One year ago this week marked a major change in my life as I transitioned out of the pastorate and into a full-time employee of TLI. This was a significant change, stepping out into an unknown situation with my wife and three small children. Of course, it was not like we had any other options - this is what the Lord was leading us to do. So how has God been good? Let me share:
1. In the first year of TLI initial donations did not come in as planned, our house was vandalized, the majority of our household appliances broke at the same time and I fractured my spine to go along with a host of other difficult moments. Yet, the Lord sustained us and TLI.
2. Last year this week we sent out our first team to north Africa, followed by trips to Kenya and Uganda. I led two of the trips. All of them went very well. This year we have twelve teams being sent out!
3. Raising support during these difficult economic times can be trying. However, as of today no one has fallen short of meeting their goal. We have even been able to provide some assistance to seminary students who wish to go. The closest we got to coming up short was last week, but 5 minutes after I posted a $1500 need for the Uganda team that was leaving the next day, a donor sacrificially gave so that the team could meet their budget.
4. It has not just been the summer teams that have been provided for, but the ministry of TLI and our family. At one point both the TLI account and our personal bank account had less that $250 in it. Yet, the Lord provided. TLI has paid every bill and I have had a paycheck every month. Has it been hard? Yes! Is it worth it? Absolutely!
5. Earlier this spring we finished the website, got business cards and created brochures. I can't tell you how many people have found us because of our website! Matthew Taylor and Chris Hansen did a great job for us!
6. I never had plans to send missionaries and start schools. But here we are, having sent two families to Cameroon and another that are on their way to Uganda. We are planning to open the doors on a school in Brazil in January 2013 and Greece soon after.
7. A year ago right now I was the only employee of TLI. Starting next month we will have seven. God has been gracious to me as I have raised money, cared for missionaries, traveled, hired people, overseen the finances of the entire ministry as well as the administration of all of our short-term trips. These tasks will now have other people devoting a significant amount of time to doing it better than I ever could.
8. Our teams have been well received. The most shocking thing for many national leaders and missionaries is that they are invited to give feedback to our team members. Many of our partners feel just that - a partner and co-laborer in gospel ministry.
9. We were able to add a few more board members, many of whom have been very helpful! They have a remarkably intertwined past. Scott Davidson led me to Christ. Scott met Nate Winters at my wedding after he had discipled me and passed me off to Hutz Hertzberg and Matt Roberts. Hutz gave me the idea of TLI. Nate, Hutz and Matt were all TA's for Robert Coleman. Dave Deuel met Nate Winters at Camp of the Woods, but was also on staff at Grace Church in CA with Monnie Brewer. Monnie was on staff at Crystal Free Church where Nate's old youth pastor was the Exec Pastor. Of course I didn't know this when I met Monnie at Starbucks and asked him within 5 minutes of meeting to join the board. Monnie introduced us to Mark. I met Jim McCabe in 2001 after God rescued him in a jail cell. Jim and I played basketball with Matt Roberts 8 years ago and were both discipled by Nate in the LIFT discipleship program. Bryce was part of our shepherd group in our house. Tom Steller, who really is the instigator for TLI at Bethlehem didn't laugh me out of his office when I pitched him the idea, and instead recruited Bill Walsh, Luis Mendez and John Piper. I cornered David Livermore in a 15 passenger van and would not let him out until he joined the board. Don Carson and Bob Yarbrough were my professors at TEDS. Matt hosted Bob in Romania in the 90's. You see, it all comes together!
10. My wife and children still love me, even though the travel has been at times extensive. Amy is as committed as ever! We have found a rhythm to the whole thing and feel comfortable with the schedule God has given us.
Thank you Lord.
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.