A Work in Progress

I believe; help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)
How much progress are you making getting ready for Christmas? Tis the season to reflect on
the Baby in a manger, buy and exchange gifts like the Wise Men, and hang out with friends and
family. But it is also a very busy time of the year!

The presence of family in Minneapolis means a series of Christmas gatherings over the period
of the next week. We will come together to witness the vow renewal of a couple in our church
on Tuesday evening, a Transformed by Grace gathering on Wednesday evening with the men
and women from the Adult Teen Challenge and Healing House, a Swedish traditional pre-
Christmas Eve celebration (unique to my mom’s side of the family) on Thursday evening, and a
candlelight service on Christmas Eve with the members of Family Baptist. Of course, the kids
are laser-focused on the gift exchange that takes place at Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve
following the candlelight service!

This season, all the adults decided to participate in a “White Elephant” gift exchange. The only
twist is that we agreed to purchase useable gifts for the exchange. I had the bright idea of
applying the same logic to the nieces and nephews. Afterall, we are talking about a collection of
24 cousins! Instead of trying to buy a gift for everyone or hand-picking certain ones, I thought
we could keep it simple and purchase one gift per cousin. While my sisters appreciated my sensitivity to family finances, they thought we should avoid the unnecessary stress of having kids cry after having their newly opened gift snatched away from them by a fellow cousin. Instead, they decided it would be better for us to draw names among the cousins. Good call!

Gifts have also been given to the ministry of Family Baptist Church over the past several
months in some astounding ways. The board of directors from the Minnesota Baptist
Association gave Family Baptist Church a gift of $2,000. A church from northern Minnesota sent
us a check for $1,000. Our sending church, Fourth Baptist Church, gave us a gift of $10,000
from their 2021 Thanksgiving offering. God is so good! We are using these gifts to help make
necessary repairs on the parsonage, update the lighting around the exterior of the church, and
renovate the nursery!

This leads me back to the White Elephant Gift Exchange concept. A couple weeks ago, while
waiting in line at a local convenience story, I was contemplating a conversation I just had with
the fellow pastors at Family Baptist about our need to replace the gymnasium roof and update
the heating and cooling systems in the building. The estimated repair costs were around
$100,000. Much greater than what we could afford. I encouraged the guys to join me in taking
this need before the Lord in prayer. I knew that was how I was supposed to respond when I
didn’t know what to do. It sounded good, but I admit to lacking an element of supreme
confidence in God’s ability to provide. God had already blessed us with numerous gifts of
outside support. From my limited perspective, I felt it was now time for us to figure things out on our own. How short-sighted of me! It was as if I were a kid on Christmas Eve who had his newly opened White Elephant Gift snatched out of his hands.

No. No one took the money back from Family Baptist. The funds were used to cover the cost of many repairs. That morning, however, I felt as if someone snatched away my ministry joy. Put simply, my faith was being tested.

After those few agonizing minutes of contemplation on our church needs and lack of resources,
I received an unexpected phone call from Alan Benson, the Vice President of Student
Development and Ministry Advancement at Bob Jones University. He informed me that Bob
Jones University wanted to make Family Baptist Church the focus of the 2022 Bible Conference
Offering! That meant the student body, faculty, staff, and alumni of BJU would seek to raise
$100,000 to give to our urban church revitalization efforts in North Minneapolis. Thanks be to
God who gives indescribably more than we could ever ask or think! I was astounded and
humbled by the conversation and was brought to tears of joy.

It reminds me of the request made by a hurting father for his helpless son: “But if you can do
anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can? All things
are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I
believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24) I am learning to trust God and stop looking around
to see if someone or something will try and snatch away the gift of joy found in following Him.


Rita Covalt - December 20th, 2021 at 7:30am

This is beautifully written and so typical of our human responses AND GOD'S AMAZING GRACE!! May God's richest blessings continue to rest upon You, your sweet family and members of Family Baptist Church

Eric Amundson - January 2nd, 2024 at 5:06pm

That's so awesome! If I remember right, the money came up a little short of the roof? Seems like God wanted to say he sees the needs and can provide whenever he wants?