Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Virtual Pew News #17 / Goodbye Youth Horizons

A little over a year ago I started working for an organization I truly believed in called Youth Horizons. For those familiar with my ministry and the ministry of The Virtual Pew you will know how excited I was about this opportunity. My employment with Youth Horizons would be of benefit in several ways.

One, was it would provide me the opportunity to work with troubled boys in a youth residential situation. I have always loved and cherished the opportunity to work with boys who in reality are not much different than I was growing up. I believed God would, and could use my background to work with these boys in a way they could relate to and in a way that would bless me with the reminder of what God had done for me.

Secondly, my involvement with Youth Horizons would provide an opportunity to work over night three nights a week to get the work of The Virtual Pew done. This would also provide study and prayer time for the pastor position I took at Mosaic Church in Wichita.

The third reason the Youth Horizons job was attractive was it allowed me to bring in a little extra income without asking for contributions to The Virtual Pew so much. This was important as I know many ministries ask for money on a continual basis. I didn’t want The Virtual Pew to be a part of that type of group.

Despite what I was looking forward to regarding employment with Youth Horizons, I found it necessary to resign effective December 1st, 2008. I gave a two month notice but find it appropriate to detail the reasoning and the ongoing needs of The Virtual Pew, and Mosaic Church.

The first thing I need to communicate to you is my health. I am diabetic and prior to my involvement with Youth Horizons was able to manage my diabetes with medication, diet, and exercise. Over the last year however, my health has deteriorated to the point of becoming life threatening. My fasting blood sugars on average where over 300 and my sleep patterns, (or lack of, was causing my cholesterol levels to increase dramatically.)

One of the issues related to my employment at Youth Horizons was I specifically requested to work three nights a week, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday’s. This would allow me to spend time with my family, plus continue additional ministries within the wrestling community I cherished. There was more, I was doing a radio show on Thursday and Friday afternoons. Early on I saw this was not going to work as per agreement, but I didn’t say anything about it.

In the early period of employment at Youth Horizons I discovered I would have to attend various trainings and at times had less than 2 days notice prior to those meetings. I had to cancel speaking engagements, interviews, and officiating wrestling tournaments. It cost me as much as $300 per day in some situations, and a minimum of $125- $150 per day. The minimal salary of $20,000 per year would soon be lessened by the 72 mile round trip, additional meetings, and cancellations of other paying events. Between coverage of some Friday nights, and other nights during the week, I ended up working a minimum of 176 hours in any 4 week span at Youth Horizons, more than I requested upon hire. With this came other issues.

As mentioned earlier, my health began to suffer. Several months ago I scheduled an appointment with my physician, Dr. Tom Kline of Family Medicine East in Wichita. I was experiencing two months of constant, severe headaches. Tom and I began to explore why and as I begin to explain my sleep patterns, and other things related to work, he told me, “Mike if you don’t quit your job at Youth Horizons you will be dead in 5 years.” Tom and I have been close over the years and one of the things I appreciate is his willingness to shoot it straight. With me averaging less than 4 hours of sleep a night, and in some 72 hour periods only getting 4 hours of sleep, I couldn’t regulate my diet, maintain my exercise, and was losing out on needed rest. As a result, I had to go on insulin injections, currently at 4 per day.

Let me make clear, I tried to continue involvement with Youth Horizons. I requested my hours go back to what was agreed upon on hire, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday nights, working a 12 – 14 hour shift to give me the needed 40 hours per week for benefits. I would have continued to stay as I have started feeling better. This was either not considered or allowed to my knowledge. I was told of the agency’s concern for my health. As a result my last day of employment will be November 30 of 2008.

While the residential staff at Youth Horizons has left employment, and another coworker has quit, I would ask you to keep the program in your prayers. They have hired one additional staff and are in the process of interviewing 2 staff for House Parents and another staff to take my place. They have filled the other vacant position in the last few weeks and are training that gentleman.

One of the hopes I had was the work of The Virtual Pew would take place at night. I hoped the income from Youth Horizons would enable me to do more direct ministry with income coming into The Virtual Pew. While there was money coming in from Youth Horizons, the income from The Virtual Pew lessened as a result of not soliciting as much.

In 2008, we estimate The Virtual Pew revenue will be down $12,000. Between lost income from donations, speaking, and officiating, all of the additional hours worked only accounted for $8,000 over the course of the year. When figuring in a 72 mile round trip to work with the rising cost of gasoline, my experience with Youth Horizons was not financially feasible, especially when looking at the effects on my health.

The issues related to Youth Horizons would be hindered more with my accepting the Senior Pastor position at Mosaic Church in Wichita. While this has brought in a small income to help with the loss at The Virtual Pew, it has been small.

Mosaic is a young church with potential. Mosaic has the desire to reach out to those who have given up on church. The ministry of Mosaic and The Virtual Pew are a perfect marriage. Over the last 4-6 months we have had a number of visitors visit Mosaic. Unfortunately, due to the time restrictions, including working Sunday nights plus 3 - 4 other nights a week; I have had little time to visit and do follow up. One of the things I am looking forward to is getting this work for Mosaic done.

