April 01, 2014
By Brittany Tedesco
When I started working at Christian Aid Mission nearly 10 years ago, I was struck by the poverty of the native missionaries we assist. Most live in countries with extremely low GDPs, in nations under oppressive governments where people toil and struggle to eke out a living.
During that first year of writing for our magazine under the guidance of Christian Aid founder, Dr. Bob Finley, I tried to describe the living conditions of those we assist by using words like “lifestyle” and “poverty line.” He'd scratch through them, telling me that a “lifestyle” implies a choice. They have no choice. Living below the poverty line is a phrase we understand in the United States...but our definition of poverty and theirs are two very different things.
True. Most of us probably couldn't even imagine living in a mud hut and having to bathe in a river as a way of life.
I became almost enamored with these native missionaries—many not knowing where their next meal would come from—and felt a vague sense of guilt for having so much in comparison to what they have.
“What kind of faith is this?” I'd ask myself in awe. Surely, I thought, we in America have no idea what it's like to sacrifice like they do.
That's right about the time when I found a letter from a supporter named Richard, who'd sent in a $10 donation. The money, he wrote, came from selling plasma. He had nothing and was sleeping on a mattress in a church basement.
Later, I learned about a woman who faithfully gave to Christian Aid despite having to wash her dishes in the bathtub. She needed a new kitchen sink, but chose to give instead of saving for the sink.
Raul, our Development Director, just returned from New England where he visited various supporters who've given regularly throughout the years. He noted that repairs were clearly needed on homes and church buildings. A bed sheet was stretched across the wall so he could play the video he'd brought to one of the small congregations. Despite their obvious lack of resources, they sent Raul away with a generous offering. He stayed in several humble homes, graciously opened to him, and observed just how much they sacrifice to continue giving to God's servants assisted by Christian Aid.
I received a letter from a couple in their 90s who've supported us since 1970. They've lived in a mobile home for the past 40 years, saving a small amount from each Social Security check for its routine maintenance. She worked as a housekeeper up until the age of 80. When their furnace broke last year, they assumed they'd have to move to government-subsidized housing in a crime-ridden area. Still, they gave.
What kind of faith is this?
It's faith that stores up treasure in heaven “where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).
It's faith that knows that a man's life “does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
It's faith that bucks the American culture of more stuff, better stuff.
It's faith that chooses to deny oneself to give to the Lord.
While most of us might urge the woman washing dishes in a bathtub to buy a kitchen sink before continuing to give, she willingly chose to deny herself that sink to keep on giving.
Her faith told her that her Father “knows that you need these things” and to “seek His Kingdom and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:30-31).
Eventually, God provided her with a new kitchen sink. Just like He provided a new furnace to the elderly couple in the mobile home, completely free of cost to them.
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Raul Hernandez, Development Director for Christian Aid Mission
“Faith is not just a part of the Christian life, it's the whole thing,” says Pastor James MacDonald of Walk in the Word Ministries.
How inspired I am by our precious supporters who truly “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
In the words of the late missionary Jim Elliot, they give what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose.