Introducing the First of Two Final Chapters of Roberta H. Winter’s Book
I Will Do A New Thing tells the thrilling story of the founding of the U.S. Center for World Mission and its first 10 years of ministry. Roberta Winter is adding two more chapters of faith-stretching events leading up to the day when the campus mortgage was burned. But this epilogue to her book does more than give glory to God for what He has done in the past. Mrs. Winter also honors God by expressing expectation that He will do even greater things in the future as momentum builds in the movement to reach all the earth's peoples.
If you missed the chapters leading up to this epilogue, you can order I Will Do A New Thing on page 31.
Now read the first of these two new chapters...
“GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS” (Lamentations 3:23)
EPILOGUE: Part 1 May , 1986—January, 1988
For more than ten years Ralph and I had prayed for this day. Yet, seated on the platform of our large auditorium between Paul Cedar of Lake Avenue Congregational Church and Jack Hayford of Church on the Way, neither of us fully grasped, at least emotionally, the magnitude of the miracle which God had completed just a few days before. Gifts and pledges for our balloon payment now totalled $8 million. The campus, at last, was secure—a real miracle of grace! And that night, January 16, 1987, we had come together with almost 1500 of our friends to celebrate.
Those ten years had been both the most difficult and the most fulfilling of our lives. Remembering how foolish we had appeared all those years, both Ralph and I had a flood of pent-up emotions which, for me at least, didn’t really begin to surface until Jamey and Cindy Lewis began to sing. “Blessed be the Lord God Almighty” was a song which to me epitomized what this struggle had all been about. We did want to see His name lifted in all the earth, not just in the United States or in the Western world. We did want His people to declare His mighty worth to all the unreached people groups on earth. We did want His glory to be established in our praises. Thinking of these things, my heart soared as Jamey and Cindy sang the chorus,
Blessed be the Lord God, Almighty, Who was and is and is to come. Blessed be the Lord God, Almighty, Who reigns forevermore.*
That evening, January 16, 1988, was an amazing milestone in the history of the USCWM. Although God had performed miracles for us all along the way, as far as our creditors were concerned, our story must have seemed like faith without sight. Now, for the first time, we could hand over to the wonderful, believing Point Loma Nazarene College officials the evidence that we could finally pay off the campus. That evidence consisted of both cash and pledges.
Just a few days before, we had sent to Point Loma all of the cash in a check for $6,515,249.43, the largest check we had ever even seen. As a receipt, Jim Bond, President of Point Loma, smilingly presented us with a five-foot receipt which now stood on an easel in front of the platform. (It mistakenly said, “Paid in Full.” That would have been nice, but it simply wasn’t true. The gap between that and the over $8 million we needed was in pledges which we looked forward to being fulfilled over the next two years.)
That night was a night of remembering. Ralph was embarrassed at all the credit given him. “I don’t deserve this,” he insisted. “The glory belongs to God!” A great deal of credit did belong, however, to the more than one hundred people who crowded the whole front of the auditorium. They had all helped out at a time when few believed in our vision. They had shared our tests and our pain, and we loved them for it. They had also felt the criticism we felt at times.
I’m sure that the hardest thing of all to explain to others was our one-time $15 gift plan. I grant that our seemingly stubborn refusal to abandon it seemed ridiculous when on three separate occasions we were on the verge of foreclosure. Even many of our most loyal friends began to question whether we might not be foolishly putting God to the test. Yet for ten long years we had been making a dual promise, which we did not see how we could now suddenly ignore.
First, we had promised all donors that in both founding and operating this vast center we did not intend to ask them, ever, for more than $15 as a permanent gift. (Once enough of the $15 gifts came in, any donation larger than that we expected to return to the churches who had given them or, if from individuals, reassign them to other missions at the donor’s request.)
Second, we had promised all our friends in charge of missionary-sending agencies that we would hold to this difficult commitment, which had been designed from the beginning to avoid any serious diversion of funds from these sending agencies. If God had led us in this magnanimous gesture, as we felt He had, did He want us to go back on our promises now? We did not believe so.
It was also true that having felt led to make these promises, we could then readily see a substantial side benefit of the small-gift approach: it would force us to touch the lives of at least a millin people in order for $15 gifts to cover the entire $15 million!
