Leaving Season Sale

by Tara Livesay on June 3, 2015

Several years back Bart and Ursula Love sold their vehicles, packed up their middle-America household, and put things into a storage unit in order to move their family several thousand miles away to AlternateCultureVille.

The Loves had the heart and desire to serve abroad. They prepared, they prayed, they went forward with a realistic outlook and a tinge of healthy fear into an unknown land where nothing would be promised to them, except maybe challenges.

During their time abroad Bart and Ursula were graciously provided for by friends, family, their home-church, and several private family foundations.  The Love Family lived modestly, but all of their needs were continually provided for, again and again, by the generous donors and loved ones that believe in them and the work they are doing in AlternateCultureVille.

Several times when tragedy arrived and the school of hard-knocks dealt out butt-kicking lesson after lesson, the Love family had their physical needs met.  They could afford counseling and trips to rest at the local beach and even trips to the USA on a few difficult occasions.

For more than a decade Bart and Ursula sat watching the provision of God. They found themselves in the front row as their needs were met by a generous support base and an even more generous God.  They worked hard in AlternateCultureVille.  Like anyone that works cross-culturally in difficult and complicated places, they experienced both failure and success in varying degrees throughout the years they worked abroad.

About twelve years into their time abroad, things started to feel different.  Bart and Ursula worried that the stress was beginning to show in their parenting and in their marriage relationship.  They struggled over the period of several months to decide if it was time to go back to middle-America.

Additionally, things with their umbrella organization changed a bit and the overall vision and philosophy changed in ways that the Loves felt did not align well with their own personal philosophy.

All signs pointed them back toward the U.S.of.A  for a time of evaluation.

With heavy hearts they began to prepare to move “home”.

As with many that serve abroad for several years, for the Loves there was a real feeling of fear going back to the USA. Could they fit in there? Would God provide financially for them? It became a real battle as they considered the lavish grace of God vs. their own human fears that they would have to scrounge and make sure to sell everything for as much as they could.

Poor old Bart.  The same guy that had flown first class (because generous God) when he needed to get surgery felt afraid that he wouldn’t have enough money to start life over in the USA.

You know what happened?  Bart got a little weird.  Actually, Bart got real, real weird. Ursula tried to talk some sense into him, but he just could not hear from the Mrs.

“You just don’t know what it will cost to start over”, he said.

Bart listed his items one by one for sale in his community in AlternateCultureVille.  He posted items online and he made a long list to hand out at church.

You are likely neighbors with Bart Love or the likes of him.  You know these “leaving season” sales all too well. They come around fairly often, especially in May and June.

These are bittersweet times.  On the one hand, you are thrilled to have a chance at a new blender that has a working motor and an unbent blade.  On the other hand, you will miss old Bart and his special way of being himself.

Of course it makes perfect sense that the Loves needed to sell most of their big-ticket items.  As a matter of fact, before Bart had even finished telling his two best friends in AlternateCultureVille that he was leaving, three other people somehow heard about it and offered to buy his vehicle from him.

The SUV and the appliances and large furniture sold quickly to the newest and ‘stealthiest’ (a word that you should  probably not use when playing Scrabble) missionaries in the community.  As the day to fly back to the states drew nearer, Bart grew more and more worried.

raft(Homemade raft, built by Bart’s teenage son in 2008; yours for the low low price of $600 USD.)

He listed item after item, all the way down to half empty bottle of powder and an old home-made raft.  Worse yet, the same Bart that had been generously provided for over twelve years even tried to sell his used undies.

( Friend hangs head in shame while nodding very slowly and disapprovingly.)

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What happened to Bart?  How did he miss out on giving generously to others when it was time to go back to the USA?  Why couldn’t Bart see that he had never gone hungry and had always been cared for during his time learning and working in AlternateCultureVille?

Bart and Ursula were able to unload every last roll of tape, every bottle of conditioner, even their fried out batteries were sold.   As their friends watched them go, several wondered what had happened to trap the Loves into thinking they had to ‘nickel and dime it’ to the extreme.

Yes, of course Bart and Ursula are fictitious people, but even fictitious people give me pause.

When our time is done how will we know what to sell and what to give away?  Technically, everything we own was purchased due to the generosity of those that support our family and our work – they bought our stuff.

