Monday, October 31, 2016
“Gratitude is acceptance and appreciation of what is and who we truly are.” ― Joseph Rain
The culture where we live is of a gentle, loving kind. When we thank someone in most of the world, we expect a “You’re welcome” in return but that’s not what happens here. If you say “Thank you” to someone here in Tanzania, they reply with “Thank you for thanking me” which is terribly humble and puts the focus back on the one doing the thanking. Is that cool, or what? Getting thanks is a good thing, but it should not be what motivates Christians. Followers of Christ don’t do things for “thanks” but because Christ has asked us to do them. In fact, most of the things Christ calls us to do in daily life are not even designed to have others thank you. Don’t expect the one who struck you to say “Thank you” when you turn the other cheek. If you give in secret, as Christ asks us to give, no one can thank you because no one should know how much you gave. If you only do things for which you get thanks, you will be very unhappy in life. I am always amused by the folks who won’t send Christmas cards to those who didn’t send one back, or who don’t give Christmas gifts if they didn’t get thanks for last year’s gift--that's not gift-giving, that's wanting quid-pro-quo or some kind of contract. We should be doing things because Christ called us to do them and serving Christ is what should be bringing us joy—not the thanks of humans. I’m not saying not to thank people, you should. What I’m saying is not to do things just because you will get thanked. If you have to ask for thanks, you probably don’t deserve them.
It is nice to hear that what you have been doing, what you have been sacrificing to make happen, what has taken lots of work is appreciated—even if that isn’t why you did it. We, and most people who serve others, don’t expect thanks and generally don’t get them, but we do appreciate them when we get them. Doctor Chris came by Saturday to check on me and Karen and get Karen some new medication. While he was here, he spent some time talking about how beloved the three of us are by the community here in Bunda. We don’t ever hear stuff like this, so it was nice to know and really unexpected. We have never worked to be beloved, but we have worked to please Christ. The only thanks we really and truly want are to hear these words when our work on this planet is done—“Well done, my good and faithful servants.” What greater praise can there be? Still, it is nice to hear “thank you” when you do something nice for someone else, and we hear it a lot from each other. We say “Thank you” a lot, as well, because there is so much here we couldn’t do without help. Shaban spent two days traveling by bus and working far into the night to get our generator going again, and the smile on his face when we thanked him was proof positive that he was glad we appreciated the work he did for us. This is the man who slept beside my hospital bed on the concrete floor the five days I was in for prostate surgery. For a whole lot of people who support us with their prayers, thoughts, gifts, packages, financial gifts, emails, and comments on Facebook—well, “thank you” just doesn’t seem adequate in response to your outpouring of love and support, but it’s all we’ve got. So we say “Thank you” over and over again. We could do nothing here without God and nothing without your support and love. The Methodist Church in Tanzania gave me the certificate you see at the right just yesterday. It was not expected, but it was nice to receive. As far as I know, it’s the only certificate like it ever given by the church to anyone, so it’s pretty special. None of the three of us do what we do to get thanks, but it’s always nice to be appreciated. Our thanks usually comes from knowing that people will not die from cholera if they have one of our filters, or that there is a church in a village where there was none, or just hearing the laughter of the orphans coming to school. We get lots of thanks in lots of ways, especially from you. So, thank you for thanking us.