I’ve recently returned from 10 days of travel visiting friends, family and donors. It was an opportunity to get face to face with over 40 people and talk about my work with GFM. I have a few reflections I want to share about that time and how incredibly enriching it was for me. But first, here’s a run down of all the people I saw and some of the fun ways I got to spend time with them. You might find yourself on the list, but I’m letting everyone remain nameless. You know who you are!
Traveled 7 hours to arrive in the living room of a friend from my old hometown. He’s a medical doctor – the dad of my daughter’s friend from her homeschool days. We had an awesome conversation about Graduate Faculty Ministry, our bizarre sex-crazed culture and the world of social media. Enjoyed pitching my work to him – especially talking about how a medical professor teamed up with me here in Omaha to create an educational event exploring the intersection of medicine and human trafficking. He encouraged me to plunge into my work with graduate students and professors. He’d never heard of anything like that.
That evening I drove across town to spend the night with an old college roommate and his family. For nostalgia’s sake, I made two dozen of my famous peanut butter chocolate chip monsters for them. A mutual friend and fellow guitar lover brought over some awesome locally grown popcorn and a few IPAs. I talked about GFM and passed on my gratitude for my friend’s generosity (He and his wife were on my very first prospect list the second I thought about doing this again). Oh, and I brought a pound of Bakers Chocolate from the great state of Nebraska (we’re famous for more than just corn). Stayed up late pitching a book idea to them.
Had a panic attack first thing in the morning – thought I’d lost my wallet. Turns out I left my jacket at my buddy’s. Headed to Crawfordsville, Indiana where I’d meet up with my cousin on the campus of Wabash college. She gave me walking tour of the charming campus. Fed me lunch. I caught her up on my new adventure with InterVarsity.
Next stop- a small community library in Indianapolis. I had a few minutes to kill before supper at the home of some Wesleyan alumnae who supported me and Cheryl back in the 90s and early aughts. I found some brochures on an upcoming lecture about John Dillinger – grabbed them up on my way to their house (they shouldn’t miss out on that).
A repeated experience on the trip was meeting back up with people who’d gotten married, had kids…kids who’d grown up considerably in the intervening years! When people you saw so much potential in as college students 15 years ago reach the life stage when their kids are emerging adults – you realize again what a thrill it was knowing them when they were so young. More than once on this trip I was just floored by my donor’s kids and the successful families incubating them! Their energy. Their creativity. The way kids are little miniatures of their moms and dads. It never fails to make me laugh out loud.
“So what happened with your church job and why are you back on staff with IVCF?” the wife asked immediately after the last syllable of the table grace. It’s a question I’m getting tired of answering, but the concern was heartfelt. I explained about my termination and quickly moved on to my new ministry gig with GFM. Rehashing the pain of job severance makes a bad pitch platform. I’m hopefully getting better at turning that conversational corner.
Started the day with a nearly-morning-long breakfast. Another Wesleyan alum. It humbles me that this guy’s love for InterVarsity, IWU and the Perry family hasn’t dulled a bit since meeting him in 1991. We agonized more than once over the near non-existence of a student group at Illinois Wesleyan today (there had always been a thriving InterVarsity presence on campus in the past). We talked about growing older. We talked about watching parents get old and fall apart. About how family dynamics change as your parents pass on. Theology of singleness in the church. Oh, and why eating so much bread is really bad for you.
Wound up that night at the home of a pastor friend of mine. He and his wife were on my very first IVCF student executive committee back at Eastern Illinois University in the fall of 1987! We had loads to catch up about. Enjoyed a nice dinner out. He’s beginning doctoral work on the topic of evangelism and apologetics. Got to pitch him a few thoughts about Bad Company (book idea I’m working on – more on that in future posts).
