Our supporter meeting went very well today. We had hoped for somewhat better attendance than we had, although many people showed who we did not expect. That was nice. We also received many wonderful phone calls and notes from people who were unable to attend encouraging us and offering their prayers. Because this is likely to be a pretty long post, I will try to break it up with various titles so you can hop around as things catch your interest.
Purpose: Because we had recently met with a supporter who had some significant questions about our progress toward the field, we set up this meeting as an opportunity for us to answer questions from our supporters. Our hope was that in bringing people together we would generate a renewed sense of purpose among our partners, and that — hopefully — we would be good listeners and be able to pick up on and respond to any issues our supporters raised. For an added measure of accountability, we asked Nancy Maffett to come moderate the event and ensure we fully addressed any concerns that were raised.
After a brief welcome and opening prayer, Nancy started things off by having each person share their name, where they were born, and what their favorite spot in Europe was — or where they’ve always dreamed of going.
The Coxes Status Report – November 19th, 2006
On each table, we left a written status report for people to look at. It is short, intended only to give you a flavor, but should cover the key aspects of where we stand It’s available for download in PDF format. Note, it contains very little overlap with what you will find below. If you will read only one, read this post and skip the PDF.
I hate status reports. Whether it was my time in corporate America, or now as I send them off each week to the mission, I always feel as though they are somehow artificial. While I was supposed to give a status report, I also was supposed to share some testimony about how God was moving in my life. Somehow I was unable to extricate the two, and so what came out was some strange amalgum. I am hopeful, though, that it did not come off as artificial. It was certainly what I think and feel.
WARNING: This graph, and those that follow are not numerically precise. They are simply rough mock ups from Photoshop – not from Excel or any piece of software that actually does graphs.
For the last year, this has basically been my vision of our support raising. Here you can see our financial journey from our appointment to the present. Three key moments are marked: (1) Our appointment to ministry, (2) Spark! – our short term trip to Germany and (3) Leaving my employment at the church, which honestly was a direct result of our Spark! experience. You can see the impact of these events on our support. Our appointment began our support journey. It’s a very slow beginning. Spark! led to a sudden, small jump in our support. Finally, my resignation from my job at First Pres, and decision to devote myself to MPD full time led to a substantial increase in our support. You can see from the graph that if things hadn’t tapered off several months ago we’d be at 100% now. That’s been a real struggle to accept. I’ve had real trouble with that plateau. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we talk about the plateau, I want to put our current position in context.
As you can see, we have already raised sufficient funds for several traditional mission fields, as well as for full-time ministry here in Colorado Springs. However, we still have quite a ways to go to reach the funding we need for ministry in Europe. In this context our progress seems pretty good. So is this the context we should be looking at? That is really the heart of the whole thing.
Is financial support really an accurate gauge of our progress toward the field? I have to confess it has been my singleminded focus this past year.
As I was taking my quiet time on the 18th, I asked God to give me some idea of what I should share. I had been thinking a lot about this idea of measuring progress, and really seeing a lot of things God has been doing that have nothing to do with finances, and I wanted to express that but I wasn’t sure how. God led me to a verse that I want to share with you.
As I read this verse, I instantly related to Ezekiel. I felt as though God had filled me with the spirit and then carried me off and dumped me in a valley full of bones!
For the record, these are camel bones in the Wadi desert. Personally, a place so dry even the camel died doesn’t sound like a nice place to me. But on so many levels it describes how I have been feeling about our plateau.
Of course, this is not the last chapter in Ezekiel, nor is it the last verse in chapter 37. As I read on, I came to a stunning discovery. It hit me as I read the following:
In this story, I am not Ezekiel. I’m the bones. This process of reaching the field is not so much a matter of accumulating the money to leave, as it is waiting for God to finish all of his work. Some of that is in the form of financial support, but so much more of it is in the transformation of who we are – the preparation for what we will face on the mission field. God is putting tendons and flesh on us, on our dry bones, and transforming us not into finished products by any means, but into the ministers He needs for this ministry.
Once I understood that, it knitted together all of the other things that I have been seeing over the past weeks, and I began to understand the last three years in an entirely new light. Let me show you another revision of my graph:
There’s a lot on this graph, and vastly more that could be put on this graph, but I just want to highlight a few items that I hope will give you a feel for what has been happening. Note my job at First Pres, one of the light blue bars. After a year and a half with no job, God provided that job to us. It was a position helping a church build a media program, where I could learn what that looks like, how you train people, and all the assorted skills required for the ministry we’ll be doing in Europe. It was also a time when we were able to pay off all the debts we had accumulated during my unemployment. This one is practical and obvious. Let me step over to one which is more spiritual. Note the short bar which sits right along the plateau that says “Men.” God has been teaching me that there are many things I cannot do alone. Things that I require other men standing beside me to accomplish. That has been a hard lesson for me, but one which is so important for our future success in ministry. Finally, it may seem odd to some of you that I list the building relationships with our co-workers in Europe, Durand Robinson — my future boss, and the Meyers who I will be working along side. One of the surprising discoveries about missions for us has been that the number one reason missionaries leave the field is other missionaries. Few relationships function well without a lot of understanding. Over the past several years we have had a chance to learn about and understand our co-workers in a way which would have been very difficult to achieve while adjusting to a new culture, going to language school, trying to balance the pressures of ministry against the need for family time and schooling…. This time has been vital. As I said above, there are so many items, I could fill this blog with a new one every day, and perhaps I should start sharing more of them just as I have been sharing our financial progress.
