Things are really moving along now. Only a little over a month until we depart Bend, enroute to Kenya via Colorado Springs, Philadelphia, and Dublin. The house sale has closed, so we’re sitting around in our rented house with our rented furniture, some changes of clothing, and our laptops. Our focus now is finalizing our Kenyan immigration/work/license documents, and raising the last five percent of our budget for the next five years. Overshadowing all of that, however, is saying good-byes and getting together with friends and family one or two or three last times. To that end, Ann is heading down to spend a few days with her brothers Stephen and Paul in San Francisco, and the whole family is getting together with cousins, aunts and uncles in Ashland. Every back country ski and mountain bike ride is bittersweet. After seventeen years of riding these trails and climbing and descending the Cascade mountains with great friends, it’s hard to say good bye.
Part of our mission to Kenya is raising prayer and financial support from a team of people who believe in what we’re doing. We function as an extension of this team in Kenya. Forming this team has been a source of continual amazement, humility, and joy, and we’re about 95% of the way to having our budget financed for the next five years! Almost a hundred different families and individuals have stepped forward to be a part of this project. The support has come in so many different ways: old friends, new friends, our church, business associates, and people we don’t even know at all.
One of our most remarkable support raising experiences happened this past Thursday. Chris, a great guy we hadn’t even met, got wind of what the Mara family had planned. Without thinking twice, he rallied to our cause, and persuaded his employer, a local private club, to put on a fundraiser for us. Once you meet Chris, you understand that he’s the type of person that other people just like to do things for. Chris called in all kinds of favors, from donated gourmet food and drink, use of the beautiful facility in downtown Bend, to a legendary singer/songwriter for the evening, Chris Beland. Local dignitaries showed up in droves, and the night was a great success. We had the opportunity to talk and show some slides from Kijabe, many great connections were made, and twenty two people decided to support our work in Kijabe!
The highlight of the evening, for me, came from my nephews Thomas, Daniel, and Michael. My sister Sheila, her husband Bill, and their three boys had just arrived from a 2200 mile road trip from Michigan, and were able to attend the fundraiser. It was great to have them there, but Ann and I were a little distracted. We were a little nervous about speaking in front of a group of people we largely didn’t know, and our son Michael was in the middle of a major diabetic crisis. As we were up speaking to the group, we knew that our friend Mary the endocrinologist was in the back of the club treating Michael for a blood sugar of 460. He was getting close to being hospitalized, so we were a little distracted when the three nephews came up and tried to talk to us. We thought they wanted to go home, or get some more food, or something nephew-ish. They had to get a little emphatic with us to get our attention for their announcement: “We have $97.34 in our ‘brother fund’ that we were going to use to buy souvenirs on our vacation. We listened to you talking about how kids in Kenya can’t get help when they get hurt, and we want to give you the money to help those kids. We donated our ‘brother fund’ to your mission.” As a 48 year old man, I hate crying in public. But sometimes you have no choice.
Mark’s Gospel talks about my nephews:
Sitting across from the offering box, Jesus was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.
These three guys gave their all. Things like this remind us of the seriousness of stewardship, using the resources allotted to us to try to shine Christ’s light a little, build His kingdom a little, make this world a little less painful and a little more Shalom. I think that all of us are called to “give extravagantly” in one way or another. There’s a little boy in Kenya who, 6 months from now, will know God’s love, and be able to walk, because three great kids put in their two small coins.
ps The diabetic crisis was before he ate that ice cream cone, not after!