Friday, August 04, 2006
A handful of rice...or a can of soda
I don't enjoy fund-raising, and suspect that it may not be one of my native talents or spiritual gifts, either one. This is a liability of sorts in my line of work, since the money for our livelihood and work all come from contributions by churches and individual supporters. But, especially during furloughs, we and most of our missionary colleagues have to get around to asking for money.
Which brings me to some thoughts provoked by the activities for several years of some practically minded believers in Burma. Like Paul's friends in Macedonia, these Burmese disciples do not excuse themselves from sending and supporting missionaries. They could plead that theirs is a third-world, developing nation. And that they have an average income a fraction of most wages in the West. Instead, they have used faith, love and imagination to collect the funds needed to send missionaries abroad.
It's simple, but effective: While preparing each meal, a handful of rice is set aside from the main family portion, to be saved and then sold each month to support mission work. Multiply this by ten, twenty or fifty families in a church and you have a hefty monthly contribution for missions. Multiply this by any number of churches teaming together and you have the kind of generosity that Paul would praise again today.
A handful of rice at a time. Almost too little to notice.
What would that kind of imaginative generosity look like in North America or Europe?
If I drink an average of one can of soda a day, I could replace it with water at almost no cost and save the cost of the soda toward missions. At about $0.50 per soda, that would accrue to around $15.00 each month. Multiply that by even fifty disciples teaming together and doing the same thing, and there's $750.00 a month.
OK, for some of us doing without that soda would feel like a sacrifice. In that case, consider it a multi-level experience in spiritual discipline. Commit to it as a fast--abstaining from something you would otherwise enjoy--as a way of focusing your attention on God, growing in self-control, and, at the same time, supporting mission work. Every cold soda that comes to mind can trigger you to say a quick prayer for a particular mission project.
This is just one of many ways we can creatively give more and grow spiritually at the same time. Some people routinely empty their loose coin change into a container and periodically give its contents to missions. The point is that we in wealthier countries can learn something from our Burmese brothers and sisters.
We realized recently after talking with our sending church that to cover the budget for our work we need another $1,500 in monthly contributions. It's conventional wisdom that monthly contributions are the hardest kind to come by. But you know, a mere hundred who committed to skipping one soda a day and giving what they save could together raise $1,500 a month. Which would be decidedly...unconventional.