Not just numbers

As a Financial Developer facilitator, one of my role is to write reports to the donors. With my journalistic background, reporting is not too hard, but it can be annoying sometimes. The resources are from God and we should be good stewards. I know reporting helps us to be accountable and it’s a good way to bring a glimpse of what God is busy doing around the world. Through writing down the details of each financial supports, it makes sure we are using the money wisely. It can also be a good encouragement for people to see the impact of each gift. When there are challenges, it could also be a way to examine the situation and help people to see the needs. 

However, I’ve noticed the format many times focuses heavily on the results. How many people did the project impact? What is the difference from last year? While it’s important to examine the work, it’s hard to measure the lives of people. 

How many girls did you help and what did you achieve? I looked at these questions on my laptop screen and recalled memories of each girl. They all have different stories, characters, gifts and issues. I typed the number ‘five,’ which didn’t look that impressive. There was no where to put their names. They were all combined into one word, in one category. What did we achieve? Of course, the girls improved, but not all of them have good grades or gained restoration with their families. They still have struggles after a year with us. God indeed works in them, but when I went to tick the box next to each indicator, I failed to prove it. Everything was black and white, yes or no in the document. Does that mean we are not doing a good job? 

These girls are not just numbers or a ministry project. They are lives created by God who has a special plan for them. God created them all differently and He uses different ways to touch them. Transforming lives is a long process.

Recently, we had to let go of a young disciple who had spent many years with the team before deciding to go back to his old lifestyle. His mentor was very discouraged by his choices. It affected our team and other disciples, but this is the reality: not everyone will follow Jesus till the end. Soon I’ll do the report for the youth ministry and I’ll have to reduce the number of people impacted with a few sentences to explain why. The sentences will not show any of the emotions or tears of the people who know him dearly.   

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus had to write ministry reports. What would they have looked like? How would He write about Judas and the followers who left Him (John 6)? It doesn’t look to me like Jesus cared about the numbers that much. He was just faithfully doing what was right and helping the people who were willing to follow Him. We, as vessels of Jesus, are not the ones who transform people. We plant the seeds, water and harvest them but God is the one who makes them grow. 

Back to my screen, I continue to write my reports. I want to be responsible as I write reports, but I shouldn’t feel bad when the numbers are not impressive. Now I know that the people impacted and involved in a ministry are not just numbers in a report. They are His creation. He loves them much more than any reports could describe. God is taking care of them regardless of how small, or big, the number is.

Ivy, previously a city girl rushing into the Taipei metro everyday, now enjoys walking around beautiful villages at Lake Tanganyika, Zambia. She likes to listen to people's stories and write newsletters (really a rare species). Her dream is to become the shortest giant in the world.

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