Saturday, March 7, 2015

Testing Theology #1-- God's Practical Provision

Surrender for God’s purposes allows for our own needs to be met

Jesus’ principle: 
“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (e.g. food and clothes) will be given to you.” 

The idea here is that if we are following God’s calling for us as a family, and if we surrender all we have and do for that calling and for the righteousness that God calls us to, then God will provide all our needs.  Although Jesus mentions only food and clothing, we also, as a family need housing, water and electricity so our children do not get taken away.

In 1997 I was led by God to quit my job and to work with the homeless full time.  I asked others, including my wife and my church supporters to pray with me and to seek God’s will in the matter.  All of those involved affirmed this direction and supported us to do this.

 I quit my job in March of 1998.  I asked my parents to purchase plane tickets so Diane and our two kids could stay with her mother in Pennsylvania for four months.  I stayed on a friend’s couch and occasionally slept on the street, all the time eating at various soup kitchens throughout the Portland area, connecting with the homeless.   After four months, Diane and the children moved back and we slept part of the week in a room next to a garage at a friend’s house in Hillsboro part of the week and in an office converted from a house in Gresham  (forty miles away) for three days a week, where we served and counselled the homeless.  The day before we were supposed to leave our room in Hillsboro, a supporter of our ministry granted us enough money for us to rent a two bedroom apartment in Gresham.  The Mennonite denomination also provided us with some funds for living expenses.  During this time, I sold my plasma for some extra finances and Diane went to a gleaner to pick up extra food for us.   We never asked for food stamps or other government assistance.  Eventually, the IRS asked us to apply for Earned Income Credit, which we did, gladly, but we had already been living this way for a number of years.

In all this time, to the present day, my children never went hungry, never had to sleep on the street, always had enough medicine to cover their medical needs, always had the clothes they needed and we homeschooled them successfully.  We often had to pray in money to pay our bills, and our bills are often paid late.  Our water was turned off once, and we collected water so the toilets and all worked.  The water company gave us a number of fines and threatened to call child services who would take our children away if they were in a place without running water.  But we were able to pay the bill before it came to that.

After 16 years of living out this experiment of feeding and housing the poor with no salary and no regular income, I can firmly say that God takes care of those who surrender all to serve Him.  God provided for us all these years, especially the early years when resources were very thin.  We still have trouble paying bills and we still live on less than what we can afford.  But in the leanest times, we are provided for and no one in our house has ever gone hungry.

We had a household of 12 people, five being my family and the rest being folks who used to be homeless but now live in our house.  One morning we were desperate for food.  There were some condiments and spices, but nothing of substance to eat.   I prayed that morning for God to provide for my children to have something to eat. 

In the midst of my prayer, Diver, who lived in a tent in our backyard, came in and said, “Bye! I’m going out on a bike ride!”  I wanted to ask him to help us get some food, but I decided to trust God and see what would happen.

Diver, meanwhile, got on his bike and trailer and rode South.  After heading that direction for a while, he felt that he was going the wrong way.  He needed to ride North.  “Okay,” he thought and turned around.  Along his ride, he looked in the occasional dumpster, just seeing what he could find.  Usually he’d find quite a bit, especially in apartment dumpsters.  Various odds and ends: CDs, old metal he could scrap, other items of interest.  Today he didn’t find anything.

After riding a number of miles, he came to a Fred Meyers, a local supermarket.  He saw a huge dumpster, the dumpster of his dreams.  He’d never seen it before, so he figured he’d see what he could find.  Climbing the ladder and peering over the side, he noticed that the whole bottom of the dumpster was filled with frozen food.  “Score!” he cries.  As he picks some up, he discovers that all the food is still in the package, and still frozen. 

He fills up his trailer with frozen food and rides back to our house, proud to be able to fill our empty freezers.  That night, and the next two, we ate very well. 

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