January 6, 2015

It's Not Practical...And That's a Good Thing

by Brittany Tedesco

Are you a practical person? Do you rarely spend money on frivolous things because a practical need might arise?

That´s me. I´m that annoying person who complains about the commercialism of Christmas every, single year. Here in the U.S., we all have plenty of things. Why splurge on excess stuff?

While my husband enjoys an opportunity to buy something nice for his wife, I´m thinking, ‘I don´t really need [whatever item my husband bought for me].’ Then I´ll silently run down my list of all the practical ways we could have used the money spent on the item.

Out of the corner of my Grinchy eye, I look at that item and see only an item—instead of seeing the meaning behind it, the love it conveys.

I recently read a report from a ministry leader in Turkey, whose team is caring for the throngs of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in his country.

The report told about the many people the ministry was able to feed, and how many heaters and blankets were distributed. I nodded my head. This will be great to share on our Facebook page.

He goes on to list the items that are still needed. Yes. Ok. I´ll send out a Tweet.

I kept reading and came to the part where the ministry leader said that children were asking him to pray for toy balls and baby dolls. ‘We need to buy toys,’ he wrote. ‘Children are playing with rocks in the streets on these cold days.’

Toys? Hmm. I didn´t want to ask our supporters to give for toys when food, medicine, and shelter are so desperately needed. Anything beyond basic needs should be an afterthought. Right?

It´s a question Silvia Târniceriu unwittingly answered for me in her biography, God Knows My Size! Growing up in a poor family of 11 in communist Romania, she watched her parents continually struggle to put food on the table. The few articles of clothing she possessed were hand-me-downs from older siblings.

Silvia decided to pray for something extravagant—something completely out of reach for a poverty-stricken girl in a rural Romanian village: a new pair of shoes, new sweater, and new coat.

She waited expectantly. Would the items just appear next to her bed one morning?

Josue displays the school supplies he received from Peruvian missionaries supported by Christian Aid Mission

No, but they appeared in her father´s hands a few days later after he´d stopped by the post office on his way home from work to retrieve a box from an unknown sender. There were three items inside. Can you guess what they were?

Those shoes, sweater, and coat, which incidentally were too small for her older sister and too big for her younger one, were so much more than what they appeared. To Silvia, they were proof that God existed.

Up to that point, she hadn´t been certain. If those items showed up, she told herself, God is real.

Josue, a boy living in a remote Peruvian village, prayed for school supplies because his father was ill and couldn´t provide them.

Unbeknownst to him, native missionaries supported by Christian Aid Mission were trekking miles through the Andes to share Christ with needy villagers. As a gift for the children, they brought with them notebooks, pencils, markers, and other school supplies.

Emerson was one of those children. When he opened the package of supplies, he announced it was the first gift he´d ever gotten. Young Cinthia told the missionaries she´d never forget the day she received her own school supplies. And Josue? Here´s what he said: ‘God answered my prayer and I am so surprised.’

I´m guessing he was probably surprised and not surprised at the same time. Just like Silvia, he had an inkling that God existed. The school supplies just confirmed what he´d already suspected.

My Grinchy heart grew three sizes as I looked at a photo of children in a refugee camp, waiting in line to blow bubbles. Toys are so scarce in that grim place. Yes, food is important, but so are bottles of bubbles—a little distraction for so many shattered, young lives.

As I reread the ministry leader´s report, I realized the children didn´t ask him for toys—they asked him to pray for toys. Perhaps, like in the cases of Silvia and Josue, there´s more behind their request than just toys.

Without toys of their own, children in a refugee camp line up to blow bubbles

With the assurance of God´s existence, Silvia grew up to serve Him by sharing Christ and smuggling Bibles into Romania. Ridicule, threats, and even prison wasn´t enough to deter her.

What would happen if those Syrian refugee children received the toys they asked the ministry leader to pray for?

In the face of more pressing needs, little items made of plastic, paper, rubber, string, or cloth might seem frivolous—if we see them as only items, instead of seeing the meaning behind them, the love they convey. Toy balls and baby dolls won´t fill empty bellies, but they might just fill empty hearts and settle questioning minds with their whispered assurance, ‘Yes, God is real.’

Click here for more information about (and a way to help) the Syrian refugees in Turkey.