They say that hindsight is 20/20, meaning that we can see into the past with much more clarity than we can see into the future. I believe that this saying holds true in my experience with the Life Issues – Next Step Walk fundraiser that we held on August 31, to raise support for our addiction recovery program. I think it is prudent to reflect back on this event and try to capture some of the highlights that made this a landmark in the life of our ministry, as we press forward with the daunting task of helping the addicted in our community to recover and be reformed and transformed.
Although the concept of going from the Cass County Jail to our church (Heartland Baptist Fellowship, i.e. HBF) has been in my heart for nearly 5 years, I just started planning such an event in April of this year. Two members of my team and I met with Ginger Holden of Antioch Baptist Church, because she has helped with another similar project, to get her perspective on having a 5k run. It was at this meeting that she convinced us that having a walk was the way to go, if raising money was a key objective. Ginger gave us a sample pledge form, and more than enough info to get us started.
I took Ginger’s pledge form and talked to my pastors, Brian Hedges and Randy Foster, to get their counsel, and left their presence with much anxiety because of the gravity of actually doing what I was proposing. Doubt and fear gripped my heart as I would be prompted into the lime light of meeting with city and county officials, meeting with other pastors and organization leaders, and advertising our small and inexperienced ministry. God gave me Revelation 3:8 to settle my nerves, and gave me the confidence to go forward by faith.
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8
Shortly after deciding to press forward and put on this event, about a third of our students stopped attending our ministry. Most of these folks left for legitimate reasons, but it shook me and caused me to doubt my calling as our small and weak ministry was waning further, and I was just about to throw in the towel and give up in mid-June. It was while attending HBF’s leadership Summit at the end of June that Brian said that opposition and disappointment will come, but that we should let “friction give us traction”; these were the words that I needed to hear. These words took the pressure off because God said that he was going to give me an open door that no man could shut. I had a little strength and had kept his word and not denied his name, so I vowed to press forward by faith in God and his Word.
Next, I met with Lieutenant Phillips, who is over the Cass County Jail, to get permission to use their lot and facility. He gladly blessed us and offered his full support, and gave me some other contacts that I would need, but said that we would need to get a permit from the city. We then met with Teri Wilson, our professional publishing friend and sister in Christ, who whipped up a plethora of top quality pledge forms, fliers, inserts, map, advertisements, etc. all for free, minus the cost of the paper. What a deal, all glory be to God! We then held a meeting with our leaders and several students, to enlist volunteers to own portions of the event and to distribute pledge forms to all who were willing to help raise money and get sponsors. This meeting was a blessing as the Whetstine’s uncle owns a porta-potty business and donated two of them for our event. Many folks volunteered their time, talent, and treasure for our cause, and we began to build up momentum and excitement. My work was throwing away some poster / foam boards, which I was able to get Desiree Van Neikerk to paint signs to mark the check points along the route, so all of this was free to us!
Early August arrived, and we were holding one of the final meetings prior to launching out into the deep; and at this meeting, someone reminds me that we might need a permit. Oops, I had forgotten the permit issue, so I assigned David Cundiff to look into it, and he found out that we did need one, but that the Aldermen would need to approve of it, and they had already met for the month of August, so it would have to be at the next month’s meeting. However, just by chance (wink wink) David found out that they would be holding a special meeting the following Monday (about a week before the walk), to address some financial decisions that needed to be made outside of their regularly scheduled meetings, and that they would approve of the permit at that time. I attended that meeting and met Harrisonville’s Chief of Police (John Hofer), who not only helped us to get our permit, but also loaned us orange / reflective vests for our volunteers, a megaphone, and he also threw in a police escort!
Ginger Holden met with Kathy Cundiff (my anchor and sounding board for all advertising and money related questions) and our other registration volunteers, to stream-line the process for the day of the walk, and Ginger couldn’t believe how far we had come in a few short months, and she saw that God’s good hand was upon us. Now we were set, and the day was upon us and the Lord was with us. In the middle of our organized chaos on the morning of the event, Kevin Thompson showed up with AA Bus Service’s nicest bus, and let me know that their owner, Brad Addleman, not only donated the bus, but also the gas to transport our walkers to the Justice Center / starting line, what a great added bonus.
After the walk, we enjoyed a great breakfast prepared by our kitchen wizards, Sonia Ferguson and Sue Schlagenbusch and other dream team cooks with ingredients which Floyd Hess was able to get mostly donated! We ate this wonderful meal after working up an appetite by walking 4.1 miles, and as we listened to the gifted and spiritually minded band (therest), led by Matt Franklin. We had 5-6 booths of addicted related ministries, staffed with wonderful volunteers to help answer questions and get people information. All 100 walkers and 40 volunteers enjoyed this event and no one got hurt, as we raised approximately $8000 for the addicted in Cass County. Memories were made as our leaders bonded with our students, and the Life Issues ministry was put on a metaphorical map in a lot of people’s minds.
We’re still following up with business and individuals to collect pledges and to thank them for all of their overwhelming support and participation. I learned a lot from this experience, but nothing more valuable than to trust my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to rest in him and wait upon him. I know I didn’t name near all of the folks who helped me in this endeavor, but I do appreciate all of you; including our county and city officials and law enforcement folks for their blessing, and Judge Collins who wrote us a wonderful reference letter.
We’ve already used about $400 to send a man to a rehab facility in Springfield MO, so God’s timing was perfect to be able to get this precious and homeless soul where he needed to go, when all his other options looked bleak. By God’s grace, we plan to make this an annual event, so although everything could not have gone better, we learned several things that will make next year’s easier, I believe. It is exciting to be a part of something bigger than myself, and to be in the center of where God wants me, and to punctuate his blessing. There are now more students attending Life Issues than ever before, to Jesus be all glory for ever and ever amen!