I just returned last night from a two day, 1150 mile road trip picking up some very nice donated cattle from two farms in Tennessee. We are very blessed and encouraged that our Cattle For Christ herd in Alabama has grown back up to about 350 total head--back to where we were when we had our first "Moving 'Em Out For Missions" sale in October 2011. Our new Texas herd is up to 21 head.
We manage our Alabama herd like any other progressive ranch; we maintain detailed production and performance records, we record pedigree information, we implement a sound herd health program, we try to take care of our land, and we are always working to improve our genetics. We do all of this so that our herd can be as profitable as possible to help fund our ministry and our work around the world. We also want to insure that we are being good ambassadors for Christ, and good advocates for the Cattle Industry.
Currently, cull cattle prices are very low and it is hard to cull a lower producing cow for only 30-34 cents per pound. It is also hard to keep her when it cost on average $500 per year just to maintain her. Winter feeding programs are very expensive, our hay is short and of low quality, our pastures are knee deep in mud, and new pastures that we need for the spring and summer are not to be found. These are all challenges that most Cattlemen in our area is dealing with this year.
We have a significant advantage over most ranchers, because we have good neighbors and faithful Corporate Sponsors who help us with their goods and services that others would have to purchase. We are at a slight disadvantage in that it has always been our policy that the ministry will never borrow money--not even in the difficult times. If the Lord does not provide what we think we need, when we think we need it, we just have to make do until He does--and He always has.
Unlike most producers, we do not raise cattle just for the enjoyment or the profit we put in our own pockets. In fact, 100% of the proceeds from our herds go to help us fund the ministry, but also provides effective, efficient and strategic ways for Cattlemen, Ranchers, Farmers and Agricultural Industries to be involved in the Great Commission with what they know and with what they have.
The mission of Cattle For Christ is to take the Gospel and love of Christ to the unreached and under-reached people groups around the world. We work in the very difficult places that are in most cases, closed to the public expression of the Gospel message and where it is illegal to be a Christian. Most of our ministry partners are severely impoverished and persecuted, and many have received numerous death threats because of their evangelistic work and their faith in Jesus Christ, yet they do it anyway!
Honestly, it gets harder and harder every day for me to talk with our partners. I have personally seen the desperate physical and spiritual needs of their people. I know that we have strategic plans that are reaping tremendous benefits to meet the need, but we just do not have the resources to make them capable of having their greatest impact. We are constantly having to reprioritize our current ministries and do not have the resources to implement many of the new programs in places where we have partners and strategic plans, but no finances.
Most of the world's population live in severe poverty and do not have access to the basics of clean drinking water, basic hygiene products, adequate nutrition, sewage systems, medical care, government assistance, the chance for an education, or the opportunity to hear the Gospel message of a God that loves them, has a plan for their lives, and sent His Son so that they could inherit eternal life. 80% of the world's population either do not or cannot read which is why they must 'hear' the Gospel message: "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10:17)
I am not whining, and I sure do not want you to think that I am. However, I do want to give you some perspective as to where I am coming from and the heart from which I write to you. The Lord has been so merciful and faithful and has blessed our families and our ministry beyond measure. We know every day that we are where we are, not because we deserve it or because we have worked hard enough to earn it. We are where we are just because He is a God of love, mercy, grace, provision and relentless patience!
However; my heart is heavy and burdened because I go to bed every night and wake up every morning, either texting or otherwise communicating with our international partners. Every day I try to encourage them to stay in the fight until we can raise the funds and other resources needed to help implement or to continue our strategy that will help them meet the physical and spiritual needs of their own people. At the same time, in my own heart, I am trying to encourage and remind myself to stay in the fight until God provides what we need so that we can help them.
Right now, it is estimated that only $350,000,000 is being spent to share the Gospel with the 80% of the world who do not have the opportunity to know Him. If every Cattleman and Rancher gave just $1,000 (about the price of one animal), we could raise almost $1,000,000,000 (with a B) annually, almost three times what is being spent now to take the Gospel to the unreached peoples. If every Dairyman would do the same, we could raise another $500,000,000, and if every Farmer would donate the proceeds of just one acre of their row crops, we could raise billions more each and every year! The problem is not that the needs are too great for us to meet, but that our willingness and desire to meet the need are somehow absent!
This reminds me of a saying that John Wesley said concerning our finances and values. He said: "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can." Today, if we think about this, most of us are all about earning all we can. For some, it does not matter what we have to do or who we hurt to make it. Most of us believe that we should save all we can. We want to be able to retire as soon and as securely as we possibly can. Most even believe that we should give what we can. I do not think that anybody in our culture would disagree with this concept of Wesley--the way we understand it.
The problem is that we most often do not understand the real meaning of Wesley's teaching. He taught that we should all work as entrepreneurially and as hard as we can to earn all that we can; but only in ways that do not take advantage of or hurt others and are within the law, especially God's law. He taught that we should live as modestly as we can, not being taken captive by all the lures that this world has to offer, so that we can save more of what we earn. The reason for earning all we can and saving all we can, was so that we would have more of what we earned to give away to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of others.
I confess that I too struggle with the saving part, which affects my ability to give all that I can. I am just as lured by all the luxuries, entertainment, toys, hobbies, and financial security as anyone else.
Perhaps we misinterpret Wesley's teaching of: "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can." Most of us want to make every dollar we can. We then want to save all we can so that we can have everything else we want and do everything else that we want to do. When it comes to the giving part, we often say: "Well, I would like to give more, but I am maxed out. You know, I just cannot afford to give any more".
This is not just a problem for individuals and families, it is the problem with our churches. Most churches spend 90% or more of God's tithes and offerings on themselves and only a small fraction of 1% is being used to reach the unreached in the hard places where 80% of the un-reached live. Some churches, especially smaller churches that have shrunken through the years, keep tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, (just in case God is not faithful!)
People are suffering, dying and going to hell right now both here at home and around the world, not because there are not enough funds to reach them and not because God has been unfaithful to provide, This is happening because we have not been faithful with what He has provided!
Wesley went on to say: “When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy and prosperous. Now, if that man when he gets all he can and saves all he can, does not give all he can, I have more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!” He also said: “It is not, how much of my money will I give to God, but, how much of God’s money will I keep for myself?”
Jesus warned us saying: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (MT:6:19-21).
Taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world is not only our and your purpose; it is our privilege, opportunity and responsibility.