Yet, we had staggered repeatedly as we tried for nine years to meet our huge quarterly payments. As we drew near the time when the final balloon payment would come due— the payment which would conclude the entire purchase—it was perfectly clear to everyone that at the rate we were going, we would never in the world be able to make it. Even if we continued to make our quarterly payments, how could we possibly save up $8 million more?
A plan that could possibly honor both of our self-imposed restraints did not really come together until the middle of May, 1986, just 15 months before the $8 million was due. Though far too late to start a major fundraising effort, the plan for the “Last $1000” Campaign gave us real hope.
First of all, it was not impossible to believe that out of the 65,000 on our mailing list, 8000 might be willing to give us $1000—if we would be willing to ask them. Several over the years had suggested that people might be more willing to give if their gift did not go down the drain in case we failed to meet the total. But the unique idea came to Bob Coleman that if indeed people could give or pledge $1,000, knowing that it would not be used unless the total were reached, then each such person could think of him or herself as giving the final gift! And, we could launch a “Last $1000” campaign, telling people that, in this sense, each one could give the last $1,000!
A second benefit now became obvious: we could still honor our pledge to the agencies to never ask for more than $15 as a permanent gift. Just as with all previous gifts beyond $15, we could simply continue with the $15 gift plan until all larger gifts were returned or reassigned, whether they had been given before or whether they came in as part of this $1,000 campaign.
Thus it was that all $1,000 gifts in this “Last $1000” Campaign were now—in our minds, at least—to be considered “advances” which would not only be returned if we failed to get to the campaign total with gifts and pledges, but would someday be “returned or reassigned” once the mounting total of $15 gifts began to cover these “advances.”
The plan was rather simple, though not easy to explain. But it was also very risky. If we failed to get the full amount in cash or pledges by the time the campaign ended, we promised to return everything and call it quits! That thought alone was really scary because in that event we would lose essentially everything previously given. That is, even though the new campaign gifts would have been safely put away in an “escrow” account, if the campaign failed and we lost the property, we would not only have to return all campaign gifts and cancel all pledges, but we would forfeit the property itself in a foreclosure action and thus also lose the $7 million or so we had already paid prior to the campaign. There would be no money left to start again somewhere else.
Perhaps the weightiest reason we felt this plan was of God was because it did not betray our original determination not to compete with other mission agencies. We proceded to ask everyone who gave $1000 or more to indicate where he or she would like his gift to go next, once it was replaced, over the years to come, with one-time $15 gifts from new donors. We told the churches and mission agencies who donated that we would return their gifts whether or not the campaign were successful, but it would take longer, perhaps years even, if the campaign succeeded.
The terms which we set up for the campaign were certainly unique. As such, they were easily misunderstood. That’s the price of innovation!
In any case, those of our friends who over the years had fretted about our self-imposed constraints in fund raising were frankly (and vocally) relieved that at last we were asking for large gifts. Just that fact alone seemed to make them feel that even though the time for a campaign was very short, we at least we had a chance. And just maybe, God would do another miracle.
On the other hand, we didn’t fully realize just how pessimistic some people were until we began to get phone calls from Christian businessmen who “wanted to help us out,” but whose plans essentially amounted to making advance arrangements to buy us out (at bankruptcy prices) once we had failed!
Instead of planning what we would do if the campaign should fail, Ralph was thinking about the possibilities before us if the campaign plan succeeded. “After the campaign is over, and the continued stream of $15 gifts begin to float out these $1000 advances, I feel sure that instead of asking their money to be sent on, a lot of donors will trust us to know how to use it wisely.
“I’d like to set up a ‘Fund for the Kingdom’ to help other key projects get started—projects that are ‘neutral, crucial’ projects like ours, of benefit to all mission agencies, but are so far behind the scenes that it is hard for them to raise money to get started. Once going well, these projects would, in turn, replace that start-up money with their own stream of small ‘Founder’s’ gifts. Just think what an impact such a fund could have on reaching the unreached! God could use it to help generate an additional billion dollars a year—not for ourselves but for the entire mission industry.”
Right then, in the spring of 1987, however, our own project in Pasadena was in jeopardy. Ten years before, when God had helped us make the enormous down payment on the property, Ralph had assumed that we would be ready for it long before the balloon payment would come due. He was sure that by then the evangelical public in America would have rallied behind our vision to such an extent that we would have the funds to pay it.
