In the nineteenth episode of Inspiring Stewards, Nathan Jones speaks with Barbara Shantz from Canada. Barbara shares how her family background and her experience living in four countries have shaped her understanding of how it was like to live in both giving and receiving nations. She reports that her greatest joy in ministry comes from working in partnerships, when we give, receive, and include other believers. She talks about her passion for matching people with similar visions in healthy partnerships. She concludes by encouraging us to take ourselves less seriously and God much more seriously, and to truly enjoy the life He has given us.
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The music is Concerto a’ 4 Violini No 2 by Telemann played on classical guitar by Jon Sayles. Published by Exzel Music Publishing.
There’s been a theme building on the last few episodes around local generosity clearly something God is developing here. Today is no exception. We head to Canada to spend time with Barbara Shantz, who will share with us how she is seeing God raise up local givers to support local missions all over the world.
I’m your host, Nathan Jones, and I want to thank you once again for joining me on this episode 19 of Inspiring Stewards podcast.
Barbara, thank you again for your time today. I am looking forward to jumping into your story. So, let’s get right to it. Give us a little bit of your background, your family growing up, where you’re from.
First of all, thanks so much for having me. This is indeed fun to do because I’ve just retired and I have been doing a lot of reminiscing about where I came from and what I am doing now. So, all of my grandparents were refugees to Canada from Ukraine, from the very region where we are seeing so much discord right now. And it was 97 years ago.
So, I grew up in a family of refugees who really had nothing, very little in Canada. And my parents just exhibited generosity even though they had nothing. So, I had such great examples before me my whole life.
Are you an only child? Do you have siblings?
I have two older brothers and they made my life very difficult. And also, I was a sickly last child, sort of last thought, and so there was a lot of jealousy with my brothers. You know, all of these things just make up our lives and we have these threads that the Lord uses to help us understand people.
For example, now I’ve been in my career the last 20 to 30 years, traveling in about 55 countries, talking to people of all kinds of cultures. And I really understand, maybe not abject poverty, but I certainly understand having to start from nothing and watching that go forward.
Walk us through how you came to know the Lord and what impact that had on your life.
I just wish this for every person on earth that they would have the experience and that’s actually motivated me and my husband for our entire adult lives. But also, as a child I heard the Lord’s call through my family, through their taking us to church. I was constantly, however, trying to be sure that I was a Christian and I was going to heaven.
I remember myself standing in a room when I was about five just begging the Lord to make sure I had done everything I was supposed to do. And later on, I realized that I grew up in quite a conservative and almost legalistic family or church.
And so, it was decades before I understood that, I’m telling you: God is on our side. He wants us to flourish. He wants us to live abundant lives. And it’s so hard also I think because, to a certain extent, women are sort of brought up to understand that your life is to be a sacrifice.
But on that side, the Lord gave me a husband. He is amazing and pushes me. He knows that I’m entrepreneurial. I’ve got lots of dreams in my head. So, he’s like, “Well, you know, whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably ten years ahead of everybody else, so go for it!”
You know, it’s 2023, I’d love to hear what you’re involved in now, how God has you serving in his Kingdom, and maybe how we got to this point.
Over the years, I worked for an organization that had over 70 partners around the world and they were arm’s length nonprofits on their own. And so, I’d go around and visit them because the goal was that they would become self-funding over time. However, many times in receiving nations, it’s assumed that those countries or people from those countries have a lot and that their job is to give the money and you know, do what they ask.
But then, I started to see a pattern. We also have lived in four countries. So, I understand – in addition to being a refugee child – I understand a lot about what it’s like to be on the other side. But I saw these patterns that became quite evident that God has put in each of us 3 or 4 causes and visions for how we can change the world, no matter where you are. It’s a human thing.
And if we would just understand that everyone has this and when we match up the person who has that dream for a better world, who has been an activist and started a nonprofit, and we match that up with the person who God has actually also given the same vision, but also given the resources, whether it’s advice or funding or whatever it is, when we match those up – oh my goodness! That is what made my day and would make my week and my month and everything.
However, getting those together was interesting. It seemed that those who would be receiving – and again, I'm talking about this in any country – but those who would be receiving money, they would often hear their vision from God and then, change it depending on what funding came in.
