As we reflect on and celebrate service—
I am challenged to consider what I have learned from my friends and neighbors as a North American living in Eastern Europe. Specifically, my thoughts turn to financial giving as a form of service. I continually ask myself the following three questions and I invite you to ask yourself as well.
Do I give only from the excess of my abundance or do I truly share my possessions in a way that indicates sacrifice?
I cannot count the number of times I have seen a child share his food or candy with another who has none. Nor can I count the number of times I have seen folks share money with a stranger who genuinely needs a few more lei to cover the bus fare home. I think of grandmas and grandpas who share their food with me, food that is literally the fruit of their hard labor in the garden and open fields.
There are so many people I have met who live month to month on a meager salary. In this context, borrowing from a neighbor is quite common. What I observe is that when someone has come up short the most likely person to share with them is not the rich neighbor, but rather someone just as poor who has experienced the very same situation of need. This kind of giving is sacrificial as it comes not from plenty or excess but out of true compassion for the one in need.
What is my response when I am asked to give? Do I simply give from the spare change in my pocket, or do I dig deeper and offer more than is easy to give away? No matter the answer, I am compelled to open my hands and give.
“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matt. 5:42)
Do I hold tightly to the piece of economic pie that I feel entitled to as one born in a culture of plenty? Or do I joyfully invite others to share in the access to wealth that I have been given through no merit of my own?
It seems unfair that a trifle to a person on one side of the world is like winning the weekend lottery to another. In Moldova, men and women work long hours with little time off and still have only just enough to get by, sometimes not even enough. I feel entitled to what I have because I work for it. In reality, however, my brothers and sisters here in Eastern Europe work just as hard (or harder) and yet are paid so much less for their labor due to economic factors out of their control.
I don’t propose that it’s a good idea to throw money at perceived problems hoping for a quick fix only, to set up systems of unhealthy dependency. However, I do believe that I am called to share what I have access to. No matter how you look at it, as a North American I belong to a country that has been given a huge piece of the global economic pie. It’s my responsibility to share it and listen to and learn from friends who were born in places that simply don’t have access to such abundant resources.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot)
When I give, do I use my relationships and economic power to influence and manipulate how my gifts are used? Or do I choose to give freely with no strings attached, trusting that the brothers and sisters who receive these gifts are best suited to know how to use them wisely in their own context?
This relationship I have to wealth and the power to choose how it is used is the most difficult question for me. I desperately want to help, and somehow alleviate, what I perceive to be suffering. I am embarrassed to admit that I have often tried to give something that actually really isn’t needed, like my recent attempt to get a wheelchair for an elderly woman who really didn’t want one!
In my annual travels back to the U.S., I have watched things trend toward a cashless society. In many parts of Moldova it’s still a cash-only society. Lots of folks don’t even have a bank account. They keep their savings in a sock under their mattress.
It’s truly incredible that with access to on-line banking I can literally impact places all around the globe with my financial resources. Incredible… and overwhelming. This is an opportunity unprecedented for any other prior generation, and yet because I am suspicious and controlling, I don’t give as often as I could.
However, my heart is slowly softening as I realize that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. And I am learning to take cues from my husband, born in Eastern Europe, who compassionately listens when approached by a stranger, and rarely hesitates to reach into his pocket when asked to give.
“Give generously to them, and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” (Deut. 15:10)
Western Christians in Global Missions, by Paul Borthwick
Missions and Money, Jonathan J. Bonk
Costly Mission, by Michael Duncan
Rachel was born in Newburyport, MA, and raised in a loving, Christian home. Her heart was first stirred towards missions by her grandparents and other relatives who have spent their lives in East Asia in cross-cultural ministry. While a student at Gordon College the doors were opened to join a Servant Team in Romania with Word Made Flesh. This time of intense exposure and discipleship in community among the poor opened her eyes to see God’s heart for widows and the fatherless. After spending 8 years serving the community of Word Made Flesh Romania, Rachel joined a team committed to forming a new WMF community in the capital city of Moldova in 2010. Doors began to open in Moldova for the team to reach out to institutionalized children at one of the country’s largest former orphanages. Rachel currently serves as Field Director and as arts and crafts teacher for La VIA’s after-school kids program.
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