Chris and Dawn Sodini - 07/11/2009
We just wanted to share our testimony. We hope it encourages others.
Chris and I married in 1997 and immediately secured credit cards to pay off medical debt from emergency surgery Chris had two years earlier. Also, during that first year we fought to have enough every paycheck to pay the tithe and the bills. I remember that entire first year learning to pay the tithe, even if other bills were not paid. It was a monthly struggle. This vicious cycle of creating debt to pay off debt continued for many years. Every time we "paid off" a bill it was rolled over and added to something else: "consolidated".
It took two years for God to get us to understand that we needed to move away from our families. They tried hard to tell us how they thought we should run our finances. But at that time in our lives we "knew" what we were doing. For goodness sake, we tithed every check, asked God to help us, grew deeper in debt and lived paycheck to paycheck. We had no idea why the Lord was moving us when we took the leap of faith in February of 2005 and moved to Mississippi. We thought we knew but we knew nothing!
Our Michigan home sold in September of that year, so we had spent the preceding months paying a house payment and lot rent in Michigan and rent in Biloxi. We got pregnant with our second child right about the time of Hurricane Katrina and immediately had a couple move into our two-bedroom trailer with us. It wasn't long and we decided that we had to move into a bigger home. God had great mercy on us and led us to a home big enough for all of us. The people were supposed to share the expenses with us, so it made sense to us to buy a home that we couldn't afford by ourselves at that time. They did share expenses for the first six months but then all of that changed. Finally, God convinced me that it was time to ask the other couple to leave. Chris was at least a few months ahead of me in accepting this step. I was terrified that we would lose our home and whatever else if we asked them to leave but Chris and the Lord persevered until I could see the situation would only continue to worsen.
We had also traded in our two full-size vehicles for one car that we thought we could afford better. We had stopped using credit cards some time before we moved to Mississippi but then, in the summer of 2006, we started using credit cards again. Before we could get control of this we had three credit cards maxed out.
Also, during this first year of being in Mississippi, we moved from one church to another and constantly were being hurt. This was a whole new experience for us, as Chris had grown up in the church we attended in Michigan and, had we stayed in Michigan, we never would have thought of leaving that church. Finally, after the Lord had restored our home to just being Chris and I and our children, He also led us to a home church on Christmas Day, 2006. What a new revelation that was. The second week I asked, "Do you take up the tithe?" The brethren in this fellowship sat me down and began to explain why none of them tithed. Some had different reasons but it all came down to scripture or the Holy Spirit having spoken to them. Well, that was the beginning of endless paradigm shifts and learning experiences we were to experience and grow from. About four months later we were introduced to UBM and the paradigm shifts and learning experiences magnified. It took about three months of prayer, Bible reading and reading Christian books on tithing to get both of us to the place where we chose to stop tithing.
The next year-and-a-half felt much the same, financially, as the years before hand. Now, looking back, we can begin to see God was working the whole time. We stopped living on credit cards and always borrowing money. We began to learn that it was okay if we didn't have a lot of grocery money. It wasn't easy but we began to see God provide. In January of 2008 the fellowship came together on our behalf and through God's blessing they provided us one month's groceries and at least one mortgage payment. In December of 2008 one of the members chose to bless us with money from heaven. We paid off our van, as well as some small bills. During this time, we received a check from somewhere in Pennsylvania for $199. The sender said it was due to our having been wrongly charged several years ago in Michigan. We also had the hospital bill from the emergency surgery Chris had in 1995 and we were trying to figure out if we could pay it off with our tax refund. One of the brothers in our fellowship brought an article and a website to our attention that showed that since we had moved from Michigan, the lawyer handling the debt could not take action against us. We prayed, stood on faith and waited for the Lord's peace before I typed and sent a letter stating the information we had found and asked that they accept the $12,000 we had paid as payment in full. We stood on scripture, calling those things that are not as though they were. One-and-a-half years later we have heard nothing from this lawyer and praise God for bringing this bill to naught. We canceled our family's medical insurance in December of 2008.
We stopped living on the credit cards and began working to pay them off. We are still working on this but they too will come to naught. In October of 2007 our central air unit went out. We did put this on a credit but never used any of the extra credit they chose to give us or any that has been created by making the monthly payments. In the summer of 2008 our roof leaked so bad that we had two ceilings fall in. We prayed about this and asked God to provide. The stimulus check came and we bought the materials for the roof. We expected to put it on ourselves that fall. When the ceilings fell in we decided that it needed to be replaced SOON and that someone else needed to do it. We called around to get quotes and could barely get someone to come out and write the estimate. I called the lady we had bought the house from and she was able to put us in contact with someone who was willing to tear off the old roof and put on the new roof for $800. We didn't have $800 but we were sure that God would provide. I had told my mom about what was going on but was very clear that we were NOT asking for money. She and her sister decided that we needed the roof and chose to give us birthday and anniversary money that would pay for the roof! Praise God; He had spoken to their hearts.
In June of this year our personal loan that we had started in the beginning our marriage was paid off! This loan had been re-consolidated so many times that I can't even tell you how many chains fell off. Our oldest daughter graduated from high school this June and God provided for Chris to go home and see her march across the stage! This month, July, we pay off the transmission bill, as we had to have it rebuilt in the end of 2008. Even this God has had under control, as He had the company I work for do the work and allow payroll deduction.
Several things have come together, causing us to be behind in our car payment and our house payment: The economy has lessened our income, I got hurt on the job (though I still work) the trip to Michigan and a baby due in September. Once again, all is under God's control. When I called the mortgage company to make payment arrangements, they offered us a new department that could possibly help us. In two weeks flat God has orchestrated the re-financing of our home. We had originally signed a mortgage that was a five-year balloon. God has written our new mortgage to be a standard 15-year mortgage, 2.7% less interest rate and a reduction in monthly payment of $155. The Lord is providing for us to catch up the car payment. With all of these miracles God had brought our income inline with our expenses. We continue to call our bills into naught and work hard on being good stewards. Part of our stewardship is not creating more debts, making headway on the debts we have and making wiser decisions about the money God has put under our control.
The Lord also provided for us to pay our midwife in full when we first began seeing her in February. We are excited to welcome this baby, not only into our family but into our home, as the midwife will come to our home when this baby is born!
God is so good! He is teaching us to take steps of living by faith! We have much more to learn but look back in amazement at the journey He has brought us on in the last couple of years. Much of this has come under UBM teaching. There is so much more that has happened along the way but we wanted to give this testimony as to what God has done and is doing in our finances.
Our six-year-old is asking to have David played regularly and wants us to read the Bible to her daily. We pray for David and all of the brothers and sisters at UBM.