While my wife and I were on the road gaining support for Hermosillo, Mexico we learned five important lessons I would like to share with you. Some of these lessons were life changing moments and others were a reminder of something we had previously learned. These principles are extremely important because they can make the difference in how efficiently a missionary or church planter raises his support.
1. Pondering before telling
I learned this principle one year before my wife and I started deputation. We had made the decision to leave Shadow Mountain Baptist Church, where we were serving, to become missionaries in Hermosillo, Sonora Mexico. Many people asked me about our calling, and questioned if Mexico was really the place that God had called us. I quickly learned that I needed to formulate into words what had been ingrained in my heart. I learned that I needed to have a plan of what God was calling me to do before telling people premature ideas of what I may or may not do.
If you are a missionary raising support, be prepared to answer questions like, "How do you know God called you where you are saying He called you? how do you know it is that city? what is the first thing you will do to implement your plan?" If you do not know the answer to some of these basic questions it may be hard for people to believe that God has really called you. So I learned very quickly to ponder some of these things before telling anyone about my calling.
Proverbs 10:19, In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
Proverbs 15:23, A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
2. God called or man called
Another principle that I had to come to grips with was, am I doing what I believe God is calling me to do? Am I being guided by ambition - just being influenced by others? When things get tough only the calling of God will keep a person where he should be. From the time that I made my official declaration I was going to Mexico many opportunities came my way that, if followed, would not have brought me to Hermosillo. Some of these were great opportunities to say the least. Ranging from serving in another ministry to serving in another mission field. The statement, “Opportunity does not equal obligation,” came to my mind many times. It seemed that when I was about to go through a transition everyone gave me their perspective on God’s will and left me a bit confused.
Sometimes I even asked good friends for counsel, but wound up wondering which road I should take. I remember a conversation I had with Pastor Chappell in a moment when I had to make a very important decision regarding my future ministry. Pastor made this statement to me, “Luis, either God called you or not, only you can figure this out.” I went home to pray and ask God for clear direction, and I believe the Holy Spirit of God gave clarity to me about my calling. Anytime I feel the pressure of making a decision I always come back to the clarity that God gave me.
Galatians 1:10, For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:15-16,But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace. To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
3. Vision or Desire
My teachers in college always encouraged me to have a vision for my future ministry. Going to Lancaster Baptist Church and seeing everything that God had already done, it was very easy to have a desire for God to do the same things in my ministry. But what is vision? Is vision a purpose? Is it a dream? Is it a goal? Depending on what book you are reading or whose lecture you are listening to, you may have all these confused like I did.
A month before I started deputation, I knew people were going to ask me about my vision for Mexico. I would ask myself, “What do I tell them – my desires, my dreams, my goals?" During that time I picked up a book called 3 Seconds. It is not a big book, but is very insightful and I found what I was looking for. While reading this book the author gave a definition of vision that made sense to me, and it is the way I now define vision. He said, “Vision is a picture of the future that gives you passion today.” Many will take their desires to the grave, but few will take their vision. When you have vision it changes you every day, it is far stronger than a mere desire. It is something that impacts your actions on a daily basis, which in turn affects your life.
John 4:35, Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
4. Vision should be greater than your discouragement.
During deputation we had our challenges, and, of course, it is a lot easier to ask God to take those challenges away than to ask Him for stronger shoulders to carry them. During deputation our daughter, Sofia, got sick. For a couple of days the doctors were puzzled as to what was wrong with her. We were in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at a missions conference. We were right in the middle of back-to-back conferences. I was already feeling a bit discouraged and out of touch with what I was doing. We had been to so many churches, I was very depleted, and I felt that my support was not coming fast enough.
On our last day of the missions conference my wife and I awoke to our daughter’s heavy breathing. Off we went to the emergency room. They put my daughter on oxygen and she started doing better, they would take the oxygen out and immediately she would start with her heavy breathing. I spent the night with Sofia while my wife and son went to our host’s home. Feeling confused and now exhausted I thought, it can’t get worse than this! When the night shift doctor came in and introduced himself he said, “Well this makes no sense, she does not have pneumonia, it’s not RSV. We are very puzzled... it may be that her lungs are collapsing.” Well, now it did get worse! To tell you the truth I was upset, I remembered that I got on my knees after the doctor left and had the biggest pity party one has ever seen. How do I tell Maggie? How do I tell her that our daughter could be seriously sick?
Two days later after being released from the hospital with oxygen, we still did not know what was wrong with Sofia, and I had not told my wife all the information the doctor had told me because I did not want her to worry since the doctors were not sure. We were traveling from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Lancaster, California; and I was having a mental pity party when I started to think about Mexico. I started to think on my vision - what I knew God wanted me to accomplish for His glory. Then, after looking into that picture of the future, I was encouraged, it revived my passion once again. I still remember telling God on the drive to Lancaster, “Lord, if you decide to take Sofia home, I will still serve you, I will still go to Mexico. Please forgive my selfishness and lack of faith.” I then realized an important truth. Discouragement will come, but in order to stay in the race, my vision better be stronger than my discouragement. In times of discouragement, I look to that picture. Looking ahead to see those children that will be saved, families and marriages that will be restored, churches that will be planted, and our Lord being glorified! Looking at that picture gives me so much passion that it helps me not to give up.
Philippians 1:6, Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
5. People are not interested in giving to a need, they are interested in giving to a vision.
I quickly learned there is a difference between presenting a need and placing people in the vision. There is a difference between saying, “Give me money so I can go to Mexico,” and saying, “Partner with me, because together we can make a difference around the world.” You can say, “Give me money because I need it to survive,” or you can say, “If you support me, you will be reaching people in Mexico that you will meet in heaven.” Sometimes missionaries make the mistake of just presenting the need, but people are motivated when the missionary explains how faith promise giving is going to make a difference for the Lord’s sake. I always communicated a truth that I strongly believe: I can do much by myself, but we can do a whole lot more together.
Nehemiah 2:17-18, Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
We know that whatever we plan to do, we need God’s blessing to accomplish His work. Whatever principles or methods for collecting finances we apply, we always have to make sure that the Lord is leading so that He can bless what we do.