We saw each other from a distance at church but never officially met.
Then one day he opened the door for me as I was leaving and said “Hey, don‟t I know you? My name is Deacon Mike.” He was around seventy years old, bubbly, and cheerful. After he realized that we were both from Chicago and both Italian, we were instantly bonded.
I watched his eyes light up as I told him that I was a woodworker. He excitedly told me of a vision God had given him to place a crucifix in every Christian home in the world at no charge. I almost laughed at the magnitude of such a task, but I quickly realized that he was serious — and then, I wanted to help.
He had a box of 50 corpuses (the body of Christ) ready to go. He asked if we could help by making the crosses, and I agreed. We set to work and soon realized that although simple, the steps involved from start to finish were many and detailed. They proved to be very labor intensive and that first batch took us many more hours than anticipated.
After many hours of work, we completed the final assembly and carefully packaged up the crosses for Deacon Mike to distribute. Fifty seemed like a huge amount and we felt that would hold him for a long while. To our amazement and touch of dismay, he returned two days later with empty boxes! “They loved them!” he exclaimed. “Everyone said they were the most beautiful crucifixes they had ever seen. Would you be willing to make another fifty?”
We were thrilled that they were so well received, yet uncertain how much we could realistically afford to donate. As we discussed what to do, I became aware of something: we had just donated our business materials and many hours of staff labor, which should have set us back on our business. However, to our surprise, it didn’t seem to affect us financially at all. I realized that we could give it another shot and this time make 150. I figured that either God was going to be in this, or He wasn’t.
The second time around, we focused more on how to streamline production. It worked — this time we made 150 in just a little more time than the first fifty. We proudly packaged them up for Deacon Mike to pass out.
Once again, we were shocked when he returned in less than a week with empty boxes! This time he had story after story of people being deeply touched and moved by the beauty of the cross and also by the fact that it was a free gift. Many of the recipients were overwhelmed.
About this time we began to notice that something wonderfully unusual was happening in the shop: our cash flow was better than usual. At a time when shops around us were finding it more challenging to find work, work was coming to us in abundance. We felt that God was pleased and we were being blessed. We then decided to increase production to 300 to try and meet the growing demand, as word was spreading quickly.
The same day we committed to do this and ordered the lumber, we received a large job and with it a large deposit. We instantly realized what was happening. God was PRE- PAYING for the crosses and blessing us at the same time. He continued to answer our question of whether we could afford all this expense by paying us up front with jobs more profitable than we had ever experienced. He showed us clearly that we were to continue and that we could afford it, because he was financing it!
We made another batch of 300 and then followed that with a step up to 500. As fast as we could complete them, they were going out the door and onto walls in Christian homes. Many letters of appreciation were coming in along with some profound testimonies of a number of individuals returning to God and their faith after being presented with a crucifix by a family member. It was becoming clear that the power and potential of this ministry was way beyond what we had initially imagined.
Watching all this take place, one thing was still not clear: should we continue, but at what volume? Should we proceed at the gradual increased production rate as we were going, or should we pull out all the stops and rent a bigger shop, buy production equipment, hire ten men, and go into mass production? I did not want to presume that God would automatically foot the bill for this size endeavor because of His past faithfulness. I had to know for sure and prayed hard for an answer.
One evening, I got in my car and asked God again for an answer to my question. As I started to drive I flicked on the radio. The radio was tuned to a Christian station and the first words I heard was a man saying: “Have you ever wondered how much to give? Have you ever started a project or ministry for the Lord and wondered at what rate should you grow it?” I was so stunned I almost went off the road. It was clear this minister was speaking directly to me. I listened with amazement and sheer delight as he proceeded to explain a biblical principle called The Cycle of Blessings. He taught that as God impresses it upon a person’s heart to begin a ministry for him, he waits for a response. Once the person gives, God responds to that gift by increasing it back to him. The person, now encouraged by this blessing, takes this increased gift and re-invests it into his ministry. Once again, God responds to this increased gift and multiplies it back to him again. This cycle of blessings may continue as a steady, but gradual process for as long as God determines. I knew then that I had received my answer and we were on the right track.
Right now, we are producing 1,000 crosses at a time and have given away over 20,000 to this date. God continues to bless us abundantly. In 2009, we watched shops and businesses all around us disappear one by one. Not only were we not affected, but it was most profitable year since we started in 1979.
Sometimes, people stop in and say “What’s going on here? You’ve got ten guys working and seem to be busier than any shop around. How do you explain it?” I respond the same each time: “All I know is that we all gather together each morning as Christian brothers. We read a chapter of Scripture and then ask God’s protection over each man and his blessing over this, his business. And…we make these crosses to give away….that’s all I know. Would you like one?”