Everybody talks about hope in the New Year, but perhaps it is hard to hope when you see worldwide trends like ISIS, terrorism, chronic political corruption, or anti-Christian sentiments.
As I think back over the past seven years, a story of hope about Medical Ambassadors International (MAI) comes immediately to mind. In February 2009, few people thought there was much hope for MAI. March 6th was scheduled to be the day MAI’s board would vote to close the mission.
MAI’s assets on March 1, 2009, were:
- Unrivaled experience in Community Health Evangelism (CHE) centered in our field staff and the participatory, action-oriented lessons they had refined
- A world full of other missions and organizations clamoring to learn CHE because of its demonstrated impact in promoting the wholistic Kingdom of God the way Jesus preached it
- A devoted but dwindling home office staff
- A cadre of faithful partners
- Hardly any money, and
- Faith in an almighty, loving, and generous God.
In short, everything was good, except that insolvency seemed certain. MAI’s financial condition would have been fatal, except for number 6 – Faith in an almighty, loving, and generous God.
MAI had tried many of the recommended strategies for raising money and cutting costs, but each strategy moved us a step closer to closure. Endeavors to raise money spent more than they raised. Cost-cutting efforts reduced income more than they reduced costs. I, as a field staff person in Africa at the time, was bewildered and distressed by what God was NOT doing.
In hindsight, God had MAI right where he wanted us – on our knees.
On March 2, 2009, God’s answer to our prayers began to unfold. God moved a supporter to unexpectedly give a donation of $250,000. Suddenly MAI had options. President Dr. Bob Paul worked with a representative of the board to produce a plan to present at the board meeting. The path the board chose was extreme: To continue MAI’s existence, but reduce its overhead in the most drastic terms. MAI’s president agreed to seek a pastoral position elsewhere, and MAI further reduced its central office to two full-time employees, two part-time employees, two contractors, and many volunteers.
It did not take long to realize these personnel cuts hurt us functionally, but soon God was providing funds, some of it anonymously, that MAI had no way to explain. This allowed us to add back staff carefully, to find the leanest mix that allowed MAI’s engines to run smoothly.
Now seven years later, the mission’s structure is stable. God has steadily provided the support that MAI needed to increase our staff around the world prudently. At the end of 2013, God gave MAI its home office building through a generous donor. Since we no longer pay rent, this has stabilized part of our overhead. Of course, MAI still uses many volunteers whenever it can.
It has been an important faith lesson for the mission: God listens to our prayers and motivates his stewards to do his will. What God requires of MAI is faithful obedience, not clever pleas for funding designed by development experts.
Opportunities to spread the Good News about Jesus are multiplying everywhere we look. MAI is praying for more workers who can train and supervise volunteers to meet more needs. The demand for CHE is enormous and trainers need support.God knows our inability to meet all these demands forces our staff to be selective in choosing opportunities. MAI has discovered that training other organizations in the use of CHE is an extremely effective approach. As time has passed, some of the organizations MAI has trained are now training still other organizations. This means basic knowledge about how to combine physical and spiritual training is exploding around the world.
In the time of its greatest financial distress, MAI commissioned two of its former key leaders to form the Global CHE Network, separate from MAI. This network used lists of past CHE training participants, developed an excellent website, and pursued networking—so vigorously that this group now has members from 650 mission organizations working in 126 different countries.
This exploding world of opportunity has produced a new critical need MAI has chosen to meet. When enthusiastic new users of the CHE strategy run into problems, MAI can share its experience, offering solutions or advice. Without the availability of such experienced consultants, sticking points could make new CHE practitioners believe this strategy has been overrated.
These new CHE practitioners commonly run into two problems:
- Adding CHE training (teaching local people how they can do things for themselves) to former programs—programs that may reinforce dependency through continued services or resources provided by outsiders.
- Thinking that using the CHE strategy guarantees success by itself. Failure is likely when groups forget to pray fervently for God’s protection and empowerment. Jesus was a great model of prayerfulness in his work. He knew Satan was constantly trying to thwart God’s plans. This is still true today.
In summary, MAI’s opportunities and impact are greater today than they ever have been. God certainly is good, and his timing is perfect. I would call that reason for hope in 2016!
Is God calling you to get involved in his world? As God’s steward, I am sure you want to use the time and money God has asked you to manage in ways that reflect God’s wisdom and timing. If now is the time, what is he nudging you to do? Please let me suggest some options:
- Do you have a “hopeless” situation in your own life? Are you willing to put your “hopeless” situation into God’s hands and ask for his help? Would you like us to join you in prayer for it?
- If you have not already joined the MAI President’s Prayer Circle, would you consider signing up for this daily prayer guide? Prayer is a critical part of MAI’s ministry.
- Would you like to expand the number of MAI leaders? We are looking for those who will invest in supporting key national workers. Your impact on the world can be multiplied by their faith and skill in their own countries.
- Is God calling you to get directly involved by implementing Community Health Evangelism where you live? CHE is very useful in the US, as well as around the world.
Please carefully consider the attached response card, and please do not respond without taking the time to ask God what he wants you to do.
May Jesus richly bless you in 2016 as you listen to him and obey him! Listening well is the best way for you to experience the hope that God wants for you in 2016.
Happy New Year indeed,
John Payne, MD
P.S. The last seven years would have been very different for MAI without your faithful obedience to God. I commend you before God and thank him very much for each one of you.
Respond now: John, I am thrilled God wants to use me to impact his world!
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We appreciate your prayer and financial support. Without you as a member of the team, this ministry would not be possible.