We needed some money for repairs and upgrades to our church sound system. It's been a rough few months on our church finances, and we have nothing in the pot to do this. Had nothing in the pot.
First, our mission congregation in Glyncoch, All Saints, gave a chunk of money. Then we had a surprising cheque from RCT after the Mayor's civic service. One or two individuals heard what we were planning and put something in. And this weekend I told the church what we needed.
Within the day, people had pledged everything we think we need. Of course, costs sometimes exceed expectation, but so does generosity. I was blown away by this lovely example of my church's spirit.
And actually, I guess the timing was good.
Last week I heard that one of the major grants we had applied for over the renovations on our church hall had turned us down (the figure is the sound system figure times two, plus two zeros). I was particularly knocked back by this. I guess I had really banked on this coming through for us; so all sorts of questions piled into my head.
Have I got it all wrong?
Is the project misguided or misfiring?
Am I leading everyone down a blind alley?
Is there a reason why God can't bless us - and am I in some way that reason?
Eventually I realised that it was not the money, not the project and not the doubts that mattered - it was coming back to Jesus. So I worshipped and prayed and tried to listen again as I did so.
One friend asked me to help her understand something God was saying that she was struggling with; I told her I was not great in hearing God right now - but as I prayed it seemed pretty obvious to me, so I apologised and was blunt with her. Lucky for both of us, either I got it fairly right, or the Lord helped her hear something useful anyway, and that encouraged me that I wasn't totally useless.
Then I saw this provision over the sound system happen before me - and the way it happened was really unexpected. One dear lady, someone who comes when she can, but not often, did most of it herself. She has made it possible for us to have the work done; the giving from others is making it possible for us to have not just the bare minimum, but a slightly better upgrade as well.
Esther then met with a couple who succeeded in this round of funding from the grant body we applied to. They are from a church maybe ten miles away. But as she listened, she realised that what they have had to do is something we never would do. They have divorced the church from their project in order to secure funding. Listening to what has been described to me, it seems like the church is a minor player in a community programme that uses their former hall. If that's what's needed (and I am not at all convinced of it) then we will walk away from this funder - walk away head held high, and walk away quite quickly.
Our project is about us caring for our community. Reaching out to young and old with the love of Jesus. Making people's lives better. It doesn't exist beyond the life of our church, and God is our provider. We are doing the right thing and it will happen.
Yes, I am still a bit down. Yes, disappointed our bank balance hasn't just enabled us to start working in a whole new way on what we are doing.
But I am clearer than ever that what we are doing is right. That God cares for people and asks us to share in that work. That God will provide for the work he calls us to do. And so we will work to change people's lives for good. And somehow the Lord will provide for us to make our facilities the best they should be.
I'm hoping he'll do it soon; but I know he'll do it.
As I turn back to the practicalities of raising the money we need, we will go back to this funder. They have invited us to re-apply. We will discuss points about our application they raised. We will ask head-on about being a church providing for the community. If they are fine with that, great.
If not - I don't know what. But I know to whom I turn, even if I don't know where.