After thirty three years in the ministry, overwhelming stress seemed the normal way of life. Her husband was totally committed to the program he had grown from the ground up – a basketball league for kids that had grown like wildfire and had become a major community program. The great thing was that his volunteers got to share the gospel with the kids every evening and no one could complain because it was advertised as a “faith based” league. Hundreds of kids went through the program every year. It was wonderful. Sort of.
The fact that it was run almost entirely by volunteers made it stressful. Each fall dozens of new people had to be recruited to match the number of kids that signed up. Each fall her husband said it would never come together in time, but somehow the program continued, due to his unflagging persistence and long, long hours.
She never got truly involved because she had a low tolerance for anxiety and getting into the details of the program would put her over the edge. She knew, because over the years, she had tried to help out and found she couldn’t handle it. He tried hard to protect her from the day to day details that he knew would worry her, but she could tell when he was over-burdened and she would feel guilty for not helping him more.
Aside from the difficulty in recruiting enough coaches, directors, and administrators, there were dozens of other details to deal with each week: unforeseen gym closures, un-received messages, coaches not showing up, phone parents not getting in touch with the kids in their gyms, and so forth. Multiple details, multiple stresses.
She wanted so much to do what she assumed God wanted her to do, but she was having her own problems, so feeling guilty was as far as she got.
One day an idea came to her: have a prayer meeting specifically for the program. She sent out an email to their support team, stating that each Friday morning she would be at home praying and if anyone wanted to join her they could. She also gave them the option to receive a list of things that needed God’s intervention for the evening to go well. It was an experiment. She wanted to know what difference it would make if they intentionally prayed each week for the specifics of the program instead of vaguely asking God to bless them and rescue them each time something frustrating happened. Get ahead of the game, so to speak.
About seven people asked for the emailed list, and the first week, her sister-in-law showed up to pray with her. They had a great time together. The next week, another couple came to join them. The four of them continued to meet each Friday. She got emails back saying that people were praying.
Her husband was amazed at the people who "came out of the woodwork" offering to coach. Someone picked a brochure out of the garbage and called him to find out if she could help out. Others found out about the program in equally random ways. Many of the new coaches that season were not recruited; they just called and asked if they could help.
As for the annoying things that had been happening that sidelined the effectiveness of the ministry, they largely stopped. There were no phone calls to complain about things going wrong the first week. This was considered a miracle. It meant there were no problems. Nearly unbelievable! The pattern continued the whole season.
She was helping!
She was going to the One who could actually solve the problems, and of course he answered. He always does, when our motives are for the good of the Kingdom and not for our own gain.
The results of the experiment should not have been surprising. What did Jesus say? “You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2b
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