Labor is honorable. I enjoy working. In fact, my children sometimes ask me if I know how to play. Work IS play for me, but in the Fall of 1996 I wasn't having much fun.
9/16/96 “I’ve been delinquent in recording our gifts. We have received decreasing amounts each month. The past 2 months have been under $900 per month. It has pressed me to become more sober about my dependence upon God. I’ve been sent to my knees again in earnest. The result has been a greater and purer dependence upon God to provide our needs....I’ve tried—I mean I have really tried to produce an income through (MLM sales company) and also sign painting. The result has been a $0 net profit. God is my strength.” 9/17/96 “…blessed today with a $37 check from (MLM sales company), realized $2455 gain on some investments I made some months ago,…and a car lot asked me to come tomorrow and paint some more signs.”
9/96 " It took 9 hours in the hot summer sun, but I found and completed my first sign job. I prayed with almost every stroke of the brush that I wouldn’t ruin this guy’s window. I didn’t, and he paid me $75. I was so thankful. It felt good to actually produce something for our family. It has been a long time."
9/27/96 “I got some work this week hanging a sign ($50). Also was offered work painting trim at SS Family’s house.”
9/28/96 “SS Family gave us about $50 worth of beef!”
11/15/96NOTE: I often noted my many thoughts in my journal entries. They ranged from the monetary to the heavenly. They bounced through in random order at times; I merely noted them as they came. This reflective-thinking was part talking with God, part introspective, and part thinking aloud. Below is a snippet from a more lengthy entry that illustrates the many varied thoughts and issues racing though my mind in November 1996.
“Today …Prioritize time with God…Follow God into the streets today. Paint my signs and listen. Observe the people—especially the poor. It may be that a mountain man will come by..…My children need me. I need to give them time…The Word is our comfort—I must read it for reassurance and hope.”
12/2/96 “We are being carried by gifts. Without them, I can safely say we would not still be in Appalachia. I wonder how much longer we can remain unless they increase or unless our earnings increase. It is at present a difficult leg of the journey…doubts about the…decision to be here are much more regular and convincing and yet, somehow, the Lord continues to empower and enable us to put one foot ahead of the next.”
12/17/96 “God has been great. Over the 1996 year God has graciously given us almost $14,000.”
NOTE: Throughout the year God provided for our needs, but our ministry struggled. The Greek family had joined us in Jellico, and two other families already living and serving in Jellico were meeting with us, but local converts were non-existent. We had tried meeting in our homes on Wednesdays and then at the local clinic waiting room on Sunday, but the key to Appalachian hearts still eluded us. Yet by God’s grace we were still in Jellico, and with His continued grace we would continue to reach out in the New Year, and I would continue in search of work to meet my family’s needs.
The Sign Guy
My Business Card
The MLM business was not producing an income, and I felt the need to provide income for the family. It was still my belief that I would be in Appalachia as vocational missionary. I wanted to serve as an example to men, showing by my own life, of how a man ought provide for the financial needs of his family. So, I continued to look for a job or create one.
Around this time my brother came from Texas for a visit. One afternoon he drove into town for a soda, but did not return until 3 hours later. It was only two blocks to town, so there was some concern about his safety until he parked the car and stepped out with a wide smile on his face.
"Where have you been?" I asked, "Making money." He replied.
I could not believe it, but he had managed to arrange a sign painting deal with a small car dealership. They'd paid him $500 to letter two large glass windows. I knew he'd made extra cash occasionally as a sign painter, but it had never occurred to me to try it. The $500 caught my attention. I became a sign painter.
I had no experience, but my brother gave me a few tips. With a day’s practice on my Suburban’s glass windows and $100 of paints and brushes I offered a prayer and went door to door (literally) looking for sign work on the streets of Jellico. It took about an hour to cover both of them. The next to last shop on the second street offered me a job.
I worked 9 hours. The sun pelted my face as it reflected off the concrete, and torched my head and neck from above, but I was so thankful to have work that I hardly noticed. By end of the day, I came home with a small pay check of $75 for my efforts, but a large sense of accomplishment and invigorated hope for as much success tomorrow.