This has been a real eye opener for me in terms of my understanding of our progress toward the field. The financial issues truly pale beside the spiritual issues that God is working on and in us. At our meeting Brandy took the time to share some of the things God has been doing in the life of the kids, and Brittany also shared her heart and how God had been readying her for Europe. I’ll leave them to share their thoughts with you separately.
Our Unexpected Visitors
One of the big surprises of the afternoon was the arrival of Jason and Sue Holm. Jason and Sue are GEM missionaries who live in Cologne and have been serving in Germany for the last 15 years. We worked long side them on the Spark! project — which was Jason’s brain child — and got to have lunch with them last week as they are in the States doing some Ministry Partner Development of their own. They are not supporters, but came simply to show their solidarity with us and lend the weight of their knowledge and experience to our discussion.
If you’re interested in learning a little bit more about Jason and Sue and their ministry in Cologne, Jason produced a great little YouTube video. It contains some pretty incredible testimony from some of the people they’re working with in Germany in addition to some lovely footage (some of which came from footage we shot in Cologne!).
At the conclusion of my talk, I offered Jason an impromptu opportunity to speak, and he made a pretty impassioned pitch for missions in Europe, and our ministry specifically. He shared in a way I never could, our impact on his Spark project. He also shared how critical media and specifically quality media is for success in reaching the most challenging demographic in Germany, the 30-40 year old male. He shared that it has taken he and Sue three years to raise their support the first time 15 years ago (he didn’t mention that two of them were years of full time MPD, although we learned that in our discussion this past week).
Probably the most valuable insight was one I had been hoping and praying would come out of this meeting, but one I was unconvinced I could effectively broach. Jason shared that there comes a time in the fund-raising process when you have met with, called, and written to everyone you know, and you’re still not there. At that point it becomes essential for your supporters to come along side of you, to open their homes to their friends and family, and provide new opportunities for you to reach out beyond your own sphere of influence.
Later, during the Q&A time, Nancy asked me to speak about that a little bit, and I added that the willingness to share relationship, to not just give us a name and phone number, but actually to make the call, to provide the location, lends a level of credibility to our mission. It says to your friends and associates, ‘these are good people, and what they have to say is worth hearing.’ That makes a big difference in how they respond to our ministry.
In his wrap up, Jason stressed how critically we are needed on the field. He even went so far as to suggest that our departure date is to late. We need to come sooner. If it is God’s will, I assure you we’ll leave just as soon as we can!
Questions and Answers
Our Q&A time came next. We did not face any challenging questions about our progress or our resolve. But the questions we were asked come up often, so I will share and address them here:
What is the geographic extent of GEM’s outreach?
Because our specific ministry is not in a particular location, but everywhere that GEM ministers this is an important question. GEM works from Ireland in the west to Russia in the east and all the way south into North Africa (hence “Greater” Europe).
With regard to our funding, where does the 100% figure come from, and how critical is it?
Our 100% number is provided by the mission based on surveys of other missionaries in our chosen field. In our case, because we are living in Germany, we receive a budget each year for the German field. GEM requires that we reach 100% before we can go. It is a 100% you go, 99% you stay home philosophy.
Jason added that the requirements set by the mission are very realistic, in terms of how they have played out in their 15 years on the field. And that almost from the moment you arrive on the field, your support begins to drop as the cost of living rises, currency fluctuates, and life occurs for your supporters.
Is our GEM assignment for 6 years?
There is no hard assignment by the mission. Typically they recommend a five year model with 4 years in the field followed by one year of home assignment back in the States. We made an initial commitment to go and stay in the field for six years. As we looked at a year in language school in country, this seemed the minimum reasonable span of time. What will happen at the end of our six years? Personally, Brandy and I are both hopeful that God will reaffirm our call to Europe and keep us on in ministry there. However, whatever happens, we will follow where God leads.
One question I was not asked, but which often came up in phone calls over the last couple of weeks:
Are you giving up?
Absolutely not! We remain confident — more so than ever — that God urgently desires us as ministers in Europe. He is putting flesh on us, preparing us for that purpose. Each day, He is working in hearts and minds to raise up new supporters for us. We do not know the timing, but He does, and it is perfect! As long as He calls, we will persevere.
There is a lot in the months to come but we wanted to be sure we shared some key check points with you:
If you’ve been following — particularly if you are on our prayer mailing list — you know this has been oft rescheduled. All of the issues which have previously prevented are prefield are now addressed. These are firm dates.
Whatever is happening at that time, we will pack, move, and put our home on the market. 70% is very close now!
Except for that 7 on the end, this date should look familiar! We had planned to leave on July 31 last year. Many dates have flashed by since then, but we have never truly felt we had a date from God. Recently, Brandy has been feeling led toward this one. Time will tell if it is the Lord’s will, but Brandy is often spot on about these things, so I am more than confident enough to share it with you.
I’m afraid this part is hard to communicate. Nancy gathered our whole family together and all those assembled laid their hands on us and prayed. It was an incredible moment. One we will treasure.
I ended my status report with a brief story that I would like to share with you. We received a call last week from Brandy’s grandmother. She does not call often, and it was something of a surprise. But she called because God had laid a verse on her heart for us. Habakuk 2:3:
For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
What a great reminder. We will wait on the timing of the Lord. As we work, and He works on us, we hope that you will come forward and join us. Often, people think that there are so many others who can act, who can help us reach out that they are not needed. If I can communicate only one thing to you, it is that you are needed. We cannot do it without you. There are many who can help, but many will have to for us to succeed.
It was so wonderful for us to have a chance to shake hands, give hugs, and see so many of you who have been such instrumental parts of our ministry and progress. We also would be remiss not to share with you that shortly after the meeting we saw another support bump and have reached 60%!
God is good! All the time!