All I’ve Thought About

The Black Forest Academy is all I have thought about for the last month. I can almost say this is a literal statement. Aside from my Bible reading, the occasional day dream, and my plan for the next meal, I have only thought about BFA and how to get back there. I’ve prayed, I’ve made videos, I’ve asked people for support, I’ve written blogs, and I’ve prayed some more.
At this point, I feel like it is time to pray about something new. I still plan to ask God for financial provision, wisdom, and direction. However, I feel like it is time to start asking God to prepare my replacement. No, I’m not being dramatic. The truth of the matter is that my absence from BFA can have a ripple effect, like my presence at BFA. To cut to the chase, here is what will probably happen if I am unable to return (or even if I return late):
-My roommate, Rachel, will have to pay for rent, utilities, and Internet on her own. She is pretty much locked into our housing situation and it’s too late to move somebody else into my space. Even if it wasn’t, the musical chairs game BFA would have to play with housing arrangements would be complicated.
-One (or 3) of my colleagues would have to take my place. I can only think of 6 possible options, but they are all complicated. I just started to write out those options in detail. Needless to say, the blog would have tripled in size if I had continued. Let me sum up these possibilities by saying that it is too late for BFA to get an actual replacement. Whoever would take over my classes would already have a huge work load. Some of those people are probably praying for my return so that they don’t have to be the contingency plan. I believe my good friend and department head, who already teaches 3 classes, is on that list.
-Lastly, and most importantly, the students that I have built relationships with will have to suffer one more loss in their life. I’m not trying to boast. This loss is about consistency more than it is about me. Teachers, dorm staff, and other missionaries in our community have to come and go all of the time because of financial issues and visa regulations. I already had 25 students signed up for my yearbook class. About a third of those students were returning yearbook staff. We had plans. If I don’t return, I cant keep my promise about what they will be able to do this year. This was the year in which we were going to take our yearbook into the digital world, so that more families and friends could keep up with their lives.

I plan to be at BFA this year. However, it’s likely that I won’t make it back in time for the first semester. If I don’t, I will miss the first 5 minutes of this video:

The Financial Breakdown

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I have struggled with whether or not I should write this blog for a year now. I don’t have any problem being honest, but I don’t want to place a guilt trip on others either. So, please hear me when I say that this blog entry is not meant to make you feel guilty. It is merely for accountability and for me to show you exactly where your money goes.

Last summer, I was able to return home because of the generosity of those who sent in extra funds when I was living on my last dollar. The money that came in provided more than I needed. I was able to pay all of my bills for the end of the school year, buy a plane ticket back to the state, and pay my German bills for the summer. I returned to the States with nothing but a tax refund and a bit of left over support in my account.

It was very hard for me to justify returning to the States. The plane ticket cost about $1,000, I was still responsible for German bills, and I knew that I would be tempted to spend more money if I was at home. Staying in Germany could have saved me about $2,000. However, TEAM was very clear that I had to return for the summer. They considered my two years at BFA to be two different terms. I had to fulfill fundraising quotas before being allowed to fly back to Germany. So, I spent the money to fly home.

While most of my money was spent in a justifiable way, I still struggled with temptation. Money went toward traveling to see supporters, gas to get to church, and restocking on basic needs that could not be easily filled in Europe (aka-cheap clothes). Yet, there was always a specialty coffee to buy, a meal out, a movie with friends, and that piece of clothing that I really didn’t need. I struggled.

I have become accustomed to a simple life in Germany. Don’t get me wrong, I get hit with bills that most Americans aren’t used to paying all of the time. However, the temptation to spend money on what I don’t need does not exist for me there. In order to prove that simple life style and to show you where your support goes, I have included my budget below. The only disclaimer I have is that some needs have kept me from being able to stick to this budget. Things come up in my life, like they do in yours. I’m not perfect. There have been unfortunate times that I have missed tithing, been late on a bill, etc.

Budget based on a $1,500 monthly paycheck:

$600- Student loans

$400- Rent

$200- Groceries

$150- Tithe/Small Group meals

$100- Utilities/Insurance/Garbage/etc. (I pay for different things each month, but the cost ends up being about the same)

$50- Coffee, meal out, unexpected bill, etc.