What about you?  Sell it all?  Give it all?  Some of both? Where is the balance in all of that?

Last, but not least, if this story taught you nothing else, let me be clear

Do.not.sell.used.undies.

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About Tara Livesay

Tara and her family have lived in Haiti since 2006. She resides in Port au Prince, where she serves as a CPM (Midwife) with Heartline Ministries working in the areas of Maternal and Newborn Health. Tara is a the wife of Troy, the mother of seven children ranging in age from 25 to 7 years old. Tara enjoys running, laughing, sarcasm and spending time with her family. Troy and Tara consider Haiti, Minnesota, and Texas "home".
  • amy medina

    oh my goodness. And I thought it was only our community…..

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Oh good, glad you are getting offers for half used products at retail price too, Amy. 😉

      • amy medina

        and sometimes we buy them….

        • jani

          The thing is I’m not going to buy it if I don’t need it or if I don’t want to pay the price.

          • Tara Porter-Livesay

            Right. I get nobody is forced to buy ridiculously priced items. I just wish we didn’t list our used items at such high prices … and even more wish that when I consider that donor money bought the item in the first place.

  • dorothypearce

    Yes, I’ve seen those same facebook posts and wondered about them. Trying not to judge, though. Maybe they’re trying to be good stewards so they’ll have money to start over in a new location.

  • Beth McHoul

    Missionaries should be the most generous people on the planet. We are a disgrace to the kingdom when we are not generous. Shame on us when we nickel and dime.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Whoa! So much passion. I wasn’t trying to shame anyone … it was more of an attempt to laugh at how ridiculous we are as children of God sometimes. 🙂 P.S. I have some old running shoes I’d like to sell you.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      Preach! Totally agree Beth. I have an old bra for the price of Pakistani Rupees 200.

  • Loved this. Loved.

  • Holly Lovegrove

    I could tell it was a fictitious story because “all of their needs were continually provided for”: the Loves always had their needs (both emotional and physical) met and were never in want. Ha.

  • Ellen Hargrave

    I’ll never forget when I was first introduced to this mindset. We had recently come to the field – still in total awe of the way that God had provided everything for us to be there. I remember mentioning to someone that I wish that I had brought such and such. They told us the Whosies were leaving and had a sale and they thought that they had one. I inquired, and found that they indeed had one – and the asking price… was more than a new one in America.

    I was given the explanation that – well, they had to replace everything when they returned to the US. I queried – Wouldn’t the God who provided everything when they came out, provide everything when they went back?

    At that point, we determined that we were not going to accept money for anything that we didn’t pay for in the first place.And that we were not going to sell anything for more than it was worth.

    I remember another time – many years down the road when a worker that I really looked up to and I were discussing a book that was very popular and I wanted to read. She told me that she had been given two copies and would be glad to sell me one.

    GIVEN 2 copies? And would SELL me one?

    I did buy it by the way because, well – I really wanted it and there was no other way to get it – and it WAS worth the read…

    Down the road, the time did eventually come when it was time to leave – and as people inquired about buying our things, it WAS really tempting to go back on what God had shown us in our first year.

    DON’T take money for something we didn’t pay for in the first place.

    After all… we had to start over. Everything that we didn’t carry back, would have to be replaced!

    So – we sold the car…

    We wound up giving the bulk of our household furnishings to our ministry as our house became a Guest House… Not easy when we started thinking of “replacing everything in America” – but had to trust that the God who brought us would continue to take care of us.

    And oh how we answered.

    For our first six years back in the US, as part of what God had us do – we ran a completely furnished Guest House! –

    What we got from our car, paid for 1/2 of our car in the US – and then a year later, a church we were involved with had some excess – gave us a special gift – which exactly paid off the rest of the car!

    It is so easy to forget what God teaches us in one situation when we get into a new one. I have found in my life, that when God shows us something (as He did with me in that first year) – it is really important to share that decision with someone, write it down – whatever – so when the time comes, we have accountability… Jehovah Jireh is our Provider – wherever we are…

    And now that we are nearing retirement (not there yet gang!)… It is so easy to go into that earthly panic mode and wonder just how God will provide… but the God who has provided for the last 63 years certainly isn’t going to stop now… Is He?

