Responding in Faith.

Do bad things happen in threes? They did to us one summer. And finally we had to respond in faith.

I was working at a Florida defense company, where layoffs had been going on for several years as a result of government budget cutbacks.

We had insurance on our home mortgatge against those layoffs. But then the insurance company dropped all its policies in the state! A new, replacement policy would be available, but not for three months.

A few weeks later my wife’s doctor told her she’d developed spinal arthritis. She had two choices: move to a drier climate or face life in a wheelchair.

Ten days after that – and six weeks before the new insurance was available – the layoffs that had already claimed three-fourths of our plant’s work force caught up with me.

We talked with our church’s financial counselor. He told us to cut every possible item from our budget. Because the church decided to help us, and wanted its money to stretch as far as possible, that even was to include our church giving.

I job-hunted actively, concentrating on dry climates where we thought Yvonne could live. But I was in my 50’s. The results, after 500 resumes? None.

So, a year and a quarter later, we and our two teen-aged children found ourselves living in a tent trailer in California’s Mojave Desert. We had no home, no aid, no savings, and no unemployment insurance. Our ONLY income was a $337 monthly pension. Food alone cost more than that. In many campgrounds, rent did too. We disliked using credit cards, but they were all that was letting us survive.

Then a quiet, illogical-sounding thought began to nag at me: start giving 10% (a “tithe”) of each pension check to our small church in Barstow.

Now, normally giving an extra $30 or so a month isn’t that difficult. But when your family’s LOWEST monthly expenses are THREE TIMES your income, how can you give ANYTHING extra? I pushed the idea aside: “It’s not possible.”

But that still, small persistent prompting wouldn’t go away. It kept at me. And at me. Until finally, one Sunday morning, I took what seemed like a GIANT step of faith and put a $33-plus check in the church offering.

Three days later the kids and I drove into town to check our mailbox. There was a letter from a friend back East – with a check for $500! 14-year-old Yvette spoke up: “Dad, you’d SURE better tithe on that one!”

Then a quiet voice seemed to say, “Look at the postmark.”  I did. The letter had been mailed Monday, ONE DAY after my “step of faith.” So that coming Sunday a $50 tithe check DID go into the offering!

The very next night we sent our 13-year-old son to the campground laundry room to wash our dinner dishes. While there, he chatted with an overnight guest about what had happened to us. She said, “If your Dad wants to work that badly, have him come talk to me in the morning!”  She was setting up a special display in a Palmdale, California store from Thanksgiving till Christmas, and needed help!

I met her Tuesday morning. On Wednesday we drove the 100 miles to Palmdale, saw her display, talked again to reach a final agreement, and returned. Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) we packed up, had dinner at a neighboring church, and towed our tent trailer to a Palmdale-area campground. On Friday, 15 months after my layoff and just five days after giving that second tithe check, I began working!

At first it looked like a temporary fill-in job, and only paid half our bills. But it grew into full-time self-employment for five years. It wasn’t easy. We all had to travel to a new city in any of eight Western states every week, paying our own expenses. But we did it. We worked hard. Gradually our income grew.

That work continued until our traveling stopped in Wyoming, just as the manna ended when Israel entered the Promised Land.

Self-employment was no cure-all. But it bought time and let us survive. It paid for groceries and rent in a long series of campgrounds, trailer parks, and inexpensive motels. We never had to sleep in our car or out in the desert, like many good people we met, who we learned had mostly become homeless for one of three reasons: layoffs (like ours), illness, and divorce. We didn’t have to make meals from ketchup packets like one mother and three children we knew. Once we’d taken such simple blessings for granted. Now we appreciated them.

Tithing – by faith – had been our key. Is it yours?

~               ~               ~               ~

Peter Ahlstrom was born in Upper Michigan, received a Master’s Degree from the University of Denver, and worked as a library manager in Washington, Idaho, California, and Florida. Then a technical-library job with a defense contractor (Computer Sciences Corporation) led to a transfer to Kennedy Space Center, Florida, where he worked in the Launch Control Center. Later he helped develop what was intended to be a West Coast Space Shuttle launch and landing site in California, and then transferred back to Florida as a defense planner. And then came the layoffs… and this story. You can visit his website Sparkle of Nature HERE.

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Posted on October 3, 2012, in Christian Life, Guest Post and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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