Your Money = Lives Changed!

Last month was a novel month for me. As you know, I flew to the mainland of Europe for the first time! I tried all kinds of new foods: borscht (a beet and cabbage soup), olie bolin (fried, sweet bread from the Netherlands, yum!), and Domino’s Pizza—Ukraine style. I saw all kinds of new things: Sinterklaas (like the U.S. Santa Claus, kinda), towering apartment buildings in Kiev, and real windmills from the Netherlands. And I spent some money…okay, a lot of money. Your money. (Thanks!)

Remember not so long ago when we all gave money to the designated giving project Places of Peace: Russia and Ukraine? The money that was raised goes to buying a space (an apartment, probably) for Sunday worships and International Friendship Club meetings in our Eurasia Mission Center. This past month, I traveled to Ukraine to see if we could spend some of that money!

We arrived on a Monday afternoon in a very chilly Kiev and immediately went to check out some apartments to buy. The first one was spacious, had a lot of character, and we loved it. We didn’t want to fall too in love with it, though, who buys the first place they see? We proceeded to look at apartments for the rest of the week, checking out all kinds of places, then going back to our office in Kiev, talking about pros and cons and what the apartment MUST have in order for it to work into all of our parameters. At the end of the week, it was official…we must have the first apartment or none at all! The decision made, we talked to the real estate agent, and then began to dream!

What could this apartment mean to our church in Kiev? In Ukraine? In all of Eastern Europe? It is an excellent meeting place, we could teach MEADS there, visiting guest ministers could stay there (as soon as we put in a shower, of course), and we now have space to put people when we grow and grow and grow! What an apartment! It is perfect for our needs!

More and more, I understand how blessed I am to have this new job. I get to see how money given to the church truly and honestly changes people’s lives. Thank you for your generosity. It makes a difference! I promise! I’ve seen it!

4 thoughts on “Your Money = Lives Changed!

  1. albinocarlalong says:

    Oh my gosh, Bob! Those are HARD questions…and I want to answer them…I really do…I just haven’t been in this job long enough (almost three months!) to tell you everything, but I’ll tell you what I know.

    First of all, I should ask what area you’re talking about. There is, basically, a western Europe and and eastern Europe area. The WE area has been a part of Community of Christ for quite some time and so church there looks similar (although not the same, of course) as church here in the US. The EE church is very different, indeed. The EE is brand new…as in the last 10-15 years or so, so really new. It’s more like the first generation church from Biblical times…we are all trying to find way there.

    And then…you have the “working around different cultures and laws” in Russia and Ukraine. It makes being a church a bit like walking a tightrope at times. So, we have developed International Friendship Clubs in Russia and Ukraine. These clubs are there to teach children English and hopefully some peacemaking skills. Then, on Sunday, there is a worship service that people can attend if they want to.

    Western Europe is hard for me, too. There is a vast difference in culture between Norwegians and Germans and the Dutch and Spanish and Americans. I really can’t answer your questions because I haven’t really experienced all there is to experience with those cultures–as of now, I’ve only visited The Netherlands, Ukraine, and the UK.

    I hope that I can answer your questions better in the coming months and years. I have so much to learn and will be blogging about it on this site…so keep me on my toes! Keep asking the questions and I’ll keep doing my best to give you some answers!
    Thanks!

  2. albinocarlalong says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for replying and thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    I think about this all of the time. As a Mission Center FInancial Officer, my job focuses a lot on money (of course), insurance, buildings, investments, etc, etc, etc…Out of all of that, though, buildings seem to take up a majority of the time. And I wonder the exact same thing that you do. Is it worth it?!?!?

    Here are my thoughts about buildings in CofChrist. For some (maybe many) cultures around the world, a building is necessary for worship to happen. I am, by no means an expert, but the more I learn about my two new mission centers (Western Europe and Eurasia), the more I find that having a building means that you are someone who is doing something. For instance, we are trying to start new congregations in Spain, and meeting in a house for worship just doesn’t fly with the culture. They wouldn’t see that as a church. (And although I haven’t been to Spain, houses are certainly smaller in Europe than in the states.) In Ukraine, there really aren’t that many houses to be had. Most live in tall, concrete buildings full of apartments. The rent for these small apartments are at times astronomical, so it makes sense to buy rather than to rent. This is what I’m learning, at least.

    As for WSC, I can only tell my story. I did a long term assignment in the Philippines and in Australia. The year and a half I spent in these places completely changed my life and my outlook. Could that money have been better spent elsewhere? Maybe, but I now work for the church, trying to bring a change to many other people’s lives. It’s hard to know what an investment will yield at the time you make the investment.

    So, that makes me wonder, what could having a building mean to the people in Kiev? Could it mean a chance for growth? Could it mean a place where people feel safe?

    I don’t know, I just know that I’m willing to give it a try.

    Let’s keep talking!
    This is awesome!
    Carla

    • Bob says:

      Carla,

      Thanks for your reply; I have a better understanding now. I can only speak of my experience in the US-how we seem to spend loads of money on buildings. With regards to our commitment to practicing good stewardship of our resources, I think we really need to justify the use of this money load on our buildings. I’m not saying “sell,” but “is it better than available alternatives?” I don’t think it’s any secret that North American congregations are getting smaller, and with those diminished numbers, compounds the need to have difficult congregations about assets that take away more than they’re worth. I’d really like to hear others weigh in on this.

      The other disconnect is the one that exists b/w administrators, like yourself, and non-admin folks. Your reply helped bridge that understanding gap, so once again, thanks.

      Carla, with regards to the European church, how does the Community of Christ make itself relevant? What does mission look like? With regards to the CofChrist, what makes people excited? What do you feel are the similarities and differences b/w the European church and the US church?

      peace,
      bb

  3. Bob says:

    Carla,

    From what I gathered by your blog, moneys from the church are promoting hope in Eastern Europe–hope in mission and vision of the Community of Christ in those areas. In reading your blog, I realized that in a larger context, I don’t understand how the CofC spends the money it receives from donors. I really hope “this” becomes more of a conversation point, especially as the US economy worsens. In the past, it seemed that the Church could spend more/less frivolously without much complaint from attendees. At the heart of this economic issue, is an issue of “relevance,” whereby the ministries of the Church must prove that they are worth the effort and resources.

    Several years ago, I traveled half-way around the world with the World Service Corps, on what was an experience of a life time. That summer changed my life in so many ways, and I am blessed to have had that chance. But I wonder some times if that substantial amount of money, that investment, could have been better spent changing someone else’s life, rather than my own. Surely, the several thousand dollars it cost for me to have a life altering experience could have been better spent providing improved health care, nutrition, prenatal care, sanitation, etc to those in Zambia. Inasmuch as I would never want to put a price on a priceless experience, it definitely had a cost. But that money speaks to our theology, inasmuch as it also speaks to our economics. Aren’t we in the business of bringing life and hope to the lost. That experience with WSC helped me find myself and I learned a story of hope and healing–a divine story.

    I think sometimes that the treasurey books of the Church are more focused on buildings–the edifices memorializing our “contributions,” and less so in the relationships that we built along the way. What are those stories? Who tells them? This issue is something that I’m continually curious about and I hope that others might add to this conversation.
    peace,
    Bob

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