Every Penny Counts

Every Penny Counts

Sadri Joy Tira 02 Aug 2009

In May (2009), the Lausanne Diasporas Leadership Team (LDLT) convened the Lausanne Diasporas Consultation in Manila, Philippines, in preparation for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization: Cape Town 2010.

The historic consultation brought together over 50 experts in the field of migration including members of the government and diplomatic communities, missiologists, demographers, sociologists, anthropologists, pastors, and aid workers. The objectives of the consultation were to inform about the challenges and opportunities of ministries among Diaspora groups; to inspire a vision to explore new approaches to minister to these groups; and to ignite a passion to mobilize the Church to that end.  I believe that the consultation was successful in achieving its objectives.

Two months have now passed since that gathering in Manila.  I learned much from listening to that group of men and women who “track” migration, and I was motivated to synthesize our findings into a workable strategy for missions, but I would like to share another lesson that I learned from the whole consultation.  It has something to do with “arithmetic.”  Let’s call it: “God’s arithmetic.”  I do not have a degree in mathematics, so bear with me.  It goes something like this:

The Small = The Great

How did I learn this?

Months prior to the consultation in Manila, the LDLT began planning and organizing the logistics of the gathering — all without initial funds.  The truth is that just a month before the consultation, we had booked accommodations, meeting venues and meals, and had engaged a full consultation coordinating committee in Manila; however, we had no idea if we would be reimbursed for the costs.  Furthermore, we had participants coming in from all over the world who were also booking plane tickets not knowing if finances would come through to pay for the tickets in full.  Facing an increasingly unstable economy and regular donors who were pulling back the reins on their usual giving, as Convener of the consultation, I had a secret but growing concern that we would not be able to follow through due to lack of funding.  Not just my wife but also even my daughter noticed my sleepless nights as the Manila gathering drew closer. One day my daughter asked, “Dad, are you panicking?” My response was: “No, not yet but yes, I am stressed out!”  In my heart, I contemplated calling the whole thing off!

That was when God chose to teach me a thing or two about His arithmetic.

He did this through two pennies that I stumbled upon.

I had just committed to “raise” funds for yet another consultation participant when I stumbled upon two pennies while doing my afternoon walk.  What could these coins do for the major event about to take place in Manila? Now one penny is valued at almost “nothing”, and as dirty as they were from the dusty-street of Toronto, I hesitated to pick them up.

“Are you thankful for big cheques I send your way, but not thankful for small things I send to you?”  The Lord seemed to convict me.

“Every penny counts.”

I picked them up and placed them in my pocket.

When I arrived home from my walk, a long-time prayer partner called, asked about the consultation, and after a time of prayer pledged to cover 75% of the consultation costs (that was $20,000 CAD)!  Days after that a Baptist congregation [in Toronto] of Filipino-Canadians designated $2,000 towards the consultation.  And more came our way.  A Korean congregation in Manila decided to take care of one meal for the consultation participants.  The meeting venue, Greenhill’s Christian Fellowship, decided to host the consultation at no cost!  Even the hotel owner, who turned out to be a Believer, discounted the hotel lodgings by 40%.  Still more, and just days before the consultation participants wrote in about how the Lord had provided their airfare through various individuals.  So, for the Lausanne Diasporas Strategy Consultation, “great and small the Lord God [provided] it all”.

The Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, South Africa is only 15 months away. I cannot help but imagine the enormous costs on-site and for individual participants (4,000 will be invited) who have to fly into the South African city.

In June, my faith (Hebrews 11: 1ff) was again challenged by the motivating and optimistic words of Dr. Roger Parrott, Treasurer of the LCWE, and President of Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi, in his report at the Lausanne Movement Biennial Leadership Meeting held in Seoul, South Korea.  In recent months, I had read many letters from leaders who ask for funds from their congregations and constituency; focusing on the negative impact of the global financial situations by heralding “fear” and “gloom” and even threatening to lay off kingdom-workers!  But Roger Parrott read global situations through the eyes of the faithful mentioned in Hebrews 11 and also as a kind of leader who “understands our times”; like one of the children of Issachar. After presenting the budget for the Cape Town 2010, he reviewed major global issues that impacted the advance of the Gospel. He said:

“I’m amazed that during three times God has called the Lausanne Movement together for a World Congress, have also been the three periods of most dramatic global societal shifts in the past forty years. And remarkably, each Congress was announced before the unfolding of the world change to come.

Between the first planning of the 1974 Congress and when it was held, OPEC doubled oil prices, which put the world into overdrive to find a new way to do business that did not involve oil. Thus, the technology boom was created during this period – including the first hand held calculator, first floppy disk, and the founding of Microsoft. So following the Congress, we had a new world of technology to address in world evangelization.

Between the planning for the 1989 Congress and when it was held, the political world and national allegiances made a dramatic change with the fall of communism. The 1989 meeting spawned over 300 new partnerships, many of which were directed at the portion of the world that had been closed for 40 years.

Between the planning for 2010 and when it is to be held, we have had our global economy turn upside down. Not only is the entire world dealing with recession, but the base of influence is being shifted as the debt of the world is being bought by China. This positions them for tremendous political and economic strength in the decades to come, just as the US did after World War I when it bought the debt of Europe.”

May I add that by the dawn of the 21st Century, with Cape Town 2010 officially “launched” in Seoul, Korea on June 8, 2009, the world had become increasingly “borderless” because of massive migration (i.e. Diaspora). Today, close to 200 Million people are considered by the U.N. as migrants or People on the Move. This phenomenon will certainly impact the whole Church and how we do missions for decades yet to come.

Personally, I find it remarkable that in the face of seemingly insurmountable financial costs for the Third Lausanne Congress, particularly in these “hard times”, God continues to remind us of His sovereignty and faithfulness. He who provided thousands and millions for the past Lausanne Congresses and many other consultations, is also the same Provider and the God who values “the Small”, and that each and every penny He sends our way counts to accomplish His mission. Indeed, there would be no $1,000 without the penny.

So let us keep on the road towards Cape Town; pick up and give thanks for every penny we stumble upon along the way.

Sadiri Joy Tira (D.Min., D.Miss.) is the LCWE Senior Associate for Diasporas, the Global Ministries Diaspora Specialist for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, and the International Coordinator for the Filipino International Network.