So, I haven’t been blogging much lately… because I’ve been working on something.
Last week, Christmas Surprises, my first ever Christmas novella, was released on Amazon. (If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you can get one here!) It, of course, had been finished and ready to go for a long while, so in the meantime I started working on a different story. I wasn’t sure if I would finish it in time for Christmas, so I didn’t mention it.
But now, it’s finished. So, I’ll mention it.
In a week or two (depends on how long this final round of editing takes!), you’ll have the opportunity to buy ANOTHER Christmas novella. What?! Two Christmas stories?! Yes, y’all. And just like Christmas Surprises, which revisits old characters, this one does, too. Which ones? Well, here’s the very first part…
Piper Witt held an eviction notice in one hand and her Bible in the other as she tried to focus on the wild singing going on all around her.
Tuesday nights belonged to East Africa, Thursday nights to South Asia, Friday nights to the Middle East, and Sunday mornings to the world, a collection of cultures and nations gathered there to hear from a limitless, incredible Savior. The hope and the promise belonged to Christ alone, and the people gathered there belonged to Him as well.
The building, unfortunately, belonged to the bank.
Piper closed her eyes at this troubling truth and sent up another prayer from her heart, just as she’d been doing for months now, knowing that this day would come.
It was a poor witness to be behind on payments, of course, and she’d done what she could to raise the money, to work with the lender, and to file for extensions. But if the money wasn’t there, only so much could be done. Even if their payments were late, everyone involved knew her heart, knew that Christ was faithful, and knew that He alone could work this out.
But He’d chosen not to.
The music around her began to settle down. People began finding seats, right there on the floor, as this was how it worked here. Chairs cost money, money could be better spent elsewhere, and they made do.
“Lord Jesus, we trust You.”
She bowed her head at the familiar voice and began to further prepare her heart for God’s Word, delivered by Chad Harper, the only other teammate she had left here at All Nations.
The two of them had been hired to work at the mission center the very same week all those years ago, back when the funding was good but the outreach was lacking. Churches got in on blessing the ministry from the start, and all of their proceeds combined were there just waiting to be used to help out refugees and immigrant families who had found a place to settle in Houston, many of whom would hear about the love of Christ for the first time at the mission center.
“I don’t know what’s preferable,” Simon, the man in charge of it all back then had told them, as they’d sat before him, fresh-faced youngsters straight from seminary, ready to change the world. “Having the funds to reach people but not enough people to be reached or having so many people to reach but no funds to reach them with.”
Piper had thought his statement funny at the time, as had Chad, who hadn’t wasted time in telling her, once they were alone working on the first of many tasks they would have to learn in the administrative and ministry ends of the operation, “There are always enough people to reach. They just haven’t grasped all the possibilities of this city yet.”
It was true. True and so very hopeful. Chad had been speaking the hopeful truth from that first day, just like that, such clear expectation in his heart that God was going to do so much through this ministry.
Piper had similar expectations.
“I know,” she’d told him. “There are people everywhere, all the time, who need Jesus. And the money? We could do it without the money, couldn’t we?”
Said a young girl with a theology degree and not a bit of practicality.
But there had been something very faithful in her words. Faithful, not in the sense that she was true and trustworthy (which she was), but faithful in the sense that she was full of faith.
So much faith that God was going to do what she expected Him to do.
Chad had nodded appreciatively. “We could reach them just by the lives we lead and the Word we preach. And we will.”
And they had. Oh, wow, they had.
They’d trained well there at the beginning, devoting all their time on the clock to the ministries of the mission itself and everything that was already established. Then in their off time, they’d given all they could away from the mission, sharing in the neighborhood that Chad lived in, where he’d already started a church of his own for East African refugee neighbors, right there in his tiny living room.
As soon as her own lease was up at a much nicer apartment farther away, Piper had moved into the same complex where God was working, and soon life, all of life, was ministry.
