Jun 30, 2013

"... maybe I will just become a missionary and live off of other people's money. "

No one has offered me a penny for my thoughts today so the following ones are free to you to have and do with as you see fit. :-)  

          A statement has been haunting me since I heard it this past week:
 "... maybe I will just become a missionary and live off of other people's money. " 

          I do not know enough about the person who said it to know what their intentions behind it were. And really it does not make any difference to me at this point for the words have led me far past the initial hearing to all the thoughts and questions I have been asking myself, not just on the long drive to and from our ministry activities, but also looking back on this month that is now coming to a close.   
          To say that money concerns hindered our hearts and attitudes this past month would be a gross understatement.  It was such a distraction that it even caused frustrations and hurt feelings between the two of us. That is something that in nearly 9 years of living as faith based missionaries, has only occurred one or two times in the past. We resolved years ago that this is the way we wanted to live. To trust and to serve the Lord fully no matter what may come. It has by no means been easy. Many, many times we have struggled with what has been laid before us, but the Lord has seen us through each time and each time our faith has grown stronger.

          I really do not know what it was that tipped us over the edge of faith this past month. We have seen many, many months that started out really rough and ended ok. This should have been no exception. For me I do think one of the things that really troubled me was to have had to send out an update letting folks know we were having some difficulties. It is something both of us really loath to do. If you have ever seen the movie Oliver Twist you will understand when I say, I do not like to be the one who is sent up to say, "Please sir,  can I have some more..."   At the same time I also know that if we do not share when we do have a pressing need we could be robbing someone else of an opportunity to serve the Lord and receive their blessings. It is an internal struggle I have long since dealt with. I guess that is why I took it especially hurtful when friends from back home wrote to ask to be taken off the weekly update. Was it the info about needs, was it something else? I just don't know and it bothered me. More so than it normally would but it did.  

          Am I and my wife," just living off of other people's money?"
The reality is we would have a lot more of these, "other people's money" if we just used it for our own needs. But that is far from who we are. Each month we send at least $100 to our ministries in Africa. Whether we have anyone send a designated gift for them in or not we have set that aside each month to make sure that no matter what, the children are fed and their needs are met. We also travel 5 hours each week for our services for the Deaf and their families living in a town 60+ miles from our home as we also pick up, drop off, and even try to provide something for them to eat;  it makes for a long taxing day in more ways than 1. We do collect an offering each week. This week it came from my daughter's allowance. She gave her $.30 from this past week's allowance. Can't tell you how proud of her I am. 

          The reality is the people we reach just do not have much to give. They are just trying to make it by and the food and coupons we give them help them to make it that much further. It is Sunday currently June 30th, 2013 at 8:30 in the evening as I am writing this. I had much to think about on the long drive home. Today my wife paid the last of this month's bills and nothing will be carried into the next month unpaid and overdue. We also made the journey and back from church,  bought bread and meat for sandwiches and everyone had their fill, and we made it back home safely. There is currently  $2 left in the church account and that is fine. We have made it through the month and are ready for the new one to begin when we will start the process all over again. In a way it has already begun as the first donation for this next month is going through the process of clearing the bank in the next couple days.

          Tonight as we were coming home Heather put in a CD from Ray Boltz that I have owned for 20 years now. We have not listened to it for a long time and thought we would listen to something different. As we were traveling home and I was alone with my thoughts I was thinking about those words I had heard earlier, "... maybe I will just become a missionary and live off of other people's money. " When the 9th song on the CD began to play, "Thank you, for giving to the Lord....." I had once loved the song years ago but had long since forgotten it, or so I thought. It did not take long for the lyrics to all come back to me. What a great song to put it all back in to perspective. Is it really other people's money, is it just to live off of? I have never believed that but hearing it so often has made me weary. As the song ended I was reminded of a verse, "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Cor. 9:7
This verse is often cited in reference to a monetary gift but in the context of sewing and reaping to means far more. 

          Nine years ago this Oct. 4th, Heather and I landed in PR following our request of the Lord," Here we are Lord, send us." We set out to give the Lord our lives, we sold off our possessions, and left our home, our family, our friends, and many of our comforts and we did so without reluctance, not under compulsion, with great joy in our hearts.

