Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”
Offerings. Poverty. Wealth.
The time for offerings in the worship services are special here. And somewhat different than in America. Back home, churches will either pass a plate down each row of congregants. Other churches might have a place in the back of church where givers can approach and drop in a check or some bills. Both cases are somewhat anonymous. Here in Moz, the offering plate, in most cases a ceramic plate or an old plastic bowl is bought to the front of the church. Worshippers will then gather in the center aisle and slowly approach the bowl, one by one, dropping in their small coins. Probably no more than 15 to 30 cents.
We, as a team, have brought monetary gifts for each church we’ve visited. And in return, each church has given us a gift. But not one that can be put into a piggy bank. We’ve been given oranges, bananas, sugar cane, and 50 kg bags of rice. One church presented our team leader Alex a live chicken. Another presented pastor Tim with a small crate containing two flapping pigeons. I’m pretty sure the chicken was used for that night’s dinner. It’s a bit unclear what happened to the pigeons.
“Animals, fruit, and veggies that are needed for the next day’s lunch are offered up as an expression of faith and obedience. A few small coins that could be used to buy something, anything: a shirt, shoes, or a spoon, are given to the church.”
It was impossible to fully prepare for the poverty here. It’s been like going back in time. The list of things that most people here don’t have is much longer than the list of things they do have. The other day we enjoyed a large feast after church outside the pastor’s house. Think a church potluck without the coleslaw. Women cooked beans and rice over small front-yard fires. Chickens were killed, plucked, chopped, and cooked. A momma duck and her 11 chicks wobbled around the grassless yard, purposely avoiding the guy with the axe. Pigeons in an elevated coop watched warily over the proceedings. The people all sat and ate in segregated groups. We as a team sat in one group in chairs around the only table enjoying sodas and the finer things in life such as knives and forks. The pastors all circled together. The men had their own space apart from the women and children. Some sat on tarps, others on large pieces of cardboard. Most everybody ate with his or her hands. When the meal was done, the plastic plates and bowls were rinsed and stored atop the pastor’s house. Then the fires were rekindled and the chicken feet, heads, and intestines were sautéed with tomatoes and garlic. Nothing goes to waste. They think we’re weird because we don’t eat the bones. We tossed and kicked footballs and futbols with the children. A teammate pulled out a giant wand for blowing soap bubbles and you would have thought we’d taken the kids to Disneyland.
And yet, despite all that was lacking, so much was there in full. Color for one. The women wear amazingly vibrant skirts that create a mosaic of hues that would make the Nordstrom family jealous. Music, singing, zeal, passion, community, love for God’s word are all here in plenty. And out of this abundance, they give what little material goods they can spare. Animals, fruit, and veggies that are needed for the next day’s lunch are offered up as an expression of faith and obedience. A few small coins that could be used to buy something, anything: a shirt, shoes, or a spoon, are given to the church.
“One thing I don’t want to leave behind is a deeper desire to give more. The Mozambicans give so much in their poverty. I need to give more out of my wealth.
This whole experience has been one big slap upside the head. I’m a big fan of tithing. But it’s not the easiest thing for me. I’m also a big fan of spending money on stuff that’s not crucial. This morning’s group devotional time was about living with simplicity. Topics that we discussed included contentment, peace, and generously giving beyond one’s means. Being a single teacher forces me to live more simply than most others around me. But compared to the Mozambicans, I feel as rich as Solomon. Also, living in the shadow of one of the most affluent communities in America isn’t easy. Wishing for more, wanting a bigger home, desiring a newer fancier car are all things I struggle with. Since I can’t afford a house on the hill with a Benz in the driveway, I think I try to compensate with small things that I can afford. More clothes, or books, or stuff from Target that isn’t essential. Even food. Perhaps cutting back on these things will create a larger sense of peace and contentment. Spending less on myself will then allow me to give more to those in need.
When writing about giving, I’d be severely amiss if I didn’t take the time to thank those who so bigheartedly donated so I could be here. So many people gave quickly, cheerfully, and beyond their means. Some gave without even being asked.
We leave this wonderful place tomorrow. My camera is full of pictures. My mind is full of memories, and my heart is bursting with love for the children we’ve met. One thing I don’t want to leave behind is a deeper desire to give more. The Mozambicans give so much in their poverty. I need to give more out of my wealth.
“God loves a cheerful giver,” wrote the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:7. I’m pretty sure God is looking down on our churches here and smiling.