Financial Challenges and other prayer requests

It has been an amazing three years living in the faith that God will provide for all our needs.  We knew that moving into this ministry in Ecuador meant a huge drop in pay and a huge leap of faith in trusting that God would provide the money we would need for living here.  One of our biggest challenges has been keeping renters in our townhouse in West Virginia.

Our first year in Ecuador, we continued to pay our mortgage for an empty home for eight months before a renter was willing to sign a contract.  That renter stayed in the apartment for a year and four months before she left.  That brought us to a big financial burden at the end of our second year in Ecuador.  This burden was made greater as our financial supporters found it difficult to continue to support us at the same level.  Fewer and few donations have come in this year than the other two years.

Fortunately, we went only one month without renters that summer.  However, the renter only stayed for two months before leaving unexpectedly.  Between the months of October 2010 and February 2011, we had no news of renters interested in home.  Finally, we received word that someone was interested in moving into our townhouse, but that she wanted to wait until April to move in.  She gave a deposit to our realtors in order to insure that our home would not be rented to someone else until she was able to move into the townhouse in April. 

In spite of the financial burden we’ve had since then, we’ve been able to pay our bills in the past six months without any renters, but our debt has been increasing instead of decreasing ever since. 

We are now looking at the same level of debt that we had when we first moved to Ecuador and it is hard not to be concerned about the next few months of our future.  Please pray for us to continue to stay at peace with God’s provision during this time.

Homecoming Flowers for Baby Grace

Some other prayer requests for our family include:

1) Stephen’s grandfather (his dad’s father) passed away last month.  Pray for God’s joy and peace for the Meier family as they grieve the loss of this loved one.

2) Cristina’s brother and sister in law started the process of trying to adopt a child from Ethiopia.  However, the entire process has come to a standstill and it appears that they may not be able to adopt a child after all and will not be reimbursed for the money they have put into the adoption program thus far.

3) Kurt Meier (Stephen’s brother) continues to heal from his accident last month.  Keep praying that he will return to full health and be able to go back to work. 

4) Cristina’s quick recovery from giving birth and for the entire family as they adjust to being a family of five.

Deciding to Stay in Quito

As the first semester of the 2008-2009 school year was coming to an end during the final week of January, and the Mk Meiers were welcoming Luke Evan into the family, it was becoming apparent that their financial situation was not getting any better.  The mortgage on their empty townhouse was creating a monthly deficit of approximately $1,000.  Monthly expenses were consistently exceeding monthly support/income.

We often had to use our credit cards to cover the costs we couldn’t afford in cash.  It didn’t help that we had to pay all medical expenses for the pregnancy of Cristina and the birth of baby Luke up front before we could get any reimbursement from our health insurance.

Stephen had decided that it was time to start looking for jobs in the U.S. that would help us get out of our difficult financial situation.  In the months of December, January and February, he was contacted by different schools and being interviewed for administrative positions at several Christian schools.  He even purchased a plane ticket to the U.S. for mid-April so that he could visit some of these schools and make a decision about which job to accept. 

During this entire process, the other administrative staff at the Alliance Academy International (AAI) expressed their regrets that we were considering leaving at the end of the school year.  The director did not want to see Stephen leave.  We explained that we didn’t want to leave.  It was our financial situation that was forcing us to go back. 

Then three things happened to completely change our minds:
1) Our support levels increased
2) We found a tenant for our townhouse as of March
3) AAI offered us a financial package that would decrease our monthly expenses and increase our monthly support by the school.

First of all, we have felt so honored and blessed by friends and family in our lives.  We watched in awe as several of them began to support us by giving us a one-time gift or have supported us each month since January.  We thank each one of you who stepped out to became a vital part of our ministry.  We also know that those of you who haven’t been able to support us financially, have been supporting us with your prayers.  There have been many times that I know your prayer covering has kept us from being discouraged and disheartened.  Thank you for your faithful friendship to us!

Secondly, our realtor e-mailed us at the end of February to tell us that he had found a tenant who was willing to move into our townhouse and started paying rent at the beginning of March.  Although the rent does not cover our entire mortgage, it takes care of a big chunk of it that was pulling us further into debt each month.  We praise God for his faithfulness to us in this area.  It is wonderful to see this monthly income being put into our bank account each month.

Finally, AAI proposed that we move on campus this summer.  They would cover the cost of our rent, utilities, local phone and Internet connection.  This would save us approximately $750 in monthly expenses.  In exchange for free housing, we have been given more responsibilities for the following school year.  Stephen will be taking on new leadership activities by overseeing campus ministries and Cristina will be teaching more classes, become a 8th grade class sponsor and doing some public relations projects for the school. 

We’ve also agreed to allow a small daycare in our home for some of the mothers of young babies (under 18 months old).  Presently two other mothers are interested in bringing their babies to school, during the hours that they work, in order to be close by for regular feedings.  The school has offered to pay our nanny a little extra to help with these babies. This is a blessing to us, because we would like to pay her more for her work, but have been financially unable to do so. 

Therefore, we were able to make our final decision by mid-March.  We are staying in Ecuador for at least one more school year.  This fall, we will begin again to re-evaluate our financial situation and see if we can continue in Ecuador for longer than that.

UPDATE (OCTOBER 2009):  We have decided to stay for a third year and will continue our ministry through the 2010-2011 school year.

Note: This is an update of the post written in mid-March.