God did not allow that to happen. Instead, he gave us a wonderful Christian creditor. The Point Loma College officials were extremely patient with us. From time to time they called, restating their confidence that God would see us through. It was a great help when they decided to postpone our last two quarterly $300,000 payments and add them to the $8 million balloon payment so that we would not have to confuse our public with two fund drives at the same time. Their confidence, which exceeded that of some of our best friends, was a balm to our weary souls.
The “Last $1000” Campaign got off to a rather wobbly start at best. The new factor that made all the difference for us, however, was that a friend of many years who lived in Chicago had pledged to pay all the expenses of the campaign for us. His promise cost him dearly because in the stock market crash the following October he lost a great deal of money and has not yet recovered.
As had happened so many times in the past, attempts to use fundraising specialists (at the insistence of several who wanted to give large sums) was not altogether successful. It was as if God said, “This is My battle. I want all the glory to come to Me, not to anyone else.”
But a catchy name and clear-cut plans nevertheless do require meticulous implementation. And that is something else.
Bob and Doris were forced to work simultaneously on all the many different campaign-related problems. And they really plunged into to it. But one month became two, and then three, and then four. And despite expensive, professional help, we began to despair if we would ever really get things rolling.
Finally, one day late in November, 1986, Ralph said, “Something is going to have to change. We’re not going to make it at the rate we’re going. Everything else we are doing simply cannot go on as usual. We’re going to have to jump-start this campaign with a massive new infusion of energy.
“I think we’re going to have to commit our general manager and all of the staff that he commands. Art has the confidence of our staff and knows how to get people to work together.” He hesitated a minute then added. “But I really hate to ask him to do this. He’s already so terribly overloaded that it’s almost criminal to give him more work. But maybe some of his other responsibilities can be given to less experienced people. I certainly hope so.”
Almost immediately everyone could tell the difference. Within days, Art had thought through the main responsibilities tied to the campaign and had reshuffled almost the entire staff to fill those needs. A person with a bit of management experience, though new on staff, took over the business affairs of the university for Art. Darrell Dorr was placed in charge of the production of all campaign materials: campaign brochures, mailings, a publicity booklet for business people, etc. Greg Parsons and his team began work immediately on a campaign video. Scott Hemphill was drafted to design a bar-coded computerized receipting system for our personal computers. (“We can’t run the risk of our micro computer crashing during this period,” Ralph had insisted.) And Robby Butler spent long hours, night after night, uncomplainingly printing off 65,000 pages as well as doing a host of other jobs which required not only a very bright worker but also one who had a servant-heart.
Ralph followed what was happening as best he could. But his schedule was already cluttered with all sorts of speaking engagements which took him away part of almost every week for several months.
Meanwhile, I was deeply immersed in revising and updating my book—Once More Around Jericho and its later version, The Kingdom Strikes Back— coming up for air just long enough to look over one or another of the customized letters that Darrell and his team were writing to our various “publics,” or to consider some suggestion Art had made. It was a real relief when, in April, Ralph finally came home—to stay, I hoped.
By then we had a little over $1.5 million in pledges or cash, mainly from 1,500 of the 65,000 people on our mailing list. But almost two-thirds of the 15-month campaign had already passed. At that rate, we would not even have half of the $8 million needed, come October. Yet, obviously, momentum was beginning to pick up, and that fact was enough to satisfy our board for the time being.
More important than anything else, no doubt, was the fact that people all over the country were beginning to pray in earnest for us. And gradually more and more of these praying people came for a few months to volunteer their help. Some, we found, were excellent on our 800 phone line, answering questions and encouraging people at a distance. Others proved to be a God-send for opening mail, typing pledges into the computer, or helping out in a myriad of other mundane tasks.
When he finally touched down for good, Ralph was thunderstruck to learn that some new plans had been prepared for the two of us to “go on the road” for six weeks, touching down in face-to-face meetings in each of the 27 cities where we had the most supporters. He had approved the general idea some weeks before, but after being gone so much, he wondered if we could afford the hemorrhage of time it would require, especially now with the end of the campaign so near.
But the first invitations had already gone out and the list of cities we would visit had already been published. It was simply too late to change plans now.
Fortunately, the updated book (now named I Will Do a New Thing), was ready for the press by the first week in May. Unbelievably, within ten working days, we had the first 20,000 copies in our hands!
Just about the same time all the other materials were also ready: the new brochures, the Dream to Reality booklet, and the “Complete the Dream” video. But it was now only four months from the balloon payment due date! Finally, we felt ready to really move!
