For most of this month we’ve been holding our collective breath. We were asked to consider going on a two week missions trip to Jamaica in August — and the suggestion came with the offer of two free weeks of babysitting while we were gone. It was an offer too good to refuse. The only catch was that the team was already formed, and to get in late was going to cost just shy of $4000. That’s a lot of money to spend on a trip to Jamaica.
To be honest, we had no clue if this was something God wanted us to do. In our experience, “coincidence” usually turns out to be God guiding, and there were a lot of neat coincidences along the way. So we were completely ready to scrimp and save and come up with the money to make it happen. We had $3000 left from our amazing income tax season, and we cut all our discretionary budgets for the month of June to see what we could pull together per month — $280.
So we could have got there, but it would have left no margin for any unplanned financial costs later in the year. For example, our hot tub cover is nearly destroyed. We’d have to seal up the hot tub in the fall, since a new cover is $500. I’d have to stop going to the back specialist, because we’re running out of health coverage for the year. The kids would have to make it through the summer with last year’s summer clothes…
It would have been do-able, but it would have been tough. Then yesterday we got some news about cut-backs at work that brought into focus just how unstable the economy is right now. And we realised the risk was just too high this year.
So we had $280 cash saved up, and we don’t need all $3000 of that tax money, so last night we got to be high rollers. There was a fundraiser at church for the trip, and with it clear that we wouldn’t be going, we had money to burn. The event was a dinner and auction, with a number of cool things to be won, and team members auctioning off various services that they would perform. We bid on almost everything — sometimes just to raise the price, and sometimes to win. Over the course of the evening, we racked up a reasonable bill, with all of it going to the team.
It was competitive and fun and funny. After the auction, people in the church we hadn’t met yet came up and introduced themselves to us — asking things like “what is it you do for a living?” Apparently thinking we were a mysterious young rich couple who’d come in just to throw money around… when in actual fact, we’d skipped our date nights, Starbucks runs and home improvement spending all month, and could think of nothing better to do with that cash than give it to missions — especially given that this is a first missions trip for most of the team members.
And we did get some good things out of the deal: dog training (no, we don’t have a dog, but we think the trainer is pretty great), babysitting, a night’s stay in a Jacuzzi Suite at a classy hotel, even two students willing to do a day of manual labour (eg: helping us finish our garden.) We did not win the flight and free hotel stay in Hawaii — had they auctioned that off first, we might have had a chance — but it went to a good couple, who have probably earned it. Over all, it was the most fun we’ve ever had spending money, and we’re glad we got to do it.
We’ve had the sense, since we moved back home to Canada, that this is to be a period of rest and equipping for us. A time to do things like find a family doctor, make regular trips to a dentist, finish paying off our debts, build some equity in a home and get the retirement savings fund going — y’know, normal adult things that we just hadn’t gotten around to with all the moving around we’ve done since we got hitched. That doesn’t mean we’re not up for short term missions trips — I already signed us up for the next one. But I think this year we’re not quite ready. We have a good little house here and a great church community, but there’s a little bit more investing — socially and financially — that we need to do yet before this is really home.
So, our prayers and our best wishes and whatever other support we can offer go out to the Jamaica team. We wish we were going with you, but we’ll stay home and guard the stuff this time. There’s a lot to be said about the value of missions, but stewardship and relationships and making sure our family is provided for are important too — in this season of life, maybe they’re even more important for us right now.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Starbucks. I haven’t had a Chai Tea Latte in a month, and I have a craving…