This week has been emotionally trying, but at the same time I cannot deny that I have seen the Lord’s hand at work in the midst of numerous obstacles. This past weekend, Scripture Union’s board of directors held a meeting to discuss a number of items—the most pressing of which is the current year’s budget shortfall. Sadly, in the last couple of years the expenses for running our children’s homes have gone up significantly. At the same time, some key contributors to our regular operating costs have had to step down. Kate and I spent a large portion of time in the last year traveling around the USA, visiting many of you to raise funds for the Girasoles Program as we work towards building a more sustainable budget. While we are encouraged by the new support that has been raised over the last year, the reality is that we are still significantly over budget in 2015, having to spend into our reserve funds to sustain the program. For that reason, our board made an incredibly hard decision to close two of our homes at the end of this year.
In addition to this information, Kate and I have reviewed our personal support over the past 12 months, and we are also coming up a little bit short. A few friends have had to reduce support, and our required support level for 2015 rose slightly as compared to 2014. In total, we are needing to raise new support in commitments of approximately $650 per month.
Parallel, though, to all of this, I was reminded of my need to completely depend on the Lord at multiple points during this week through multiple conversations with four different young men who were a part of our program and have now come to Lima to continue their education.
Day after day this past week I received various phone calls — completely unrelated and each involving difficulties that these guys were facing. My calendar quickly filled up, but honestly I didn’t mind at all. I had an excuse to procrastinate some office work (sorry Kate!) so that I could really fulfill my deepest passion — sharing Christ’s love and compassion with those around me. Some of the conversations went late into the night or even into the early hours of the morning. I had the honor and the opportunity to listen to them speak from their hearts. So many different topics came up: computer problems that led to difficulty in school, academic issues, feeling alone — the loneliness that comes with not having a family (while we constantly remind them that they are a part of our family, there is still the natural longing for an immediate family), problems with girls and relationships, personal economic issues, seeking a new place of employment, being a victim of a recent crime, unwise decisions, struggling in maintaining a relationship with God, etc.
On a quick tangent, I want to stop here and express how blessed I feel to be in a position where I can be available to sit down and talk with these guys—none of whom have a traditional family or support structure to fall back on. Fourteen years ago, when I first traveled to Peru, I would have never imagined the opportunities that the Lord was going to provide me to really pour into these lives!
While in many cases they were looking for help or advice, the common thread in each conversation was that each of them needed to know that someone was there for them and that they didn’t have to carry all of these burdens alone. Deeper than just fixing the problem (which we are also working towards), they needed someone to hear them and to tell them that they are cared about deeply. It was my joy to be that voice of reassurance this past week.
Over and over, I found myself sharing some advice that a friend who happens to be a great psychologist shared with our staff in Iquitos a couple of months ago. Often times we trap ourselves in a negative mindset. We constantly worry about our circumstances or about something that happened in the past. Those thoughts often lead to feelings of depression, low self-esteem, sadness, et cetera. While we can’t control our emotions, we can absolutely control our thoughts, which eventually effect our emotions. We need to remember that our thoughts don’t need to end at our present circumstances. Instead, we have so many promises that God has given us to which we can hold fast—even in the darkest moments. Promises like:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” –Jeremiah 29:11
The LORD is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28
And the list goes on! I encouraged them to spend time meditating on the promises that God gives us. After all, following Christ is all about having a relationship with Him; and how can we expect to have the faith to trust in his plan if we don’t know Him? And how do we get to know Him? – by spending time in His word and knowing His promises for us! We live in a fallen world, and bad things are going to happen, but when we walk with Christ we can trust that He has already overcome the world!
I had the opportunity to tell them that even when times are difficult, there are people in their lives who deeply love them. They might not have a family to fall back on, but they now know that Kate and I are only a phone call away; the house parents at each of the homes where they grew up are only a call away — they are not alone.
So many times in my life, I have found myself in need of the very advice and reassurance that I am giving. As I reflected over the conversations this week — in the midst of our present financial circumstances — I was amazed at how much I needed to take my own advice. Yes, we are facing large obstacles. Yes, there will be difficult times and trials ahead, but I needed to be reminded of the Lord’s promises to me. He will never leave us or forsake us. The large hurdles in our path are nothing for Him. We continue to trust in His plan — not ours!
Please remember Kate, myself, and these four young men in your prayers this month. Pray that the Lord would guide us through our trials, and pray that we would be constantly reminded of His promises and His plans for our lives. Often, they don’t coincide with our own personal plans, but we step out in faith and we trust that these guys’ future, our future, and this ministry’s future is in the hands of the One “…who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” – Ephesians 3:20
— Billy & Kate
P.S. We are so thankful for many of you who are currently supporting us financially. Your prayers and support are invaluable to us, and we literally would not be here if it wasn’t for your encouraging us to pursue our calling! If you do not currently support financially and feel led to contribute (either to us personally or to the children’s homes), or if you feel led to increase your current support, we would be honored and glad to talk with you. Feel free to send either of us an email!