I was surprised this morning when we were told that our church, in a backwoods county in central Florida, is going to invest in starting a satellite church in a nearby wealthy, upscale retirement community called The Villages.
I was even more surprised to feel my heart drawn to invest some of our personal financial resources to help start a church in this somewhat hedonistic community of over 180,000 retirees.
We have good friends who live in the Villages. I don’t want to offend anyone in this large and rapidly growing 55-and-over community. In fact, the parents of two of our daughters-in-law (we love them and share 16 grandchildren with them) started and still lead a church in the Villages.
Many people think my only real interest is foreign missions. That’s because they know I grew up on the mission field. And, yes, I have written books about missions and have helped make movies about missions. But Ginny and I decided a very long time ago that we are merely short-term stewards of the discretionary funds God has entrusted to us. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 4:2 that stewards need to be faithful. Remember the story of the three stewards in Matthew 25?
Giving Where There Are Needs
Ginny and I decided a long time ago that we need to do our giving where it is needed most here at home, as well as in places that most North Americans know little, if anything, about. We refer to this giving concept as “Giving Along the Way.” This idea came from a friend I took to the jungles of Ecuador about 40 years ago. He wanted to help people in the jungles, which is very hard to do with money. It is incredibly easy to create dependency, the insidious poison that ruins more indigenous communities than it helps. Every time he would ask, “Could I give some money to build that school building or to build that church building out here in the jungles or to buy an outboard motor for that canoe?“ I would painfully say, “No. If you build one school building or one church or buy one outboard motor, they will get the idea that outsiders should build all school buildings, and should build all church buildings, and should supply everyone with an outboard motor.”
When we got back to the US, I received a call from a ministry aviation organization thanking me for a gift of $100,000 to help them buy an airplane to be used in the Ecuadorian jungles. I had no idea what they were talking about. The friend I had taken to the jungles, it turned out, realized that the small jungle communities could build their own schools and churches and could even buy an outboard motor once in a while. But they couldn’t even afford one propeller for the airplane that had flown us into the remote Waodani village where “apparent” needs were all around us. He did not give where it would have felt good to him but would have hurt the Waodani. Instead, he helped buy an airplane to carry nails and gasoline for chainsaws so the Waodani could make their own boards to build schools and church buildings, and to carry critically ill tribespeople to the nearest hospital. He was “Giving Along the way.”
Thanks For Your Support
I want to thank the growing number of you who actively support, through prayer and giving, the incredibly gifted and dedicated people at ITEC. You are helping the team DEVELOP new tools, TRAIN indigenous Christ-followers to meet physical and spiritual needs around them, and EQUIP others to do the same both domestically and abroad.
It isn’t always apparent, but you are “Giving along the way.” When you support ITEC, you aren’t building school buildings or church buildings. You aren’t sending medical specialists to hold clinics in frontier areas. You aren’t sending ITEC to give out “fish.” You/we are teaching them to fish. And then, together, we go one step further whenever possible. We teach them to start making fishing tackle so they can become the DEVELOPers, TRAINers, and EQUIPers.