Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Providence in Poverty

Dear family and friends,

Many missionary newsletters have predictable rhythms and themes.    This newsletter will not be one.   One common missionary newsletter is the one of God’s providence.   The missionary expresses a need and supporters respond.   God is glorified.   The ministry moves forward.   Yet, what if the need is unmet for years?   

Delivering toys in our new used pickup
This morning there are 3 vehicles in our parking lot.  We have ideal vehicles for our ministry responsibilities in a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup, a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier, and a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan.   A few months ago it was one 2006 Chrysler Town and Country minivan with 205,000 miles and our bicycles.  

Today we did some quick work at Jubilee Village that required a pickup.   Jana then went to her administrative assistant job at Interaction International.   I went to my office at Cornerstone Christian Church to write.   Then as needs arrive to transport people for Nations Chapel Christian Church we can use the minivan for our community.   We’re thankful to have these markers of God’s favor.   Yet, what if someone is watching, and they are living through a season where it seems God and His people are silent?   What if they are living in poverty that is enduring with little hope in sight of new opportunities?   Could our good fortune actually wound and even drive people away from God and His Church?

Dave on Giving Tuesday, 2016
Allow us to tell our story.   In some ways it starts with Dave’s mom who grew up “kitty corner from the town dump and across the street from the rendering plant.”   Sometimes poverty is a deep part of our being in which little makes sense other than getting up each day and trying our best to find good to do.

Our family in 2013 and 2014 had more bills than we could pay most months. In 2015 and 2016 we had enough resources to pay our bills for a majority of months, but still had some times where we couldn't pay the bills and received threatening letters and phone calls.    We’ve tried time after time to start conversations about funding a new church plant and the fund discovery has gone slow.   We’ve looked for other work and struggled to find jobs.   We see a great need for our missionary gifting in America but few options exist where we can turn it into a viable income.   We’re now doing 3 jobs plus Jana in college as we try to reboot in America. 

On Giving Tuesday 2016 we really didn’t know what to do.   We felt we should be loyal so we made a small gift to Ignite Church Planting and posted their appeal on our social media.    Later in the day Dave biked home from work in the cold and didn’t know how much longer he could keep biking in Chicago winters.    He thought maybe he heard a whisper from God to have our daughter Ruth take a photo and post it on Facebook and ask for help with a car.

Dave and Elisee Rugambarara with our new used minivan
Friends remarked that they see us as happy and healthy which is true.   Then several friends started helping.   One connected us with Orland Park Church Car Ministry.   They are a great ministry but we were unsure if we’d qualify as we already had one car.   We decided to fill out their application and just be honest.   We also followed the counsel of our son, Timothy who thought our ministry needed a better minivan.   Shortly after the conversations started we received a 2005 Chrysler Town and County with just 133,000 miles on it from the Car Ministry.

Another family friend called and asked if we could still use a smaller car to get Jana back and forth from work efficiently.   Then he wrote a check for $3,000.    At about the same time a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier with just 33,000 miles was donated to Jubilee Cars (one of the business wings of Outreach Community that funds Jubilee Village) that they were willing to sell to us for $2,500.   Other family friends made a few more donations and we were able to get both new cars registered and some needed winter repairs.   Jana at 49 years old now has her first car.  

Our son, Ethan had a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup but he really preferred our old minivan as he runs a
Jana's first car ever at 49 years old
small ridesharing enterprise.   We traded our old minivan for his pickup as frequently we need to move things in our various work roles.

Our lot now feels like well-equipped but simple missionary compound.   When it warms up we’ll start biking to work again and save fuel and keep ourselves healthy.    We’re very thankful to our past supporters and the new ones of the last few months.   God has provided.   Yet, what about those years where the physical providence was so thin?   We see those also as God’s providence as He shaped us into better missionaries to America.  Here are a few ways:

One, God walks with us and does not leave us alone when we are poor. In poverty we know deep intimacy with God.

Two, poverty teaches empathy. The number of people living in poverty is increasing in the USA and if we are called as missionaries to America we must walk with the poor as the poor for long seasons.

Three, the past wealth of the USA was created by a combination of both good luck (2 coasts and abundant natural resources) and good faithful community choices (education, integrity in business, and hard work.) The economy is changing and there are spiritual issues that should be addressed. Poverty of many is a natural outcome when America became a Post-Christian nation. Personal poverty reminds us that there is a corporate poverty in America and the Gospel sets in motion many mechanisms that address corporate poverty.  In our prayers for God's providence in economic answers He whispered for us to be the answer to bigger problems than just your own.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us.    Mungu akubariki (May God bless you),

Dave and Jana

P.S. Contributions may be sent to:

Ignite Church Planting
P.O. Box 189
Schererville, IN 46375 

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