North Manchester via Kokomo. Grabbed Panera with another college roommate (from 1982 at EIU and then again in 1986 at University of Illinois). He’s about to retire from Chrysler and pursue his preferred self (soccer coach). His wife is facing a big health challenge. He’s as positive and filled with faith about it as I’ve ever seen him. I remember when we both were struggling so hard to get through engineering classes at U of I in the mid 1980s. He’s supported me every day I’ve been on staff with InterVarsity – the 19 years I previously worked for them. He picked up where he left off when I stepped away 11 years ago.
Had dinner with another Wesleyan graduate in a tiny town in northern Indiana. As a faculty member, I was particularly interested in talking with her about my new job and getting her thoughts. I need places where I can see GFM from the inside out. Christian faculty members who teach at secular universities can help give me that. We talked about her experiences as a teacher in her 15th year now.
Turned the clock back an hour and headed to northern Illinois. Arrived at my niece’s place – far to late to talk much but long enough to make friends with her cat, Kirby (the pic). Being with family in the middle of a 1,600 mile trip is like a little oasis. I slept like a rock. I ate almost a third of their Racine Kringle the next morning before heading to Madison, WI.
By the way, one of the best integrity checks for support-raising ministry has always been the question, “Will ANY of your family actually get behind you doing this, Tim?” Yes. My niece is among many family members who give me all kinds of grace-points by partnering with me. In this case it’s a particular joy because my niece WAS “one of my Wesleyan students” a long time ago when she went to college in my hometown. She’s been an incredibly loyal friend to my family. I got to officiate her wedding! Her cat even loves me. Does not get better than that!
Blitzed InterVarsity’s National Service Center. Ran into several friends from my previous IVCF life. But the person I did call ahead to get an appointment with was MY OLD STAFF WORKER (MOSW hereafter). You have to understand what that means. This guy was already with InterVarsity back when I was a freshman in 1982. MOSW just celebrated 40 years of service with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship! Most would have something named for them for working that long. I found MOSW in his office doing the same thoughtful, careful publishing work he’s done most of his years with IVCF. We had a lot of catching up to do. I realize every time I’m around MOSW that he still is my staff worker. He’s never stopped having a mentoring role in my life. I’m looking forward to his help as I climb back into InterVarsity and attempt another 10,000 miles. He’ll probably be there to see me back OFF STAFF at the end of this for all I know!
I spent the night in Madison with an absolutely delightful couple. You guessed it. Wesleyan alumnae both of them. I’d actually packed the supplies on this trip for making cookies with this family in mind. I’m the MOSW to these two. They were both model students – one joined our staff team as an intern upon graduating. After getting married they were off to dental school and seminary. Their whole family of 5 showed up on our doorstep about three years ago here in Omaha. I called them last spring and let them know I’d be coming on staff with IV. Their enthusiasm for my return impacted me tremendously. Their generosity as well. Hanging out with them in their home felt like the most natural thing for me to do! We chatted long into the evening. These are the kind of folks you almost wish you could move in with. Watching them just be themselves as a family was so fun. I especially liked bed-time. Their oldest was just getting wound up for serious nerf-gun warfare to the mild annoyance of his dad.
The next day I made my way back to Omaha via Rockford. A quick hello to a former Christ Community staff member at a Starbucks. She’d been in our college ministry and completed an internship before moving to Illinois. I hadn’t seen her since the move. Got the chance to meet her new husband as well. We’re now comrades in fundraising who were formerly employed by the mega-church. We had a lot to talk about.
I’ll spin this out more in the next post, but I was so encouraged with the quality of time I spent with all these people. Well worth all the driving. To a person I felt an unusual sense of privilege to be doing a work that I couldn’t even attempt without their help. Its been a slow process getting the band back together (signed my provisional appointment with IV in mid February). But I’ve never once felt like it’s been a drag to do fundraising. The people God is giving me to partner with defy any hint of negativity. God has given me so much grace and generosity through them. I can’t wait to get this thing fully underway.
Just this morning I finished reading some Henri Nouwen on the topic of fundraising. I’ll tee up a few quotes that I’ve found to ring so true in my renewed support-raising endeavor. More later in the week…