Have you ever tried to give away $500 to $750 on a monthly basis but you weren’t able to? That’s exactly what happened to our church. Let me explain…
As you know our church is not just “The Eastside Church.” We are part of the Association of Vineyard Churches and there are over 1,500 churches in the Vineyard around the world. The Vineyard’s missions task force encourages Vineyard churches in America to find an international Vineyard church in order to form a partnership. To send short-term mission trips to and funding as well, as the American dollar still goes a long way overseas.
From the very beginning, our church decided to “tithe on our tithe” meaning we give away the first 10% of every dollar people give to our church…to individuals and families in need and to organizations that help advance God’s Kingdom on earth. (We recently increased that % to 17.5%). So we were “all in” with finding and overseas partner.
Here’s where things got perplexing.
I sent several e-mails to various people and e-mail addresses on the Vineyard’s mission task force that something like this: “We’d like to give away a percentage of our budget each month to an overseas Vineyard church. The country does not matter but the cause does. We feel led to focus our efforts in the fight against human trafficking (child sex slavery). So please let us know of a church that is on the front lines doing this and we would love to form a partnership.”
I sent an e-mail along these lines on a half dozen different occasions and either received no response at all or a reply that basically said, “Thanks, we’ll get back to you.” But then nobody ever did.
This was one of the most peculiar things we ever encountered in launching the church. We wanted to give away money — a good amount of money at that — on a monthly basis, but weren’t able to.
As we talked about this with our Advisory Board, we felt this was a classic “closed door” from God. So we waited. And waited. Trusting that when the timing was right, God would lead us to the right international partner.
Enter ESTHER’s Children (which stands for End Sex Trafficking for HER). An organization birthed in Clarkston, Michigan that focuses their efforts on street children and at-risk girls in Recife, Brazil.
Here’s what’s cool…through what we believe are circumstances orchestrated by God, ESTHER’s co-founder Emily Sutherland heard about our church from a friend of hers and began attending. This led to members of our Advisory Board connecting with her, hearing her heart, and seeing her passion.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. During the service we presented our first check to ESTHER’s Children to fund their anti-human trafficking efforts in Brazil. Then right after church we held an “interest meeting” for our first-ever short-term mission trip which will take place this June. We’ll be serving alongside ESTHER’s and their ministry to the street kids and at-risk girls of Recife, Brazil. (Sidenote: 28 people attended that meeting!).
God closes doors and God opens doors. We need patience when they close and courage when they open.
P.S. Please check out estherschildren.org for more info.
***Please join us this Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. My sermon is titled “Dark Night of the Soul” which will revolve around Matthew 20:20-28. While Jesus promised life to the full, He also said trouble would come at times. Desert experiences. Trials. This is a sermon and topic not talked about much in churches, but one we all need to hear. February 3. 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org***