There are times when I just scratch my head and confused, wonder what I’m supposed to do. Do I belong here? Is it time to move on, scale back, do something different? I’d like to say I have these deep contemplative moments often as they would likely help me keep on course but most often I have these thoughts when I’m broke. And last week, I had those thoughts because we were broke.
We weren’t just running low on cash, we were completely out of money. We paid our staff, and that was the end of it. It was so bad that we didn’t have money to buy cooking gas or charcoal so we couldn’t cook, not to mention the fact that we couldn’t afford anything to cook. We have a handful of faithful supporters that have literally stuck with us for years by making monthly donations and we are so unbelievably grateful to them, but sometimes, that money is simply not enough.
We’ve run out of money several times in the past four years here in Africa and obviously it’s scary. I haven’t had a job for almost a year now, and before that I was out of work for three years. And when the money runs out, one of my first thoughts is, “How can I fix this?”
I usually spend a lot of wasted cycles thinking about getting a job, one way I can “fix this”. I think about the good money there is to be made in INFOSEC. I think about the ridiculous amount of money I was making when I was working full-time, speaking and writing books. Looking back it was an obscene amount of money. I could make a little bit of money plying my trade here in East Africa, but the real money is in the US, Europe or the Middle East(!). No matter how many times I think through the various scenarios, I always come to the same conclusion. Getting a job means moving. It means moving away from the kids in Kenya or (even worse) pulling them out of school. Neither of those options is feasible. It means abandoning our projects here. The Keep would be liquidated, or sold as-is. The Training Center would close due to lack of management. The BnB would easily rent to someone else and of course we could sell all we own to the ravenous ex-pat community who, despite their own financial hardships always descend en mass and manage to clean out Mzungu yard sales.
That line of thinking makes me realize that there’s not much I can do to fix things, but like I said it does make me wonder if I’m really doing the right things.
Was The Keep really a miracle? Does it really fulfill important needs by providing food, caffeine, relaxation, safety and tech support to the community? What about the Computer Training Center? Was it a pipe dream and yet another challenge I had to overcome just to prove that it could be done? What about the hundreds of students that we trained, and the stories that are pouring in about their successes? And the Bed and Breakfast? What about the miracles that put us there, despite all the odds? What about the clear vision and the series of events that stretched back years before we even knew the place existed? What about all the times before that we were broke and we politely “dared” God to pave a way forward to “prove” that we were supposed to keep doing what we’re doing..and then he did?
So once again, this time without too much contemplation, I began to pray for direction. If we were meant to be here, I reasoned, something needed to break loose. God, I insisted, needed to show up in some way that was undeniable, because this was the end of the road, again.
As I stood up (with considerably more discomfort in my knees than I appreciated) I heard a car in the driveway. It was a team of visitors from the US scouting around for local hotels. They were asking about a hotel that we never heard of. Eventually we mentioned the BnB. They “loved it” and asked if they could book eleven people for ten days in July. This was a serious event, a direct response to prayer and the promise of good money.. in a few months. The rest of the day was so surreal. By the end of the day we were booked solid through July and August and eve double booked for a stretch in July. Surreal, and confusing. This was the promise of money later, not now, and the amount we had to turn away (due to our limited capacity) was greater than what we would bring in.
See the twist there? A miracle had arrived, but why had too many people booked? This was God’s abundance, clearly, but what was the point if we turned away more than half the provision? Then, I had an idea. Perhaps this was a sign that we were supposed to expand our capacity. After some quick math, I realized that if we built three more rooms, and if we booked the entire BnB during the two-month busy season, we could support all of our our family’s living expenses for the entire year!
I decided to get an estimate on what it would cost to build those three rooms. The estimate was more than I expected. We could afford to build it only if we asked all our current booked guests to prepay for the months of July and August. And even if they agreed, that money would be just barely enough to build the extra rooms .. In fact, the income from the currently booked teams would be almost exactly enough to build the rooms .. Odd. That meant we wouldn’t be able to pay down our kids’ school debt (which is so high because we aren’t considered missionaries), we wouldn’t have money to put towards rent and we’d have nothing from that to live off of. But it was exactly enough money to build. Seriously?? What in the world did that mean?
So I’m in a familiar state: Confused. And I started wondering if I was starring in the parable of the talents from Matthew?
Traditionally, the parable of the talents has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God. These gifts have been seen to include personal abilities (“talents” in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth. Failure to use one’s gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgement. – Wikipedia, emphasis mine.
The message there is clear. Don’t hide your “talents” under a rock. Make the most of it. So did that mean to have faith and use the money to build, trusting for the provision to cover the other expenses? Or is it being a better steward to use the money to get ahead of the expenses immediately in front of us?
I’m not sure which way we’re supposed to go, but we have to decide quickly because the busy season is rapidly approaching. Post a comment and let us know which way you think we should go. Do we take the safe path or the risky one?
And please help us as we pray for clarity.
But regardless of which way this goes, I’m thankful for our unexpected guests, for the answer to prayer, for the confirmation that we’re still supposed to be here and for the promise of financial help in the near future ..