As each year of my life on this earth passes by I see more of the big picture of why God asked me to start the ministry of God's Share Program. Yes, it was for my part in the Great Commission but it was also His way of taking care of me, providing for me. My personal life turned on a dime November 20, 2015. I'm sure our stories differ but if you have ever received that one phone call that changed the course of your life then you know what I am talking about. In that moment and the months to follow, I saw how God had carefully orchestrated my life so that I would not be left without a way to provide for myself financially, a roof over my head and food on my table.
God's Share Program is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We do have a presiding Board of Directors. But as the originating founder there's a fine line where my life ends and God's Share Program begins. I love the work God has called me to do. So as my current life circumstances have brought me to a time of reflection I thought it would be fun to share with you just how God's Share Program got it's start.....
When I was a small child, my Mom and the ladies from our Church were always raising funds by making and selling homemade bread, cinnamon rolls and noodles. They used the funds for various projects but some of those projects included funding for missionaries. The women also made items like lap robes to send to the missionaries. This influenced my life and I hoped to one day do the same. But my life took various turns and so this hope got tucked away, way back but not forgotten.
In my late twenties early thirties I was asked to take over the leadership role of a Secret Sister Ministry at the Church I attended. I agreed but I wanted the ministry to have more of an outward focus. We decided to collect items at our events for a couple missionary families that were serving their first term on the mission field. One of these families was the Flanagan family serving in Mozambique Africa. (While living in Mozambique they had to cross the border into South Africa to receive any mail.) The ladies had a lot of fun collecting items using different themes. For instance in March we asked everyone to bring something green. We had green toys, green school supplies, green toiletries and so on. The one year as I was in the middle of preparations for our big annual banquet for the Secret Sister ministry, the missions Pastor approached me about being part of a mission team to Mozambique. Now I had a host of other things on my mind as I was decorating and preparing to serve a banquet for a large group of women and mind you in relation to the Flanagan family I was thinking South Africa so I did not relate Mozambique to their location in that moment. I was never one of those people who grew up saying "I want to go to Africa". So my response to him was.... "Now why in the world would I want to go to Mozambique?" When he responded that that was where the Flanagan family was, in an instant God moved on my heart and I wanted to go. Fast forward to 4 months later and I was on my way. Although I have to tell you that I almost didn't get to go! This was back before the digital age. There had been an error when my airline ticket was ordered. When the Church office realized the error and a new ticket was requested it did not arrive until the day before we left! By the 3rd plane ride en route to Mozambique, I inquired of the missions Pastor how come the rest of the team was sitting in groups of two and three and I was always seated by myself. He then confessed about the error and that no one wanted to be the one to tell me that I came within 12-24 hours of not being allowed to go. Is that God or what?!!! But as I was preparing for the trip and beginning the packing process I began to wonder if there were items the missionaries needed that they could not get in country. I had two checked bags and figured I would have room to add whatever they needed. So I e-mailed missionary Jayne and asked her if there were items needed that I could bring. Her original response was no because as I found out later, she didn't want to burden me. But as she talked with other missionaries she found there were indeed things they needed that they could only find in the States. So Jayne would send me an e-mail with the requested item(s). I would go out and purchase the item(s). Then I would remove personal items from my checked luggage and put in the missionary items. I would check my e-mail again. There would be another e-mail from Jayne with additional needed items. I would purchase the items, remove more of my personal items from the checked luggage and put in the missionary's items. After awhile it got to be quite humorous. Just when I thought the shopping was done, there was always more to do. When Jayne sent an e-mail and told me to tuck the new things between layers of clothing so that customs wouldn't see all the new items and want to charge me taxes I just laughed. There was no room for my clothing! Both checked bags were completely filled with all the items the missionaries needed! Walking into Church one Wednesday night, I said "There has to be a ministry for this." But I also said that I felt it had the potential to be huge and therefore I wasn't starting it unless I knew for sure and for certain that God wanted me to do just that. So I asked God to confirm while I was on the mission trip in Mozambique that He wanted me to start this ministry. And He did! (Side note: I also asked Him to make sure I always got an aisle seat - and He did that as well - God cares about the little things too!) God not only confirmed that He wanted me to start this ministry He also gave me the name for the ministry. The name came from an embroidered piece that I purchased from the ladies who worked at an orphanage we visited. It had a bird embroidered on it along with Hebrews 13:16 and the words from that scripture, "Do Good and Share". (This is where the idea came to use birds on our logo as well.) Upon returning from the mission trip God relocated me to Florida. I went to the local library and found the book 'How to Start Your Own Non-Profit'. Any spare time I had was devoted to reading that book, filling out paperwork, writing Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws and submitting it to Florida State for incorporation and the IRS for non-profit status. I returned from my mission trip the end of February 2003. By April of 2004 I had received final approval for God's Share Program to be a 501(c)3 corporation. Our originating date being August 1, 2003! We started serving just a handful of missionary families in a few different countries. We have grown into serving lots of missionary families in over 60 countries. I don't think the number of missionary families we serve is as important as counting the number of supplies that we send for them to distribute. Because each of those supplies that we send represent one life that will hear about the love, hope and eternal life found in Jesus Christ.
Just for fun... Here's a list of some of the items that I took in my suitcases for the missionaries:
2 dome tents - one for a missionary family and one for puppet ministry
a good amount of Terro Ant Killer
jars of Eucerin Cream
2 matching fabric shower curtains (easy to wash type)
bulk package of scotch tape, 10-12 rolls
tubes of Vicks Vapor Rub Cream
a big bag of Tootsie Rolls (now that was for an MK)
pkgs of Monistat Cream
Faberware spatula type cheese slicer (the missionary had issues with her hands and she needed this type)
pkgs of nose pieces for glasses
Playtex spill proof Insulated baby cups
a big box of baseball cards (another MK request)
Another fun side note:
So I am usually one to play by the rules. I was the last person on our team to get my passport stamped and go through customs. After I got my stamp in my passport I headed towards the exit area with my luggage cart. I had two choices. I could go to the left where many of my team members were with all the luggage up on tables being gone through by customs officials -OR- I could walk straight on past this custom official and see if he stopped me. It appeared the right course of action was to go where the rest of my team was. I didn't speak the language so I couldn't inquire... So I decided to head straight for the exit and hope I didn't get into any kind of trouble.... So onward I went, right past that custom official, if he even saw me, he made no move. It was a small place. There was no one else around but me and the official. I walked right on out to the outside where the missionaries waited to greet us. No one to question or even look at all those new items I took in..... now here we go again... Is that God or what?!!!