Those next weeks are almost a blur in my memory. From day to day, we were in a different city, usually getting to bed a little before midnight after speaking at a dessert buffet in the evening. At seven o’clock the next morning, we would have breakfast with a group of local pastors before taking off to another city where we repeated the pattern before flying off to still another city.
The first few meetings were rather sparsely attended, but we were amazed at the distance some people drove just to be with us. In other cities, such as Boston, Columbus, Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland, we were crowded out. Everywhere we went, we were overwhelmed with the response of wonderfully loyal friends. Clearly, they wanted to help. Obviously, they were praying hard for us.
In spite of all the hard work, those meetings were not without their snafus: most of the invitations for Philadelphia got there the day after the meeting; the ones for Columbus somehow got mailed in the envelopes of backers in Minneapolis, or something like that. Some people got three letters because they happened to be on three separate lists of ours, which, when combined for this special situation, didn’t get corrected. (We simply didn’t have the time or personnel to do it.)
As we went from city to city, we refined the process. By the time we had been in ten, we gave out videos only to those who agreed to call up our friends—those already on our mailing lists in that area—rather than completely new people, and invite them to see the video in their homes. But when I looked at the mailing lists which we were handed out to those who offered to help, I realized that those offering to show our video in their homes simply couldn’t handle the job alone. They needed others to help make the phone calls, and others yet to find the phone numbers. It was more than enough simply to host a group of strangers without having to do all the preparatory work besides.
Thus, in July, only twelve weeks before the scheduled balloon payment was due, everywhere we went we began asking for volunteers who could help a few more hours each week for six weeks. It was heartwarming, to say the least, to see over 500 respond.
Perhaps even more crucial to the outcome of the campaign was a major shift in strategy made toward the end of June after we returned from one of those three-city, weekly trips. “It’s too late in the campaign now,” Ralph pointed out, “to expect the 20 of our own Pasadena staff who are working full time on the campaign to be able to contact every one on our mailing list.
“As I see it, we’re just going to have to count specifically and concretely on the 1903 who have already pledged or given. These 1903 plus the 500 or so who volunteered their time when we had the dessert buffets in their cities gives us a task force of almost 2500.
“Now, I would really like to send these people a weekly letter telling them just how things are going and encouraging them to help just a bit more. I’ve always believed in discipleship and multiplication. And I believe these 2500 may very well be able to do things that we simply cannot accomplish with our small staff here.
“Let’s forget about sending out any more customized letters to segments of the 65,000 on our mailing list. Let’s give those names over to these 2500 donors and workers and ask them to contact the others for us. They are closer to the ones in their areas and alone have the manpower necessary to reach them in these few short weeks. And they have shown that they truly believe. Now let’s just trust them to help us in these next six weeks. I really believe they will if we send them a first-class letter each week.”
This decision was not made without some qualms. After all, it was a risk to depend on people at a distance to help us raise the millions we needed. But we knew from our trips that there were hundreds of people who were very eager to see us succeed and were praying constantly for us. With just a bit of guidance and encouragement, they might prove to be a wonderful additional staff for us at this crucial point.
Even the idea of taking on this new weekly letter seemed too much for some of us. “Look, I’m going to be through with these trips in just two weeks,” Ralph told us. “I’ll take this responsibility myself.”
And so he did. The first letter he wrote (and Art sent out) was dated Saturday, July 4th. In it he explained the plan we had outlined for those who had come to the dessert buffets, and encouraged those who lived in other areas to help in the same way. In a little box at the top he wrote: “At this point, 1903 of you have signed up—almost all quite spontaneously. We will go over the top if each of you caring people can somehow encourage just three more to do what you have done! How? See below.”
It was that “just three more” that helped galvanize those people into action. Just three more! (Not thousands)? That was all it would take? Yes! That was all. How could that be impossible?
The second major shift was related. “We keep talking about needing 6,000 more gifts,” Ralph pointed out. “But we need to break that figure down into more reasonably sized clusters.” He pulled out his pocket calculator and began punching in the figures for each state. “For example, 364 people of the 65,000 on our mailing list live in Alabama. Already 9 have given. It looks like we need only 33 more from Alabama.” He went on to work out what had to happen each week for an all-out, six-week campaign. He did this for each state in the Union—eventually for each three-digit zip code. Our helpers in each small area thus knew how many new gifts needed to come from that area and how many home video showing would be necessary to bring those gifts or pledges in.
