Early on, in the planning stages, we decided to spend the entire month of May in Texas. Our goal was simple: Recruit kids in Texas to participate in a Be The Change Fundraising Initiative to help grant the wish of a child in their home state. Our stats show that our average participant will raise approximately $250. So, with the fundraising goal at $9,700 (the average cost of granting a wish for Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana), we would need about 39 kids to participate. We knew this would be pretty easy, because recruiting kids to help other kids had NEVER been an issue. (But, God would soon humble us in our thinking… and blow us away with His generosity and favor, probably because He didn’t want us to get discouraged.)
Our first official stop was at a church in Austin, but not before having one of our “unofficial” stops to talk about Jesus, church and all things controversial. It just so happens that one of Sydney’s friends lives outside of Austin. They met on our family missions trip to the Bahamas a few years ago and have stayed in contact through the years. We didn’t know much about her family except that they voted for President Trump. And I was really excited to dig into some of our questions.
We happened to be staying at another Harvest Host that evening as well, an organic orchard outside of Austin. Jamie needed to have the RV there before it closed, so he and the dog headed in one direction while the kids and I headed in another. This meant I would be flying solo on this conversation.
We see so many divisions in the church… especially along political lines. We also see a lot people who are quick to make assumptions about others without taking into consideration someone’s perspective, or life experiences. We wanted to sit down and talk to people about their faith and how they choose to make choices in the political arena based on that faith. (Is it possible for a Republican AND a Democrat to profess a belief is Jesus Christ? It seems like a rhetorical question… but my Facebook feed would beg to differ.) Then based on those answers we want to know if it’s even possible to find, or fight for, unity in the church given our current political climate? It sounds like a weird thing to do, right? Yeah… we know. But the opportunities keep coming up so we keep pushing in. And I’m SO glad we have.
But, here’s the thing… we never even got to the conversation. Because a completely different conversation took center stage:
Why aren’t we a Christian organization?
Sydney’s friend had wanted her youth group to participate in our Fundraising Initiative to build a daycare in Haiti with Hands & Feet Project in 2017. She and her family even approached their pastor to see if their church could get involved. But there was one problem: Be The Change Youth Initiative didn’t have a statement of faith. Therefore, in their eyes, they couldn’t participate because we weren’t a Christian organization.
I tried to explain our position… we believe only people can be Christians, not organizations. I also explained how some of the families who participate in Be The Change Youth Initiative aren’t Christians and how many of them would have never considered participating if they thought it meant supporting, or promoting, religious beliefs they don’t adhere to.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about denying our faith. It doesn’t take long for anyone to know what we’re about. Whether you come to a show, read through a fundraising packet, or just spend time talking to Sydney… Jesus is there. Usually front and center. It’s in our DNA to talk about our faith. And maybe this is why her friend’s dad felt the need to push back and tell us that we needed to reconsider our position on having a statement of faith for our organization because, in his words, “We can’t be afraid of the gospel. You have to boldly proclaim it.”
And to be fair, I absolutely agree with the substance of his comments, but not the personal directive. Sharing the gospel isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” script. I can meet a complete stranger at the store and then 15 minutes later I’m buying them coffee and talking about Jesus. Sydney is COMPLETELY different and Be The Change is her organization. She’s walking it out in her time. In her way. Based on her convictions. Are there things we could do to garner mass appeal? OF COURSE! Suggestions have been made by so many professionals on how to “grow” this ministry. And 100% of the time, Sydney’s answer has been the same, “That doesn’t sound like something Jesus would do.”
At the beginning of this journey, she would then look at me or Jamie for approval, wanting to make sure it was okay to push back. But, she doesn’t do that anymore.
But, it was more than that.
We’ve been told on more than one occasion that churches won’t even consider partnering with us if we don’t have a statement of faith. Without even talking to us to hear our reasoning. The Lord was starting to show us something in this conversation. People have VERY strong opinions when it comes to stuff like this. Sometimes, based on their opinions, they will draw definitive lines in the sand… about who you are, what you believe, and, in some cases, if you’re a “true” Christian. (That’s not the case with this family at all! But, we have met some of those people on the road.)
Our convictions could be different for a multitude of reasons. It could be due to a lack of wisdom and discernment. It could be due to unrepented sin in our lives. Or, it could be because our calling is different… who we’re called to serve and share our testimony with is different. Everyone has a opinion. Just jump on social media and see all the posts about Kanye West… which is another great example. (And for the record, there are FAR TOO MANY other important things to spend our time on! FAR TOO MANY!)
About 15 minutes before we were about to leave, Jamie called to tell me that the kids and I needed to spend the night because a bad storm was headed our way… complete with tornado warnings. (A tornado actually landed about 15 minutes from us.) So, instead of leaving, we would be staying the night… with no clothes, no toothbrush, no Jamie…. with people we just met. (This was also a first for us… and would NOT be the last!) And I’m really thankful because we spent the next couple of hours eating Blue Bell ice cream and playing games. Any tension I felt in the earlier conversation disappeared. I was able to see past any perceived criticism. I’m not sure that would have happened had we not spent the night, had we not spent hours together enjoying one another’s company. Something I would tuck away for later. Unity is easier to achieve when there’s some degree of relationship, no matter how minuscule the degree.
The next morning we met Jamie at the orchard to see how he weathered the storm… and he was just fine. He made a new friend. One that kills rattlesnakes with a shot gun… and has the pictures to prove it. They spent the evening sharing a beer and talking about the nomad life. This really is such a surreal existence. We’ve made the most unlikely friends in the most unlikely places.