For a short time early in my Christian life I followed Bill Gothard’s teaching that even adult children are to obey the wishes of their parents. As a result, when I graduated from college, I sought my parent’s permission to go on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. They said no. They wanted me to get a teaching credential. At the end of a year of graduate school in education, I asked again. This time my Dad said, “OK. We won’t stop you from doing this. But we will disown you. You will inherit nothing from us.”
I was not happy to be disowned (I learned years later that Mom and Dad didn’t end up going through with that), but I was delighted to have their permission to go on staff.
My placement was odd for a boy from Southern California: Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR. I found out later that I would have been assigned to Cal State Northridge. But because my parents delayed their permission until after all the assignments were in, I was off to northeast Arkansas.
I had been a Christian for just under two years when I set about raising my support. My parents warned me: “You can’t talk to any of our friends or any of the relatives.” I didn’t know many Christians outside of those in the small Baptist church I attended in Irvine, CA.
My needs were modest: $500 a month as I recall. Of course, this was 1974. That would be like $3,000 a month today. I think two couples in my church committed to $25 a month each. $450 a month to go.
I couldn’t make the calls from home. Mom and Dad weren’t comfortable with that. Besides, all of the calls would have been long distance and back then long distance calls were expensive. So at first I lived with people from the church and used their phones.
After I called the twenty or so couples I knew, I had to start calling people I didn’t know. I asked all the couples I knew, most of whom did not join my support team, to give me names and numbers of other Christians who they thought might be interested.
A few weeks into this challenge I was calling total strangers. Even when they said they couldn’t support my work, I asked them for referrals. Some of the best supporters I received were referrals from people I didn’t even know.
Some of these people I just met put me up and let me make calls from their house. I remember being with one couple in Garden Grove, CA and another couple in Mission Viejo, CA. I stayed for weeks in the homes of people who had been total strangers.
After about two months I had the support I needed. That $500 a month covered not only my salary, but also my ministry expenses. When I went to a conference, for example, the expenses came out of my account (if they were in there).
I loaded up my Maverick and drove off to Arkansas. I wasn’t more than a few miles from my parent’s house when I started crying. I cried and cried for a long time. I hadn’t cried in years. Men in my family never cried. I was crying because it was tough to leave my Mom and Dad, my sister, my relatives, my friends, and the only part of the country I’d ever lived in for more than a week or two. Arkansas seemed so far away. I was thrilled that I had been able to raise my support. But I was very sad that Mom and Dad did not approve of my ministry.
Raising support was definitely a faith barrier for me. Thank God for those who supported my ministry those formative years. My hope is that they will be highly rewarded at the Bema for getting me started in Christian ministry.