We typed all these figures into a chart which we sent in Letter #2 on July 11, the next Saturday.
Each week this Joiner Letter (or the “yellow letter,” as I called it because it was always printed on yellow colored stock) had a front-page headline showing a gradual buildup in the number of donors who had joined the campaign. Almost always it also had a graph showing where we were and where we needed to be by what date. Often it carried an article full of helpful suggestions to our volunteers. And on the back page it always carried a column where they could ask the hard questions they were hearing and get a straight answer back from Ralph.
In the meantime, the Lord had sent a number of volunteers to help us in the Pasadena offices themselves. One in particular proved to be especially important.
At first glance, this young realtor, Dave Emerson, seemed like just another really nice fellow. It didn’t take long to see that he was much more. I liked his insistence on covering all we did with lots of prayer. I also appreciated his steady confidence that God was in this campaign, and that He would see us through. Here was someone we wouldn’t have to push; he would help do the pushing.
As with so many before, Dave’s wife was the initial spark. She had read I Will Do a New Thing and had caught the vision. Instead of leaving on their scheduled vacation, she said to her husband, “Why don’t you take this time off to volunteer at the Center?” And so he did.
As we came to know Dave better and saw how he worked, it seemed that God had prepared him especially for us. Several years before he had been responsible for a network of regional seminars for Gospel Light Press. That meant he knew how to build up and supervise a chain of helpers at a distance—just what we needed right then! As the National Campaign Coordinator, Dave daily supervised the people on staff in Pasadena as they kept in touch with the volunteers in their assigned states. Every now and then, he also sent an encouraging letter to those volunteers.
Also regularly, each month, our Mission Frontiers carried a graph of the progress of the campaign. As the date drew nearer when the balloon payment was due, we installed an 800 phone line and published its number, encouraging our friends all over the country to call to see how the campaign was progressing.
Even so, by the first week in September, when the board met again, we had only $3 million pledged or in. Our graphs of the campaign clearly showed, however, that a groundswell had begun.. Looking at it pessimistically (or, rather, realistically, some might say) we had gained $1.5 million in five months, but there was no way that we could hide the fact that we needed to get in another $5 million in just four weeks. “Notice the increasing momentum,” Ralph urged the board. “It took more than nine months for the first million to come in, and then six more months for the second. But the third has come in in only two!”
It was not an easy board meeting. Although Ralph had not yet talked to Point Loma officials about the possibility of an extension of time for the balloon payment, he felt confident that if we were far enough along, they would give us another three months until the end of the year, and had so stated in his first Joiners Letter on July 4th. Several of our board members, however, expressed that to accept such an extension might seem dishonest to our public. “We promised we would end the campaign on October 1st or return all the money,” one said.
“That’s not really what we said,” Ralph answered. “We never gave any date. We simply promised we would return all the money if we could not get enough cash and pledges to pay off the balloon payment. I’m convinced that if the donations continue to accelerate, Point Loma will be eager to give us a few more months. After all, it’s to their advantage as well as to ours. And if they do, do you think our donors want us to just ignore that and give up? I don’t think they would be very happy if we gave up before we have to.”
“But the campaign cannot be open-ended!”
“That’s true. But the actual date we must pay is Point Loma’s decision, not ours.”
Back and forth the discussion went, with some heat. One member threatened to resign if we could not reach our total by the October 1st deadline, whether or not it was extended. “We can sell some of the houses and still keep part of the campus. After all, we have almost half of the money now.”
But Ralph answered. “By the terms of the campaign, we cannot use any of the money unless we have it all, at least in pledges. Our own campaign promises have made it all or nothing at all. If we don’t reach the total, everything must go back.”
“But surely some of the donors will leave their money in, anyway,” one commented.
“Yes, but we won’t immediately know how many, and the whole thing will dissolve in chaos.”
So it was with a certain amount of reluctance that the board decided to go until the end of the year if Point Loma officials gave us that option. “But we have to stop then, whether we have the money or not. I simply will not be a party to an indefinite date,” one stated.
“Why not? If by then we are rapidly converging and a few more days will do it, won’t Point Loma be all the more willing to extend it again?”
October 1st came all too soon. And it was an earthshaking day—literally. When Ralph and I drove up to the curb at 7:43 A. M., just in time for our usual morning prayer meeting, we were surprised to see several people standing around on the sidewalk looking a bit dazed. The first words they greeted us with were, “Did you feel that? We just had an earthquake!” (We hadn’t felt it because of the motion of the car.)
