The Shirt Off My Back

Have you ever heard that phrase before? Funny old one isn't it the concept of giving up the clothing that covered your own skin to give to someone else. Its the kinda thing you hear fellow soldiers say about mates they have served with, 'Bozzer, such a top guy, I'd give the shirt off my back for him!'  

Its one of those sayings that, to be honest, I hadn't given much thought to to be honest until yesterday. 

So picture the scene (go on entertain me) 

The church hall is set up for Triple F, people are gathering for dinner and in walks a member of our community. She heads over to where I am sat chatting to another member of our community and casually throws me over an envelope. Smiles and Hellos are exchanged, she is stood the other side of the table and I am sat down. She's all super casual about it, she really hates fuss, so I not really expecting anything, but I open the envelope to find a small card that simply says this: 

Inside the card I then find this: 

A £5 note folded into the shape of a shirt. 

Now it might not seem like much to you but heres the context: 

I've had the call to ministry affirmed by the Baptist Union, that means I am heading to Reverend School (Bristol Baptist College) this September to start as a Minister In Training. Unlike other schemes I need to pay my own fees for being on this programme, it means I need about £7,500 to cover the academic fees associated to training over the next 3 years. Those of you that know us well know last year we had our first family holiday for 5 years, we won't be having another one for the next 5 years! We live a simple life so that seems like an impossible mountain to climb. 

So I have boldly and humbly asked my local community to consider financially supporting my training. Something that has been uncomfortable for me, its not very British is it to ask for financial support, and has seriously forced me step out of my comfort zone. I've started a fundraising page, signed up for a Stewardship Account and have tried to book in as many income generating activities as possible before I start, I am thankful that I can finish my training with a debt but this isn't a get way to start ordained ministry. 

Ministers don't actually get paid that well, sorry to disappoint you all! 

So the friend was simply responding to my call for support. However, for this friend, the words she wrote on this little card were not words that are a nice, throw away, sentimental pleasantry, aimed to make me feel loved. No this friend is serious when she says 'For you I give my last shirt.' 

See my friend is on JSA, we have spoken at great lengths about the struggles and burdens this causes her as we have prayed and cried together over the last year or so. So when her words speak of sacrifice to support me they mean it. Taking 10% of her income and passing it our way means this week she will miss out on something to help me gain something. 

My heart has been bust by this. 

I have received the gift from a friend who loves me and added it to my fee fund. Its made me utterly thankful that I have people alongside me in community who model joyfully what it means to have such a rootedness in our Baptist Core Values. Its helped me to see that my time here isn't over just yet.  And its inspired me to keep praying for the day that I can reflect this value back to her. 

My ministerial formation is not something for me to undertake in isolation, you all have your part to play in it so here is how you can help: 

  • Pray for us as a family 
  • Pray for a placement to become available at a local church 
  • Pray for Bristol Baptist College 
  • Ask us how we are doing
  • Send us some coffee (we are going to need it) 
  • Help reduce that fee debt
  • Consider what it means to be sacrificial and this week find a way to outwork this in your community