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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Privilege of Sacrifice

2 Corinthians 8
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us."

I love this passage.  I hate how misused and taken-out-of-context it can be.  This is a narrative about the generosity of the people of Macedonia toward the ministry of Paul.  He was proud of them. He was commending them for giving despite their own trials.  It was simply a compliment.

It is not a command.

And yet, time and time again I have seen and heard missionaries, pastors and other full-time servants of the gospel lift up this passage and implore their hearers to "give beyond their abilities".   I cringe.

I love reading about the hearts of the Macedonians. We have "Macedonians" in our lives who support our ministry with generosity and we know, for some of our donors, giving to Mercy House is a huge sacrifice.  We have even had friends "urgently plead with us" for the privilege of giving. People have contacted us and asked how to give to our work and had to email me several times to ask -but persevered- because of out sheer busyness, I was lax in replying and out of sheer desire to give, they were compelled not to give up on us. 

When it comes to money and the mission field, there is an innate awkwardness that just IS. We subsist on the giving of our friends, family and those who have a heart for the things God has given us a heart for.  And we pray it doesn't change those relationships and make them "weird". 

But I will never be that missionary who makes my loved ones feel guilty for drinking "five dollar lattes", or taking a beautiful vacation.  NEVER!

 I lived a long and fairly prosperous pre-mission field life.  We worked hard and became debt-free except for our mortgage (Thanks, Dave Ramsey). We took family trips. We entertained in our home a lot.  We had a motorcycle, three cars and I had the privilege of being an at-home mother and homeschooling my beautiful kids.   And we gave to the work of the gospel in The Philippines because, even back then, this country had our hearts.
BUT . . .
I've also  been on the receiving end of pleas from ministries, church building programs and special projects from my brothers and sisters in The Faith that were simply guilt-inducing.  I watched videos of fly-encrusted babies with distended bellies.  I was told repeatedly that most of the world lives for a year on what I spend on one trip to Wal Mart.   I was reminded that mothers around the world watch their babies die of illnesses that I can just whip out my amoxicillin and ibuprofen and take care of easily in my own kids in three days or less.  Often, the idea of giving up my over-priced coffee to save children was mentioned because I could provide clean water to a whole village for the price of said beverage.

And all of those things are real and true.  They are happening.  I have seen them or their victims first hand since moving to this country.   

The plight of orphans and street children is awful here.  The challenge for those of us on the front lines is to balance the sharing of their stories with faith that the Lord moves hearts to give and we only need present the opportunity.  

And at the risk of patting ourselves on the back, we want to be very transparent about how we got here and how we remain here.  I mean, in "money talk". . .

We sold all our "stuff".   We allocated $50,000 of our own money to start Mercy House.  We've been given donations - big and small - by friends and strangers.   God has moved hearts and endeared our ministry to them. It's all HIM.  ALL.  HIM. He could have called any family and used any carbon-based life form to come over here, meet and touch these beautiful abandoned kids. We're thankful He's using us. Just thankful.

But that's OUR story.  

It's not meant to be a prototype for anyone else's story.  The selling-it-all-and-going  Christians are nothing without the staying-and-working-and-giving  Christians.  Period.  We're all pieces of the same puzzle.  Equal.  Vital.  Privileged.   I sometimes think the staying-and-working Believers have a more challenging call than those of us who are the sell-and-go types.  Sometimes.

So, we want to use this little space on the blogosphere to thank our staying-and-working partners, our coming-for-a-short-visit friends,  our praying-for-you-daily partners and our I-sent-you-a-box donors.  Those boxes are like water in the desert to our hearts. Pieces of home. 

 Thank you for your sacrifice.  Thank you for enjoying the privilege with us.  


2 Corinthians 9:7 says:
" Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."



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