Chapter 23 – Not Moving to Costa Rica

In the Fall of 2009, after spending the summer in Costa Rica serving with 6:8 Ministries, Bonnie and I decided to return back to Florida. Our plan was to get our affairs in order, raise $24,000 of support for our first year in Costa Rica, and then officially make the move in January. Since I had already been traveling for the past 20 months, everything we owned was already in a storage unit. So all there really was to do was raise some money.

At the time, we really figured that it shouldn’t be that hard to raise that small amount of money. After all, what’s $24K to God? I had figured that between all of our family and friends, $24K / year would be a breeze, if it be God’s will. My calculations went something like this:

$1000 / month from our church
$500 / month from our friends
$500 / month from out families

Now, I know that may sound like a lot to ask, but we have a huge network of friends and I come from a huge family, not to mention that many of these friends and family have been very financially blessed. And our church had been sponsoring another missionary family in Brazil for years at $75K / year, so we thought our $12K / year would be a no brainer, especially considering that the other family never even went to our church and both Bonnie and I hadn’t just been incredibly active in the church, but we were both baptized there!

Even so, we weren’t just relying out the church, our friends, and our families. We also reached out to the greater 6:8 community and the art community as well. Going way outside our comfort zone, we held a God the Potter Presentation and Art Show at the St. Pete Clay Company where Bonnie had done her residency. Bonnie had made an entire series of work that was inspired by stained-glass windows, the 6:8 Rhino-Crash, and Bible verses to put on display and sell at the show. We had christian bands play along with a gospel choir and a portion of the proceeds went to the local soup kitchen. This was way out of the norm since most artists are not known for being very conservative Christian, but we did it anyway and it was very well received.

Unfortunately, we barely raised enough money to cover all of our costs and make a donation to the homeless shelter.

This was ok though, because we had hope that our church, our family, and our friends would come through…

But rather than write a big check, our church said they could support us with $1200 for the entire year (as opposed to the $1000 / month that we were hoping for). Not only that, but rather than encourage us and send us out to Costa Rica, the lead pastor actually offered me a job instead. He offered to bring me on staff with a $50K / year salary and said that the church would pay for me to get my Master’s degree in Divinity! Not exactly what we were looking for.

The response from our family and friends was also similar. Though there were a few awesome supporters, we heard crickets from the overwhelming majority of of folks. All in, we had 19 people support us financially, which got us 15% of the way towards our goal.

As the end of the year drew closer, we held out hope that some anonymous donor was going to magically appear. We packed out suitcase, locked up the storage shed, and headed to my parents house to spend the month of December before heading to Bonnie’s parent’s house for Christmas in South Carolina. Our intention was to drive back to St. Pete and fly out to Costa Rica at the beginning of January, but the outlook was very bleak.

By the time December 30th arrived, I was on the verge of a breakdown.

When we first started our fundraising journey, we had prayed to God that he use our fundraising as a clear sign of whether we were really supposed to move to Costa Rica. So after four months of fundraising and only 15% of the way to our goal, we saw that as a clear “no”.

Though we really had wanted to return to Costa Rica, we were ok with the idea of “having misunderstood” God’s plan for us. After all, there were at least a dozen different ways we could have interpreted our call to Costa Rica, so not having it turn out the way we thought it was going to turn out was fine with us. What was troubling for me was that if moving to Costa Rica wasn’t in the cards, what did our future hold?!

It was December 30th and our plan was to move to Costa Rica in just a few days. All our bags were packed, and we didn’t have any backup plan. If this wasn’t what we were supposed to do, then what was it?

It was at that point that I simply started praying. With tears in my eyes, I pleaded with God to give me some direction. I promised Him that I would follow Him anywhere, but that I needed His guidance.

It was obvious we weren’t going to Costa. Was I supposed to go back to Florida? If so, for what? Or were we supposed to go somewhere else? At that time, we had to suitcases, our dog, a dwindling bank account, and absolutely no obligations, so we were at the perfect place to be completely surrendered to God’s command. The problem was, He hadn’t been saying anything.

As I prayed and started surfing the internet for jobs, I reached out to the Executive Director of a local non-profit that I knew to she if she might have a position for me. At the same time, I found an opening for a community organizer in St. Pete. As many of my heroes were community organizers (Cesar Chavez, MLK, Obama, & Jesus), I immediately thought the position sounded cool. But what really drew me in was that the group used the same foundational scripture verse as 6:8 Ministries (Micah 6:8)!

Just like that, in a matter of moments, I had hope again. Nothing was guaranteed, but at least we had a direction. We were going to drive back to St. Pete, talk to some people, and see what happens next.