Simon had moved on to a position on the foreign mission field, where the partnerships he’d set up in the States served well to take the Gospel overseas. The money kept coming in, and Piper and Chad, now in charge back at home base, sent out more workers. Piper’s own brothers, from where they’d grown up as missionary kids in Africa, out to other nations, so very different from the home they’d known as children and so very much in need of Christ. Chad commissioned several of his own seminary classmates to far corners of the globe where the Gospel had not yet ventured. They built up the stateside operation as they went — more house churches, more communities reached, more funds raised, more publicity, more PR, more and more and more.
And they lived like paupers, the two of them. They gave away so much when it came to needs — real, tangible, basic needs — that the money began to run low. All the donations and sponsorships continued on but couldn’t meet the needs.
What do you do when a family makes it to the US with nothing? What do you do when there are children, mouths to feed, work visas that aren’t granted overnight, no warm place to sleep, and an entirely new culture to learn?
You give. When it’s not enough, you give a little more. Chad and Piper had done just that, and they’d learned to live as simply as the people they shared Christ with, counting a more comfortable lifestyle worth forsaking for the good of the Gospel.
It made it that much easier, once the numbers of people reached escalated so rapidly that the mission couldn’t handle it all without taking a hit, for them to refigure their own salaries. Cut after cut, dollar after dollar, until the day that Chad had told her that he’d still do the work he’d done… around his second job, which he’d picked up so as to stop taking a salary from All Nations.
“A worker is worthy of his wages,” she’d told him, her heart in her throat, as he, her friend for so many years now and her teammate in ministry, gave all that he could. “Who’s to say that this money God has provided isn’t meant to sustain you as you continue working here?”
“But, Piper,” he’d told her, “that money can go to pay another three families’ rent until they can get on their feet.”
“You don’t make that much, Chad,” she’d said softly, thinking about how it was still a sacrifice.
He’d smiled. “Kick a man while he’s down, Piper,” he’d laughed.
“You’re not down,” she’d sighed, fighting back tears for what she knew he had to do. “You seem happy about this. But I just can’t –“
“It’ll be okay,” he’d reassured her, just like he always did.
And just like they always did, his words resonated with her long after they’d been spoken, as she’d stored them up in her heart.
He’d been right, of course. The job he’d found left him with less time to devote to the ministry, but he gave all he had anyway. When the salary he had given back to the mission no longer covered all of the expenses, he’d stopped Piper from getting a second job herself.
“Who’s going to do all that you do?,” he’d asked.
“I’ll do what you do,” she’d said, already wondering the same thing. “I’ll do it all in my spare time.”
He’d smiled at her sympathetically. “You and what clone of yours, Piper?”
“It’s not that much work,” she’d argued.
“Oh, it is. And while I can appreciate your sentiment, we have to have someone here, making the calls overseas, accepting donations, monitoring shipments, making trips out to the apartment complexes, and handling the banking,” he’d said. “There’s enough work here to justify your position. More than enough.”
So, she’d stayed. Every dollar given was spent so carefully, as they continued expanding what was going on overseas, as they continued increasing their ministry to those stateside, and as they gave everything they could.
It wasn’t enough, though. There had been some recent changes. Cutbacks on what they’d been expanding. Elimination of certain programs. Loss of so many sponsorships because churches wanted to do their own ministries, not invest in a parachurch organization.
All Nations looked so different than it had, and Piper found herself at a loss, wondering where God was in all of it.
They still had the building, if nothing else.
Well, for a little while longer, maybe.
“We trust You to do what will bring You the most glory,” Chad kept praying, his mind likely on his text, his mind on the Word, his mind on what Jesus had already done throughout history to make His name great.
Piper thought about the most obvious thing He could still do to make His name great. Save the mission. Drop the money out of the sky. Ensure that the ministry would continue on.
But you couldn’t dictate to God how He should work.
You just had to trust Him and join in whatever He was doing.
“Amen,” Chad said.
And Piper took a breath, took a seat, and took God at His Word.
Are you excited?! I’ll keep you updated on when it’ll be available on Amazon! (And a big thank you to the real life Piper Witt for letting me use your name and your princess sleeping bag…)