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How then shall we give?

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.

Kroo-Bay

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.

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opry land2

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.

 

In memory

Memorial: preserving the memory of a person or thing; commemorative.

Memorial Day is not just the beginning of the summer holidays.  It’s not just another three-day weekend when we get to sleep in or catch up on yard work.  It’s not just a time to gather with friends and family for a cookout.

It’s about remembering.  Remembering how much our freedom cost.  Because freedom is never free.  It is costly, expensive. The price is the lives of men and women who laid down their all.

My grandfather was a World War 1 veteran.  My father and my father-in-law were WW2 veterans.  I have family members and friends who served in the military.  And I have a young friend who is in boot camp right now.  I’ve heard stories of sacrifice and of being away from home and hearth and all that is familiar.

I’ve watched the news as flag-covered caskets were lowered out of airplanes, rolled into halls where mourners came to pay their last respects.  Did I even consider that this life was an exchange for mine?

When I see the veterans march in parade or stand to salute the flag my admiration for them swells and tears fill my eyes sometimes.  They have sacrificed in a way in which I am not acquainted.

This morning I sit in my home with the freedom to choose how I will spend this day.  I am not concerned about bombs or military forces coming to take me captive.  I can travel through multiple states to visit my family-too-far-away.  I can attend the church of my choice.  I can vote my conscience.  I can carry a weapon to defend my self.  I can work and earn a wage.  I can go to college and pursue my calling and my dreams.  I can shop where I want.  I can get to a doctor or a hospital and expect good treatment.  I can write words on the world-wide web.

My freedom is precious.  I value living in the United States of America.  She has her problems, no doubt, but her flag waves red, white and blue because of people who gave the ultimate for me.  The living and the dead.  They served their country.  They served me.

And I will not forget.

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