People often ask Global Opportunities to share tentmaking stories so that others can see what it is like and also be inspired to follow in their steps. This is the first in a series of case studies of actual tentmaker experiences which will help readers understand what tentmaking involves.
Listen to the story in the tentmaker’s own words.
In December 1981 I went back to Urbana as I sensed that God wanted to use me somehow in missions. At the conference I kept hearing the phrase ‘God can’t steer a parked car ‘ i.e. you need to walk by faith and allow God to direct your steps as you seek to follow His Will as opposed to just sitting around. I had a desire to serve our Lord overseas but did not know where or what actions to take.
At Urbana I received mixed messages from various Christian organizations regarding my desire to be use by the Lord overseas. Some well-meaning advice was to go to Bible school for 2-3 years before trying to go overseas. I felt bewildered – did Christ say to go into all the world and preach the Gospel BUT only after attending a Bible school?
It was at Urbana that I met a remarkable woman named Ruth Siemens who headed up what would become Global Opportunities. Ruth encouraged me that God indeed could use me overseas as a tentmaker. She challenged me to allow God to use my engineering background as a means to open a door for employment and ministry in countries closed to traditional missionary activity. Isaiah 45: 2-3 “I will go before you and make the crooked ways straight…So that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you..”
After returning from Urbana I updated my resume and mailed it out to several firms. Then our Lord started working in amazing ways. I had one resume left. At work on Monday I saw an ad from a firm in Arizona which was looking for civil engineers to work in the Saudi Arabia. I mailed the resume to that firm that night not thinking anything would come from it (oh me of little faith).
Two days later I had to drop a report off for my supervisor. On his desk I notice a piece of paper with various names on it – including mine. The paper said since work on the project was slowing down the following individuals would be let go in 2 weeks. I was going to be laid off.
On the drive home that night with a fellow believer I shared what I had seen. My friend asked me what I planned to do. I said I did not know but God would provide. As I walked in the door of my apartment the telephone rang. The firm from Arizona asked me if I could fly out that weekend for a job interview. When God seemingly closes one door on us it may be because He has something better for us through another door.
I flew to Tucson that weekend and interviewed with the firm. To my surprise however the firm wanted to know if I would consider coming to work for them, not as a civil engineer, but as an estimator. They would train me in country to be an estimator. I said that I would consider it. Near the end of the 4 hour interview I was asked if the firm made me an offer would I accept it. I said that I would, even though I did not like the idea of quitting one job to take another. Well God can and does intervene to direct our steps when we are open to His leading. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Monday morning back at the job site near Tampa, I was called into my supervisor’s office and told that I was going to be laid off. That night back in my apartment I received a telephone call from the Arizona firm offering me the job. 5 weeks later I found myself on a flight bound for Saudi Arabia and not knowing anyone there but knowing God had opened the door for me to serve Him as a tentmaker. One of the verses which gave me comfort and encouraged me was Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
There is much more to the story which will be shared at another time. What are some of the lessons that stand out from this experience?
- Step out in faith on what God prompts in your heart. One does not have to see the end, just proceed in faith to the next step. In His time all will be revealed.
- Many have the mis-conception that God can’t use people until they have several years of Bible School under their belt. In fact, God used Michael mightily. While Bible School is useful, one can learn Scripture in other ways and a faithful servant attitude is the most important to God.
- Professional skills open doors to “closed countries” that do not welcome professional religious workers.
- God is in control of the timing. Sometimes He moves slowly, and sometimes faster than we imagine. All He needs is obedience.
- When circumstances change it is often because God is preparing us for something better.
Are you ready to be used of God? What is He saying to your heart? Abraham’s senior servant responded to God this way, “I, being in the way, the Lord lead me…” Gen 24.27 KJV.