A Cheerful Giver

Three Missionaries walked into a bar…..

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me continue:

It was actually three missionary families and we walked into a city park.  Back in our days in Sendai, Japan, there were only about 100 foreigners in a town of a million and most of us were immersed in Japanese ministry. As a result when we could occasionally get together with other English speakers, it was a real treat.

This particular occasion, a few of us decided to have a combined birthday party for the kids among us. We would bring whatever food we could to the park, share it, and then since we were across the street from Sendai’s one and only MacDonalds restaurant, we would go and get some things for the kids to enjoy.

The three families that gathered that day represented, by coincidence, the three variations of financial support on the mission field.

#1 was Us.  Fully supported with a living wage from our mission board, the Southern Baptists. They decided that their missionaries worldwide would be provided an equal amount of “buying power” no matter where they lived, with the stipulation that they would not supplement the amount by working extra jobs or going directly to the churches to ask for more. It’s called the “Cooperative Program,” and it actually works pretty well.

Group #2 are those families who “do deputation”, speaking at churches, visiting donors, working side jobs etc. The money raised is then distributed to the missionary from a central agency, who helps by filling in shortfalls if necessary.

And then there’s  #3, when the missionary receives each month exactly what they manage to raise. If Granny Smith forgets to pop your $50 in the mail, then they’re $50 short that month.  It’s this last group who are most often described as “Faith Missionaries”.

On this particular day in Sendai, all three plans were represented within our group. We loved working together and helping each other in all ways.  There was no “division” as far as we were concerned; we did what we needed to do, and helping whenever help was needed.

Now as I said, Tony and I represented that first tier, working alongside our friends who were supported from tiers 2 and 3.

We all arrived at the party, and there was much hilarity. Then it was time to move on the MacDonalds. Only then, it came to light that the middle family (Tier #2, with a salary) had misunderstood the plan and had no money with them.

My Tier 3, Faith Missionary friend, jumped up and said without any hesitation, “Since we were all planning on getting Macdonalds, we’ll just get your kids’ food too!”

He and I somehow were appointed to lead the rowdy gang across the street. I was rehearsing what I would say to the forgetful family’s kids… something like, “OK you rascals, you may have one plain burger each and that’s it …” all the while dreaming up more unkind ways to punish them for their parent’s oversight.

Then I heard my friend (Remember? The one who didn’t know where his next meal was coming from) say warmly, “Here you go kids, just step up and order whatever you want!”

I crawled behind the group as we all made our way back across the street. I was so humbled by the one who actually lived his life by faith, and who had so much more joy than me.

Jesus talks a LOT about the condition of the heart, and what makes a generous spirit.  In the end, we all raised our children, and are now loving retirement and grandkids. Regardless of the income stream we lived under for so many decades, I’d say we’re all equally blessed. If we could, we would jump at the chance to get together again, and I’m sure if any one of us was having trouble coming up with the finances, the rest of us would see to it that we could all make it. Thankfully these days, we have social media to keep in touch, but a part of me wonders if that generous missionary didn’t have an easier time through it all, because he chose not to be burdened down with little things like, “Where is my next meal coming from??”

In the words of another missionary kid in Sendai, after we had babysat their large tribe for the evening, “Oh we had a lot of fun; I just wish Mrs. Woods could relax!”  Ouch.

Maybe I’m my own worst enemy!  Something to think about this next week.  Do we limit our own happiness trying to micro-manage every situation?

I’m going to sit back now and re-read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8,

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.



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