It was impossible. No way could the hairstylist come up with $1,795 in only two days. She would have to face the facts: A trip to Uganda, Africa, was a hopeless wish.
“I had felt this tug — you know, like a ‘burning in my heart’ and I felt like I was meant to check it out,” Colleen Kopf of Kennewick said, referencing a Scripture in Luke and her intense desire to go. “A friend of my pastor had said to him, ‘You have to go on the mission trip to Uganda. You’ll love it.’ ”
Colleen’s church made a decision to form a team of 12 and she wanted to be one of the volunteers to participate with the Kampala Life Church in the GenAlive conference.
In fall 2015, the prospect of saving enough money for the venture seemed feasible. Colleen worked long days at a hair salon and was also a substitute paraeducator three days a week. The dollars could add up by May 2016.
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“Then my life fell apart,” Colleen said, tears welling. “I lost my sister to cancer Thanksgiving weekend and my mom passed away two months after.”
Her mother’s sudden stroke after Colleen’s sister died had sent the 85-year-old into a downward spiral. Constant health care fell on her daughter’s shoulders and life felt like a blur.
“I was burning the candle at both ends, so I had to quit subbing as a paraed,” Colleen said, reflecting on a call that came from her pastor. “He asked if I’d been praying about going on the Uganda mission trip and I told him, ‘Well, I’m still feeling like I’m supposed to go, but here’s my life right now.’ ”
Understandably, she needed to focus on her mom, but in January when the end came, Colleen’s thoughts of making the trip to Uganda resurfaced in the weeks after. In March, Colleen found there was still opportunity.
“Then the team leader says, ‘There’s only one problem. You’ll have to have $1,795 by Monday,’ ” Colleen said, recalling it was already Saturday and the first half of the total trip expense was due in 48 hours. “I chuckled and said, ‘So it’s a God-sized thing for sure.’ I knew I didn’t have that kind of money.”
Nevertheless, Colleen put her request before God, asking him to provide. As far as she knew, there was only $400 in her savings account. But when she checked online, the balance was $700. Surprised and pleased, it was still a long way from the amount she needed.
“After I’d finished at the computer, my husband asks for my mouse because he doesn’t like using the pad,” Colleen said, remembering she told Walt to look in her briefcase as so much was out of place since the deaths of her family members. “He finds a red envelope and I said, ‘Oh my! There might be a $100 bill in that!’ ”
There was, and then her husband urged her to check the rest of the long-forgotten Christmas cards. Colleen found another $140 in client bonuses. Already, Saturday afternoon had reaped $540 beyond what she thought she had that morning, but Colleen still needed more.
“I prayed and God told me emphatically to not put the trip expense on a credit card, but to ‘wait and see what I can do,’ ” Colleen said, recalling her impression to also ask for a specific amount from her adult son, whom she’d once helped fund on a youth mission trip. “When I added up all the money, I only had to come up with $40 by Monday.”
That was a doable amount, but it required getting into the household budget. It also meant talking with her husband again to make sure he was totally in agreement about the trip. After all, she would still need to raise another $1,795 by May, just seven weeks away.
“I told him I really felt like I needed to do this, but what I didn’t know were the things that were ahead that could undermine my faith,” Colleen said, remembering how Walt had encouraged her to go for her goal. “I didn’t know he was going to be ‘unemployed’ at the end of that week and not in a couple of months,” a mandatory furlough by his company to cut costs during a remodel.
How could the hairstylist make ends meet at home, let alone have enough money to pay for the trip? All she could do was trust.
“By Friday, one of the gals I worked with gave me $100 between the pages of a devotional she’d bookmarked and a client-friend gave me $150,” Colleen said, still in awe at the memory. “So I’m just amazed.”
At first she felt like she should tell Facebook friends about the “crazy stepping-out in faith thing” that was going on in her life. But then the gentle thought came to wait until after her yellow-fever shot the following week, a real indicator that she was committed to the Uganda trip.
“I went to school on Monday and had to get out early to get the shot and then I went to my hairdresser job,” Colleen said, remembering what happened later with clarity. “It’s 9 o’clock at night and I’m pulling into my driveway and God says, ‘Post it now!’ ”
Right then she wrote her story, breathing a prayer for guidance while sitting in her car. Colleen posted the message to Facebook friends and let them know how they could help — only if they felt led — by scheduling hair appointments, donating at the church web link or simply praying for provision and protection. By the end of the week, people had given her half of what she needed for the remaining payment.
“A gal I used to see once a year at church camp posted, ‘I’m so excited! You’ll be hearing from me in snail mail,’ ” Colleen said about one post among a flurry of other comments from friends.
But in the second week after she had posted her story, the funding dried up and Colleen began to fret about the deadline looming and their sparse family income.
“I stopped by a friend’s house to deliver a Bible study book and she asked how I was doing,” Colleen said, reflecting on how she had confessed her worries. “She told me, ‘Girl, God is going to provide everything you need for this trip and take care of your family needs — and we’re going to praise him.’ ”
That evening, Colleen picked up the mail as she headed in the door. Among the advertisements, magazines and catalogs there was a letter from her once-upon-a-time church camp friend who had promised “snail mail.”
“So here’s a card from my friend on Facebook who said she’d get a letter off to me,” Colleen said, emotion playing on her face. “She had written a note about how she’d sold her house and had asked God to show her how to give back to him.”
The woman’s prayer had gone heavenward shortly before Colleen posted her story on Facebook.
“When I opened the check, I thought I must be reading it wrong,” Colleen said, a catch in her voice at the memory. “I burst into tears and said, ‘God just paid for the rest of my trip!’ ”
It had only been 10 days since Colleen had stepped out in faith and put the money down for the trip, and less than two weeks since she first told God about her deep longing and hope to volunteer in Kampala, Uganda. Now, the mission trip was fully funded.
It had seemed impossible. But the prayer of this woman of faith was dramatically answered at a time when the desire of her heart seemed hopeless.
God had found a way.
Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
If you have a story idea for Light Notes, contact Lucy Luginbill: 509-551-2191, @LucyLuginbill