July 20, 2011

20 July 2011

What a summer! We’ve now settled into our new house in Virginia that Stephanie bought back in April after the long saga of selling her late parents’ house finally came to an end. The house has been a great gift to us after fifteen years of not having a home base of our own. (We plan to rent it out furnished while we teach in Kenya.) We’ve attended Linnea’s graduation from the University of Virginia, and her fiancĂ© William’s from VMI. I (Bill) helped both Linnea and Caroline move out of last year’s student houses and into new situations. And on July 10th, we celebrated Linnea and William’s wedding here in Charlottesville with great jubilation!  On a sad note, after my mom’s death in March, I traveled back to the States and preached at her funeral before returning to Kenya to continue teaching through the end of the term. On arriving in the US in May to start our missionary ‘home assignment’, I traveled again to Kentucky for her burial. And I’ve had to make several visits back to Georgia to help my sisters go through my mom’s things.

But our real reason for being away from our work and life in Nairobi, Kenya, and back in the UK and US at this time is to reconnect with our supporting friends and churches and to raise additional funds for our ministries in theological education with SIM in Africa. In April I spent a week in Cambridge, UK, meeting with supporting friends there. Since my arrival in the US in May, Stephanie and I have made four trips to eastern Virginia, meeting with missions committees, preaching at churches, speaking at potluck suppers, catching up with friends. We did the same in South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

This is all part of our regularly scheduled furlough or ‘home assignment’, our fifth since we became missionaries with SIM in 2000. But this one is unusual for us. In the past when we’ve returned home, our financial support level has been so reliable that we’ve never had to raise additional funding. We’ve only had the happy task of saying ‘Thank You!’ to all the individuals and churches that make up our support team. This year, things are different. We’ve been on the mission field long enough that some of our original faithful supporters are no longer able to give to SIM on our behalf. Some, like my mom and Stephanie’s parents, have gone on to be with the Lord. Others have found themselves moving into retirement and thus into more limited finances. None of this is surprising and such attrition in funding is to be expected over the years. But that does mean that we are in the unusual position of having to raise additional support so that we can maintain our ministries in Kenya.

Here are the numbers. We presently have 49 individuals and families who support us, ranging from what works out to be $10 to $1000 a month. And there are 7 churches that support us from their mission budgets or special mission offerings, from $100 a month to $1,250 a month. Presently, we are required to raise $6,259/month in support. This covers the salary, housing, medical insurance, payroll taxes, international travel costs, retirement contribution, and administrative overhead that it takes for SIM to keep the two of us in our classrooms in Kenya. We have also been blessed in the past with additional funding of nearly $900/month for our ‘ministry account’ which has enabled us to cover additional on-site ministry expenses, the cost of having a vehicle, and in recent years has helped us pay for our girls’ tuition at university.

We have, in past years, always received 100%+ of our support, and always had a generous amount to cover our expenses. However, right now our basic support level is 94%, and there is very little additional funding trickling into our account for ministry expenses. SIM understandably wants our pledged support level to be at 100% before we go back to the field. I figure that in order to make up for attrition in our support and ministry fund levels, we need in the neighborhood of an additional $700/month in new support. The good news is, there are two new-to-us churches that are exploring the possibility of helping us out. But the numbers are still daunting, to me at least. We essentially need fourteen new ministry friends to come on board as supporters at $50/month—or 35 at $20/month, or 7 at $100/month, or three churches at $250/month, etc.

Because many of you who receive our email updates are members of well-established churches like our Presbyterian denomination, you may not be aware of how missionaries like us are funded, and you may be surprised at all this talk about raising financial support. Several people have asked us if we are paid a salary by the graduate school of theology where we work in Kenya, or by the denomination or by the mission. No, as SIM members we are part of a ‘faith mission’. That means that SIM must receive from churches and individual supporters what it costs to keep each SIM missionary overseas. We are not paid by the school, mission or denomination. Rather, through SIM we become your gift to the churches of Africa as theological educators training the next generation of Christian leaders for the church and society. Which makes you a direct participant in our ministry.

After years of both being in faith ministries ourselves and contributing financially to other ministries, Stephanie and I have learned a few things about partnering financially with missionaries. First, we’ve learned that supporting a missionary family is a ministry in itself—not only are we enabling that work to continue, but through our prayers, we can make a real difference in their ministry and lives. Secondly, we’ve learned that most committed Christians are looking for ways to put the financial resources that God has entrusted to them to effective use. Most Christians, of course, give a significant portion of their Christian giving to the church where they are involved, as do we. But most of us also have extra money that we allot for other needs that come to our attention. Thirdly, we’ve learned that most of us are asking God how he wants us to use these resources.

Here is my request. We are praying for new supporters and churches to come alongside those who are already giving to keep us serving at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology. Would you be willing to pray and ask the Lord if he wants you to join our support team and contribute financially towards our ministry with SIM? God may say, ‘Yes, get involved!’ or he may say, ‘No, I have something even better I want you to do with your resources.’ Either way you become part of God’s agenda of blessing, which is always a good thing.

If you feel led to participate in our work in Kenya with SIM, you can give in either of the following ways:

  • Write a check payable to SIM-USA and designate it to either ‘Bill & Stephanie Black #06201 – Support’ or ‘Bill & Stephanie Black #06201 – Ministry Acct’. Mail your check to SIM-USA, PO Box 7900, Charlotte, NC 28241-7900. SIM will send you a tax-deductible receipt and information about ongoing giving.
  • Donate online to our regular missionary support or to our ministry account. (Our current donors may wish to change to this online giving option as well.)

To the many of you who already support our work with SIM, we thank you with grateful hearts for your years of faithful involvement. If anyone wants to talk further about this ministry or our needs, you can call me on my mobile (434-227-1187 until August 10 when, God willing, we fly back to Nairobi), or you can email us at wmblack@gmail.com. Please let us know if you are joining our support team. SIM would like for us to demonstrate that we have the support we need before we return to Kenya.

May God bless you as you continue to know and follow Jesus.

By grace,

Bill


P.S. Some of you may be reading this update for the first time. We promise, they’re normally more newsy and less about money than this one!



And a busy summer it’s been! A few photos…

Our new house near Charlottesville, VA. It’s a duplex (semi-detached) - the right half of this is ours


We love our neighborhood in the small town of Crozet, midway between Charlottesville and the Blue Ridge Mountains


Bill celebrating summer on the Shenandoah River nearby (Don’t try this at home. And if you’re over 50, maybe it should not be tried at all…)


First big event at the new house: Faithful maid-of-honor Caroline organized a gorgeous bridal shower for her sister & UVA friends




Next, William’s graduation from Virginia Military Institute (VMI)


The following weekend – happy University of Virginia graduate and proud grandparents


Then… on the road, doing what missionaries do


And finally, the big event – Linnea & William’s wedding


(The first one above was just practice!)