This last week has been a crazy emotional roller-coaster-of-a-ride week.
We booked a large number of hotel rooms and got a great rate because of the large number of hotel rooms for our ENC women’s retreat in Wilmington March 21-23. We had to book the rooms back in February and based upon the number of women who came last year and who came to Fall Retreat, we would be able to get 40ish girls there. So we booked 15 rooms, knowing we would have to have 8 to get the deal. 8 would mean 20 girls at the minimum and 4 staff. Based on past showing, this would be no big deal.
Sign up weeks came and they went. And after registration closed, we had 10 girls coming. Only 10. I am thankful for these 10, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t the 40 we were praying and hoping for, nor are they the 20 we needed to come out on budget. And it makes no earthly sense to us why more girls haven’t signed up – like we seriously can’t understand it. So after lots of talking back and forth with the hotel, praying, and talking amongst our team, we were able to extend the amount of time we had to turn in a rooming list and pray that we could get 16 more girls to come so we could make budget and not go in the hole by at least $600.
I was real tempted to be worried and stressed – I wanted to bend people’s hands and get them to sign up. REAL tempted. That is my go to – control over trusting the Lord. But we all felt really compelled by the Lord to pray – that he would provide the girls and cause a miracle to happen. And that is where I have been all weekend. Having this huge weight hung over me and trusting the Lord even when it makes no sense. And then I was reminded by the Lord of something he struck me with last week. An epiphany per say. And it helped me to know the Lord is at work and moving even if I don’t always see it.
I had traveled to Campbell to meet with a few girls involved with us there (we partner with our local church here in Fuquay). As I met with them and we talked through life, I was amazed at how much they had personally grown throughout the year and how much of a difference I could see that Christ had made in their lives in just a year. It is one thing for them to tell me that they have grown spiritually (which they did) but another for me to see it with my own eyes.
I got to hear about how one of the girls has started pursuing discipleship with an older lady in our church and drives 45 minutes one way to meet with her once a week. They sometimes sit down and talk through Scripture and spiritual things, but sometimes they grocery shop together or the lady teaches her to cook. She also told me that another girl involved with us and that goes to our church has started discipleship with another older lady in our church. Living life with older woman just like Jesus modeled. They shared what a difference this, along with bible study, community group, and fellowship with the church body, has made in their lives. Another girl shared about how excited she was to go to Africa this summer, serve the Lord, and to test out whether she wanted to be involved in medical missions the rest of her life as she pursues her medical degree.
Ed and I have spent a lot of time debating over this school, frustrated that ministry wasn’t “growing” in numbers like we would want to see it grow, trying to figure how to reach this school that seems to be so different, evaluating whether this is a place we should be spending our time, and even evaluating with our church whether we should be investing there. But the Lord gently reminded me through these girls that it is all worth it. The growth they have seen personally may not be measured in increased numbers but it is worth it. The time investing in their lives that could be spent somewhere else is worth it. The partnership with our church that beautifully teaches them how to reach their campus and the value of connecting to a local body is worth it. The lessons these girls are learning about pursuing older woman to pour into them are worth it. The places the Lord can take these woman so they can impact others is worth it.
In this day and age of mega churches and huge ministries, it is easy to be frustrated with smaller numbers and to think the Lord isn’t working. But he is working and is allowing us to be a part of it. I am thankful that we have seen growth in numbers at other schools, but this was a good reminder to me that it is not all about that.
As I was tempted to stress and worry about the women’s retreat, the Lord was gracious enough to bring this back to mind. And to remind me that he is working, even if it doesn’t look like I want or expect it to look. And that all I could do was pray the Lord would allow women to sign up or a miracle to happen, and trust him instead of controlling.
And guess what happened today? I got a call from the lady at the hotel saying that I could have the guaranteed rate (that was supposed to be for 10 rooms or more) for any amount of rooms I wanted as long as I told her today how many rooms we needed (we could add more later but had to pay for the amount I told her today). There is no gain for her in doing this, as it would benefit her to make us pay for 8 rooms as we agreed in our contract. And she let us drop our meeting room without incurring a penalty. So ultimately, it was God being so gracious to us and changing her heart. So, yes, while we are still trusting the Lord to bring more girls with us, he worked it out where we wouldn’t go in the hole no matter how many we bring. Praise the Lord for how he answers prayers and works!!
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”