Sunday, January 4, 2015
“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” ― Abraham Lincoln
One of the hardest things we have to do here is to decide what needs funding and what doesn’t because we can’t do everything. We make sure we always pay all our workers and their social security. We make sure that the orphans and poor kids who come to our pre-school and English class are all fed every day. We pay the medical bills of our workers and their families and send money to every funeral of every family member of our staff and the pastors and evangelists of our churches. We even send food money to every neighbor who has a funeral. We have paid for way too many children’s coffins and quite a few adults. People come every day asking for help, and we only have about $500 a month to help on a case by case basis. We pay school fees (schools here are not free) for staff children and the children of our pastors and evangelists as far as we are able. Some of the requests for money break our hearts because we cannot help. The other day a man who has been a good friend for many years wanted $200 so he could get electricity to his house. I had to turn him down. Some want enough money to send their children to boarding school and we have to turn them down. Some need money to travel to funerals far away and we help where we can. We are also expected to host and feed church meeting attendees and to assist with church construction—and we do as much as we can. Since we have been here, we have given away over $50,000 of our own money spread over ten years. We are living and operating the mission on our social security and retirement only. Friends in the U.S., churches, and groups, and the One Book Foundation have given well over $100,000 during those same ten years, but we have only received less than $5,000 a year for the last several years. We buy Swahili Bibles, bicycles for evangelists, and portable blood pressure kits for the hospitals and clinics near us. We still buy mosquito nets for all our workers and for the hospital wards near us. We have had people scam us (never more than once) and come back and ask for more. We gave one man $1,500 to attend a seminary for a year and to take care of his family. He spent it all in two months and then begged for more after he was kicked out of school, but I had no more and wouldn’t have given it anyway. After a couple of years had passed, he came to me to ask for my forgiveness which I freely gave. Then he asked for money to go back to school and I turned him down. It is hard to learn who to trust in a culture where today is everything and tomorrow is yet to be. You would think we would be proud of all we’ve done and done in the name of others who have given, but the problems here are so enormous, we cannot see that we are making a difference. I know that we are, but as someone told us, we are planting seeds for trees for which we will never enjoy the fruit or the shade. I saw a cartoon the other day of a little boy talking to his dad as they left a restaurant. The boy asked his father why he gave the waiter a 15% tip but only gave 10% to the church. Having to say no to a request for help hurts my heart every time. We always help a little, if only to pay for bus fare back to where the person asking for money came from. Sometimes, the request is for $300 and we can only give $50, but we give the $50. No one has ever failed to thank us for our help or to become angry because we didn’t give them all the help they wanted. The students at the Bunda Teachers College whose tuition and fees are being paid for by a church in Jonesboro, Arkansas, come by on their own and help clean our grounds on Saturdays, they are so grateful. Give till it hurts, I have heard, but not being able to give hurts more. Nothing makes us feel as good as being able to help those in need whether it’s a bicycle for an evangelist or a goat for a widow. Many years ago, I not only never gave money away but cheated others to get more. Now, I know the money isn’t mine, it’s God’s, and I’m not to be judged on how much I have but what I do with it. Read the parable of the talents. At least we are not burying the gifts we have but are using them to help the poor which surround us. We wouldn’t have it any other way, but it is hard to be satisfied with what little we are doing when so much needs to be done. We must content ourselves with knowing that we are giving what we can, where we are, with what we have. I think that’s all God ever really asks of us.