When a problem presents itself, I try to “fix it.” But sometimes there are problems in our lives that we cannot fix. Cancer strikes. Children go astray. Parents get Alzheimer’s. My problem is my debt. I have posted about it before, since it is the main thing that is preventing me from reentering full-time ministry. Here is the story of my debt.
I didn’t realize my debt was a problem until 1997 when I found out that I could not apply to be a missionary unless I was debt free. At the time my debt consisted mostly of student loans, which I got to pay for my college, since I received little or no assistance or scholarships from other people and organizations. I didn’t see how, on my $8 per hour paycheck I could pay off those debts. At that time I entered seminary so I could continue to learn, and perhaps use my degree to become a pastor here in the states. I graduated from seminary in 2000, and the debt was still there. I started the search for a church, and continued working and doing “pulpit supply” in various churches. I talked to churches in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, California, and I even got a few letters from churches in places like Alaska and Tennessee.
Somehow none of those churches thought I was the man that God had for them, until February of 2002 when I got a phone call from an Evangelical Free church in rural Iowa. The man I spoke with said that they got my name from Faith Baptist Bible College, and asked if I would be interested in candidating at his church. I said, “You realize that I’m a Baptist, right?” He told me that yes, they realized that, and that most of their church members were Baptistic (Baptist in everything but name). I preached there a few times, met with the deacons and they called me to be their pastor in April of 2002. I was the pastor there for two and a half years.
Since they couldn’t pay me much (it was a small church), I would have to work part time as well as pastor. I was working 32 hours a week as a Certified Nurses Assistant. After several months of this, I realized that I would never be able to pay off my debts at this rate. So I started taking nursing classes at the local community college. We left the church over a disagreement concerning baptism (the details are too lengthy for this already long post), and I moved away, continuing my nursing education. When I graduated with my RN, we decided to move to Indiana for two reasons: 1. I could work at a bigger hospital that could probably pay more. 2. We could be near my wife’s family, who also lived in Indiana.
We have now lived here for almost six years, and we are no closer to paying off our debts than when we first arrived. I have prayed to God that He would miraculously intervene, but as yet He has not done so. The task seems insurmountable. I work as hard as I can, sometimes working 60 hours a week at the hospital, but we can never seem to get ahead.
Our pastor introduced us to Dave Ramsey’s program, where you save up $1000 (for emergencies), and then start using all the extra money you are earning to pay down your debts. We have sold things in our house, I keep picking up extra hours at work, but I can never seem to save up the $1000, let alone start paying things off.
Last fall my father knew we needed a second car, and he and my stepmother gave me their Crown Victoria. I was thankful for the extra vehicle, and I drove it for several months. When gas prices started to shoot up, I decided it would be better for me to sell the V-8 and buy one that was more economical. I sold it, and used the proceeds to catch up on all our bills. We were finally in a position where, if I could keep working one or two OT shifts per week, we would be able to buy an economical car and start making progress on our debts.
Then I got sick. I was so sick I couldn’t go to work for two weeks. It’s been almost a month now, and I am about 98% over this thing. What does this mean? It means that not only did my paycheck NOT have the OT I needed, it actually was about $2K less than what we needed to keep current on our bills. So we’re back to being a couple weeks late on some things. I have been praying that God will provide the $2K I need to get current again, as well as the money to buy an economical car, and pay off our debts so that I can get back into full time ministry.
I just looked at the title of this post and realized I haven’t said what I struggle with. Here’s my struggle: how much do I try to fix my debt problem, and how much do I leave to God? If I viewed my problem as a pie chart, what percentage of my problem do I concern myself with? I know I need to give the whole thing to God, and I have, but the practical question enters: do I try to devise some way of fixing the problem (work more OT? Find some way to make money?)? Right now all I can do is work to pay my bills and keep waiting for God to miraculously intervene. As the hymn goes
Simply trusting every day,
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.