It was sixteen years later when I found myself sitting once again in the seats of my first church. I was a member of this church after my salvation at the age of 18. It was in this church where I began ministering to junior high kids, received my calling to ministry and it was here that Michelle and I were married. Sixteen years had passed. Since leaving, I had been training for ministry, engaged in ministry, and felt that I had failed in ministry. I had resigned my senior pastor roll of my church in Wichita, Kansas and launched out into international missions work.
Unfortunately, partnership raising was not going to well. Bills were piling up next to fear and there were more no’s to our request of financial partnership than there were yes’s. We are back in our hometown and home church to do partnership development, the task that every missionary living on faith must do to generate the finances that will eventually allow the missionary to do what God is called them to do. If ever there was an isolation that would fit into both of Trebesch’s categories of voluntary and involuntary isolation, it is launching out in full-time faith mission work. You want to go out and do ministry but you first have to raise the finances which could isolate you from doing any ministry at all.
Back in Beaumont, TX, after a week of entering into lavish homes only to be rejected because of perceived tight budgets and small hearts we were in despair. Sitting on that familiar row where I once sat as a young exuberant, excited, and newly called minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I, now a seasoned-weary-worn veteran of ministry was questioning everything. As a father of four I had left the comfort of the shores of provision to launch out into deep waters where I believed God to be calling me to serve him in a new way. Yet the nets were not full and night after night there was no great catch to haul in. WHAT HAVE I DONE??
Where was God and His “faithful provision,” His, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” presence? As hard as it was for me I knew that it was even more so for Michelle who, as every woman, appreciates security. It was when my thoughts turned to her that the preaching ended and she went down front for the prayer time. She did not need to inform me of what she was going down for. We had bills back home that needed to be paid and our efforts this week turned up nothing toward dealing with them. I’m sure the same struggle that was going on in my heart was also raging in her’s. She came back to the seats with an unusual expression on her face. I could not decipher what emotions she was exhibiting. Yet there seem to be a peace that “surpassed all understanding.”
Later Michelle shared with me what God has spoken to her using a very powerful image. As I had deduced correctly she was pouring her heart out to the Lord requesting financial assistance for the many obligations we had to cover and having no provisions with which to address them. Suddenly she saw hands, as if they were coming down from heaven. One of the hands began to pick up, something similar to birdseed, provision of some sort. It placed an amount in the other hand which then Michelle reached out and took. When that hand was emptying it would be refilled and Michelle once again took the provision. The Lord then spoke very profoundly to Michelle’s heart. “During this season you will learn to feed out of my hand.”
We did not voluntarily choose to enter into a season of financial distress, emotional struggle, nor isolation from ministry, but that morning marked the beginning of a four-year process that we truly learned to feed from his hand. It was during this season that, regardless of our efforts, our partnerships for missionary work reached only 50% of our needed budget and increased no more. I ended up with six part-time jobs: substitute teaching, coaching gymnastics at two different gyms, handyman with my own business, on call chaplain at a heart hospital, volunteering as the mission director at a new church, and trying to do missions ministry as I could manage. It was a difficult and isolated season; one that met all the characteristics of Trebesch’s involuntary isolation yet not listed as one of the reasons. It was not sickness or injury. It was not imprisonment. It was not organizational discipline, nor war or natural disasters. P. 31. Our involuntary isolation was do to a lack of finances. Yet in the midst of this isolation God worked all the benefits that Trebesch listed out.
All three of the transformations that Trebesch listed out took place. There was inward transformation, spiritual transformation, and ministerial transformation. Our dependency on God increased as we continued to be isolated from full-time ministry. There were many times I was doing some kind of handyman job that I would cry out, “how much longer Lord?” I hated my jobs and was very frustrated till God changed my perspective and I realized that it was his hand that provided even the very jobs that I despised. During this season we truly learned how to eat out of God’s hand.