Delete. Cry. Delete. Cry. Repeat.
As I'm sure you know by now, I live off of support. What does this mean? All the money I make at my job and the money I use to actually DO my job (camera equipment, travel, software, even postage) is provided by generous financial donors. I have an amazing group of people who send me checks every month to ensure I can continue working at Team Expansion while not living in a cardboard box.
Last year's amazing Christmas card I'm sure you all
still have hanging up in your homes
Every year in December we send out Christmas cards to all these amazing supporters to say thank
you for helping us reach the unreached for another year. It's always a really sentimental time for me as I address and write each card and I remember the generous people that have helped make my dream of working at Team Expansion a reality, people who have prayed for me and encouraged me and have made sacrifices to keep supporting me. It's always so humbling and so encouraging to remember these wonderful, loving people.
But this year it was a little different.
We only send cards to the people who have donated this calendar year (as a thank you for supporting our ministry), and as I was updating my list from last year, I noticed some big changes.
"Oh, that person stopped supporting me. Delete. That church might actually hate me now, they said some pretty hurtful things and definitely stopped supporting me. Delete. That guy for sure doesn't want a card from me, he stopped supporting me along with a harsh note. Delete."
I ended up deleting about 15 names. And each one hurt a little more than the last.
This year has been rough.
I've lost about $1000 in monthly support over this past year. That adds up to a $12,000 pay decrease this year. That part has been hard, if I'm being honest. I'm not sure I know many people who would continue doing their job if they all of a sudden made $12,000 less in a year.
But the absolute hardest part of this has been letting go of these people who, I thought, were close, encouraging, loving and supportive friends.
Most of these people didn't stop supporting me because they prayed about it and decided to move on. No, most of these people were mad (or irritated, at the least) at my views and politics and "progressive" thinking. "We can't support someone who thinks that!" I heard over and over.
One church stopped supporting me for months and didn't even tell me until after I went to visit them. Another group from a church (6 families in all- totaling about $500 a month of my income) collectively decided to stop supporting me within a few months of each other. Others sent notes, emails, or worse, said nothing, just stopped sending checks and responding to messages.
I share these stories not to publicly shame or berate anyone, but just to share my hurt. Each one of these broke my heart not because of the money, but because of the broken relationship it represented.
I loved these people. I still do love them, but they've made it very clear that my thoughts are not lovable to them. And I can't tell you how badly that stings, to realize our relationship was conditional, that it depended on our agreement in certain issues or my willingness (or lack thereof) to "sit down and shut up" at a certain point.
Mid-Post Disclaimer: I hope this isn't coming across as whiny or pitiful or even vengeful. None of that is my intention (or my feelings). I want to make it clear that some people did stop supporting me simply because they needed to for personal or financial reasons. And I am not nor would I ever be upset or hurt by that. I get that things change and that's totally fine if that's the case. I also don't want anyone to think that I believe I have the "right" to anyone's money and it's a personal affront when they don't give me said money. I fully believe that each financial gift I get is just as mind-blowingly generous as the last and the fact that anyone would give me money to help me do my dream job is insanely amazing to me. And I cannot even express how grateful I am that anyone donates to my ministry, let alone enough people to help us pay our mortgage.
Mid-Mid-Post Disclaimer GIF of dancing Christmas cat to lighten the mood.
I also hope it's understood that this is not about the money in the slightest. I'm sure some people will read this and think "It's her own fault, if she didn't want to lose the money she should've kept her mouth shut." To me, speaking up about what I know is right and biblical is worth any amount of backlash I face, personal or financial. I don't care if I made $10 a year. I love truth and justice and Jesus and I have no regrets about speaking up in the ways I have. I also love what I do, I love my ministry, I truly believe God has called me into this role and I (clearly) don't do it for the money (I mean let's be honest, no missionary is in it for the money. They're obviously in it for the spiritual and moral high ground it gives them). <-- That was a joke.
I guess the point I'm just trying to get across is, I'm sad. I'm just really sad.
I'm sad that people don't understand my passion, my love for the hurting and the broken. I'm sad that my desire to stand up for those hurting and broken people makes others uncomfortable. I'm sad that my heart is so repulsive to some people that they can't even be associated with me. I'm sad that disagreement with my views is more important than my ministry to the people who have never heard of Jesus.
I'm sad that these relationships are broken, that the same people who once made me prayer blankets have decided they can't give money to "someone like me." I'm sad that people who once invited me into their homes now unfriend me on Facebook. I'm sad that churches who once welcomed me now rescind their invitations.
So I deleted all those names, said goodbye to my old friends and tried to make peace with the reality of our broken relationships.
And as I looked through my new list, I felt something different.
Hope. Gratitude. And love. So much love.
Because my current Christmas card list of 2017 supporters is still filled with incredible, loving, generous, encouraging people.
There are people on this list that have supported me from day one, when I still lived at home with my parents and was praying like crazy I'd make it to Louisville day. There are people on this list who have blessed me incredibly through prayer, friendship, and yes, even donations. There are people who I know made large personal sacrifices in order to help me make it to Asia this summer, and India a few years before that, and Japan before that. There are people on this list I know disagree with me about everything under the sun, but they know my heart and they still love me and love my ministry, even though they hate absolutely everything I post on Facebook.
I may have to mourn the loss of certain relationships, certain people, certain things I thought I was sure of. But I also have the opportunity to celebrate and rejoice in the relationships I still have, the people that have shown me love and grace and understanding no matter what, the relationships we've fought to preserve in spite of our differences, and the new relationships that have forged through the craziness of 2017.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, for all you who have stuck with me, who love and support me no matter what, thank you. Thank you for being a bright shiny Rudolph-nose in the fog that was this year. Thank you for believing in me and my calling. Thank you for helping me share the gospel with those who have no other chance of hearing because, let's be honest, that matters more than any of the rest of this.
So I feel less sad now. More hopeful. More thankful. And more excited about the years to come, the relationships that will grow, and the people God has in store for next year's Christmas card list.