohibitive, but we could have it for $25,000. If we wanted it, we had to purchase it Monday morning.
One week just turned into 36 hours.
This morning, I explained the situation at all three services. I asked people to give $5, $10, $25 or even the matching $2500 as God leads. Attendance was high and I was hoping enough small gifts would come in to squeeze us into the borrowing range mandated by the CDO Board.
At the third service, after the announcements and during the hug and handshake time, my music minister tugged on me and motioned to someone. An individual, who asked for total anonymity said, “I am matching the $2500. But I don’t have my checkbook with me. How can I get that to you before tomorrow?” I said, “I’ll come get it this afternoon if that works for you.” Agreement was given.
After the short Church Conference, she came up to me to give me the figures of what had been donated. I saw a $2500 gift on there and said, “So you heard my announcement?”
She said, “What announcement?”
There had been another $2500 matching gift. Neither of us knew about the other.
By the time we totaled up everything—and there are still a few stray ones to be gathered in–we realized that more than $7,500 had been given, not including the original $2500—all from completely unexpected sources.
We stared at each other slack-jawed.
During the children’s message at the third service, I had given each of the children a dollar bill, explaining how people learned the difference between the fake and the real, and told the children they could keep the bill. Later in the meeting, the Lay Leader got up and shared, “My son told me when he got back to his seat that he wanted to give his dollar to the van fund.”
I think we were all weeping by then.
Before the meeting was over, another donor offered to make up the difference so we could go ahead and purchase the van outright, no loan necessary.
Now, this sort of thing may be routine for many churches. For some with a fair number of deep pocket individuals, it is almost expected. But this is not a church like that. Every penny given is given sacrificially here.
We managed a complete relocation three and a half years ago, funded by a friendly local bank coupled with giving, again all sacrificial, and of a magnitude that none of us imagined could happen. We’re paying the mortgage, supporting our ministries, and are current on apportionments and all other bills.
I have almost never asked for money. Our pledge drives are minimal, and extremely low key. I tell people each week, “Give what God tells you to give, not more and not less. If God tells you not to give, then don’t. Just don’t miss the blessing, what ever you do.”
Money does get tight. Each time, I tell myself, “Well, I guess all I can do is pray.”
This morning, as I walked into the still quiet and empty church for my final preparations, I discarded my usual, “Lord, fill this place with people” and prayed instead, “Lord, fill this place with Your Spirit. With that I will be satisfied. I ask no more.”
Yes, all I can do is pray. And yes, God’s Spirit filled our church today.