Know Thy System, Know Thy Self

by Harley Voogd

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Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.”
~Isaiah 48:17

I am a blessed man. Four short years ago I came out to Cambodia a pathetic bachelor. Now I have a great wife, two wonderful kids, a good home, and a successful Christian elementary school. I am well supported by my home church, as well as by some individual donors. The organization I work with supports the school faithfully. God teaches His own to profit and I am very thankful.

I remember hearing of one missionary who mentioned to his organization’s leader that he needed music equipment for his church. The leader offered to help with the cost. The missionary went ahead and bought all the equipment: sound system, drums, guitars, etc… Afterwards he presented the receipt to the leader. The leader refused to pay for any of it. People got offended and angry.

I knew a different missionary who organized an outreach event. Again, the leader offered to cover some of the costs. After the event, no money came in. This missionary got offended and angry.

So I went ahead and asked the leader of the organization, “Why do you say you’ll help, but then don’t?”

The response was, “If we say we will help, we will help. But when someone wants money, they first need to submit a budget, then we need to approve that budget, and then we will give money, not before. We can’t just hand out money blindly. There is a system which must be followed.”

Ah, a system.

I went back to the missionary and asked, “Did you know you had to submit a budget first?”

He rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, but I don’t have time for that!”

Don’t have time? You don’t have time to do the one thing required to get the money being offered to you? I guess it’s easier to sabotage your own chances and complain about it later.

It is like being very hungry, having a delicious plate of food in front of you, but not having the time to lift the spoon to your mouth. (Proverbs 19:24)

But I shouldn’t be too hard on him. No one had taught him the system.

When I started up the school, I knew I would need financial support. I knew there was a system to follow in order to get that support. The one problem was that I didn’t know the system. So what did I do? I got help from someone who did know the system, and she was able to guide me through the process. And it worked! I received the funding as promised. I learned the system, I respected the system, and I was able to profit from it.

The system will not be perfect, and where it needs change, we can work to change it. But to effectively change it, we must work within it. My prayer to God is that He will always be teaching me how to profit, how to work within the system, how to do what is required of me.

God willing, I will be an old experienced man one day, then it will be my job to teach the younger missionaries the system, and how to profit within it.

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