During the two-year pastorate in the little farming community we learned valuable lessons which helped prepare us for fifty years of missionary service.
Pearl taught piano lessons while I drove a school bus, worked on a railroad gang, and helped with the wheat harvest.
Once, after we had hosted two Bible School girls for a week, we were without food and there were still several days before the end of the month. We considered asking the church treasurer for an advance, but decided to wait on the Lord.
Later in the morning, I noticed from our living room window the familiar figure of an elderly Catholic lady, known as the town miser, who passed our house daily on her way to confessional at the church next door.
To my surprise she turned into our driveway. Pearl responded to my hurried call and went to the door to invite her in. Refusing to come in, she handed Pearl an envelope. She had been shopping at the market, she said, and had heard a voice telling her to bring the contents of the envelope to the Baptist pastor.
With that word she turned and left. In the envelope was a five dollar bill, which half a century ago was more like fifty today (whether she really heard a voice I cannot tell).
We thanked the Lord and went to the market. The same God who sent ravens to feed his prophet had used the most unlikely person in the town to meet our need.
The most important thing we can teach them is to trust our sovereign God to provide their spiritual and physical needs as they seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
Though most have material needs, we rejoice that faithful men are seeing God meet those needs in wonderful ways.
We who teach the sovereignty of God often seem to show less dependence upon him than many of our pentecostal Assembly of God brethren. Every neighbourhood of our city has an Assembly of God church, started and supported solely by nationals.
I can and do find fault with their doctrine, but am forced to admire their zeal and cannot deny that many lives have been transformed.
What an opportunity we have to share the reformed faith with them! A number have embraced the doctrines of grace and have left the charismatic movement.
I fear that Reformed brethren tend to suffer from near-sightedness. The current focus on giving financial aid to a few selected pastors obscures what is really needed – to prepare by example and precept the thousands who will by faith labour at any cost to preach the gospel.
Only men who have learned to trust God for their daily bread can provide the needed example to fellow pastors and those who will follow after them.
Admittedly, if I were a struggling pastor in a poor country, I might think foreign support both attractive and necessary. The fact would remain, however, that it would encourage an unhealthy dependence and would affect my testimony among my own people.
As Reformed churches with limited resources, we can either support financially a limited number of national pastors, who will become dependent upon us, or we can by example and precept help hundreds (and why not thousands?) of national leaders to prove the faithfulness of our sovereign God, who even provides for the birds of the air.