Please welcome my friend Debbie Moore to Strengthened by Grace once again. Her son’s mission experience is a story worth telling. Take time to savor this narrative. And maybe grab a tissue. Most of all, expect your heart to be touched.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35
Unshaven and eighteen pounds lighter, our son Jonathan met us with a smile at the airport in Nashville, Tennessee, after having spent four months serving the poorest of the poor in Sierra Leone, a small, war-torn country in West Africa.
It was December 17, 2011, and our family had planned our annual outing to the Opryland Hotel to enjoy its iconic Christmas lights and to do Christmas shopping together. At Jonathan’s request, our first stop was to shop for children and fellow servants in Kroo Bay, a shanty town in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, where he had served and learned so much about the privilege of abundance.
It was an afternoon our family shall never forget as we learned about the abject poverty in Sierra Leone. In Kroo Bay one in four children dies before the age of five. While there, Jonathan had participated in a funeral for a precious five-year-old boy, one who had befriended him while he was there.
The life expectancy in Kroo Bay is 37 years due to poor sanitation and disease, and 100 percent of the adults are unemployed. Every Saturday a Mercy Ship comes into port to give each child one hard-boiled egg and a tablespoon of peanut butter paste, which may be the only nutritional food he or she receives for the week.
We were deeply humbled at the thought of purchasing gifts from our abundance to help meet needs of God’s children across the world, people our son had so grown to love.
Our next stop was the Opryland Hotel in the land of affluence and indulgence.
As we walked through the crowds of tourists and visitors, Jonathan suddenly became quiet and introspective.
Just imagine catching contaminated rainwater with which to bathe one day and viewing free-flowing waterfalls and dancing fountains the next; eating a hard-boiled egg for breakfast one morning and having the privilege to order a mouth-watering steak for the price a family of six sustains itself for a month; rubbing shoulders with families dressed in designer fashions who live in Pottery Barn houses after leaving families clad in tattered and mismatched clothing who have no home.
Our family began to see Christmas through the eyes of the poor and felt shame for our glamoured lives of waste and pursuit of more. As we replaced our traditional family gift-giving with those for poverty-imprisoned children, we experienced an unspeakable joy in our hearts that Christmas season.
What would hinder us from giving sacrificially instead of receiving this Christmas season? Like the wise men who presented gifts to the Christ Child, could we offer gifts to the less fortunate in His name?
Poverty abounds even in our own country. Let us teach our children through example that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive – a priceless lesson that could be passed from generation to generation, that we may truly exalt the Giver of life and all good gifts through every blessing we enjoy.