Minor tremors are common in Pasadena. But this one, we soon learned, was a 6.1 on the Richter scale, large enough to do considerable damage at its epicenter 30 miles away. I confess I thought, “What if we pay for the campus and then lose it all in an earthquake? But with that kind of thinking there would be no buildings at all in California. Oh well, these buildings have stood for a number of decades, through several earthquakes. God is able to continue to take care of them.”
As it turned out, only a couple of windows were cracked and we had minor damage in the ceiling of the faculty lounge at the university. We were suddenly very grateful to God that two years before (despite our questioning faith back then) two huge trusses in the large auditorium had ruptured, forcing us to spend $96,000 at a very inopportune time to shore up all nine trusses with steel. But had we not been forced to do that then, the earthquake might have taken the entire structure—worth several million dollars. Instead, it came through without a flaw. Praise God!
Happening as it did on our due-date, this 6.1 earthquake reminded us of Joshua and the earthquake at Jericho. We also needed walls to tumble, but not our own buildings! As the days passed, those other walls—those of resistance to our need—began to tumble faster and faster as friends across the nation called in their pledges.
When Ralph called the officials at Point Loma on September 30th, he was able to tell them that we now had almost $5 of the $8 million needed, and they graciously offered to give us until the end of the year. “We are praying for you, too,” they said. “We really want you to make it.”
It took at least a week to notify our network across the country of the additional time we had. We didn’t know how these volunteers would take this good news. After the six-week push, all of them were very tired and needed to turn back to their regular responsibilities. They had done their best; how could we ask them to help for another three months?
I wondered what Dave would do. He already had overstayed his vacation-time. Amazingly, during the time he was helping us, he had won the prize in his company for selling the most houses. I still don’t know quite how that happened, except that God blessed his generosity to us.
Dave was typical of our volunteers all across the country. They decided to trust God to provide for them personally even as our staff had to trust God to provide for us as an organization. “Let’s give it one final push,” was the attitude they all took. “God surely could not have brought us thus far just to have us lose everything now.”
Increasingly the phone calls asked, “How are WE doing?” It’s hard to imagine how any two-letter word could thrill our hearts more. It wasn’t just our campaign; it was theirs, wherever they lived, all over the country.
From almost the beginning, Ralph had been telling everyone that we were not just trying to get $8 million; we were trying to give away $8 million worth of HOPE! We could tell that was happening as the calls came in faster and faster and more and more volunteers helped us man all the lines.
Ralph, of course, was speaking not only about the property, but about our larger goal—that the Great Commission would be completed, perhaps even in our own time. “It is perfectly possible!” he insisted.
By November 12th, we had less than $2 million to go. But we were really feeling the strain.
“Why don’t we fast and pray for the next three days?” Bruce suggested at prayers one morning. I believe with all my heart in fasting and prayer. But I frankly wondered if the soldiers on the front lines were the ones to do that. But how can you say, “Now, wait a minute!” to a suggestion like that? So I just prayed about it. “Lord, if we should do this, then You’ll have to give us the energy we just have to have right now,” I prayed. And He did.
We also did something else that at first glance might have seemed foolish under the circumstances. We took off for a weekend spiritual retreat. Dorothy Smoker, a wonderful retired missionary who had been volunteering with us, went with us on retreat. Years earlier, she had been involved in the East Africa revivals, and, all unplanned, was asked to say a few words about it. God used them to melt our hearts together in repentance and weeping before the Lord. These were followed with times of rejoicing and fun, and we went home refreshed in body and spirit.
It was a bit like the pause before the battle of Jericho when the Children of Israel had a time of renewed commitment, right in the face of danger. Perhaps the Lord saw it that way, because when we returned to our offices on Monday, all across the country, things began to move as never before.
With less than $2 million to go, Dave, as the coordinator of all our volunteers across the nation, encouraged them to organize huddles of those helping in each area. He sent them a video full of specific suggestions of things they might try. But one sentence stood out to me: “Keep praying; this is a spiritual battle which will be won or lost on our knees!”
How true that was. Like those working on the wall with Nehemiah, we had to be constantly in prayer. We prayed on our knees, while we sat, while we talked on the phone, while printing out receipts, or writing letters, or whatever else had to be done. In a new way we understood what Paul meant when he said, “Pray without ceasing.”
