Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sacrificial Giving

The last couple of months I’ve been thinking a lot about giving, and more specifically what sacrificial giving looks like. As an American, I have a lot of “stuff.” Some of it is more valuable than others, but none of it has eternal value. In the end, what I have on this earth is going to make absolutely no difference to anyone, so why don’t I always live like it?

My junior year of college, I stayed on skid row at the Union Rescue Mission for a week. Each afternoon I spent time helping with their program for homeless children who were staying at the mission. At the time, I had a red rubber bracelet that had some cheesy Christian saying on it that I wore most of the time. I distinctly remember that while we were playing a soccer game with the kids, a little boy, Junior, came up to me and asked me if he could have my bracelet, and I actually had to think about it before I said yes. Granted, it was only a couple seconds before I gladly gave it to him, but it really made me sad that I would even have to think before giving this kid, who had close to nothing, a stupid rubber bracelet. At this point, I determined that I never wanted to be stingy in my giving, but instead to be generous but also wise with both my money and my possessions.

Fast forward to the present…I was really excited when I found out that our Sunday school class had adopted a needy family in town. For about five days, I spent a lot of time in prayer trying to determine the amount that I should give. Since Friday was payday, I decided that I would give half of whatever my paycheck was to this family. It seemed to be a practical way I could live out a biblical command (Matt. 22:39), that if I was loving this family as I loved myself, I would give as much money to them as I kept for myself. So Sunday rolls around, I give my money and go on with life. The next week I realize that my student loan payment, my credit card bill, and my car payment were all due within two days of each other. One of my first thoughts was “if I could have deposited my whole paycheck into my checking account, I wouldn’t have to shuffle my money around.” As I thought about it more I was really convicted, and I realized that although I might have the concept down of actually giving money, that I gave without expecting to live any differently because of it. And it wasn’t even that I didn’t have the money, just that I had to move it around from different banks.

Since the Go Conference, I’ve also been thinking and praying about how much to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering this year. I pray that the Lord has changed my attitude, and that He will allow me to give with the right attitude. I think that I’m a little more prepared this time. I want to give more than I have in the past and I pray that it does stretch me.

I want to have to live differently and to give up some material things because of how I give to the church, to missions and to others, and I want to do it so that God gets the glory and to further His kingdom here on earth. I pray that I would not get caught up spending my money on trivial things, but that I would spend my money thinking about the fact that my treasure is not on earth, but in heaven.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What now?

As many of you know, after graduation I was planning on working full-time at camp through the summer, and then going to Zambia, Africa to a place called Koinonia Village in January. It seemed like God had opened all the doors necessary, and it was so perfect because I would not only get to go to Africa, but also help with one of the things I love most, camp! Once I was done with summer staff, I talked to my boss Dave, and he said that the trip was on hold because the missionaries we were going to work with decided to come home. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but it was clear that it was not God’s will, since everything that had worked out so perfectly was no longer an option.

Since then I moved home, back to Missouri. I’ve spent a lot of time praying and seeking the Lord’s will about the whole situation. I looked into going to Africa with other organizations a little bit, but at this point I haven’t felt led to further pursue those options.

My pastor at FBBC, Micah Fries, said something today that really resonated with me in thinking through the situation. He said,

“God is not interested in us trying to figure out the details, He is interested in our obedience.”
Maybe the Lord just used this process to get me to a point of full obedience, to the point that I am completely willing to go to a foreign country to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to those who have not heard. I hope and pray that I will be obedient to whatever He asks, whether it is to stay here in MO and to be content with the ministry He has given me here, or whether I’m called to go to Africa, or anywhere else on earth.

Another neat thing that comes from staying here, is that often when I explain to people that I was planning on going to Africa, they ask me why I wanted to go. This gives me the perfect opportunity to talk with people about Jesus Christ and to share the gospel with them.

It is fun to think about all the ways that God can use me if I am content with where I am now and if I am creative in coming up with ways that I can help with missions wherever I am. Maybe the younger girls that I spend time with will be impacted by my passion for Africa and one of them will go someday. Instead of buying all my Christmas gifts from the mall, I’ve found ministry websites that sell things that African women make to support themselves, and so through giving gifts I can help support those women. I can bathe the African people in prayer from anywhere in the world. I can save a portion of the money I make now, so that if my dream of adopting an African child someday becomes a reality, those funds will be available. I pray that the Lord will continue to help me be bold with my passion for Africa, and that He will help me not waste my time wishing I was there, but instead, figure out what I can do to be involved right now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Homesick for Africa

This is part of something that I wrote last year, when in the midst of loads of homework, all I could think about was going to Africa so I just stopped working on my homework, and typed out my thoughts. A lot has changed since then, but my passion for the African people remains.


Can you be homesick for a place you’ve never been? If so, I think I’m homesick for Africa. I want to go there, and learn from them.

Sometimes it’s all I can think about. At work, at church, at chapel, in class, in my room, in the cafeteria, there’s almost nowhere I go that I don’t think about it. At times I think I’m crazy for longing so strongly for a place that I’ve never been, but I know that the Lord has put that desire in my heart for a reason, I’m not sure why yet, but I know that nothing He does is without a purpose. Whether He allows me to go or not, I know that His sovereign plan is perfect.

A year and a half ago when I was home for Christmas break, I remember my mom asking me if I thought I would ever be interested in going to do mission work overseas. I told her flat out no. I had no intentions of going to another country, and that I felt my ministry would be here in the United States. Now if you asked me that same question, I would give you the exact opposite answer just as quickly as I said no before.

Some people tell me how it may seem glamorous now, but that when I get there I will realize how horrible it is and will hate it. They remind me of things such as snakes, huge bugs, mosquitoes, malaria, rats, sleeping on a dirt floor, no bathrooms, nasty food, etc. But I don’t think those things really matter to me – and I pray that the Lord continues to give me the grace to have that attitude. The American culture, the church included, is so caught up in living the American dream. They want to have a lucrative job that will impress their friends, drive a Lexus SUV, own a multi-million dollar home, have 1.5 kids and of course the newest high-definition TV, blackberry, computer, iPod, gaming system or whatever. Scripture says that life is a vapor and I don’t want to spend my “vapor” focusing on these things instead of on making an eternal impact in the lives of others, even if it does cost me my comfort. In the big picture, my temporary comfort is a small sacrifice in exchange for doing God’s will. I hope that I never value the things of this earth more than I value heavenly things.

I’m afraid of what will happen if the Lord does give me an opportunity to go. I know that if I go, I will not be the same person when I come back. At a village or orphanage I would find some child that I would fall in love with, and then I would have to leave…and they would stay. A chunk of my heart will be left there, but maybe that’s not all bad. In fact, maybe it is good.

Many times this semester I have laid on my bed and cried. The tears just pour down my cheeks. I have a picture hanging up on my wall of a little African child my friend Beckie calls Nemo. When I look at his sweet face, I’m reminded of the thousands of other children there who are growing up without the Lord, without families, without food, and missing out on a childhood because they are raising their little brothers and sister…and my heart breaks.

Maybe someday…