When I first started searching for cross-cultural ministry job opportunities after graduating from college, I developed a knack for quickly finding the alarming and unwelcome phrase, "support raising required." It was often casually tucked underneath an average-looking heading among all of the other nitty-gritty details of the job being listed. As soon as those words, or any other phrase resembling them, came into view on my computer scene, my cursor would slowly slink to the the little red exit button in the corner. "Nope! Not for me," I would declare to myself as I searched onwards.
I think God must have been chuckling to Himself in those moments.
I've been around the support-raising mountain a few times for various short-term trips, and I wasn't so sure that I wanted to enter into a job position where I would need to do it again in order to have an actual salary and everything. Scratch that. I was really sure that I didn't want to do it. Support raising is hard. You have to be a good communicator. You have to be open and vulnerable with people. You have to be humble before others and ask them to help you. You have to talk about money, which our American culture tends to often deem as weird or awkward. My past fundraising endeavors have been absolutely wonderful, but I had always reserved the thought of doing more support raising in the future with only short-term trips in mind, not an actual job position. Therefore, I pressed firmly into the stubborn streak built into my DNA (thanks, Mom) and resisted any career opportunity that would require support raising.
Obviously, that resistance didn't work, as I am now about to step into the fifth week of my fundraising campaign for my move to South Africa. I came to find and accept this position after a period of time of searching for cross-cultural ministry positions where doors kept closing, and I began to see that a 2 year position with GoCorps (the organization that recruited me) was the path that the Lord was calling me to walk in. I knew right away that is would require support raising, but if this was what the Lord was calling me to, how could I go any other way? So I filled out the application and dove headfirst into the process. Several months later, I accepted United World Mission's position in South Africa. At first I tried to think primarily about the overseas ministry itself while putting the thought of support raising on the back burner of my mind.
This mindset kinda worked until I got on the plane a month ago to go to a week of support raising training with GoCorps in Philadelphia. At the time, I was thinking of support raising more in terms of a necessary step to get to where I needed to go next. Boy, has God totally challenged that! Since then, I have learned to better understand and embrace this season of fundraising as a ministry. I have grown to see fundraising as the opportunity to share mission and vision, and invite people into that.
In these last 5 weeks, there have been way too many cups of coffee, and an absurd amount of phone calls, letters, and emails.... I've even had to do math, that dastardly subject which I thought I had left behind me in high school. The logistical, administrative, and communication sides of fundraising have definitely stretched me. God has been teaching me a lot, one email and phone call at a time.
But amidst the challenges, there have been tender and encouraging moments throughout this time that I could have never anticipated. Because of this support raising process, I have had the privilege to reach out and share my vision and calling with people who I love and care deeply for--some of whom I haven't seen in years. I have had the chance to sit across from mentors and leaders from years past who have poured into my life in more ways than I think they will ever realize. Heroes, mentors, teachers, neighbors, friends, and family.... People from all walks and seasons of my life have surrounded me in ways that have brought me to tears multiple times these past few weeks (I'm a big crier).
It has also been wonderful to simply share life with these same people. I had the chance to hear about a couple's granddaughter who they delight in, and who is currently learning sign language. I was able to spend several hours at the home of a family so dear to my heart, and even meet their desert tortoise, Tessie. I got to sit in the backyard sanctuary of another sweet couple and hear about the ministry that they do in their retirement. I had the chance to call a wonderful couple who used to attend my church, a call in which we swapped stories and greeted one another with an enthusiastic cry of "Opaaaa!!!" due to our mutual affection for the classic movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Seriously people, if you haven't seen this movie, go do yourselves a favor and rent it. You won't be sorry.
Overall, support raising has been hard, but it has truly proven to be a ministry that has stretched and encouraged me more than I ever thought. I have had to learn to completely trust in the Lord in ways like never before. God has been faithfully pouring out in funds and resources, but also in encouragement and peace and affirmation through the people that I have been blessed to talk with. He reveals Himself to me in so many small ways everyday, and I am so glad that He has brought me into this season of support raising. I would not want to find myself with the means to live and minister in Africa any other way. I am not going into this season of ministry alone, and I am excited to take you all along to South Africa with me. I could not do this without you.