While my husband snored softly in the next room, I sat on the floor surrounded by bills we could not pay, angry beyond reason. And I started yelling at God.
“God, just look at all these bills. You know we can’t pay them. We are here because this is where You told us to be. It certainly wasn’t my idea to come to China. We trusted You! Well, we can’t pay these bills, and I’ll tell You something else. We’ve already borrowed money from our friends too many times, but we’re not going to do that again. It’s not fair to them. They have their own bills to pay. So if we starve to death here, then it’s all Your fault because You’re the one who brought us here in the first place.”
I didn’t listen for an answer. I was so caught up in the daily struggle to survive that I had lost my perspective and a little of my faith.
How We Got Into This Fix
After months of preparation, we had finally arrived in our chosen mission field. But excitement soon turned to dismay when we realized that promised funds did not mean a thriving bank account — at least, not immediately.
We do not have a sending organization, and we rely on the promised funding of God’s people for our finances. Individual Christians and Christian churches had made pledges to support our mission, but what we had not realized is that they were planning to begin their support in their next fiscal year — and the fiscal year doesn’t start in the middle of November, which is when we arrived in Hong Kong.
There was one additional problem. Even though we did have some money coming into our U.S. bank account, we depended on a forwarding agent back in Florida to send it to us every month. She’d had her first baby right before we left for Hong Kong, and quite often it slipped her mind to send us a paycheck.
So we had very little money. But we had rent, utilities, and on top of all that, we had school bills. Our first priority was learning to speak Cantonese, and that meant two years of language school. Those bills came to the same amount as our rent, and we didn’t have enough money to cover both. Should we pay the rent or learn to communicate?
No matter which one we chose, there was still the little matter of eating.
Care Packages and Angels
About a week before I found myself on the floor yelling at God, we received a care package from a group of Christian supporters. Our forwarding agent had forgotten to send us a paycheck for three months in a row, so packaged food in that care package was about the only thing keeping us alive. I doled out small amounts of food each day — just enough to keep us on our feet. But one day we finally came to the end.
It was Friday when we sat down to eat our last real meal — tinned soup and cornbread from the care package. After that, all the food we had in the house was rice and peanut butter.
While we were eating, someone knocked on the door. She was a lady I had only met once before, at a friend’s house, so we didn’t really know her. She came in and sat with us as we ate. I could see her examining our table, and could just hear her thinking, “So, this is how Americans eat.” But she was kind and didn’t say anything. Before she left, she asked if she could come back the next day and bring her two children to give them an opportunity to learn English. Of course, we said yes.
Then David did something neither of us have ever understood. He asked her to come for supper. I kicked him under the table, but the damage was already done. She accepted, promising she would teach me how to cook a Chinese meal.
Saturday. All morning I waited for the mail. If our check was in it, I would just have time to nip into town and cash it, buy a few groceries, and have something to serve our guests.
But no check came in the mail.
I waited most of the afternoon for our guests to arrive, rehearsing in my mind how to apologize for not having any supper to serve them after that ill-advised invitation.
Around 5:00 our guest arrived with her two teenaged children who unloaded their car. Trip after trip those kids made, their arms loaded with prawns, chicken, pork, fish, all kinds of vegetables, even cooking oil and condiments. And then our new friend cooked dish after savory dish, until our table was overloaded with delicious food.
We ate until we were ready to burst, and still the table was loaded. And not only the table. After they left, our fridge was also filled to capacity with leftovers and uncooked food. It turned out this lady and her husband owned a restaurant, and she had emptied that kitchen into mine.
That was the third and last time we ever saw that lady. After she and her children left, David and I both had the same question. Had this woman been an angel in disguise? If not, she certainly was in the right place at the right time for God to use her to shore up my flagging faith.
God wasn’t quite through answering my accusations either. The next day, Sunday, our neighbor across the street brought us some Chinese sausages.
Then on Monday, we received not only the missing paychecks, but also a book of blank checks. We were finally in a position to write our own checks at the right time without depending on a sleep-deprived new mother to remember for us.
Please understand this: I am not advocating yelling at God as an appropriate prayer format. But there is a biblical precedent, mainly in the Psalms, for venting your true feelings while talking to Him. In the process of honest venting, I surprised myself by getting to the real problem — my lack of faith. And that’s when God finally showed me what He is capable of.