Between the commitment to Youth Horizons, Mosaic and The Virtual Pew I have little time to see my family. On average I get to spend less than 4 hours a week with my son, and 8-10 hours with my wife. This was not acceptable. The work of all of these agencies is important. For example, this last Tuesday some of the people associated with Mosaic and several other churches and I met with a young man. I spearheaded the meeting that had a tremendous bearing on this man. He was in a crisis situation where between drugs, sexual issues, and other factors, if immediate and sudden changes were not made, it was possible his life would be in danger. We managed to get this man into another home, away from his job where there were serious issues. He is one of many that need the ministry of The Virtual Pew and Mosaic. I have maintained God’s calling to reach out to people often neglected by the church. I have seen lives saved and lives changed.

I could go on, but let me talk some about the future and some of the needs.

I am excited about getting back into full-swing with The Virtual Pew and Mosaic Church. Not only do they need me, but I need them. This will require several things to take place however; it will require the effort to raise funds for The Virtual Pew. While the income lost from Youth Horizons is a big deal, the medical benefits are an even bigger deal. My family needs at minimum an additional $500 per month to help cover the medical coverage, plus the additional outstanding loss beyond that. It would be great to have more than that to allow the ongoing direct ministry of The Virtual Pew in helping others meet their needs. I will eventually be able to get back on my wife’s insurance coverage, but that will be at least 1 month, and will cost in the neighborhood of $300 per month. The current cost of my medications is $150 per month with insurance. While exercise, better sleep and other factors will lessen the need for some of those medications, I still have an immediate need.

As a part of the work of The Virtual Pew, I will also start booking myself for various engagements, from church related, to business motivational, to also including illusion or magic shows plus raising awareness for Mosaic Church. To schedule something you can email I have a new booking agent who will work with you to schedule an event. Having an agent to help with this is a tremendous benefit and help. The bottom line regarding The Virtual Pew is that it will start back up full-force, and along with that will hopefully come in much of the previously lost revenues. Please remember, that a large portion of the revenues that come into The Virtual Pew go out to direct services and ministries.

There is additional work with Mosaic which will take place. I will schedule office hours three mornings a week and regular visitation and outreach hours. I will be working at visiting each member of Mosaic plus guests. I will also reach out to the most outcast in the Wichita area: Goths, the homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes and more. I am excited about the opportunities to use my talents, gifts and abilities to their fullest.

There is a lot going on. I didn’t even touch on my mother in East Tennessee recently having a stroke, and the discovery of cancer, currently at stage 3.5. It is estimated that she has approximately 1 year to live. For those that know my story, you know of the strained relationship between my mother and me. You also know of my desire to make amends and discover what it is like to have a mother for at least a small period of time in my life. I am still praying God will provide the finance and means for this to take place. I am planning to spend 2 weeks with my mom in December while at the same time, film a documentary about my life in the area I grew up. For my mom to be in this, with resolve between us would be an incredible blessing. How this will work out, I am not certain. I am just praying about it and seeing where God leads. I would greatly appreciate anyone who could help see to it that this visit occurs. I am taking a step of faith in making the visit prior to having the financial resources for the trip. I don’t have much time left with my mom though, therefore, I am taking a huge step of faith, hoping that there are those who can help make this trip possible.

I need people to continue and others to start their support of The Virtual Pew. There are ways you can do that and the gift is tax-deductible through either Mosaic Church or The Virtual Pew. Contributions can be sent to The Virtual Pew, P.O. Box 17731, Wichita KS 67217 or you can make those contributions on line at the following url: Please note, that despite the notation on the donation page, these donations are tax-deductible. One can also make a designated gift to Mosaic Church at 902 George Washington, BLVD, Wichita KS 67211

In closing, I want to make clear; I wanted to make the experience at Youth Horizons work. I love, admire and respect greatly Earnest Alexander of Youth Horizons as well as the other staff there. With my health and the needs of my family, I couldn’t justify the continuation of employment with the agency without some compromise. Youth Horizons and their ministry to troubled youth is a ministry I will continue to support in one way or another. I won’t close the door on maybe one day going back in some capacity if they would have me, but for now, I can’t continue in the capacity I am. The last year has been a difficult one with a lot of learning. It has been a year where I learned, and the things I learned were good. It is a year where I think I had a positive impact on some wonderful boys often misunderstood and for that I will be forever grateful. It has been a year God could open up doors, and improve certain aspects to help make The Virtual Pew, and Mosaic Church into the ministries He wants them to be. I covet your prayers, and appreciate your support, both in promotion and financial. My hope and my prayer, is that God will be glorified, and those seeking spiritual truth, will come to know more about the person of Jesus Christ and have an eternal relationship with the King of Kings as a result of these ministries. Be on the lookout, things are already starting to take place.

As I went to post this, I couldn't help but think of the following song. I think it is appropriate in so many ways, it certainly shares where my heart is at right now. Just click on the video, if the video don't appear, just click on the link:

Click Here to Go to The Virtual Pew Daily Verse and Read The Bible in a Year Passages

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Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word.Here is our contact information

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Wichita, KS 67217

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a nice post. I really love reading these types or articles. I can?t wait to see what others have to say.