My Fresno church held a men's ministry kick-off dinner in January, and all the pastors gave updates on what their ministries were doing that year and how we could potentially be involved.
When Lee, our Jr High pastor got up to speak, he spoke about opportunities to mentor Jr Highers and their Spring Break trip to Mexico. I already informally spend more time with a few church kids than the once-a-month mentoring he described, so I felt okay passing on that one.
But the Mexico trip stuck in my head. I was neck deep in my audit, my back was about to go out, and I had undergone a particularly awful day at work prior to the dinner, so I didn't ask more questions that night.
I spoke to Lee at a later date, and he outlined the trip for me. The Jr. Highers will do a VBS, but the extra adults going will be doing a construction project for a church in Mexicali. This isn't with a formal missions organization, just off of a personal relationship that Lee has maintained with this pastor and his family since he met them on a Mexico trip when he was in a youth group growing up. He's been going back to help out in various capacities with this church year after year. A few years ago, he and a group built a compound of bathrooms down the to replace the existing ones that were falling apart. This year, we're going to convert the old bathroom stalls into shower stalls. Thankfully we have Kyle, an experienced tile & plumbing guy, going with us.
I was getting excited about this. I still didn't know if it would play out to take the time off work, and I couldn't even request vacation time until the audit was over, but Lee patiently extended the application deadline for me because of my work situation.
Right after the audit finished, I fell ill on the release from the stress wave I'd been riding for so long and was out for three days. I waited until my second day back, and then took the vacation request form into my boss. I described the trip, told him I thought we could get the monthly bank reporting deadlines done before I leave, and he signed the form!
Onto the money part. I love missions. I love supporting missionaries. I hate, however, asking for money to do missions myself because I feel that people have a given amount of money they're going to budget for supporting missions, and I don't want to deprive a missionary who needs the support more than I do. And I am not naturally a salesman, I hate selling products, and much less, myself as something that others should invest in. Others I know do that very well by nature, and I applaud them for that gifting and don't look down on them for that, but it's not my personality AT ALL. Since the trip cost was manageable, I asked Lee if he would be okay with me foregoing the sending of support letters and just writing a check for my portion of the trip costs.
Well, it turns out that our church has a policy of not sending support letters if the trip cost is below $500/person. People can donate to the trip if they like, but mass solicitation is not, because there are summer missions trips that have a much higher cost, and the church has a missions budget from regular tithes that is allocated to offset the cost of trips like these. As far as us raising money, though. we were going to be raising money exclusively through our annual tri-tip fundraiser.
The church purchases tri-tips, and cooks them at the church on a planned Sunday, and sell them along with containers of rice pilaf, baked beans and dinner rolls as a full meal for 4+ people for $40. The pilaf is cooked and donated by ladies in our church (I was privileged enough to be taught how to make one of the coveted recipes BTW!). Approximately 50% of the sale price goes directly into our missions accounts. Kids going on the trips receive tickets to sell to both people within and outside of the church (the profit from the sales they arrange go into their specific account). The meal date is this coming Sunday.
I wasn't able to commit to the trip as early as all of the kids were, and--see above--I hate selling, so my tri-tip sales were lackluster (I did get a couple meals sold), but I had budgeted for covering the whole cost of the trip myself, so even those two sales were a bonus. I was also very blessed with a generous donation by a former church member in town who didn't care for a meal but wanted to support my trip nonetheless.
I was sad to hear some people in the church say that they had been asked by as many as 8 kids about buying a tri-tip meal, and felt guilty for not being able to say yes to more than one. I want to see if I can find a way to help organize that next year to minimize the multiple requests, such as a check-out system for a set of names that each kid would have exclusive rights to ask.
We've been having weekly meetings on Sunday afternoons to have the kids get their VBS skits ready, and for us adults to do some planning talks on the construction work. I'm still a little overwhelmed to realize that I'm actually going on this trip. I'm excited because I've been wanting to go on a missions trip for a few years now, but have never been able to make it jive with time off from work. This is a very new desire for me, because I always figured that God made me to be a "sender" of other missionaries, both short-term and long-term. I went to Mexico for two week-long trips in Jr High and HS, and enjoyed them, but never was stirred about wanting to do it more. But I'm admittedly nervous about my sleep struggles that continue to crop up periodically (though much improved since having my tonsils out). I'll be a driver for the trip, and I'm not worried about the drive down there, but more my daily functionality for construction work during the trip if I'm not able to sleep well at night. But if God wants me going on this trip, I have faith that He's going to work out the sleep issues.