Last week, I had one of those “epiphany moments” on my way to my weekly Bible study with my guys in the Monroe County Jail. I was driving, thinking, and praying on my way, when one of my favorite songs from Audio Adrenaline came on the car stereo.
The song is called “Chevette” and it’s from the band’s 1997 album Some Kind of Zombie. For a number of years, and especially lately, this song has served as a kind of anthem for what I would like my life to be about. Hopefully, a life that is about God’s agenda and not my own, and about God’s definition of success and not the world’s definition. For me, the lyrics of this song sum up what I hope and pray will be said about me when it’s all said and done. Check them out at http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/audioadrenaline/chevette.html.
The chorus of the song says: “No A.C. No FM, And no regrets, in my Chevette.”
Little did I know that after meeting with the guys in the Bible study, my convictions and the lyrics to those songs would be tested. I went to my locker and retrieved my personal items that I couldn’t take into the prison—things like keys, sunglasses, cell phones, and such. As I grabbed my cell phone, I checked to see if I had any e-mail, and sure enough I had a couple in my inbox. I quickly checked to see what messages I had.
The first one I saw was from the financial secretary of our mission. It was payday, and she sent me an e-mail to let me know how much I would be getting this month. As I looked at the e-mail and saw that the amount that she said was transferred, (which represents the amount that was given the previous month to support my ministry and my family), I was devastated. It was WAY LOW!
I mean, I don’t make a lot as it is. In fact, at this writing we’re still only about 55% of what our mission has determined is what a family of four in ministry needs to live on, and it was even way below that amount. I was floored!
All kinds of thoughts were going through my mind as I left the jail and proceeded to my car. The epiphany I had just two hours earlier was now the furthest thing from my mind, as I felt as if the wind that was powering my sail was completely gone! The emphatic phrase, ”NO AC, NO FM, and NO REGRETS!” Now included a question mark in my mind.
I wrestled with God over that one for a long time. Again it’s never been about money for me, it’s always been about ministry. But as I sat there wondering how I was going to make less then 25% support last for a month with four mouths to feed and bills to pay, I honestly began to question and question hard!
“God what are you doing? Why are you allowing this to happen? I’m being faithful, aren’t I?” And many more questions similar to that filled my car as I drove home.
I wish that I could say that just like in the TV sitcoms we grew up watching, 23 minutes later everything was just peachy and the problems were all solved, I won the lottery and it was all good. That’s fairy tale land, and definitely didn’t happen to me. I was ticked, and for the first time in a long time began to wonder if what I was doing was what God really wanted me to do. I mean missions is great and noble, but I also have a responsibility to my family as well.
Then as I was driving home, God did what He likes to do a lot in my relationship with Him; He started bringing back memories of the times He showed Himself real in my life. Times when He went beyond the everyday supplier that He is, and sent some “no doubt” kinds of things my way so that I could see clearly that He is God, He loves me, He has a plan for me, and He will provide for me and my family!
I’ve listed three examples that He brought to mind of His provision. And because of these examples, I also believe that He is behind this whole total faith in mission’s adventure that we’re on.
1. 1992 Subaru SVX – The very car I was driving on the way home was a gift. Sure, it is 16 years old and has over 200,000 miles on it, but it was an awesome gift that God sent at just the right time. My wife and I really believed that God was moving and wanted us to become missionaries. We were working on getting rid of some debt so I sold my 2000 Grand AM to pay some bills.
We thought one car would work, and after like two days realized that it was not a reality for us. So I asked a friend of mine who deals in cars to keep his eyes open for me, and I told him how much I had to work with.
Well, after about a week of looking based on my meager budget he basically told me that there wasn’t anything out there for what I could afford. Then he said “Brent, if you don’t mind me asking, why did you sell your Grand Am? That was a nice car?” I hadn’t announced to my church yet that I was leaving to become a missionary, so I asked if he could keep it under his hat until I told the church, and proceeded to tell him what God was doing in my life.
He was a little surprised by that as he processed what he had just heard. Then he said “Let me get this straight, you’re going to have to raise support, and live on faith that whatever people send in each month is going to be enough to provide for your family?”
I said, “Yes, that’s right.”
He then said “Wait here a minute, I’ll be right back.” About 5 minutes later, he returned with a piece of paper and a set of keys. He said, “Here, this is my way of supporting your ministry. Here’s the title and keys to a car!” Now not only was this a car, it was his favorite little sports car, the one he babied, spruced up and personally took care of. God provided!
2. 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan – Sure, it has 156,000 miles on it and is 12 years old, but just like the Subaru, it was a gift. It was a gift from some missionary friends after our 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan was totaled in a car accident that was a miracle in itself.
3. Mission House – Upon announcing our resignation from our church and new adventure with our mission, the reality of having enough money to pay the mortgage on our house began to settle in.
A few months into the support raising process, a friend of mine from college, who is now the senior pastor of a church in our town, contacted me and said, “Brent, were excited about what you and your family are doing in this missions calling, and our church would like to help in some way. We aren’t taking on any new missionaries right now, but we do have a house that is available for you guys to live in while you raise support . . . RENT FREE!
I could go on and list many more examples of His faithfulness to us, but the bottom line for me as I was driving home is that God is in this and knows what He’s doing. He is powering the deal, and will continue to power it.
He never promised me it would be a gentle ride; He never has a problem though keeping it on the narrow road.
I must be honest, it’s been a tough week, a week that has made me pause and contemplate and question. Then God did something that He often does with me in our relationship, He uses something my kids say to reaffirm that He’s in control.
The other day at the beach, my son was playing with a bunch of kids and one asked Him what his father does for a living. Without a hesitation, he joyfully and loudly proclaimed to the child and everyone on the beach, “He’s a Missionary!”
No A.C., no FM, and no regrets.
Brent Carl is the Vice President of Training Operations for Youth Ministry International, a missions organization that specializes in providing training and resources for Youth Leaders worldwide.
Brent is a youth ministry veteran who loves to teach, preach, train and engage with students and those who work with them. He is in his 19th year of full time ministry to students, and is currently lining up speaking engagements for 2008-2009.
If you would like more information on Brent and Youth Ministry International please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at www.ninetyseventhree.blogspot.com or check out what YMI is all about at youthministryinternational.com .
Brett and his wife Bonnie, and 2 children live in Rochester, NY.