More Than Serving Tea


Help Me Help You Help Me Help Someone Else

I don’t know if God will provide $73,000, but since He has already provided about $47,000 why not go for it. Go big or go home, right?

I am a full-time minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, and I have the privilege of seeing God’s Good News reach campuses across Illinois and Indiana in culturally relevant and challenging ways with students, faculty, and staff. My focus is developing ministry to Asian American, Black, and Latino students as well as equipping our staff to effectively communicate the Gospel, develop student leaders, and develop personally in an increasingly multicultural world.

In order to do what I do, I also have the privilege of inviting others to join me by praying for me and by supporting my work through financial gifts and gifts-in-kind. Currently, ministry partners faithfully, joyfully give $47,000 annually to my budget.

Here’s the kicker. I’ve been on staff for 15 years, and while my potential salary has increased my real salary has not. Part of it has been my ambivalence and discomfort with raising additional funds. I tell myself we don’t “need” more money, but I have realized that the deeper reality is that I have not been comfortable believing I am “worth” that much money. Asking more people to consider joining my financial support team not only means InterVarsity believes I am worth a higher salary but that I believe my skills, expertise, and quality of work is worth a higher salary. Asking more people to consider giving financial support mean wrestling with my own personal demons of worth, need, materialism, covetousness, envy, greed, selfishness, etc. It can get ugly.

It also makes me wrestle with my core beliefs. Do I really believe God will provide? Do I trust God even when He doesn’t answer my prayers and meet my needs in the ways I want and hope for? If I believe I am called to this work, why isn’t God providing the financial support that is required of me? Should I trust God in a new way and look for another job that doesn’t require raising support? See? Lots of trust issues.

The other kicker is that while I enjoy giving, I don’t enjoy asking. Does that make sense? I love giving gifts of all sizes and types – a jar homemade granola, a quart of homemade soup, two hours of social media help, a last-minute after school pick-up, and a portion of an unexpected windfall. I love being able to support other organizations as well as individuals in various non-profit and ministry roles. Giving away money is fun because I know that money – my salary – came from God. Giving of my time is fun because I know every day truly is a gift, even the ones that involve yelling, parenting fails, and gnashing of teeth. Every month I see the names of my partners in this amazing work and the amounts they give, and I am amazed and humbled. And every month I get to do the same thing right back.

So, here it is. If any of you, dear readers, have any interest in learning more about what I do as my day job so you can pray, learn, ask questions, give financially or in some other creative way, comment here with your contact info or email me at morethanservingtea “at” gmail “dot” com.  I suspect there are many of you out there who enjoy giving as much as I do.

Here is a link to my most recent ministry update letter.

Winter 2013 prayer letter


#givingtuesday, anonymous & my kids

#givingtuesdayMy entire paycheck depends on the generosity of others. This has been the case for the more than 15 years I have worked with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Each month for 15+ years, individual donors have given financially to allow me to do my job. I know. It sounds crazy on multiple levels, right?

  1. Other people are giving money they have earned so that I can do a job that I love.
  2. In order for those people to know what I am doing and what the financial needs are, I have to invite/ask them to learn about what I do and consider giving financially.
  3. In order for me to be able to invite/ask others I am constantly digging deep into my heart and personal issues about money, self-worth, dependence on others, etc.
  4. If donations don’t come in, I don’t get paid my full salary.
  5. This model flies in the face of  the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” model of American opportunity because no matter what, I cannot make people give.
  6. AND I’m not the only one who lives this way!

So on this #givingtuesday I am giving thanks to the many, many individuals who have given not just on a Tuesday but for years and years to allow me to share the Good News of Jesus with students at Northwestern University, to train and lead the InterVarsity staff team at NU reaching so many corners of the campus, and to develop and help lead training that integrates cross-cultural skills and competencies into leadership development, evangelism and discipleship for campus staff and student leaders to more effectively reach a diverse student population in Illinois and Indiana!

One of the most encouraging gifts has been from “anonymous” every month for about a year. I have no idea who anonymous is, though selfishly I would like to know so I can thank anonymous. After 15+ years of living into #givingeveryday I am still learning the gift of giving is a gift for the giver and the receiver. Yes, there are times when I give out of guilt, and I am sure that some folks I’ve approached about giving financially to my work with InterVarsity wrestle with guilt. But that really isn’t what it is about.

My kids can be reluctant givers, but something about this time of the year brings out the very best in them. They give, much like anonymous I suppose, because they want to. They don’t have a lot of money. They are kids after all. Yet for the past few years, my youngest, Elias, money isn’t an issue. He spends generously and can’t wait for the family to open the gifts he has carefully selected for each person. He looks like he might burst with anticipation, hoping the gift will bring the recipient as much joy as it has given him to pick it out. Corban is a little older, a little more patient, but he is just as excited having asked me and Peter rather stealthily to take him out shopping without the siblings or without one of us around. Bethany is older, but just as thoughtful. The other day she asked me to take a look at the gift she had selected for Dad. She wanted to share the joy almost a month in advance with anyone who could keep a secret.