          Tonight, thinking back on all that has transpired, at the pain of loved ones lost, debts accrued, hassles, and headaches  all pale in comparison to the loves, joys, achievements, the thrill of changed lives, and the excitement of what lies just up ahead around the next bend.


     "All that has come and gone, and all that lies ahead may we continue to give it all to thee as cheerful and not reluctant givers, is my prayer and my plea to you my Lord today, and forever may it always be. "

May the Lord bless you and make you a blessing,

David Ingram
New Day Christian Ministry
Isa. 43:18-21

PS if you have never heard the song, "Thank you" or would like to be encouraged by the words once more you can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFrdJ2V3r7Y

Jun 8, 2013

Are you a sports fan?

Red's perfect game Sept. 16th 1988

     You know I have never been a sports fan. I did enjoy playing when I was younger. As kids we played all the normal ones in the yards, fields, and parking lots.  I played baseball 1 year and I played football 1 year on normal  teams. In both we played the seasons undefeated. I have never played on a team that lost. Clearly not because of anything I did, although in football I was pretty good at tackling the quarterback. Not much effort in learning game plays is necessary for the defensive end. Keep the ball from leaving the quarterbacks hands is all you really needed to know.

               Although I enjoyed playing sports  I have never  enjoyed watching them. I have never gotten all excited about who is playing, what they are doing, where they are from, their stats, etc. I can't tell you the names of but just a few teams of any sport. The and ones I do know I have heard a lot about. The Reds, Browns, Bengals all of these you pretty much heard about all the time growing up in Ohio. Despite my lack of enthusiasm I have been to some historic events, at least as far as baseball goes.  The first baseball game I saw was at the old Cincinnati stadium before they tore it down and built the new one. Dad took our whole family to our first baseball game when I was 12 years old. We had 6 tickets so I assume someone else was meant to join us but they didn't make it. It was a miserable, rainy, and dreary day. The game was delayed for a few hours and we just sat there uncomfortably waiting with our umbrellas waiting to see if they would play or not. Finally the rain cleared up but not before many of the people had already left. I did perk up when they started to pull back the large tarp that had been covering the field. I would have liked to gown down there and helped them, it looked like a lot of fun. 

             The game seemed pretty boring to me. The Red's had a few runs but for the most part not much happened. Every time the other team was at bat they would either miss the ball all together or it would be a foul ball. No one got on base, no one did much of anything. It went on this way the whole game. I was board with watching the game but did like to see how excited everyone began to get as the game was getting close to the end. They were so excited and I just could not figure out what the big deal was it had all been pretty boring to me so far. One of the fans close to me said, " If  Mr. Tom Browning strikes out this next batter he will have pitched a perfect game."  Sure enough he struck out that last player and all of the fans who were left, after the 3 hours of rain, did their best to scream and shout for all those who had missed it.

           We kept our ticket stubs and the one that went unused and as it would happen Tom Browning was signing autographs at a mall several months later and mom took us to get those tickets signed. He signed them all and was happy to see some folks who had been there for his big game.

          The second year Heather and I moved here to Puerto Rico we were just starting our first church and I was teaching conversational English.  One night after my classes I went to the school office to do some paper work and say good bye. As I was getting ready to leave the man I worked for back  then, Dr. Jack (though he was not all that fond of being called that) introduced me to the father of a brother and sister who were in my class. The man was from New York and was in PR for the summer. Him and Jack were good friends. As we were talking I noticed he had a really large ring on his finger and in conversation I asked about it. He smiled and said he had more than one and had gotten them playing baseball.  He explained that players from the major leagues would come to PR in the summer and play baseball. Each of the teams playing here was made up of players from each of the teams back in the states and he was the coach of one of those teams. He invited us to the game that was coming in San Juan as his guests.

