Every day we are presented with opportunities to give. The need is so tremendous, and at times our gifts seem to be one collective drop in a deep, dark well of poverty. Some days our hearts break, but other moments they are hardened toward the poor. Sometimes ignoring is a lame way to cope.
Navigating the tension between gushing generosity and wise stewardship is a regular challenge. We want to “give to everyone who asks” (Matt 5 and Luke 6), but inevitably these questions arise: Are we meeting a need or helping to finance organized begging, a form of human trafficking? Should we give to the same person milling around the same grocery store every time? Is that child being kept out of school so he can beg? Does that infant even belong to woman or is she a prop being passed around to elicit greater donations? Tough stuff.
Slowly realizing that we are not obligated to judge the condition of another, Emily and I move through our days with greater ease. Our only obligation is to train our eyes and ears to God’s prompting. As stewards of His resources, we aim to be generous, wise, and creative. Below are a few ways we have been giving these days. Maybe you will connect with one of these ideas and decide to give in your context.
Gifts of Fun
- This year we helped to sponsor a local U16 boys soccer club. For a couple of hundred bucks we made graphic tees at a local shop and bought 2 practice balls. It was a fun project that went above and beyond the kids’ expectations.
Gift of Time
- This past week, Emily stayed an extra afternoon at school to help a home-schooling mom. She assessed the little girl’s reading skills and comprehension and provided the mother with an action plan to improve her literacy lessons. They had a wonderful time together.
- Conversations with students, whether they be at my office or the cafe are often the most rewarding parts of my day. The trick for me is to be generous and focused, not be overly concerned with the next thing on my to-do list.
Gift of Education
- Many of you helped us to help Wakuma to complete his final course for his Master’s Degree. Now he is a high school English teacher.
- At Bingham Academy, Emily was presented with the opportunity to cover the school expenses of a child of one of the workers at her school. For less than $150, we covered her school fees and monthly tuition.
- About 1/3 of the students at Evangelical Theological College receive in-house scholarships. Contributing to this fund became a line item on our October budget.
Gift of Money and Possessions
- We tithe to our local church. A portion of our giving supports the church’s People In Need ministry, which meets the most basic needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.
- We provide a generous salary and help with basic medical expenses for our house workers and their immediate families.
- We keep small bills in the ashtray of our cars and give when we believe it is most appropriate.
- Books are a hot commodity in Ethiopia. This week one of my ETC Youth Ministry students was forced to withdraw (hopefully temporarily) in order to help provide for his extended family. He is sharp and I hate to see him go. I gave him two of my YM books so he can continue learning on his own.
Giving is changing our children.
- Emily usually takes one of the girls with her when she walks to the corner grocery. Recently she encouraged them to take five or ten 1-birr notes from the jar on our bookshelf. As they walk, they keep an eye out for beggars and leave them a couple of birr. As they give, she instructs them look into their eyes, smile, and greet them with respect. A few days ago, after giving to a beggar, Lauren turned to Emily and said, “She (a lady who sits at our gate) was very happy!” Just today, Sarah announced, “Mommy, we should do this on a Saturday. We should take some money and give it to people all day!”
- A couple of weeks ago, Anna decided to put all of her own one-birr notes into a change purse. Now she wants to carry it everywhere, so she can give if she sees someone in need.
- Two nights ago, Sarah dressed herself in a pair of ducky pajamas, a gift from her grandparents two years ago, and we noticed that the pant legs and sleeves were very short. Even though she loves these pjs, she declared, “We should give them to Derebe for her little girl!” Our friend, Derebe adopted her 5 year-old niece six months ago and Sarah remembered giving some of her clothes away last spring.
We realize that the chance to live in Ethiopia is a gift as well. Many of you have partnered with us and join in our work in Addis Ababa. We think about this nearly every day. We are so thankful for you.
We pray that God will keep our hearts soft and guide our giving this week.
I long to hike trails surrounded by golden, crimson, and orange leaves. This time of year I would love to load my girls on a wagon and explore a Lancaster County apple orchard. In the absence of these little luxuries, though, I have created an autumn environment in our home. Our table is decorated with faux leaves from Michaels, one doorway is trimmed with a felt leaf garland, and the scent of Macintosh, Vanilla, or Pumpkin Spice Yankee Candles waft through the air.
Two weeks ago, I spotted my first pumpkin of the season in front of a local grocery store. “Pull over! Pull over! They have a pumpkin!” I called out. At first, Jason interpreted my enthusiasm as an attempt at humor. He tilted his head, glanced at me, and asked, “Oh, are you serious?” The girls cheered in the back seat, mirroring my excitement. For weeks, I have researched new recipes– gingerbread pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin syrup for coffee and pancakes, and pumpkin donuts! Lauren did her own research and found a recipe for pumpkin bars with icing. Now the key ingredient was in our sights.
Finally, we had a pumpkin! Saturday morning, we cooked and mashed and roasted seeds. Within 48hrs, we had tested four recipes. Our friends and neighbors benefited from our baking extravaganza. Pumpkin bars made their way home with fellow teachers and donuts went to Lauren and Anna’s breakfast Bible study group.
This weekend, we took a break from pumpkin and collected another key October ingredient–apples! The apple cider donuts with maple frosting disappeared in minutes. The rains continue; there is a chill in the air. We’ll keep pretending it is autumn in Ethiopia.