Every mission agency seems to handle money differently. The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) has me raise $7,500 as a cushion fund before leaving and between $1,000 to $1,800 a month. All of the money goes into my personal mission account. From there, TEAM takes out about $1,800 a month. $300 goes toward my health insurance and towards TEAM for taking care of my affairs. The rest gets put directly into my bank account. From there, I pay my student loan bills and then watch the exchange rate for the best time to draw out money. The exchange rate can mean between 10 and 40 euro for me.

Like other mission agencies, TEAM has me raise the cushion money for multiple reasons. I can purchase plane tickets, gifts for supporters, or other important things and submit paperwork for a reimbursement. This would be for funds outside of my monthly paycheck. However, the cushion amount ends up becoming my backup fund for the monthly support money that I lack. Since I haven’t brought in more than $1,200 in monthly support, I have drained that cushion pretty quickly in the last couple of years. This doesn’t bother me too much. I will do whatever it takes to be at BFA. I’m only looking for my needs to be met, not my wants. However, this financial model has become very stressful at different times during the year.

The personnel department at BFA doesn’t like the struggle that I have been going through each year to make it to the end of the year and to find a way home. TEAM doesn’t want things to become this stressful for me either. If there is anything you can do to help, please pray about it. My bare cost to be at BFA every year is about $25,000 (including the $7,500). It would only take 70 people giving $30 a month for me to be able to reach this goal.

Ideally, if 75 people gave $100, I could have my start up cost. Then, I would only need about 50 people to give $30 a month. For the amount of money that 2 people spend on eating dinner out, you could support a missionary who is involved in the lives of several families who serve in 53 countries. Imagine how far your dollar could go!

Every Cent Counts

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The other day, I recalled a popular credit card commercial, which featured a food establishment working in a rhythm to deliver orders to customers. Each server, behind the counter, did their part and passed the order on to the next- as if they were performing to a beat. Each customer joined in the rhythm by paying with a VISA check card and exiting promptly. Finally, a man tried to pay his bill with cash and everything came crashing to a halt. His choice of payment had stopped the rhythmic flow of the entire operation and the cashier seemed annoyed by the hassle of having to make change for the man. Yet, the rhythm picked right back up after the man exited the scene.

Now that I have lived in Germany for a couple of years, I look at the commercial differently. I now see those paying with cards as Americans and the man paying with cash as a German. Credit cards do exist in Germany, but cash is often used at food establishments in particular. Cashiers do not become annoyed when a customer doesn’t pay with a card. In fact, paying with a card sometimes seems like more of a hassle.

Something that never ceased to perplex me was the time most Germans took to give the cashier exact change. Instead of having an annoyed expression, cashiers were happy to wait. They often thanked the customer for the proper change. I cannot tell you how many times I had been caught behind an elderly German digging through their change purse. It happened almost every time I went to the grocery store.

In Germany, spending the time to collect exact change is not just about slowing down. It’s about the value of the coins as well. People don’t just throw away coins over here. Pennys are not fun to carry, but they are worth something. In fact, so are our bottles. Most soda, water, and beer bottles have to have a deposit laid down on them, which is returned on a receipt when the bottles are returned to the store. You don’t often see these bottles laying around. They are worth something.

I mention these cultural tendencies to introduce to you the idea of becoming a financial supporter, no matter how small your donation is. Your dollars add up. In fact, I found out recently that I am one of the very few people who rely on a small support base. I have about 12 supporters who give between $25 and $400 a month. Most of my friends at The Black Forest Academy have revealed that they have several supporters who give between $20 to $150 a month. The benefit to this financial model is that if one person is no longer able to give, the missionary is not so badly affected by the loss.

My recent financial situation was due, in part, to the fact that my greatest supporter was not able to give their monthly donation of $400 anymore. This person has been incredibly generous and I am so lucky to have received their support. Yet, I must make up that money now if I am going to return this next semester. Rather than worry about those who can give a lot, I am more interested in those of you who can give a little.

Please think and pray about whether God would have you invest in this way. Becoming my financial supporter means more than supporting my ministry to the students of The Black Forest Academy. Supporting me directly causes a ripple effect in the mission community. When I raise support, I keep the cost of the boarding school low for missionaries. This helps them financially and it enables them to work in mission fields around the world, which don’t offer good educational opportunities for their children.

To find out more about the Black Forest Academy and what your financial donation does, please click the link below:

To become give a (tax deductable) one-time gift or to become a monthly supporter, click on the How To Give tab of this blog. To give a one time gift, through Paypal, click the link on the right hand side of the page.