It was a multi-dimensional offering that went on for several hours. We were all asked to pray and ask God for His heart of generosity, and to ask Him to show each of us what we were to give. It started with giving each other words of encouragement, and then moved in to a time of giving money and personal items, either to specific people or into a general blessing box.
Counting the money offerings given in US dollars,
Nigerian Naira, West African CEFA, and Egyptian pounds.
The idea was that we would share as God led us, and be a blessing to others. Many of the students hadn't yet paid their school fees, so part of the goal was to clear as many students' school fees as possible. Everyone was encouraged to ask God what they could give, even if they didn't have money.
But the real heart behind the offering was to let generosity flow, and allow God to work in some of our attachments to money and possessions.
I didn't realize how hard this offering time would be for me. As I prayed, I felt God leading me to give away a personal possession that I used all the time. It wasn't an heirloom, not even a gift. It was just an item I had bought on furlough one time, but had become quite attached to.
The blessing boxFor reasons I can't explain, giving that thing away was like cutting off my arm. I wept while I was putting it in the blessing box. I couldn't believe how much my heart hurt. It was the first time I can honestly say I gave sacrificially.
I wasn't the only one. Other people gave away suits, guitars, computers, cameras, best pairs of shoes, even bedsheets. Many people cried as they parted with their treasures, but in the evening, when people shared their testimonies, the joy of giving was real on their faces. All had given and all had received, and there was a strong atmosphere of love and unity among us.
I sent a text message to John telling him all about it. I was still sore and bruised, and was crying as I typed the message.
Offerings laid out on chairs
A little while later John sent back a message, "Aidan was asking me this evening why we have to sacrifice money, and not animals. I thought, 'what a question' and a long discussion ensued. When I told him what you had given away, he burst into tears."
This floored me. Why would Aidan cry over my offering? He wasn't attached to it.
It made me wonder if I was modelling something selfish that Aidan had picked up on, and by acting in the opposite manner (giving something special rather than clinging to it) I was breaking something that even he felt all those miles away.
The first thing Aidan asked me when I got off the bus after my long journey home was, "Mommy, why did God make you give that thing away?"
More offerings on chairs
First I had to explain that God didn't MAKE me give it away...He just prompted and I obeyed. Then we talked about greed and selfishness and getting too attached to material things. We talked about generosity and blessing others, and holding things lightly that God gives us. We talked about the freedom of not being chained down by possessions.
It's not an easy lesson to learn, but I'm grateful for the work God has done in my heart. It's like He helped me pry loose my strangle-hold on the things I have and see that, in the end, they really are just things.
Now if I can just keep remembering that...