In my former post, Theophilus*, I wrote about all that I love about itineration and how I was deceived about how nasty and horrid it’s supposed to be. But I cannot conceal that there are many difficulties about it and that I occasionally get discouraged (which it’s far too early for). And every time I do, someone comes along who encourages me.
In January, I was discouraged because I’d meant to start full-time itineration in the beginning of January and had to put it off until February because I hadn’t scheduled enough services for Headquarters’ approval, and also because I felt very much alone in the process (even though it was just the beginning). Missionaries who are married have a built-in support system (which is not to say that being married doesn’t have its own struggles), and I felt like I had none and like no one really cared what I was doing. Then a person from church sent me a card in the mail with words of encouragement in it, and then I went to the Montana District’s Ministers Renewal and was reassured that actually Montana does care about its itinerating missionaries. We were all introduced to the whole gathering, who were encouraged to welcome us to their churches, a top district official randomly gave me money, I had lunch with his wife, and a pastor I had known in my Bible Quiz days gave me a solid dose of unsolicited encouragement.
In February I started crying because my windshield wipers didn’t work in a freezing rainstorm. Probably it was really just because I was tired after a long weekend of traveling in blizzards and doing services and staying with strangers, but inanimate objects that don’t behave as they should have the capacity to make me crazier in the head than anything else. A three-hour drive turned into a five-hour drive, and I had to turn around twice and go back to a friendly Napa Autoparts to get my windshield wipers fixed, and I got stuck in the snow. Small problems indeed, but on the way home there was a rainbow in the snow, which rarely happens. (You can barely see it in this picture, but it’s there.)
In April, the truly hard part about itineration hit me. The raising money part. Last June or July, when I had my first interview for the missions application process, I was told that there were some people reviewing my application who wanted me to go to Europe as a short-term Missionary Associate rather than a fully-appointed missionary because they didn’t believe I could raise a full budget for Europe in Montana. Montana is a massive state with few churches, the majority of which are struggling financially. Blithely I declared that while I was willing to do what they thought was best, I had always intended on being fully appointed and I knew God could make it happen if He wanted it to. I have continued to believe that, but still, in the back of my mind has always been that naysayer…Headquarters doesn’t believe you can raise your budget… (which is not true: it was only one or two people on a vast committee). And now I see what they mean. I’d hoped to have $2000/month in commitments raised by the end of April, and I don’t even have $1000. Churches are so generous in giving me cash, and I’ve raised far more than I expected every month in offerings, but it is harder for them and for individuals to commit to what I really need, giving monthly, when they are poor, when there are so many missionaries, missions projects, and local ministries clamoring for them to give.
Then just at the end of last month, a friend mentioned to me something God was reminding her of in a difficult situation she is in: He is the God of the impossible. Then I went to Montana’s District Council, and the speaker the first night spoke on the council’s theme: “Mission: Possible.” His altar call was on asking God to restore one’s innocence when difficult situations have made one jaded. While I was praying (and crying, ‘cos that’s what I do), the same district official’s wife came and prayed with me and seemed to get a vast deal of encouragement of her own out of it. It was lovely.
Directly after, a board member from Trinity Bible College spoke to me about what I’m up to and how itinerating is going, and he reminded me that if I want people to give me money, I have to ask them. Durr. That’s kind of the hardest part. I’m jolly good at getting up and telling people all about my work and calling and so forth, but the part where I say, “I need you to give me money every month or I can’t go”…that part’s hard. I tend to forget it, or shy away from it. But he told me people expect me to ask and they’re disappointed if I don’t. So next Sunday, when I speak about missions in Europe, I will explain how expensive Europe is, and I will ask them to support me monthly. That will be hard. Because itineration is hard.
But, my goodness, it’s fun.
(P.S. Here’s a lovely link where you can go to support me in missions in Europe, if you want…)