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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Batterson

It's {not} all about the Benjamins

Anyone else remember that song from the 90's? Puff Daddy sang about how life was all about tryin' to get those Benjamin's ($100 US bills have Benjamin Franklin on them, for my non-American readers). In his song, he references using them for fancy cars, big houses and other... iffy... things.

But can I just share a secret (that's maybe not a secret)? Missionaries sometimes play this soundtrack in their minds... whether they realize it or not.

Many missionaries, ourselves included, rely on financial donations from individuals and churches to live. We don't get paid a salary (heck, most of us aren't even allowed to get a job in our host country because of visa restrictions). So a lot of our lives are consumed with going after those 'Benjamins' so we can pay the bills, support the ministry work we're doing, pay for our kids braces, buy our school supplies, filter our water... all the things. We write all the newsletters, set up all the fundraising campaigns, share all the stories, pray all the prayers, and hope, month after month, that what comes in will be enough to cover our living and ministry expenses.

Money is not something that generally stresses me out. Honestly. We have had God come through for us too. many. times. in so many ways for me to doubt his provision for the life we lead under his calling. Lately though, I've found myself longing for more of those Benjamins. If we just had a little more we could do xyz for the schools we serve. If we just had a little more we could do xyz for the Church. As we prepare to go on furlough in a couple of months I find myself starting to worry just the tiniest bit that we won't be able to hack it living on our South African budget in an American economy. (Please someone tell me why eggs are $12 a dozen?!)

This week, though, I was reminded that it really is not at all about the Benjamins. Okay, well maybe just a little bit, but mostly it's not. Let me explain:

Back in December we used some of the funds we had raised to purchase tables and chairs for one of our preschools in the Eastern Cape. School holidays here last until February, so we didn't get the shipment until early March. By then we had been re-assigned to new schools in KZN. Then our car went in the shop and the loaner was the size of a clown car and couldn't fit the chairs - let alone the tables! Then Easter holidays happened... but this week... this week! ALL the stars finally aligned for us to be able to get back down to the Eastern Cape and deliver these much-needed resources to the preschool!

When we pulled up outside the school the teacher walked out absolutely beaming as I began to unload the chairs from the boot. I figured she was just so excited to finally get the goods that I went to hand her a stack of chairs to carry in. Instead, she passed up the chairs, came in for a hug and said, "I've missed you so much!"

Friends, I could have cried! We chatted for a bit as we carried things in and set them up and she couldn't stop saying how much she missed us. THIS IS WHAT IT'S ABOUT. Sorry for shouting, but I just wanted to be sure you heard me from way over here :) These relationships we build with the teachers (and students) are why we are here. Yes, writing the Bible curriculum is great, making up fun games and songs and getting the kids to learn while they play is solid pedagogy, and sharing the gospel while we do it is the icing on the cake. Yes, it takes money to buy the materials. But the relationships? Those are what we're here for. Those connections are what form the basis for our ministry. They're how we reach people with the love of Jesus and the hope that a life in relationship with him brings. And today reminded me of that. Sure, without the money to buy those tables and chairs I'm not sure I would have gone back down to that preschool anytime soon (it's a solid hour in the opposite direction of our new schools) - so money does play a role.

Since we've been serving these new schools in KZN this term, I find myself getting disappointed that we don't have those relationships with these teachers yet. That some of the teachers and students are still guarded when we walk in the door. I get mad at myself for not knowing more of the language so I can show them that I long to connect with them, to really see them and get to know them.

The interesting thing is, the school we went back to today was one that we added on sort of late in the game. We were only working with them for a couple of months before being reassigned. I really didn't even feel like I'd had a chance to build a relationship before we switched schools. Yet, here came the teacher, totally passing up the shiny and bright new tables and chairs to get a hug and reconnect. It was such an encouragement to me, one I didn't even realize I needed. (But God, right?)

May you also be encouraged if you're feeling like you're 'in the thick of it' at the moment. If you can't see the impact you're making, just keep going. Keep following the lead of the Holy Spirit, doing what he tells you to do. Trust in his guidance and in His provision; not only in his provision for the Benjamin's, but provision for a glimpse at the impact you're making too.

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