Chapter Eighteen / Finding a Funder
Teaching in Sioux Falls was not an option. The private schools in town were not interested. Not because they didn't believe I was innocent and an excellent teacher, but there was a black cloud of controversy that would follow me into the classroom as a result of the tremendous media exposure regarding my dismissal at Laura Wilder.
Faith and I both discussed teaching out of state. We soon realized our hearts were indicating this was not the right path to follow. We knew "God's Got This" and we were waiting for some type of spiritual nudge, signal, or direction.
My mind went back to ministry. What if we would take the radio shows and turn those scripts into a television program? I was often hearing the world needs something better on TV. I believed I could provide this need in a family faith-based children's television series. It seemed as though God was training and leading us in that direction over all of these years.
Both, in our teaching and in early ministry, Faith and I worked with children from elementary through sixth grade. It would be amazing for a television series to span that entire age group. There was already much available for preschool basically in the form of puppets and music. But there was a very limited offering for an older aged child that did not fall into the category we often worked and very successfully avoided; cheesy.
Unfortunately, our first determiner was financial stability. After a few weeks, as we were contemplating the possibility of this new adventure, we received a call from Rod Anderson, the pastor of Christ Community Church in Sioux Falls. The church was meeting in a school and was a rather newly-formed congregation. Their board decided it was time for them to hire a children's leader. Faith and I met with Rod, his wife Donna and the Christ Community elders. After a question-and-answer session from both sides, we accepted the offer to be their new children's ministers. There was an agreed a salary of $600 a month. Coming to the end of several monthy payments freed up $900 to add to the $600. This $1,500 was very close to the salary I had recently lost. Our financial gain gave the stability we needed so I could pursue the possibility of finding a funder for the television series.
Using an alliteration will express the challenge of my next project: Finding funding is never fun. It would first be necessary to determine the purpose, content, and format of the television series in order to interest an individual to offer financial support. Our age range goal would be from kindergarten to level six. In order to appeal to an older age, I determined only one puppet would be used in the program. The most popular personality throughout our years of ministry was "BURNNIE the Bunnie." The television series would not follow the earlier radio show scripts verbatim, but we could at least use the main concepts. I developed a simple outline of a "first episode" and gave it the same title of an earlier radio show, "Looking Good." This episode would discuss "vanity versus the value of friendship." Every episode would have the foundation of a scripture verse which for this program was:
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Next I would need to outline and describe the cost of everything needed in order to begin filming. A good amount of research brought me to a Panasonic camera which not only used film but also a P2 card which was 100% digital. Since data recorded with a P2 card was in a file format, it had excellent compatibility with computers. I wanted four cameras so I would have an option for two close ups, one wide angle, and the fourth would be our creative camera. These were each $7,000.
Additional items would continue to add up the tally. A new computer with two large screens for editing would be needed. Editing software was required and I chose for my request Final Cut Pro. Lighting equipment was essential in a portable format since we would be filming at many different locations. A large backdrop screen would enhance the Grand Illusion at the end of each episode and this was priced at $3,000. Wireless microphones would be used for all of our performers. The final total for the equipment needed to begin our first episode was $50,000.
Do we make phone calls? Do we knock on doors? Do we just send letters? What would be the best process to find someone or a variety of people who would come together to help fund the equipment needed to get started? After many hours of work, I put together a very nifty proposal which would be sent out to individuals we knew or were told had financial ability and an interest in ministry. I prayed for an immediate response from someone, but heard nothing.
Life continued. Faith was still working as a teacher in Sioux Falls and I was working at Christ Community as their children's leader along with Faith. We were tight financially, but were always able to meet our obligations. I was hopeful there would be a response either in the mailbox or our email, but everything was pretty quiet. Then when you least expect it, "God's Got This" becomes a reality.
Abiding Savior Lutheran was our primary church even though we also worked at Christ Community on Sundays. Faith and I had borrowed something from the church office and we were returning it on a Monday morning. We were given the pass code to get into the building. As we pulled into the parking lot there was only one car visible parked near the front door.
"That's quite a car!" I said to Faith as we walked by it.
