This past Monday, June 1st, was a sad day. Not because it was my wife Marsha’s birthday – that part of the day was a celebration. No, it was a sad day because General Motors filed for bankruptcy on that date. As someone who grew up in Anderson, Indiana during the “golden years” of GM, it is really almost hard for me to believe that GM has fallen so far – even off the Dow Jones listing for stocks. During my childhood, nearly everyone in Anderson was an employee of Delco Remy or Guide Lamp or related to someone who was employed there or in supplier businesses. I worked in the Delco plants during summers of college, and I learned about the monotony of assembly line production – and yet I also learned how that kind of industry made auto parts and automobiles accessible to the average family. In those days it was all about the automobile, and the town depended upon GM for employment but also for generous contributions to every civic cause.
Most of that has been gone for a long time in Anderson and other towns like Anderson. Some of those towns have diversified and found new ways to survive and even thrive. But many people are still waiting for those “golden years” to return, and June 1st probably helped those folks to see that it won’t happen. GM is in bankruptcy.
GM will likely come out of bankruptcy a stronger, leaner company. I suspect that the American auto industry is not dead, but it certainly will be changed/transformed forever. And in the meantime, tough times are here for many people. My dad is one of many GM retirees who lost their health insurance last year, and probably more such losses are coming.
Tough times. We all feel it, not just GM folks from towns like Anderson. Those in the northern part of the state can tell you about tough times in the RV industry. Those in the southern part of the state can tell you about tough times in the coal industry. Some farmers had a good year last year, but others had crops destroyed by too much rain. The unemployment rate in the state of Indiana is one of the highest in the country. Tough times.
Many of our local churches are feeling these tough times, and yet it is also true that churches are among the last institutions to feel the effect of economic changes. Why? Because most faithful Christians do not give out of their economic ups and downs, they give out of generous hearts.
I remember preaching for a “Harvest Sunday” in a small church in North Dakota several years ago. They had their Sunday service, complete with a Harvest Offering to cover all of their apportionments and mission giving for the year. After worship, we had a church dinner and waited for the announcement of the Harvest Offering – it was a large number, and people cheered. I then asked some of the farmers at my table how their crops had done, since I knew we were in the midst of a drought. Those farmers looked down at their plates, until finally one said to me, “Bishop, we did not have a crop this year. Most of us never got our combines out of the barn because there was nothing to harvest.”
Incredulously, I asked, “But then how did you just have a big Harvest Offering?” Again there was silence until one older farmer explained it to me, “You just have to have faith that tough times will not last. So you take money out of your savings or you borrow it, you give it in faith, and you trust the Lord that better times will come … maybe next year.”
As I listened with appreciation to that faith testimony, I thought of a book I read a few years ago by Robert Schuller, titled, “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Always Do.” I would adapt that title a bit to say, “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough Faith Gets Us Through.”
Even during sad days like June 1st and the GM bankruptcy.