This article was originally published in the April 2016 edition of ITMI Monthly.
ITMI Monthly chats with ITMI partner, Charl van Wyk, for a behind-the-scenes look at what happened a couple years back that turned his ministry around.
ITMI Monthly: Going back a few years ago, what challenges were you and your ministry facing?
Charl: The usual struggle that most missionaries have to deal with i.e. lack of funding to put food on the table for my family; and seeing many in desperate need of, not just spiritual help, but also in desperate need of physical help - and being unable to attend to them.
ITMI Monthly: How does that compare to the way things are now?
Charl: Our team in Stone Hill, for example, is so excited about our container buildings. We are praying to have a roof over the containers soon.
Container buildings for ministry in Stone Hill, South Africa.
We are running math and science classes – the state schools are disastrous; Bible studies are taking place; shack (small sheet metal houses) building for destitute families is taking place; one of our students has started college; another, at 25, has been helped to complete his schooling – he is very excited; Christmas gifts for the poor, from ITMI partners, almost caused our chairman to be arrested – the police questioned him when helping kids carry mattresses to their shacks – this was very funny; open air Sunday evening services are taking place; youth are coming to faith in Christ and are being discipled. Praise the Lord for His Grace!
An example of the small shacks built for destitute families in Stone Hill.
In other countries: a chicken and rabbit farming project, with the help of ITMI, was started to support a pastor earning a minuscule salary from the 8 bush churches he is overseeing; church buildings are, and have, been built in Zambia; orphans are fed; Bibles and bikes, including a few motorcycles, have been distributed to ministry leaders; mission outreaches to God-hating foreign countries have been financially supported – we can’t say much about this; we’ve helped a pastor get to an overseas missions conference; a laptop was purchased for a struggling missionary.
Building a pen for the farming project in Zimbabwe.
Charl with pastors and evangelists who received bikes from Charl's Bikes and Bibles fund.
ITMI Monthly: What happened that led to this change?
Charl: Steve Evers and I were chatting at the Phoenix Airport in AZ before I took a flight to another appointment on my ministry speaking tour. Steve explained that I should seriously consider physical projects to support the poor and marginalized in Africa.
I needed to ‘put feet to my faith’.
My mind was racing with all the reasons why I should not! Issues like import and export challenges; foreign exchange challenges and banks ripping us off; the fact that in Africa you cannot trust anyone (sometimes, even in the Church); the accounting (this I really despise); the cost in time and money of having to personally check up on projects and report back to partners; the list can go on…
ITMI Monthly: What did you do to take that advice?
Charl: I followed the example right in front of me. Steve lives his life, and his ITMI leadership role, in this very manner. He looks for minsters of the Gospel that he (ITMI) can help be more effective for God’s Kingdom here on earth.
So, it wasn’t too difficult to put into practice what Steve was suggesting, because the role model already existed and is Biblically sound.
Steve encouraging South Sudanese Church leaders, including ITMI partner, Vicky Waraka.
Steve Evers and ITMI's Muhindo Kawede of ITMI's International School of Missions.
I’ll never forget a mother bringing her baby in her arms to the church I was preaching at in Lubumbashi, Congo. The baby looked drained and lifeless - dehydrated. A pastor friend prayed over the baby and the mother left the church in tears. It was pretty obvious that the baby would die soon if not put on an IV.
An IV would have saved that baby’s life! The fact is that there weren’t any anywhere.
Since then, the church opened a medical clinic; we helped with a donated x-ray machine. Later the clinic closed, waiting for the church college to build new premises in which the clinic could be housed, and students could practice their medical studies.
A businessman friend, who visited the Congo with me, donated $15,000 USD to the clinic building project.
I don’t think we must be shy to introduce our supporters to the ministry of others. Helping each other grow the Lord’s Kingdom on earth is one of our primary responsibilities and taking the Gospel to the sick is a phenomenal opportunity.
ITMI Monthly: What has God done with your ministry as a result?
Charl: The results have been spectacular, not because we’ve done everything right; it’s more like, in spite of us, God has done amazing work.
One of His amazing blessings has been the help of the staff at ITMI, whose professional, helpful ministry on our behalf, with and to our partners in the US, has been the greatest help in the field.
I cannot overemphasize how much their help means to our partners and us.
ITMI Monthly: Were there any unexpected results?
Charl: The Lord has blessed our ministry with wonderful, caring Christian friends who are very serious about His work. Everything revolves around teamwork. There is no way that one person alone can run multiple projects across foreign borders.
A doctor and dentist freely help with health issues; and an accountant helps us for free with our (seriously complicated) financial reports.
ITMI Monthly: What advice could you give ITMI readers looking to put this principle into practice in their own lives?
Charl: I think the most important idea is what Steve says: “God's bank account is not the type that can ever, ever be drained.”
On a personal note, we always try and double tithe our personal financial support – off the gross amount. This is difficult, but is doable with God’s Grace.
"It is very important to have a ‘help meet’ (wife) that understands God’s heart beat for giving." - Charl, pictured here with his wife, Sonia.
The Lord uses funding, or lack thereof, as a means to sanctify us; we have to be prepared to learn from experiencing both abundance and scarcity.
I don’t want this to sound easy or pretend that there are 5 easy steps to follow and then you’ll have loads of resources. We struggled for years before we were blessed in this way.
And who knows, maybe, we will return to struggling in the future again.
It is easier to raise funds to bless others, but far more difficult to raise funds for your own survival in the field.
We need to pray for and market our ministries. This can be done by treating each supporter as a partner; thanking them for their prayers and financial sacrifice in the Lord’s work; keeping them up to date with personal letters of thanks and general ministry news updates.
Praying for them and their families when they let us know of challenges they are struggling through.
Our ministry to our partners shouldn’t be any different to us ministering in the “field.”
The way God works is so incredible. I stand in awe of His ways and watch how He brings people across our paths, even some whom we’ve never met before, or may have been on our mailing list for years and never gotten involved.
Then He works in their hearts and friends become partners in working towards seeing “His Kingdom come and His Will being done” in Africa.
They get fired up; some come and work with us; others do more than us; many pray and send funds; still others just love on us. This is God’s work.
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.