September 30, 2014

One Talent

By Brittany Tedesco

Over the summer, a Japanese nonprofit raised funds by wrapping denim around items like tires and rubber balls, and then tossing them to lions, tigers, and bears. Like good carnivores, the animals went to town ripping and tearing at the material, which was then sewn into “Zoo Jeans.” For only $1,500, a person could be the proud owner of a pair of dungarees fashionably shredded by real live animals. No two pairs are alike!

I appreciated their creativity in raising funds for their cause. Not everybody shared my sentiments, however. Critics of the fundraiser voiced their concern that large, scary animals were being conditioned to salivate at the sight of denim. Others were concerned the beasts´ animal instincts were being exploited, and that they weren´t being paid a fair animal wage for their hard labor.

“Throw a few more slabs of meat in their cages,” I thought. Just don´t cover them with denim.

When it comes to creative fundraising, Christian Aid Mission supporters are some of the best. They may not have access to a cage full of zoo animals in the clothes-making business, but many of them have used what was available to them to invest in the Kingdom.

I know of a couple who owns a bakery and places copies of our Prayerline prayer calendar next to their culinary creations. This simple gesture has opened the door to many conversations with people interested to hear about Christian Aid Mission.

Another couple sold their condominium and donated part of the proceeds to the work of indigenous missions. In the letter they sent with their donation, they wrote that the sum earned from the sale was originally intended to go toward their retirement, but they decided to trust the Lord with their earthly future and invest in something with eternal value.

The servants whose master entrusts them with five and two talents (sums of money), respectively, are heralded in the Bible as “good and faithful” (Matthew 25). They invested their talents and doubled their worth.

But what about the servant who was given just the one talent? Perhaps he thought he wasn´t capable to do like the other servants did with their talents. Maybe he felt like the sum was too little to invest.

So he buried his talent in the ground.

But what if he´d just stopped for a moment and thought about how he could use it, creatively, to profit his master?

Christian Aid Mission founder, Dr. Bob Finley, tells the story of a family he met in Korea during the 1940s. The gospel had taken root in that country and was spreading rapidly. At the time, most Koreans lived quiet, poverty-stricken lives in tiny one-room houses, laboring all day just to feed their families.

How were they supposed to contribute to Kingdom work? At least one family found a way. They forfeited their staple diet of rice in favor of less delicious, less expensive millet. What they saved, they gave to the church.

They had only “one talent,” but they found a way to use and invest it.

Children are prime examples of those with one talent. Their resources are limited as they must rely on others for their needs. And yet in the years I´ve worked here, I´ve learned of many children who´ve sent us their allowance as an investment to profit their Master.

For her 12th birthday, the daughter of our Director of Children´s Ministries told her friends to donate to mission work instead of buying her gifts. The 11-year-old niece of another Christian Aid staff member made and sold cake pops to raise funds for indigenous ministries.

Several years ago, I traveled to New Jersey to visit a church that had been sponsoring some native missionaries. I was scheduled to give a presentation to the children who attended Sunday school and introduce them to our Prayerline Kids publication. My eyes were drawn to one of the walls displaying a big outline of a goat, the hindquarters of which were missing. The teacher had created a goat puzzle, but only three-fourths of it was put together. I watched as the children dropped coins into a jar, and the teacher fastened another piece of the goat into place. When it was finished, the money in the jar would go to buy a goat for an impoverished family overseas.

So many things can be done with just “one talent.”

“You might not want to share this example,” our Director of Children´s Ministries cautioned me as she handed me a note from a homeschool family who had very little means. In it, the mother had written that part of the donation she´d sent came from money she and her children had earned from participating in a paid psychological experiment conducted by a university.

Lending your brain to science might be unusual, but no weirder than dumping an ice cold bucket of water on your head.

Humans are creative beings. It just comes with the territory of being created in the image of a creative God. And when creativity and faith merge, it doesn´t matter how many talents you´ve been given–five, two, or just one–you can always find a way to invest them for His glory.