And that is so dangerous because then it starts this cycle. They start doing things that weren’t exactly what they thought and then they become dissatisfied. Then, they’ve got this stuff they have to pay for and then, it opens the door for corruption and desperation, all kinds of things.
So, then I started to see in Scripture, these patterns were there too. In Exodus 4, God says to Moses, “What’s in your hand? A staff.” 2 Kings, Elisha says to the prophet’s widow, “Well, what do you have in your house?” “I have nothing. Oh, second thought, I’ve actually got some oil.” And that’s what it’s like. That’s what I see around the world.
Jesus constantly said, “What would you like me to do for you?” And if we could just understand, He’s given us this vision. Why do we not think it’s from Him? Well, I know one thing: if it’s not from Him, we think we can do it by ourselves and that’s the key.
He can do the work by Himself, but He asks us, “What would you like me to do for you?” Because what I’ve noticed is that the greatest joy for ministry comes when there are partnerships, when it’s giving, receiving, when we include other believers.
We are a global church. We’re a universal church. None of the jobs that God gives us is just for us to do alone or else, you know, we wouldn’t need Him and probably would be more of an ego thing than actually a vision from our Lord.
So, when I see these patterns happen and I see people working together and understanding that we’re all in the same team. God puts a vision in your heart. He puts a vision in other people’s hearts, putting those together, and trusting Him to supply. Whoa! That’s a huge thing to learn definitely.
Barbara, if you could – and this is kind of spur of the moment – walk us through an example, somewhere in the world, an organization of where you’re beginning to see and whatever stage that organization might be at in this process of kind of realigning their focus on local resource, local generosity. Give us an example of somewhere you’re seeing this at work.
I’ve seen it a lot, Nathan, because the organization I was working with started me down that path in 2003. I’ve been in the pioneer section there, and then actually stopped the last few years. We moved back to Canada to be near our children and grandchildren. And so, I’ve done fundraising from the other side, that is the giving side.
And I realized it’s actually easier for people, internationally on the ground to say, “Yes, I want to raise funds locally. I want to be able to be sustainable for the long term. But in my mind, I can’t really understand that.”
But we’re getting a lot of examples now. So, I’m excited to tell you. One, in particular, was a pastor in a church in one of the many countries in Africa. He used to go every year to the U.S. to raise funds and you know, people would generously give as we are taught to do. Then, he would go back to his church.
But it was just a cycle, and he could see that this really was not sustainable. He felt the Lord saying, “Don’t go to the U.S. this year,” and he was like, “Where are we going to get money from then?” But he stayed and he began to get to know his congregation. He realized he really didn’t know them. He probably knew the donors better because he was listening to them and making sure he was doing everything they wanted. And then, he started to hear what his congregants needed.
In time, it was something like – I don’t think it was much more than three years – they had all funding they needed and more and built an amazing church that was so amazing, government people came and asked him, “Where did you get the money from?” quite distrustfully.
And he said, “It’s from our own congregations.” There are wealthy people everywhere. But it’s not just the wealthy, everyone is called to give. Every single person is called to give. Again, what’s in your hand? What have I put in your heart? Make it happen.
That is such a different mindset. Like you said, there’s kind of that receiving mindset or that giving mindset. And I think even of the US giver who sees themselves as a benefactor, even globally, to say, “Oh yeah, we have the wealth.” And what a beautiful picture with that simple biblical principle of reflecting on “What do I have? What’s in your hand?”
But really, we in the wealthier countries feel so good when we are being the benefactor. It’s like just because I have a Canadian passport, that’s all the difference is. I was born in Canada. That’s the only difference. Or I would be exactly where my grandparents were, which actually wasn’t bad at the time.
But you know, we’re not better because we have money. And that’s what’s really hurt me over the years is to hear people in developing nations actually think that we’re more spiritual or we’re smarter or we’re better somehow because we have money. Goodness, no!
What a powerful and important message! So, Barbara, as this is the Inspiring Stewards podcast, how does this concept of stewardship – and there is so many different facets of that – but how has stewardship impacted and informed your life?
As I said, my parents exhibited it in front of me every day. Well, my mother would say, “Your father would give the shirt off his back if someone asks for it.” And she was frustrated because we hardly had enough to live on but he gave all the time. When my mother and father passed away, they actually had a zero balance. By the time we paid the bills, it was amazing! Their life was amazing but that way.
