It is not possible to out-give God.
My husband has been an example of generosity to me for years; and I have seen God be generous to us in return–just when I thought maybe we’d tipped the scales our way, God would surprise me again.
Over Christmas, when we were slogged with several interruptions daily in the ministry, a Zimbabwean family came during a busy day and with English even poorer than their standard of living, requested Seth’s help in moving them to another shack. They had just moved to our village at the recommendation of another Zimbabwean man living here, but life in South Africa was not going as well as they had hoped or been led to believe. They had no jobs, and the one-room shack they were staying in leaked terribly. After three days of chilly rain, they’d had enough, and found another shack nearby. Would Seth move their things for them with our truck?
Have I ever mentioned that I don’t like surprises? I am a very traditional sort of gal, and it takes me some time to warm up to change. Well, this request wasn’t fitting into my plans for the day, or even week, and beyond that, they hadn’t asked very nicely. (Don’t you feel bad for these poor Africans having to try to communicate in a tough language to a cranky missionary?)
We had been interrupted and had had to shuffle our plans so often in December and January’s flexible, plan-changing Christmas break that I’d about had enough too, of changing dinner plans, and adjusting, well, everything!
And we had just helped their Zimbabwean friends twice right before them, and had gotten rude requests for handouts afterwards instead of gratitude. I’m afraid I thought this was more of the same treatment.
But again, Seth was a rebuke to my stingy Stooge-iness. He left right after lunch, and when he came back from moving them, he said, “I’m glad I helped them. They have so little!” He went on to explain more of their situation–a man and his sister, wife, and two-year old.
Over the next few weeks, we took them a stash of food, including some Coke 🙂 for Christmas. (You need to know that this was Seth’s idea!) They attended church a few times, in spite of our conducting the services solely in Tsonga, which they don’t understand. One service, their friends came as well, and we had 8 Shona-speaking Zimbabweans in a Tsonga service!
Meanwhile, our church building project was still going on. We were getting to the point where we would actually need to start putting bricks one on top of the other, after having dug and laid the foundation. Seth and I were wondering what we would do for a builder. Should Seth do it himself? He could probably do it, but he’d be much slower than an experienced man, and it would eat so much time out of his other duties. Should we hire? But that would cost so much more money.
That’s when God once again surprised us by repaying more than we would have thought. Seth helped those Zimbabweans not expecting anything in return, simply because God gave him compassion for them. But God worked in the Zimbabwean man’s heart to help us in return!
It so happened that he is a professional builder! He built hundreds of toilets for a government project in Zimbabwe, not counting other building projects he has been a part of. He has given his time freely (and we have paid him here and there as we could, but not all the time) to help build the outdoor toilets for our church. When Seth offered to pay, with the disclaimer that we may not always be able to do that, he replied, “No, no, it’s for the church! We must do this for God.” This is an almost unheard-of sentiment amongst the Tsonga people.
His sister also popped in one day at our house to “help” me. I was surprised. I haven’t had “house help,” as missionaries call it, for a few years. I am reticent to hire people to come into my house. But I definitely “needed,” in one sense of the word, some help. Now I pay her to come part of two mornings a week. She hangs up my laundry for me, which with a family of 6, was seriously eating into my homeschooling time; washes dishes; and cleans. I don’t know how long it will last, but I am grateful for the help right now. (See now, right there, Seth would tell me not to write such a pessimistic line.) 🙂
So what if God moved those Zimbabweans down here just at the time when we needed them, knowing we would have a need before we had even asked? And what if He made them needy just at the time and place when we could help them, and thus they would be in a position to repay us in the ways they were able?
I think that’s just what He did. And maybe more, but I don’t have eyes to see all of His purposes.
And I’m grateful and humbled and amazed at God’s goodness.