I’m a co-pastor at Utah Valley Church (UVC), in Spanish Fork, Utah. My wife, Shanae, and I planted UVC with Matthew and Chandra Anderson in 2015. We live in Utah County, which has half a million residents. Of that half a million, less than one half of one percent of residents claim to be born again, Bible-only believing Christians. Well over 90 percent of the population belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and most of our church is comprised of former Mormons.
Shanae and I went out of town for a few weeks at the beginning of November to share about the ministry we’re involved in here in Utah. The day before we left was my last day working as a technical manager at a local lawn care company.
I was planning on starting to work with my friend and co-pastor building websites, but I wasn’t quite sure what our financial situation would look like moving forward. I expected a sizable reduction in pay, but I felt God nudging me toward this opportunity because of the flexibility this new endeavor would give me to engage in relational discipleship with others throughout my week.
While we were out of town, Shanae and I found out she was pregnant. This is our first child (a boy, due July 14), and we were ecstatic about the thought of becoming parents. Soon after this news began to sink in, however, we started to realize we’d have to rethink some of our plans.
Shanae was already the main breadwinner of our family (she works with a medical records company, and I don’t take any salary from the church), and the reality of a baby coming meant she would need to take a little time off of work and maybe not go back to work full time.
We had a combined $55,000+ of college student loan debt, along with rent and other bills, and we didn’t have much in our savings account. God has always provided, but we were starting to feel the stress of the unknown, and I was questioning whether I had accurately heard from God when I felt him leading me away from my lawn care management position.
While we were gone, a few close friends stayed at our house as they were traveling through town, our weekly micro-church continued to gather at our house and a few others knew the code to get into our house. So, when we got back, there were little “Welcome Home” goodies on our kitchen table, an envelope with a Chick-fil-A gift card in it and a little box on our coffee table.
As I was reading the notes that had been left for us, Shanae got a call from a couple who is a part of our micro church. They wanted to stop by to see us because they said they had exciting news. We sat down on our couch, waiting for them to come over, and picked up the card attached to the box on our coffee table.
The card was unsigned, and our names were misspelled. It was written in kind of shaky handwriting and said a number of nice things about what a blessing Shanae and I were to our church family. It also said, “God has used you to meet many needs, and now he is calling us to help meet some of your needs. After pouring yourselves out for others, we hope we can pour back into you. We fully believe God’s people are able to operate more freely outside of debt, and therefore we feel divinely led to bring this offering to help with your school loans …”
We opened the box and saw eight stacks of bills, all 100s and 20s. We were completely in shock.
I remember looking at Shanae and saying, “I bet there’s $10,000 in here!” Immediately, our doorbell rang, so we put the lid of the box back on, set it down somewhere out of sight and opened the door to see our friends. They told us they were pregnant as well, and we’ve since found out they’re having a boy, due three days after ours.
It was a night of completely overwhelming emotions, lots of excitement and tears of joy, as we were able to share our news of our pregnancy and rejoice with them about theirs.
When they left after a few hours, we remembered the money. We pulled it out, and I counted it; then Shanae counted it, and then we counted it together. It was three times more than my original estimate.
That next morning, I remember waking up and thinking back to the night before.
I thought of the gift, and then I got completely overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety. “What do you do with $30,000 cash? Can you just march up to a bank window and ask to deposit it? What do the taxes look like on a gift like this? Yeah, it would be awesome to pay this directly to our student loans, but we still have a lot of loans left! We still have to figure out how we’re going to pay our rent! This still doesn’t change our life situation drastically enough to give us financial security as we enter into the next phase of our life!”
Writing it out now, it’s actually embarrassing, some of the fears I had in that moment. As I was stressing out about this, I felt God smack me upside the head. He spoke so clearly to me in that moment. “You have a box, with $30,000 in it, laying at the foot of your bed. You didn’t earn it, you have no right to it, but I gave it to you. You have a box of $30,000, that you only have because of my goodness, and you’re stressing about how you’re going to pay rent? You’re stressing about taxes? I’ve given you more than your daily bread, and you’re stressing over crumbs. Do you still not understand the bread?”
Right before our trip, I had preached on Mark 8:14-21. Jesus had just fed the 4,000 earlier in the chapter, and now we find him and his disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. We learn the disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they’re hungry. Jesus begins to try to teach them about the leaven of the Pharisees, but they totally miss the point. They start asking if Jesus is talking about some secret bread he had brought on the boat that he hasn’t told them about. And Jesus can’t believe it. He asks them, “‘Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ And he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’” (Mark 8:17-21, ESV).
That’s what sticks out to me about the whole situation. Since then, I’ve had the same prayer. “Lord, help me remember the bread.” I love the fact that we received a greater financial gift than we could have ever imagined, but we still have to rely on God for our daily bread. It didn’t fix all of our problems, or alleviate all of our fears, but it is a moment we’ll never forget, a reminder that God is so much bigger than our situation, and that he can, and will, supply all of our needs.
At first, because we knew whoever gave that money to us wanted to remain anonymous, we didn’t look hard to find out who it was. Talking with some people, though, it became clear that unless we could prove that the person or persons who gave that to us met certain criteria, that gift would definitely be taxable. We were very okay with that, but we thought the intention of the gift giver was probably to have us pay all of that money toward our student loans, not just 80 percent. So we started pulling on threads, and we were eventually able to find out who gave us that gift, and we found out they actually met some certain criteria that allowed us to pay all $30,000 toward student loans. We were able to pay off all of my wife’s loans and made a sizable payment on mine as well.
The gift givers had purposefully spelled our names wrong and changed their handwriting so we would have a hard time finding them.
But almost more amazingly, after we tracked them down, they told us that shortly after they gave us the gift, they found themselves in a minor financial crisis (due to some unforeseen circumstances). They said they never doubted that they had listened to God about giving us that gift but were feeling the stress of not having that large emergency fund to draw from.
As he does, though, God miraculously provided for them, and they feel that, for whatever reason, God used this situation to show a literal fulfillment of his promise in Luke 6:38 (ESV), “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.”
The people that gifted us the money were far from wealthy. Some situations had arisen, and they had come into some money in the last few years. They had been saving a large chunk of it for a rainy day, when they felt that God was clearly speaking to them about giving us that gift.
When they stepped out in faith and put themselves in a situation where they needed to rely on God to provide their needs, he was faithful to do so. I was speaking with one of them not long ago, and he shared that this whole experience has motivated them to live lives of insane generosity. They understand more than ever that everything they have belongs to God. My wife and I feel the same way after all of this. In times of plenty or famine, God will supply the bread because he is good.
Rev. Kyle Gudmunson serves as pastor at Utah Valley Church in Spanish Fork, Utah. For more information on the ministry Kyle and Shanae are part of in Utah, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.