But my mother was just a genius in hospitality. We had missionaries in our home all the time. You know, if someone needed a place to stay, oh, there’s an extra room at the Dorksen residence. You know, we always had people coming through. I used to call our front door a turnstile because there was always someone coming in.
My mother taught me that, “Ok, I’ve got these good dishes. I may not have anything in the fridge, but I’ll find something. And I’ll set the table as if it’s for a queen and then I’ll figure out what I’m going to put on the plates.”
It was just natural for me then to want to be someone who was aiding in some way the gospel going out to the ends of the earth. And I literally looked for a husband who had that same dream. And we were in missions and we still are in missions 40 years later.
So, it’s been really a wild ride, but very fun and not always fun. Lots of very difficult pieces to all that journey but we’re so grateful for all the Lord’s given us. Because inside, I mean, we’ve had experience that I wish I would have kept a better journal and could pass on.
What a great picture, though, of setting the table, not knowing necessarily what’s going to go on the plates but that act of faith. You know, I think about the priests stepping into the water to cross the Jordan. It was like they didn’t know. This river was at flood stage. They did not know what was going to happen other than they were going to be faithful to the next command that God gave them. And we all know what happened: the water stopped. And whether we’re in the US or somewhere around the world to be able to live with that posture to say, “Okay God, what’s the next step you want me take? What’s the thing you want me to do?” Beautiful! We could keep going. Go ahead.
Just briefly, you know that the word you used – faithful – that is the word that often I’ve gotten actually from Global Trust Partners. You know, the last few years, I’ve been a major donor fundraiser and I’ve been able to see that it’s not easy for people to know where to give their money either. Especially if they have a lot, it’s quite difficult.
And I didn’t know how I was going to ask people for money. I just knew that if I got to know them and their hearts and what is it that God has put on their mind, then just matching it up was all I had to do. And it made for a successful partnership. And I got to meet a lot of amazing people and made a lot of friends.
But I have to say that listening to one another is really what the key is in fundraising and understanding God has put things in your hand, in the wealthy or in the impoverished. Whatever money is put in your hand by God, you have a responsibility to answer His call with it, whether it's big or small, you know. It's not just to line our pockets to get another whatever. It has been given to us as believers for a reason.
Barbara, as you consider the current state of the world, how are you seeing God at work? You've already shared a number of ways. He's stirring up local generosity. But anything else you would add to how you're seeing God at work, either in your local context or more broadly?
You know, the thing is, upon retiring, I thought, “OK, well, I have a lot to do with responsibilities in my family. I'm going to go after that and just kind of walk away from what I've done.” But then the Lord has said, “You know, let's bring these things together with this business that you've had.”
I see that my job now is to encourage the next generation. I feel very strongly that each generation is to care for the generation they're in, seeing the Asbury renewal in the US and its spreading around the world. Seeing this after COVID, the anxiety, the depression, the suicidal thoughts – oh my goodness!
This is a difficult world, and we can see the oppression that the evil one is bringing on so many. The emptying churches because the churches are either so focused on a good show or something, instead of meeting these very raw needs that are around us now.
Oh, may the Lord bring His spirit to each believer! There are so many young people who have a dream. They are not getting it. They think it's impossible. May my generation in our 60s, may our generation encourage whatever God has put in their heart, not try to say, “You need to do it my way.” Goodness, obviously we haven't done it right!
So, how can we encourage every person in every country, in every nation, in every tribe with every tongue to do what God has put in their heart? Oh, may we be those people who enable flourishing in our world today!
Barbara, as we wrap up, any final thoughts you want to leave with those listening?
You know, have fun! So often, we get so serious, we lose our sense of humor. That's not God! He's got lots of humor, lots of sarcasm in the Scriptures. I love seeing bits of sarcasm here and there. I think, not that we should be sarcastic with one another, but that we need to take ourselves a little less seriously and take God a lot more seriously and understand that He really is smiling on us.
I had a father, he had no enemies. He was such a great example to me of God. And I just wish we could be that to everyone else. Be real. Relax. Ask questions of people so that you understand what's troubling them so that you can pray for them. And just enjoy the life, whatever it is that God has given us.
Barbara, thank you so much for your time. This has been tremendous.