From Pennies to Prosperity
by Melanie Hemry
It was a hot, sticky, humid July day in Minneapolis when Mary Ervasti turned her back on God. What had years of serving Him gotten her? Nothing. She'd had enough. Enough of unanswered prayers. Enough of creditors hounding her day and night. Enough of scrimping to survive. Enough of never having enough.
Her nerves, stretched taut from weeks of stress, recoiled at the shrill jangle of the telephone. Another bill collector, she thought bitterly, I won't answer it. Slamming the door behind her, she felt the stinging wind bite her cheeks as she trudged down the street.
How naive she and Dick had been when they married. Dick with his great dream of becoming a world-renowned voice-over actor. And her. She shook her head, embarrassed at the memory. "Someday," she'd told Dick earnestly, "I want to have a television ministry."
A television ministry! The bank was already foreclosing on her house. She'd be surprised if she even had a television when her creditors were through.
What had she been thinking? That if she went to church and prayed, God would grant her wishes like Cinderella? Well, it was midnight, and her dreams had not come true.
A long shiver traveled up Mary's spine as she huddled in her jacket. It wasn't the whisper of an approaching Minnesota winter that chilled her. It was a thought. A thought more chilling than creditors. A thought more chilling than mountains of debt. A thought more chilling than losing her home.
I've reached the midnight of my life, she admitted, so where do I go from here? If God's power isn't real...where can I turn for help?
"Those 24 hours were the darkest of my life," Mary remembers. "But when they were over, I had come to the realization that without God - I had nothing.
"From that point on, Dick and I started digging deep into Scripture. It was 1989, and the Copelands had started their daily broadcast. I remember listening to Kenneth teach that God would supply seed to the sower."
Mary knew that if they were going to plant financial seed, God would have to provide it. She was working at a temporary job, and Dick was a weekend disc jockey. Their $800 per month income didn't even cover their debts, much less supply them with enough to give.
Fighting depression, Mary took a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Something glinted in the sunlight, and she stooped to find four pennies. Seed! Mary didn't have much at home, but she had envelopes...and stamps.
Mary addressed one envelope to Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Dear Kenneth and Gloria, she wrote, This is my seed. I plant it in your ministry. She mailed the other three pennies to three different ministries.
"I thought Mary was crazy to mail those pennies to ministries," Dick admits. "I wanted to plant big things. I didn't realize we had to start where we were."
As Mary began to grasp the law of sowing and reaping, Dick became convicted about their words. "I listened to the Copelands and Charles Capps teach on the power of positive confession," he says. "Our situation was desperate. I knew we were missing it somewhere, and I was determined to get us on course with God.
I got a copy of Prosperity Promises, and other booklets with scriptural promises. Then I began searching the Scriptures. I typed up 200 confessions based on Scripture. I took 100 to confess each day and gave Mary the other 100."
Dick customized his confessions to support his dreams. "Father, I thank You," he said, "that I'm the king of voice-overs in this world. I have an abundance of work, and my voice is heard the world over. I praise You and thank You for it."
While Dick enthusiastically called those things which be not as though they were, Mary floundered.
"I didn't know what I was talking about when I made those confessions," Mary admits. "I had no idea what it meant to inherit the blessings of Abraham. My mind balked."
Finally, Mary realized that, just like the pennies she planted, she'd have to begin right where she was. Each day she summoned up the strength to say, "I believe I have faith to say my confessions."
Knowing that they would see a change soon, Dick began planning their income. After one month - it had decreased. Dick studied the figures, then walked into the kitchen.
"Do you have anything against me?" he asked quietly.
Mary looked at her husband. Did she have anything against him? Suddenly she felt a pang of bitterness as she thought of the time she had listened to his advice about a business venture and ended up losing her house...and the time he refused to let their friends help them move - and then went to work leaving her to unpack alone.
"Yes," Mary said, "I do." That night, they took their hurts and offenses to the Lord and forgave each other. From that time forward, their income slowly began to increase.
"I learned an invaluable truth," Dick says. "When things go wrong, don't look around - look in the mirror."
They started their confessions in March of 1990. On July 6, Mary wrote in her Bible, I was afraid a month or two ago to make all those positive confessions. Now my faith is at a place where I want to work on them all.
No longer did Dick and Mary confess 100 scriptures each day. Instead, they each began confessing all 200 every day.