That is what is incredible about giving. The gift can be physically large or small. It can be financially costly or not. When givers like anonymous or my kids give it’s truly from the heart in a way that doesn’t allow for guilt. It only creates more space for joy and generosity.

So on this #givingtuesday take a moment to consider the various ways in which you can give joyfully.

And if you need some ideas, here are some of my personal favorites that make me giddy and excited.

International Justice Mission – an incredible human rights agency that rescues victims of slavery (yes, slavery still happens), sexual exploitation and other forms violent oppression. I learned of this organization through a family that has supported me through InterVarsity. See, giving is contagious.

Heifer International – as Korean Americans, my children also enjoy receiving additional financial gifts for New Year’s Day. We asked them to consider tithing – giving 10% or more – of their New Year’s bounty to charity, and several years ago they decided this was the charity of choice because who doesn’t love giving a water buffalo or a pig?!

Locally, I’ve been involved with Youth and Family Counseling here in Lake County, Illinois. The not-for-profit social service agency works to provide affordable mental health services. Let’s be honest. Mental health services is a trickier “need” to raise support for, but as one who is under treatment for depression because I have medical insurance I don’t and can’t take access to mental health services for granted.

And finally, there is InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. If you know someone who works for InterVarsity, consider giving to her/his staff account. If you were involved with an IVCF chapter, consider giving to the staff who are currently serving your alma mater, even if you don’t know the person. And if you are still looking for a personal connection, you know me.

 

 

 

 


Do You Need a Gift Receipt With That?

One of my love languages is receiving gifts. I love gifts not because I’m a material girl but because I appreciate the love, effort and thoughtfulness that goes into a well-planned gift. Some of the best gifts I’ve received over the years have been the ones that let me know that the giver knows me – beautiful notecards I would never spend the money to buy for myself, a book by a favorite author, a piece of dark chocolate with almonds, a pretty pair of earrings, a fabulous scarf that is really, really almost the color red.

I try to be a gracious receiver of these gifts, these expressions of love and care for me. It has not been easy because it has meant dealing with the voice – that stupid voice inside my head that says, “Kathy, you’re not worth that person’s love. You’re not worth the paper those cards are made of. You’re not worth the words written in that book. That piece of chocolate will only make you want another piece of chocolate. The money spent on those earrings could provide food for the food bank, and you are too vain to be wearing a fabulous scarf like that.”

I know. It’s crazy.

What’s crazier is that because I have such a hard time receiving gifts I become absolutely paralyzed when it comes to giving myself a gift, a little treat, a little something something. I have talked myself out of buying things that I actually need – socks, moisturizer (no, you really do need moisturizer), a notebook. It really is a song and dance in my head because as one who enjoys shopping just to see what’s out there I also know that while those lies are lies they are powerful. The lies that try to keep me in my place by telling me that I am undeserving and utterly selfish are just as strong as the lies that tell me that cute little something something will fulfill me.

Yup. Still crazy.

Through the years I have returned many, many thoughtful gifts from my husband. My mother used to tell me that I had better stop doing that or he will just stop giving me gifts out of exhaustion and a feeling of failure. The thing is that I would return those gifts because I didn’t feel deserving of his love through his gifts.

Jesus has helped silence those lies, just like he silenced the many demons he cast out during his crazy 30s. He tells those lies to be silent, and in their place he reminds me that his grace is sufficient and his love for me is what flows out. He reminds me that my husband and my friends love me, and their gifts do not need to be returned. No gift receipt necessary. (Unless, of course, the gift doesn’t fit. Honey, that ring really didn’t fit.)

So, do you like receiving gifts or giving gifts? What is the best gift you have ever received or given?

And how about this…for posting a comment in response to this post, one lucky winner will receive a gift from me and the good folks at simply-bags.com. The owners of this internet bag/purse company contacted me earlier this month about “advertising” on my blog in exchange for a free purse. Honestly, I had to go a round with those stupid lies, which this time included thoughts like “sell-out” and “greedy”. And after coming to peace and joy with the fact that this little blog has become a little more than a group of two people (me and Peter) reading it and marveling over my wittiness, I wanted to receive the gift and give one as well.

So, share with me and the other readers of MTST about the best gift you ever received or gave and why that gift was the best, and one lucky commenter will be selected randomly and receive this cute bag (monogrammed if you’d like) courtesy of Simply-Bags.com:

It's simply called "The Summer Tote"

http://www.Simply-Bags.com is giving one of my readers this bag because I like to drive a hard bargain!

Comments will remain open, but if you want to win your comment has to be posted by May 5, 8 a.m. CST. And it’s ok if you’re a first-time commenter, long-time reader and you’re commenting just because this bag is so cute and you want to win.

The giveaway is now over. Drum roll…the random number generator picked…Shirley! Thanks to all who commented off- and on-line. You all are a a gift to to me!