Personal Support Raising: A Case Study in Risk & Sacrifice

By on December 1, 2010   /   Leave a comment

In the winter of 1864, Lt. George E. Dixon was only 24 years old when he convinced Confederate General Pierre Beauregard to let him try one more time to use the newly-designed Hunley submarine to try to take out one of the huge Union warships camped out in the Charleston Harbor that was choking off much of the South’s essential  supplies. Tragically, there had been two previous failed launches where both crews of eight drowned while testing out the tiny iron sub. Even though the General was very skeptical about survival (much less success), he gave in to the persistent and optimistic Dixon. The only problem was the young officer had no crew to accompany him on his man-powered, hand-cranked, underwater “death trap.”

The General allowed Dixon to board the Confederate ship, Indian Chief, to attempt to recruit volunteers, but with one very clear stipulation. The Lieutenant was required to be very explicit about the previous failures and the 100%  fatality rate. In his explanation before a regiment of 60 men, Dixon was very forthright about the sense of horrible panic the men must have felt, trapped in the sub with water pouring in, and no way of escape. After assuring them there was no shame in not volunteering, some say he then turned his back on the 60 sailors, and asked if seven men would step forward to join the expedition. When he turned around again to face them, it appeared that not a single man had moved forward. But his dejection turned to delight when one of the men blurted out, “Sir, we didn’t have seven step forward. Actually…all sixty of us stepped forward!” Dixon then had the somber responsibility of choosing his crew from a group of brave soldiers all willing to sacrifice their lives, knowing he was probably forever sealing the fates of the men he called out to join him.

On February 17, 1864, Dixon and his crew slid out into the harbor on a calm moonless night, and got close enough to the 200 foot-long Union ship Housatonic to attach and detonate a bomb that sunk the huge vessel within minutes. But the Hunley was not able to make it back to shore that night, instead unexplainably vanishing for 131 years until divers finally found it in 1995, 4½ miles off the Charleston coast, completely encrusted in mud. Even though their fate is still a mystery, one thing is for sure: Dixon and his men did not drown. They were each sitting peacefully in their cramped spaces, hands still on the cranks, having gradually suffocated from lack of oxygen. Eight men, knowing full well the price they would pay by volunteering, risked everything and sacrificed themselves for a cause they believed was greater than their own.

Now, please know I’m not suggesting entering ministry and raising support can be likened to a certain-death suicide mission! But I am saying that success is usually accompanied by the kind of “do or die” attitude, “no turning back” spirit, and “whatever it takes” approach that Dixon and his men possessed. Yes, there are incredible challenges and setbacks at every turn for the Christian worker launching into the fundraising journey, but be assured the personal, ministry, and eternal rewards far outweigh any so-called “risks” and “sacrifices” we make.

“..let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2)


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