Some, who had not been here years before, felt strongly that we should repeat our Jericho marches. So, starting November 8, we began marching for six Sundays—through December 20. This time we marched around all the houses as well. And, as before, we prayed as we marched in expectancy and faith.
For two years, Ralph and I and Art and Elaine McCleary had been scheduled to go the the COMIBAM conference in Brazil the final week in November and the first week in December. It turned out to be not only the largest international conference of Latin American leaders, but, miracle of miracles, it focused not on evangelism in general (as so many international conferences do) but specifically on pioneer missions to unreached peoples. Speech after speech and song after song insisted that God was calling them to this task. With exuberant joy, this crowd of 3000 Latin Americans responded, “Yes!“
Ralph and I had never seen anything quite like it. When we left Guatemala in 1966, the church in Latin America was still basically a receiving church. Now, Hispanic Christians wanted to counted among the laborers—going themselves with the gospel, especially to the hard places, like Muslim countries. One could sense the hand of God upon them in an unusual way.
It was a wonderful and exciting time for us. But it was a terrible time for the two top leaders of the Center to be away—just one month from the END. When we had agreed to do the three workshops we were scheduled for, we had no idea that the campaign would not be finished, one way or the other, by then. By the time we knew it would take longer, it was too late to back out of going.
Art and Elaine also felt they had to go. They had been planning on this trip for a long time and they had non-refundable tickets. Actually, it was the first time Art had ever visited where Elaine had grown up as a missionary kid.
Once again, through no fault of our own, it seemed that we had to be away at a critical time and simply trust God to take care.
By then, in late November, Dave’s network was working so effectively that every day saw a large number of new $1,000 donors or pledges added to the total. Nine states had already reached their campaign goals, two of them by more than 200 percent!
The mail mounted higher and higher, and more people had to drop other responsibilities to sort out and open the mail.
Those who were most blessed were those who got to answer the phones or read the letters that came in.
“Recently,” one donor in California wrote, “we celebrated my husband’s 70th birthday. Although we specifically requested no gifts, our friends were extremely generous with cash gifts. In gratitude to God for His many blessings and love, my husband sent all of the $215 to the Center. Since then, more gifts came, and I would like to match those with an additional $785 to make it our second “Last $1000 ” gift to the Center. Christmas time is the time for giving, and what better place to give to than the center that follows the command of our Lord to bring the Good News to all nations.”
One businessman who had already sent in $1000 felt led, he wrote, to send in a check for $10,000 more. “I wanted to wait to see if my additional donation would really be needed or not,” he stated, “but God impressed upon me that He was not impressed with my procrastination! The time to finish the job is now, and I want to do all I possibly can to help.”
Most of the pledges were for the $1000 we had requested. But others showed more ingenuity. Several young people, for example, who could not pledge that much, gathered together enough others to jointly pledge $1000. Children sent in half of their savings accounts. One elderly woman of 80 invited 13 people to her home and got them all to pledge, even though our video which she intended to show them failed to arrive on time.
Many gifts were made sacrificially. Perhaps the greatest sacrifices were made by our own staff, who were often on very low support and had no reserves at all. And what a thrill it was to me when our missionary daughters overseas called saying, “Don’t forget to count us in.”
The responses grew to an avalanche as we came closer and closer to the end of the year. One day, a wonderful lady called offering to make up the difference if on the last day we would not be too far short. As she had suggested, she called back at noon on December 31st to see how much we lacked. By then the miracle was almost complete, and her gift made it possible to say, “We’ve made it. Praise God!”
Unless one has seen God working the impossible, he cannot know how we felt that afternoon. No longer surprised in view of the increasing avalanche of gifts coming in, we were nevertheless deeply moved. Our prayers were being answered! It was only on reflection of where we had been just the year before, and the tests and trials of our “years” in the wilderness that made us truly aware of just how much grace our Lord had bestowed on us.
But as Joshua warned those he led to victory in the Promised Land, it was not because we were so good or so faithful, or so deserving that God had been so gracious to us. He had been gracious because He had plans for this place—plans that would involve us in perhaps even greater tests of faith. Would we be faithful now that the financial crisis was over?
*Quoted from the song “Blessed be the Lord God Almighty” by Bob Fitts, as printed in Praise and Worship Collection by Maranatha! Music.
Look for Part II of the epilogue to I Will Do A New Thing coming in Mission Frontiers.