Twelve years ago my wife and I spent the summer working in a poor barrio on the edge of the capital of Honduras, Central America. We were down there as part of a missionary training program designed to help young adults discern whether or not the Lord was calling them forward as long-term missionaries. One afternoon while in our rooms praying and asking Jesus for future discernment, the Lord pressed something upon my heart that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”
A simple phrase…only seven words long (hmm..seven…perfection…) yet full of meaning. You see as hinted upon above, the words were given to me during a time of prayer when both my wife and I were asking the Lord what we were to do with the rest of our lives. In that context, those seven words rocked my world as they carried with them the implication that I needed to learn the Bible so that I could have something to give away to the people who were hungry for the Word of God.
This may sound basic to some of you, as missionaries have typically spent years studying the Bible before going overseas. Yet in my view at that time, “theology” was a cuss word and seminaries were places where people went to lose their passion for Jesus. My passion and desire was to work among the poor, helping them start new micro-enterprises and learn skills that would help raise them out of poverty. Going to Bible school or studying theology was the farthest thing from my mind as I thought I would simply just read the Bible and go from there. Those seven words pressed upon my heart that day changed all of that. From that time on I have had a burning desire to study the Scriptures and the theology of the global church.
Fast forward twelve crazy years. I have since then traveled more widely on behalf of Jesus, had a child, helped start a new church, become a pastor, worked a desk job for a decade, and a ton of other stuff. Yet throughout it all the desire to go to Bible school and complete a Masters degree continued to stay rooted in my mind. It stayed even after I completed the Vineyard Leadership Institute in 2007 (a two-year leadership and Bible training program)…it prompted me to try for an international development degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, a program I had to lay aside in 2010 due to both the requirements of the program (you have to complete half the classes on-site in California) and the high cost of tuition.
Last year this desire to go to school once again forced its way into the forefront of my mind. Not wanting to trust myself, I discussed the matter with some trusted mentors and asked for their opinion on trying to go back to school while pastoring, working and raising a family. They all encouraged me to go for it, so I applied to St. Stephen’s University (SSU) in New Brunswick, Canada, and was accepted into their Master of Ministry program (they even took my Fuller credits in place of the normal thesis or ministry project!!).
The great thing about SSU’s Master of Ministry program is that it is designed specifically for long-distance bio-vocational pastors and ministry leaders like me. The program consists of four modules in which the student reads the textbooks and completes various written assignments before attending a two week intense study period onsite at the school. This modular system allows for folks like me to go to school without having to leave the local area.
Furthermore, the program focuses on training up spiritual leaders with a strong emphasis on Ignatian Spiritual Formation and applying the concepts studied in one’s daily life. This emphasis really resonates with my heart as I strongly feel that unpracticed theology is wrong and useless. If we are going to study the Scriptures, then we MUST apply them to our lives and teach others to do the same. SSU’s Master of Ministry program does this – and it does it well according to the alumni I have interviewed, including Phil Strout, the current Vineyard USA National Director.
I say all of this (and I do apologize for the length of this letter) as an intro to the real intent. Namely, I am at a crossroads in my journey to “get” in order to give. Namely, while I have faithfully been reading and doing my homework this year, I do not have the necessary funds to attend the in-class section of the program this Fall (Sept 30-Oct 11)…. Seeing how God is the one who will not let this desire leave me, I figured He would have to fund this program. And since God usually works through His people, I am here asking you all to consider sponsoring me in this endeavor.
Below is a breakdown of the costs for the first module:
$144 Lodging for two weeks
$144 Meals for two weeks
$120 Canada Study Permit
$173 Bus transport (airport to school)
$650 Airplane Ticket
Sadly the dates for the module are coming up quickly so if the Lord presses upon you to sponsor me, please let me know soon as I have to make a $500 deposit on Aug 30th (the full amount is due upon arrival on Sept 30th)… If you want to make a donation, please leave a comment below and I’ll send you my PayPal and/or mailing address – I don’t want to post that info online for the world to see. One of my friends did mention that I could consider crowdfunding on a website like GoFundMe, for example. Apparently, lots of students raise money to continue their education on that site, so my friend said that could be a good idea. For now, I’ll try and do it the way I’ve proposed through PayPal. However, if that doesn’t work, my friend showed me other ways of fundraising too.
Note that donations will NOT be tax-exempt as this is a personal fundraiser…however, please, please know that I will not spend any funds on non-school related items – as past conduct shows, I treat all donations very, very seriously. If for some reason the full amount is not raised in time, I will give each donor the choice of a refund or allowing me to keep the funds until next year when I plan on trying again. If more than enough funds come in, all extra money will be applied to the next module in the program (there are four of them, all of which cost approximately the same).
Thank you all for listening to my journey and for all your support over the years. May the King of Kings guide you and rain down His blessings upon you.