          On the day of the game Dr. Jack insisted that we ride on a bus that was going to take us to the game and back, so that is how we went. That bus ride was quite the cultural experience for me to say the least. On the bus ride up to the game everyone was excited about the trip and the music was loud by my standards. I was grateful that it was not the modern music popular on the island. That stuff is unbearable. This was a softer older style music that older people of Puerto Rico enjoy and play and dance too often.  You can often see them dancing on the boardwalk at night in Ponce to this style of music on any given weekend night.

          When we got to the game the coach had front row seats set up for us and after getting our ballpark cokes and hotdogs we went down and waited for the game to start. Again this time I was enjoying the atmosphere but not really all that interested in the game. I did enjoy listening to Dr. Jack talk about his memories of baseball growing up. I could tell that it meant a lot to him and this was a special moment he was really enjoying. Through the course of the game he told me who all the players were and from what major league teams they played on during the regular season.

          After the game the coach brought us down into the dugout and introduced us to all the players.  I enjoyed meeting them all and shaking their hands. We were given some autographs. I later  sent mine to my brother who is a baseball  fan and Dr. Jack has his autographed ball tucked away some place special to be sure.

          As the night came to a close it was time to climb back on to the bus and go home. I must say the ride home was louder than the ride up. The music was not any louder but with all my new traveling companions inebriated from being at the game and celebrating that the team they had traveled to see won they must have felt compelled to sing along with the music, and sing they did!  I can only assume that they felt that the louder they sang out the better they felt they sounded, though I am convince that was the case.  We finally made it back to the baseball stadium in Ponce where our trip had first begun and Dr. Jack drove me the rest of the way home that night.

          No doubt my two big baseball events would have been far greater enjoyed by a true baseball fan. I would imagine a person who could tell you about all the players and all the teams would have gotten far more from these experiences than I did. I am grateful to have been a part of both of them as I was with people I love and care for but I can't help but think they would have been more appreciated by friends of mine more into sports than me. I am pretty sure my friend Jim would have been thrilled to be at both events and would have known far more about what was going on than I did.

          As a missionary apart from our work here in Puerto Rico and in Africa we also travel back to the states every few years to share what the Lord is doing. The things that the Lord has done these past 9 years have thrilled my heart. I have seen Him change so many lives, and done so many incredible things  and taken us to meat so many amazing people. I can't imagine a life not committed to serving Him. Through the ups and downs. The home runs and the  strikeouts I see His hand at work and I am thrilled to be where I am today and doing what I do as I have been taking in all that the Lord has been doing.

          Despite our enthusiasm for what the Lord is doing as we travel and speak at churches, youth groups, and even a couple college groups it seems to get more difficult each time we go, especially when visiting the youth groups and colleges. The last time was the most difficult so far. All those glazed over looks and questions asked to distract that have nothing to do with what was just shared. I grieve to see so many becoming cold and indifferent to the work of God.   

          Earlier I asked you if you are a sports fan, now let me ask you, "Are you a God fan?" Do you get excited about all that God is doing? Do you know the word of God like you know that stats of your favorite team? Are you committed even if it calls for you to sit out in the rain?  Will you stay faithful or will you leave and miss out on a once and a life time experience?  

           I have seen God change countless people as they have given their lives to him. I saw God bring love and forgiveness in my own heart towards my father where there was much anger and spite before. I saw Him give a brand new tongue  to a lady named Hazel and heard her use it for the first time as she sang  the song "Jesus Loves Me" with me in a hospital in KY, I held my baby girl Hannah for the first time after 5 years of praying for her and God telling us that she would be coming, what she would look like, how it would happen, and what He wanted her name to be 3 years before she was born.  I have met a women  that was on her death bed in Uganda dying of aids who God saved when she called out to him and then gave her a brand new life, healing her of aids and restoring her health. I have seen so many, many things it would take me months to write them all down. God has done so much for me and my family there is no way I could tell it all. I have made the journeys, I have stayed through the rain, and I have seen the miracles and my life will never be the same.

 What about you?   

When the rain comes, when the time comes will you stick it out, will you be God 's biggest fan? 

 I know I am and I hope that when those times come you will be too.

God Bless,
David Ingram
New Day Christian Ministry
Isa. 43:18-21