In 1997, during my first trip to Ukraine, I read a book called Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret. I was deeply impressed by this man's willingness to trust God for his needs as a missionary. Hudson Taylor never asked people for money; he made his needs known to God alone. When I read that, I immediately knew that this was what God wanted for my ministry as well. Nearly twelve years later, I can say that God has indeed held up His end of the bargain. Not once have my family and I lacked for any need that we have ever had on the mission field. We make our requests known to our Heavenly Father, and He meets our needs in amazing ways. This post is a small attempt on my part to honor the Lord by documenting some of the ways that He has provided for us in recent weeks. I hope it will be an encouragement to you that our God is very, very faithful.
In these days, the world is going through a financial crisis. While we know that God's hand is not shortened by economics, such times can present real trials that test our faith. We say we trust God, but in our hearts do we really think that He can provide our needs, even in a recession? I must admit that I too have been tempted to doubt at times. And yet God proves His power and faithfulness to me time and time again.
In recent months, our family too has felt the effects of the economic crisis. Prices here continue to go up. But over the past couple of weeks, I have been amazed at how God has blessed us in the midst of these trials in ways that I would never have imagined.
Lately, the prices for utilities in Ukraine (especially gas and electricity) have gone up dramatically. To give you an idea of the scope of these increases, my family used to pay around 90 grevenas a month (Ukrainian currency) for electricity, whereas now we are averaging between 250 and 300 grevenas a month. Ouch. What can God do about such things? We've learned that God is very creative. He is not limited to traditional solutions. In fact, sometimes I get the idea that He just likes doing things that surprise us. And last week, we were quite surprised. Here's what happened.
When we pay our rent each month, my neighbor Halya collects the money and sends it to our landlady, who lives in Spain. Halya acts as sort of a liaison between us and our landlady. About two weeks ago, Halya called me on the phone. "You know Joshua," she said, "I've noticed how the prices of utilities are really going up around here. I think I'll call your landlady and see if she'll knock $50 off your rent each month to help compensate." I was in shock. NEVER have I been approached by the owner (or liaison to the owner) of an apartment with the suggestion to lower my rent. Nonetheless, I had my doubts that it would really happen. "What are the chances that the owner will agree to that?" I thought to myself.
In the meantime, we had been having trouble with wires shorting out in the main electrical box in our hallway. This box contains the meters and breakers for all four apartments on our floor. One of the neighbors had called out an electrician to do some repairs, and after he finished I went out to check on the box. Everything looked nice and new. Then, I noticed that the wheel on my meter was not spinning. I went back into the house, but the lights were all on. I immediately went to see Halya about the matter and found out that my meter is old and had burned out. The electrician who was there did not have the legal right to swap out the meter. The proper documents had been submitted to the city power company, and now the ball was in their court. "So for now," I was told, "until they replace your meter, you just get free electricity. There's nothing else we can do about it." State-owned organizations here in Ukraine are not exactly known for their efficiency or prompt responses to such problems. As I write this post, the old meter has yet to be replaced.
Several days later, when I went to my neighbor's to pay the rent, I hadn't heard any confirmation that the fifty-dollar-discount deal had gone through. So I just handed over the usual amount. Halya counted the money in front of me, then handed me back $50. "Keep that," she said. "I talked her into it."
In summary, we got fifty bucks knocked off our rent and some free electricity. Maybe that doesn't sound like much, but from where I sit, it stands as yet another confirmation that my God is a powerful, living God who can do what He wants, whenever He wants, however He wants. He listens when we pray, and He answers us. He continues to provide in so many ways that I don't have space to record them all.
Let us simply say that God is good. God doesn't give bailouts, He just gives. I hope our story will serve as an encouragement to you that God is indeed worthy of your trust. Work hard, do what you can, and trust God. If you belong to Him, He will provide for you.
"Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! … He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD." Psalm 107:31, 40-43