Tuesday, April 21, 2015
“If you want to know what God thinks about money, look at who he gives most of it to.” — Mama Roebuck (my grandmother may she rest in peace)
As much as we do without things here and make sacrifices (like going without bacon for four months), we are so very, very rich compared to those around us. In terms of Tanzanian currency, we are millionaires. It only takes about $600 USD to become one million Tanzanian shillings, so our monthly Social Security payments amount to almost three million shillings when the vast majority of people here get by on less than 30,000 Tsh a month (about $20). We think nothing of spending that much every day to buy food for our family. We spend on food in one day, an entire month’s wages for the average Tanzanian. We are really blessed, and sometimes struggle with the disparity between what we have and what they have. Still, we only live on 20% of the money we get every month and spend the rest on pay for our workers, social security for our workers, diesel for the car, and give the bulk away to the church to help buy food and medicine. Not to mention the money we spend every month feeding and educating almost 100 orphans. We don’t throw our money around, spending nothing on clothes, or special foods (except bacon). We pay our workers almost four times what they would get working anywhere else and pay the school fees for their children and pay for the doctors and medicine they need. We have a constant stream of people coming to us for financial help—for funerals, for travel expenses to funerals, and to buy new bicycle tires for our evangelists almost once a week (25 bicycles on these roads, I’m surprised it isn’t more). We have a new evangelist who needs a bicycle, so we will come up with the $100 it costs to buy him one this Friday. We give almost everything we don’t use to our workers and distribute all the fruit from out trees that we can’t eat to our neighbors. We do what we can and seem to give almost all of our money away every month, but others can see that we can afford a car and security guards and that causes resentment for some. We walk a tightrope over how to use the little money we have which seems like so much to those around us. We have four pastors in a seminary in Arusha on scholarship, but they have no way to get there and get back, so I have to come up with their bus fare several times a semester at $200 a pop. The hardest decisions we have to make is how to use what little money we have to help the neediest. We pray and hope we make the right decisions, but I still struggle with every one. I have Bishop Festo coming today to get $30 so he can go to a funeral in a distant village for a family member. Should that money have gone to food for children or shoes or school fees? We pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us to make the right choices, but even then I still worry that I might have spent the money on something better. Karen and I have our fiftieth wedding anniversary coming up, and I am really struggling with spending about $500 to go to a nice hotel for two days to celebrate. Fifty years is a big deal in today’s world, but so is $500. Karen is certainly worth that and ten times more, so I have made the reservations for a two day trip to Mwanza. Just being away for a couple of days will be nice and the trip represents our presents to each other as we can’t afford anything else. One day, maybe God will tell me I did just right with my choices. That’s my prayer, maybe it should be yours.