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.
(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.)
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…