How exciting it is when we start to pick up on what God is getting read to do. What a privilege to be included at the ground level of new direction, fresh initiatives, and venturing out into unknown territory. There is an incomparable excitement that ensues. Then, just as quickly as the ideas materialized, so did the practical obstacles; like how are we going to pay for it? Too many dreams die prematurely, or are altered when they don’t need to be. If God called us to do something, He’ll give us what we need.
“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Seven months before Inspire Urbana began, we had a long list of ways to engage the Washington and Lierman area apartments. I was quickly drawn back into reality when our business administrator asked where the money was going to come from. #oops. We’ve heard it annoyingly often: “Where God guides, He provides.” Yea, yea. That’s great fortune cookie wisdom but this is real life. How many more times do we need to hear about the ram, manna, quails, rain, a pillar of fire, feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000, and Jesus Himself. Why do we doubt His ability and willingness? He’s not going to lead us out to fail.
I came up with a very skeleton budget of $4000. How do you launch an 8 week outreach that cheaply? The adventure was only beginning:
- A week before we started, a guy who was just visiting for the weekend happened to attend when I was preaching my heart out to introduce Inspire Urbana. He started us off with a $1200 offering.
- Brookens, a park district gymnasium, was to become the center of activities. I found out shortly that one of our congregants is actually the director of the facility. That certainly came in handy for the entire summer. He was more than accommodating…I’ll just leave it at that J
- Doors started opening quickly. Pastor Grogan and I randomly stopped by the Urbana Police Department to speak with the Chief to propose our gun exchange. Our relationship with the UPD grew quickly and was quickly followed by the U of I PD and Champaign PD.
- A woman’s organization contacted us and pledged financial support to our efforts.
- A missional organization close to East Urbana jumped in pledged support.
- A collection of businessmen emailed me, and after a couple conversations began put me in touch with key people. One gentleman gave us $3000 after a 20 minute phone conversation. Months later, I still haven’t met him. Another businessmen offered to help pay for community wide meals.
- When we thought of giving free haircuts, makeovers, and manicures, Sephora volunteered a team to service our neighbors plus numerous local stylists.
- We started getting unsolicited favor in the community: both mayors, several alder people, the city newspaper, local news stations, U of I officials, and volunteers from the hospitals, a free Christian health clinic, etc. etc. etc.
- The day of Pastor Grogan’s annual bike hike, all of the money raised was directed towards East Urbana. We took part of that money and threw a block party in the neighborhood. Our plan was for 300 people. But much to our surprise, 700 people showed up and we never ran out of food. As part of the celebration, we distributed 300 sets of socks and underwear to elementary school students. Local political officials and celebrities helped us to distribute the packages. This has given us favor with the local school which will be beneficial for future events during the holidays.
- Despite all of these outreaches, we ended up way in the black financially.
In late September, we distributed another 100 bags of groceries. This time, I felt a little discouraged. A lot of the volunteers were no-shows and we didn’t put as much in the bags. But yet, as soon as we hit the streets, people began running up to us, grateful for what they got before even looking in the bags. One lady I prayed with began crying immediately because she was down to her last piece of bread and peanut butter, wondering how she was going to eat. Then we showed up. As I saw such desperation, I began to feel helpless again, wondering how would we ever be able to meet those needs???
We are absolutely determined to establish some kind of ongoing ministry. This all came out of a desire to plant a church in East Urbana. No property, greatly lacking the finances to sustain such a venture, we are moving forward into the unknown, dreaming more big dreams for God. #excitedandpassionate
TO BE CONTINUED…