God Enables Fan to Help Others in Midst of COVID-19
Fri., Apr. 3. 2020 10:58am EDT
A longtime fan who sent a large donation this past week has an amazing testimony explaining how God has enabled him to help us and others in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. He asked us to share it with you, but he prefers to remain anonymous (we know who he is) so all the glory will go to God:
I am a Christian and I seek to honor God and serve my neighbors in all areas of my life, although I realize that I am far from perfect in doing so. For nearly my entire career, I have worked as a research engineer doing defense-related research at a major University. I do this work to reduce the likelihood of wars taking place, and until recently I had never seen a conflict between my identity as a Christian and my occupation as a defense-related research engineer. However, approximately three years ago, I was assigned to work on a project that made me seriously question whether the work that I was doing was going to be used for good or evil.
At about the same time, my department head was promoted and I was asked to take over his role as the acting head of our department. In this new role, I quickly realized that several of my co-workers in my department had respiratory issues and they had been suffering for a long time because of mold issues in our work area. I worked through official channels and on my own time for over a month to try to clean up our work area.
We made some progress, but our facilities support staff eventually grew tired of my asking for help and one of them filed a formal union grievance against me (because I had taken down a ceiling tile that was covered in mold resulting from a leak in the roof above the tile, and our University's contract with the Teamsters Union is very particular about the removal of ceiling tiles being a task that can only be performed by union employees). I was ordered to basically stop all work on improving the conditions in my department's work area, and I was also ordered to stop contacting our facilities support staff even though many of the serious causes of mold in my work area still had not yet been resolved.
I found it extremely discouraging that my career had led me into a place where my Government was asking me to do things that seemed more likely to cause evil than to protect our citizens against it, and it was beyond frustrating that I was being forbidden from fixing very obvious and easily solvable problems that were harming the people under my authority by the very same people who were responsible for fixing those problems but who refused to do so. I felt that if I could not even work within my own organization to establish safe working conditions for our own people, there was no realistic hope of my improving any of the more serious issues that we faced.
I had no desire to be an acting department head if I could not treat my employees with the dignity and consideration that I believe they are due as human beings who are created in the image of God. I began to consider whether I had made a mistake in pursuing a career in defense-related research at my University in the first place, and I also began to seriously evaluate alternative career options.
I prayed for a long time about what I should do, and while I was praying God provided a partial answer: due to a directive from senior management, my entire team on the morally dubious project was replaced. This change obviated my immediate concerns about working on that particular project. Nevertheless, I was still coming to the realization that I no longer wanted to work at an organization that appeared so unresponsive to its employees' needs.
I have studied and managed my own investments from the time that I was a child, and it occurred to me that I might be able to leverage my knowledge in that area in combination with my skills in computer science to start a new business of my own in the investment world. I began developing detailed plans for how I could make enough money from a small stock portfolio to provide for my family, and after successfully field-testing my investment approach for a few months to validate that it would generate enough income, I eventually made the decision to leave my position at the University. In the summer of 2018, I stepped down from my position as acting department head, switched to part-time status, and began transitioning my work on all of my engineering projects to other people.
Severe market declines began almost immediately after I had given my notice that I would be gradually withdrawing from my position at the University. The fall of 2018 was not a favorable time for the U.S. stock market, and given the investment strategy that I was using at that time, I lost more than 30% of my portfolio during the market declines. I had set a threshold that I would return to full-time work at some kind of engineering job if my portfolio balance dropped below a certain level, and my account value regularly flirted with dropping below that threshold. Almost daily I found myself questioning whether I had made the right decision in stepping back from my job at the University. But I also used this time to make fundamental updates to my overall investment approach, I adapted my strategy to withstand increased levels of market volatility, and I fine-tuned the day-to-day operations of my investment strategy until it required only 1-2 hours per week to implement.
By early 2019, the market had begun to recover and I had finished handing off nearly all of my projects at the University. Only one project remained - a new defensive cybersecurity program that will genuinely help to keep all of us safe, and about which I have no ethical qualms. I wanted to ensure that this project was in good hands before I left the University, so I continued to stay on in my part-time role until the project's funding was secured and the new project team was up and running.
In the spring of 2019, I was very surprised when our sponsor from the Government informed us that this defensive cybersecurity project had been funded more rapidly than expected and that the Government wanted us to begin development immediately. We were not going to be given a 3-month lead up to get ready for this project as we normally are, so there was no time for me to hand off this project to a new project team as I had been planning. Given the urgency of the Government's need for this project, I started working more than full time to bring new team members on board and to ensure that we would meet our deadlines, while also continuing to operate the investment business that I had set up during the previous year.
By the summer of 2019, the employee who had taken my place as the acting head of my department when I stepped down had moved on to other opportunities, and I was asked by my division head and most of the people in my department to take on the role of department head again. The effort that I had made to take care of our employees when I was serving as acting department head earlier had been noticed, and our organization's senior leadership was now willing to allow me greater freedom to take care of our employees and improve their working conditions if I accepted the job, which I did.
For the rest of 2019 and early 2020, I worked steadily to implement the defensive cybersecurity project and to take care of the people in my department. I also continued to mature my investment strategy and I developed a technique to significantly increase the income that it generates over time, particularly during periods of increased market volatility.
In early 2020, when COVID-19 began to explode onto the world scene, God used me to give advance warning to my family and my church that this virus was going to cause major disruptions to life in the United States. I was also able to use my position as a department head to get the employees in my department the equipment that they needed to work remotely, and all of us who are able to work remotely were prepared to do so well in advance of the government's directives for non-essential businesses to close. We are now in a position to help others instead of needing to be helped ourselves.
I believe that God has used my experiences of the past few years much as he used Joseph's experience being sold into slavery so that he could preserve many people during the coming time of famine. The investment strategy that I developed during the market declines of 2018 has held up very well during the catastrophic market crash of the past several weeks, and I have actually realized a return of +5% over that time period as compared with the overall market's ~25% decline. My investment portfolio has been earning approximately 2-3 months worth of my engineer's salary *each week* for each of the past several weeks, and this amount is projected to increase whether the market goes up, goes down, or stays flat.
Many of the people in our community are currently out of work due to the lockdowns, and some of them are going to experience large medical bills as a result of treatments required for COVID-19. The charitable organizations that provide much of the social safety net in our community are also facing a loss of donations because many of their supporters are out of work. I plan to use about half of the income from my investments to support individual people and organizations in my community who are being hit hard by COVID-19 and the lockdowns, and then to reinvest the other half so that the investment portfolio will continue to grow and the amounts that I can use to support others in the future will continue to increase. I am hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic will be defeated soon, but I am preparing to help support my community over the long haul if this does not happen.
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors and to sacrifice on their behalf (Luke 10:25-37). Supporting my community in this way is something that I can do to live out that calling. I do not want any personal recognition for the contributions that I am making (Matthew 6:2-4), but I do think that it is important for Christians to realize that God has been preparing protection for His people for a long time before this pandemic arose. Also, non-Christians need to know that Christians like me are out there doing the best that we can to help meet their physical needs - we love you because Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19), and He loves you too!
I want to encourage anyone who is a follower of Jesus to do whatever they can to find creative ways to help their neighbors during this challenging time. Also, please remember that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). Even in our present circumstances, God is working something good, just as He has worked through my difficult circumstances of the past three years to help shelter and protect people now.