    • Kaylee Kelm

      I love your story of faith, Ellen! Thank you for sharing.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Love this!!! So much.

      I am with you in the thinking that if the items were bought with money that was gifted to me, I ought to generously share those items with folks that can make use of them when I leave. I feel so embarassed at how cheap missionaries act. My examples are our two mentors — they host HUGE meals at their house, literally the butter alone at the dinners probably costs $100 — but they do it frequently and they don’t think about how much it costs to buy everyone a huge holiday meal — meanwhile, half the people that attend would want to sell them their little items (rather than gift) when they leave. I don’t get it at all.

      To whom much is given, much is sold after it’s been used a lot at above retail prices. That’s apparently how the saying goes.

  • Jody Hesler

    I’m alternately laughing and cringing! I have felt ol’ Bart’s fear. I hope I have swung to the side of generous. I have moved fields 2x and God’s incredible generosity continues to amaze. In the last few years I settled back in the US for grad school, thinking once I was done I’d head right back to the field. Well, it didn’t transpire that way and again God generously provided all I need and much of what I want. Yeah, and I’m like ol’ Bart in a lot of ways, lamenting that I’ve never owned a new set of dishes… sigh…

  • Kaylee Kelm

    So true! 🙂 Thanks for the laugh (and the reality of the situation!).

  • S Becker

    This was a great reminder. I think there is a tension in what God’s provision means in a material sense – obviously there are many faithful Christians around the world who live in poverty. Many missionaries (myself included) have moved multiple times with small children due to lack of financial means, and it’s exhausting. So for Bart, I guess I would say I hope I don’t have his attitude, but I get it.

  • Lynne Castelijn

    Fantastic! Tara, you’ve dealt with a sensitive topic in a a wonderful way. Humor with a hard-hitting punch of rather uncomfortable truth. Thank you.

    My husband and I have often queried the ethics (dare I use the word!) of selling what was given to us particularly when it was given for ministry purposes. However we are well aware that every situation is different and unfortunately there isn’t one nice, pat answer.

    Many years ago a wise senior missionary answered my question about another topic with the challenge that “There IS no easy answer, Lynne. Each time you will have to be looking to God and asking for His guidance on what to do. There is no blanket response”. Of course a blanket response was exactly what I wanted – “Just tell me what to do!” I think this is perhaps the same for whether to sell or not. What is right for one situation may not be right for another person in another situation.

    Also, recently our family returned to Australia for three years to help our older children settle back in and learn to be Aussies after a lifetime in the Philippine jungle. I quaked in fear at the thought of returning to Australia. How would we survive? My husband kindly laughed at me. I was expressing exactly the same fears I’d had 15 years earlier when thinking of leaving Australia. How funny that now my comfort zone had become the remote jungle tribe.

    The issue was the same though. A lack of trust in the incredible bigness and faithfulness of God to provide all my needs. (Sometimes my “need” was to do without, but He knew that too and it never subtracted from His wise faithfulness.)

    Looking forward to your next article Tara! xx

  • Tammy Brouwer

    I thought this was a great way to bring up the topic of “to sell or not to sell our stuff” when the Lord leads us elsewhere. We are not planning to leave any time soon, but it is a good discussion to have ahead of time so as not to be tempted to “get every penny we can.” I can’t say what God is leading others to do, or what their situation will be when they return to their passport country, but what I got out of this post was that God has provided our family with a lot of things over the years and I need to continue to have faith that He will provide for me when we leave. I like Ellen’s idea below of selling what we brought and giving away what has been given to us – which is a lot. We know a family leaving soon and they plan to have an open house to visit with friends and sell some items. I like the idea but with a twist – to have an open house and then spread out items for them to take home with them. I will say that most of the items I have from past missionaries I’ve purchased, but I wouldn’t say the prices were extravagant, and I do enjoy looking around my house and remembering those that have left. (Like the bookcase in my office, creamer pitcher, rubbermaid – B&E J. Coffee table – M&T D. Cast iron skillet – K&K H. etc.)

  • Jocelyn Walmsley Jelsma

    Loved this post! Hi from another CPM serving in Rwanda… here’s hoping we aren’t the “stealthiest” or the “nickel and dimers”! 🙂

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