"I wonder who that is?" Faith responded. "Pretty fancy!"
When we entered the building Faith and I saw a gentleman turn the corner. He did not see us. He looked exactly like one of the individuals I sent our proposal to. I asked Faith if she thought it was that same person as well and she did.
"What should we do," I said.
"Just go up and ask him if he got your proposal," Faith encouraged.
"I'm not going to do that," I said. "That would seem like we were just waiting here for him."
"Well, it couldn't seem like that," Faith explained. "We had no idea he was going to be here. Don't you remember what Sherwin said to you last night?" Faith reminded me about our very enthusiastic friend's encouragement regarding getting the money we needed for this TV series.
Just the night before, Faith and I we're at a LifeLight concert and a friend, Sherwin, was on the grass listening to the music with his family as we walked by. He asked us how the funding was going. I let him know it was pretty slow. He became passionately exuberant and said, "You need to go up to these people and say you need this money! You tell them that not giving this money to you is not an option and then you get their checkbook out, put it in their hand and you have them write out the amount!" His enthusiasm was very encouraging, but his suggestion was humorously short of criminal. Faith and I went into the darkened fellowship hall to continue our discussion.
"So, you think when he comes around the corner we should both just walk out into the hall and act as though we had never seen him?" I asked. "We should just look surprised and say, 'Hello?' "
Faith explained, "We don't have to act like we're surprised, but we can just wait for him to come this way and simply ask him if he got the proposal. "
Sitting and waiting at the table in the fellowship hall with the lights out felt like we were up to no good, but we only had the best intentions in mind. There was no activity for what felt like a long amount of time and we thought maybe he saw us and went out the side door to his car and sped off.
And then there he was. "Faith, he just came around the corner," I said. "Let's just open the door and walk slowly so it doesn't look like we're trying to rob him."
We both walked into the hallway and inadvertently blocked him from being able to move any further. We said, "Hello," and he responded with a very short, "Hi." The spirit of Sherwin's motivating speech filled my veins and I obtained a surprising boldness.
"I was wondering if you got my proposal," I asked.
"I did," was his very clear and simple response.
I returned with, "Did you want to be a sponsor?"
"Well, I don't usually give to those kinds of things," he explained which made it clear why he never responded to the initial proposal.
Since I felt like he told me "no" and my boldness was at its highest peak, I asked, "What kinds of things do you usually give to?" He answered that his most prominent giving goes toward youth ministries.
I said, "Well, that makes sense. You and many other people give to youth ministries, but very few people give to children's ministries. If you think about how many national youth ministries there are you can come up with almost a never-ending list of music groups and speakers and events for young people. But if you think about nation-wide children's ministries it would be difficult to probably come up with five."
I mentioned, "Focus on the Family," "Go Fish" and "VeggieTales." I asked him if he could think of any others to which he responded, "I really can't."
He went on to explain how he never really thought about the discrepancy between what is available for young people and what is nationally a resource for children. He said he would think about it and would consult with his wife on the matter. We shook hands and he walked out. I looked disappointedly at Faith.
"Well, I guess that's not going to happen," I said.
Faith excitedly responded, "He absolutely is going to help us out."
I just couldn't see that his expression was one of definite interest and I put this on the side as another missed opportunity. However a few days later I got a phone call and I heard, "We want to be a part of this so let's meet."
"That's fantastic," I said. "It would be so great to have you help at least get our first camera or any part of what we need in order to get this started."
"Oh, no," he said, "I'm not going to help with just one camera. I'm going to give you the entire $50,000. I don't want you to wait for one camera then another camera and then maybe two months later someone else helps with something else. It could take years before you ever get this thing off the ground. Do you want a check or do you want me to help you with it piece-by-piece."
My first inclination with such a short time to respond was how much fun it would be to have a check for $50,000. However, the Holy Spirit very clearly indicated that our financial partner should participate one purchase at a time. I let him know his assistance as we progressed through the initial stages would be tremendously helpful.
Faith was of course, extremely excited, but reminded me again that she had no doubts. We were well on our way to the beginning of another adventure.
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