In recent weeks we’ve explored themes that surfaced as I doubted the wisdom of committing to a building that would forever change Bethesda Workshops’ financial paradigm. Instead of being self-supporting (with the generous provision of donated space), the possibility of buying our own building meant the ministry would have to trust our financial future to the liberal charity of monetary donors. This was an entirely new venture!
Or so I thought. As I wrestled with the fiscal challenges and more deeply with the foundation of faith required to meet them, eventually a familiar clinical principle assumed a new spiritual meaning. A key element of Bethesda Workshops’ approach is to examine the past as an informant of the present. Clinically, we look at each person’s history to understand how life experiences have shaped his or her belief system and coping mechanisms. With the right lens, people are able to connect-the-dots between earlier trauma experiences of abuse, abandonment or attachment injuries and their current (largely) unconscious choices, reactions and even overall circumstances. We believe the past is often a predictor of the future.
With gentle persistence, God invited me to apply the same principle in a positive bent. Why not review the clear history of God’s provision for the ministry? What if I focused more on the blessings that had been bountiful across our timeline instead of the deficit I was feeling at the moment?
For weeks I simply waved my hand and told myself, Of course, God’s always been faithful; just trust! Eventually, I realized it would be more helpful to detail those specifics, and I opened my laptop and began to write. Quickly, a chronology of blessings flowed across the screen, until the pattern was as clear as God’s provision for the children of Israel in their journey out of Egyptian slavery into the Promised Land. I hit Save and started to cry.
Since the ministry’s inception in 1997, God has provided space for our workshops, first at a variety of conference centers and hotels, and in recent years at the Woodmont Hills church building. Each move was prompted by some challenge with the current space, and every time God helped us figure out the next location. The generosity of free housing at Woodmont Hills allowed us to deepen our infrastructure and save a significant amount of money toward the prospect of our someday-space.
In January 2015, Bethesda Workshops held a visioning retreat and clearly identified the need for our own space and what it would look like. Then…that very day we unexpectedly received the initial $250,000 challenge pledge! After a few months we found the wonderful consultants to guide us in maximizing that challenge gift, planning for additional fundraising and developing our board. After we found our building sooner than expected, we experienced early success in soliciting donations even though we weren’t fully geared up for a campaign.
Despite all those positive signs, when we approached financial institutions about a loan, we abruptly discovered that banks weren’t impressed with a business plan labeled “Faith and Fundraising.” We couldn’t possibly raise the money required in the time available. Discouragement swiftly stepped in as hope waned. There seemed no conceivable way we could close the deal. As a final blow, we learned the building’s main air conditioning unit was 42 years old and rapidly dying. The cost to replace it was way beyond our available funds.
Then a remarkable development catapulted the vision. An angel investor stepped up with an offer to buy the building on Bethesda Workshops’ behalf! (I just learned that term and love it.) Our benefactor crafted a lease/purchase arrangement to allow us to renovate and occupy the building and pay the principle over time, along with providing some up-front money to replace the dinosaur HVAC unit. “God-send” doesn’t begin to describe this proposition!
In typing these and other unambiguous provisions, the chronology of blessings was truly astounding. God clearly delights in providing for those God loves! Rest assured, the category of those beloved by God includes you and all whom God created.
During a time of challenge or indecision, watch for God’s provisions. Those miracles (large and small) form an endowment for the journey and a signpost for the way forward.
Marnie C. Ferree