"I got a full-time job as a disc jockey in the fall of 1989," Dick recalls. "In 1990, I began praying and believing God for voice-over work - basically being the unseen voice that narrates on commercials, movie previews and TV previews. In the spring of 1990, after we began our confessions, I got work being the voice of three radio stations, making $25,000. One year later, I was working on 12 radio stations, making $35,000."
Clearly, God was blessing the small amount of seed the Ervastis had been able to plant. But they had big dreams. That meant they needed to plant more seed. But how? They were already giving all they could afford.
In the fall of 1990 Dick began praying about it. The Lord provided a simple solution. Give your voice-overs, He said.
"I sent a demo tape to Kenneth Copeland Ministries offering to give my voice-overs," Dick explains. "For a year they didn't take me up on my offer, but God honored the seed anyway. That year I went from 12 radio stations to 112!"
In the fall of 1991, Dick began doing voice-overs for KCM's television and radio ministry - free. "The value of one commercial that airs worldwide is $20,000," Dick explains. "I've done hundreds of these for the Copelands. They offered to pay me, but I didn't want to be paid. I wanted to give my services to them and believe God for a hundredfold return. I knew that would be more profitable!"
As the months passed, Dick and Mary each continued to spend 30 minutes a day confessing scripture: "As we give, our gifts are measured back to us in a full and overflowing measure, pressed down and shaken together to make room for more - and running over!" they'd say. "The measure we use to give is the measure used to measure back to us. We look for ways to give and we find them.
"We decide for ourselves what we can give cheerfully, and we are not forced. Because God prizes cheerful givers, He is able to make it up to us by giving us all we need and more so that we have enough for ourselves and plenty to give others."
As time went by, the Holy Spirit prompted them to add to or change certain confessions. For example, instead of simply saying they had all things in abundance, He instructed them to say that they have abundantly increasing, continuously flowing supply.
"We added that to all our confessions," Mary says. "We confess abundantly increasing, continuously flowing prosperous weekly tithe...abundantly increasing, continuously flowing weekly offering...weekly income, financial assets, collections, financial resources, relationships, and health and wisdom. We also confess that we live totally and completely debt free in all things and in every way. We pay cash upfront for everything we buy."
In 1993, those confessions were put to the test. Dick moved his business to Los Angeles - the home of 50,000 actors, 4,000 of whom specialize in voice-overs. A voice-over actor who gets any job with an agent the first year is considered very talented. Yet Dick got work the first week - and within a month, he was working with the Walt Disney Company. By the end of 1993, Dick's business was bringing in as much as $25,000 a month.
Dick soon realized, however, that despite his financial success, he still had to stay on his spiritual toes. "In 1994, I hit a brick wall," he says. "My income had dropped to a fraction of what it had been in 1993. I was so discouraged, I considered moving back to Minneapolis."
Instead, Dick fervently sought the Lord. What he found out surprised him. The Lord revealed to him that his confessions had become so routine that he'd unintentionally stopped reverencing the Word. Wait on Me, the Holy Spirit cautioned. Stop confessing completely unless I tell you what to say.
Dick obeyed and made adjustments as the Lord directed. Then, just a few months later, he got the opportunity of a lifetime - he auditioned to become the voice of Fox football.
Once again, the Holy Spirit spoke to Dick's heart. It's yours! He said. Dick called Mary and asked for her agreement.
Today, Dick is the voice of sports for Fox television. That one contract pays him more per month than he made his first two years in radio as a disc jockey.
"Last year I looked at my tax returns," Dick says. "I gave more in tithes and offerings than I made in radio in 1989."
What about Mary? She, too, is standing in her dream. After working full time for two and a half years helping Dick at no salary ("Plant it as seed in your ministry!" Dick urged), the tables have turned. Now, Dick plants his time and talent as producer of Mary's radio ministry, "The Practical World of Faith."
Mary believes that living by faith is the most practical thing in the world. She is reminded daily of that fact. It isn't so much the big things that make her pause: their home in Southern California, healthy bank statements, the shiny new sports car they bought with cash. It's not even so much the flashing red light that signals she's recording her next radio show.
Certainly those things are nice. But what really matters to Mary is the One Who provided them. The One Who was there for her at the midnight hour. The God of Abraham Who gave her seed to sow...and then supplied the power to make it grow.
Mary thinks of Him each time she sees a penny on the ground.
Mary doesn't pick up pennies anymore. Now she leaves them for someone else who may need that seed to plant for himself.
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