For the first time in my life, I watched a season of the television program “Survivor”. In case you don’t know, it is a game show in which all the competitors live on an island. It is up to them to survive in nature with few resources for 39 days. Every few days they compete with each other in a variety of ways that challenge them intellectually, emotionally, and physically. The winners of those competitions win what is called “immunity” which protects them from being voted off the island by the rest of the group. Competitors work hard to strategize, plan for, and survive the competitions, forces of nature, and elimination votes. In order to do this, they must build alliances with each other and choose who will be voted out. The alliances change frequently, and people are constantly deceived into relationships which can turn on a dime. The ultimate goal is to be one of the final two survivors who then must win the votes of a jury comprised of the competitors who were eliminated - which nets him or her a million dollars.
Basically, my take-away from the game is a question of - what would you do to get a million dollars? How much integrity would you compromise? On the last show of the season, the jurors have the opportunity to grill and question the remaining two competitors. During the finale of the season I watched, they were clearly angered and deeply hurt by the deceit they experienced at the hands of the man who ended up the winner of the game. As opponent after opponent confronted him about his methods, he tried to defend the variety of lies and betrayals which he had perpetrated in order to win, but it became apparent that even though he felt bad about doing it - he had been willing to do whatever it took to win the million dollars. In doing so, he lost his credibility and compromised his integrity. But he won the money.
I know. I know. It’s just a game show. But it really is a question of what people are willing to do to win a million dollars. And actually, it causes me to consider what people would do not just for a million dollars, but for any money, period. Have you ever thought about how many reality television programs are built around money and how to get the most possible - no matter what the cost is? Much of life is directed that way, as well. Paul knew what he was talking about when he wrote, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1Timothy 6:10).
I have often been involved in leadership in a variety of local churches. I remember one time when I needed to purchase something for the children’s group we held a fundraising campaign. Well, as it turned out, we had a very intelligent and gifted man in our church who came up with an idea which suited our needs beautifully - and at a fraction of the cost. Like, literally it cost less than 10% of the money we had collected. I discussed this fact with the leadership of the church because I wanted to give back the money we did not use - that was perfectly doable and seemed logical and honest as a small group of people had contributed and it was designated for the one specific item. The leaders were incredulous and actually made me feel stupid for making such a suggestion. I dropped the subject, and they diverted the money to other purposes. When I thought about it later, I felt like I had compromised and I had to wonder if it was possible to have too much integrity to be involved in ministry? And how could I avoid compromising mine in the future?
One of my least favorite parts of running The Torch is fundraising - because I know people often don't like to be asked to part with their money. When Sarah and I were initially developing the idea for The Torch, we tried to figure out how we could fund it ourselves. After praying about that and looking at the small amount of money we could come up with between us - let’s face it, we were both homeless not too long ago - we realized we could not do it alone. Truthfully, that was not a wise approach, anyway. What I have learned about God is He accomplishes great things by bringing together a wide variety of people. And He has done just that with this organization.
So, we scrapped our initial plan, and made a decision. We would take donations, but we would not enter this venture with the idea that it would ever turn into a paycheck for us. It just doesn’t feel right to expect to earn my livelihood from the generous donations from supporters of The Torch. And yes, we have been told it won’t work - but it is and it does. We both work so we can pay our own bills and contribute to The Torch, and our board members are required to donate money to help keep us going as well. We have also held some fundraisers, and we have monthly sponsors. That is where I am hoping the readers of this blog might come in. Would you consider becoming a monthly sponsor? Several people signing up to donate just ten dollars per month would add up quickly. Our overhead for The Torch is actually quite low, and we will always work hard to keep it that way. We just want to serve and help the people we come in contact with.
We wouldn’t do just anything to get money. I am not interested or compelled to find gimmicks or tricks. So that is why I am simply asking. I will tell you this, though, Sarah and I have been unbelievably blessed just by being involved with everything we get to be a part of at The Torch. Other people tell me they have been, as well. I just talked to a man yesterday who has been a supporter for the past year. He told me his business is up 30% over last year and he believes it is because he became involved with The Torch. He thanked me for the opportunity to work with us. I don’t understand how things like that work. I know if you donate money to something in hopes of getting a big return, you probably won’t. And if you just blindly pledge and donate without possibly being willing to make a change in your lifestyle to fund it, you probably won’t. It’s the people who donate out of love and compassion for others, the people who want to do what is right, and those who are willing to sacrifice something to bless others - those are the individuals who get a supernatural return on their investment.
I realize I will never be a millionaire. I can dream all I want about having enough money at my disposal to purchase the catering truck we hope to get which will enable us to serve more people during the winter months. And to purchase a fleet of food trucks. And to be able to tutor every day if that is needed. But it isn't going to happen, because God doesn't work that way. I have less materially now than I probably ever had before in my life - but I look around and realize I am rich. And I didn't have to compromise anything to get to this point. I just had to learn how to give, and how to allow others to give alongside of me. Please consider becoming part of this team.