Last week, about 20 missionaries crowded into one of our row house flips in the city for a morning of worship. I think this is house number six. These flips are an answer to many years of prayer. For about 6 or 7 years, Devon worked for other investors and homeowners, gutting and renovating their homes. He had some great guys he worked with that were willing to answer a ton of questions and teach him the ropes. We knew we wanted to get to a place where we no longer worked for other people, in other people's homes, so that we could one, hire guys in need of a second chance and two, have the freedom to bring our heart for international missions together with our business. We privately cried out to God for years for a shift. It was hard to be bound to someone's else's agenda and know there was a tug for us to bring the love of Jesus to the nations.
I'll be honest, most of those 6 to 7 years were really hard. In that season, the market crashed and Devon had to begin to work for homeowners doing smaller sized jobs. We had tools stolen out of our van and garage when we allowed a homeless man to sleep under our porch. He cased our house at night and had some friends come and clear us out. We had a homeowner cancel a contract when 97% of the job was completed and refuse to pay us $21,000 owed. Not only was God teaching us about how to remodel homes to be market ready, but He was kneading into our foundation Kingdom principles for business. What do you do when someone refuses to pay you what you earned? What do you do when someone basically steals from you and you wonder how will you feed your family and pay your mortgage? We reacted right away and called an attorney. We began to see how we could "right" this injustice. But, God, in His wisdom, had other plans.
One morning I was crying out to Him asking Him to provide.
"God, please take care of us. We are behind on our mortgage and I don't know how we will buy groceries. Devon owes some of his subcontractors money too. We can't abandon them."
And do you know what He said to me? He said, "Turn the other cheek. Forgive the debt."
"Come again, God," I replied.
"You heard me. Turn the other cheek."
I flipped open to my Bible to see what more He wanted to show me.
"But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Matthew 5:39-42
You know that scripture about, "My sheep know My voice"? This was one of those times. I immediately recognized His voice. Now, what He was saying was not easy to hear. But, He reminded me that His way is not my way. He showed me (again) that His Kingdom principles are not the world's Kingdom principles. This was not an easy pill to swallow, but I knew in my gut what we had to do.
I called Devon. "Honey, God's telling us to forgive this debt and walk away from the situation. I believe He wants to remind us that He is the One that writes our paycheck and provides, whether we have a job, own our own business or are full-time missionaries. It's all in His hands." There have been a number of pivotal times in our marriage where there is an immediacy in our agreement and this was one of them. Devon agreed and in our hearts that day, we forgave the debt. We proceeded to scrape money through small jobs to pay back his subs, but our mortgage was not getting paid.
In the meantime, God had opened up the door for Devon and I, at this very same time, to train two different church teams for 12 weeks in preparation for a short term mission trip to N. Ireland. We couldn't pay our mortgage but He was asking us to go to N. Ireland for two weeks to lead these teams. He was also asking us to bring all of our kids along.
"God, how are we going to pay for this?" we asked.
"Work as a family and hire yourselves out."
So, that's what we did. On nights and weekends, we painted, did yard work, design consultations, fixed sheds and set up countless pink flamingos in yards for $25 a "flock". We were exhausted, but we did it. By the time we headed to N. Ireland, we had, down to the penny, the exact amount of money we needed to go.
As we were preparing to leave, one of our sons reminded us of a dream he had had almost a year earlier. "Remember my dream? I saw our new church people boarding a plane with us and when I looked down at the ticket it read, 'Paradise, Ireland'," Nahum said.
"I do. What is God up to?" I wondered.