Molly has an excellent challenge regarding 30 Days of Nothing over at her blog.
I haven’t read everything over at the 30 Days blog, but I do like the idea. My husband and I have talked lately about how most of us know so little about sacrificial giving. We are so blessed and we can often easily give without making a real sacrifice. Though we don’t think it earns us any special points with God, we do think sacrificial giving is good for us. And we have felt compelled to sacrifice in order to give to others.
At the MOPS International Convention back in September, I attended a small workshop about having a global view. The speaker (whose name I don’t remember) shared how a trip to Africa changed her life. During her visit, she met a woman who had taken in the children of her sister, who had died of AIDS. Because of his fears of AIDS, her husband left her when she agreed to raise her nieces and nephews. She was left with a houseful of children and no means to provide for them. They needed a cow so the children could have milk. The speaker left Africa with a determination to sacrificially give so that family could have a cow. She would be in a store and see a scarf or dress or pair of shoes she wanted — and normally would have bought — but she thought, “No, Hannah needs a cow to feed her children.” And she put the money she would have spent at the store into an envelope to send to World Vision or Compassion International or whatever organization she had been in Africa with. The next day, she would be out running errands and instead of pulling into up to McDonald’s drive-through, she waited and had lunch at home. She put the money she would have spent on a Value Meal into the envelope for Hannah’s cow. She explained how she had not bought a new outfit to wear to the convention. Instead, she shopped in her own closet, pairing together things she hadn’t worn together before. She put the money she saved into the envelope.
Really, when we have a closet full of clothes, it’s not much of a sacrifice to not buy a new outfit — even though it might feel like it because we have become accustomed to getting whatever we want.
This same lady told us how she also became burdened for people who are hungry. Most of us have probably never been really hungry. Our tummies may rumble and we may want food, but most of us know when the next meal will be. In order to sympathize with those who are truly hungry in the world, this lady decided she would be hungry for 4 or 5 days every month or two. She ate only what was necessary during those days and waited until she was very, very hungry before she ate. This means she ate only 1 or 2 meals on those days, and those were simple meals of nourishment. She emphasized that she did this for several days in a row because she wanted to go to bed at night knowing that the next day she would be hungry again — similar to those hungry children she had met in Africa.
We have friends who are missionaries in the Philippines. A few months ago, a cholera epidemic swept through the jungle surrounding their village. Hundreds of people came to their village, bringing their sick for medical treatment. The sick people and their families needed to eat while they were there, so the Christians in this village shared their food. The rice harvest that should have lasted 6 months was quickly depleted. There are some other foods for them to eat, but those food supplies are also diminishing. They will not have another rice harvest for 7 or 8 months. Our brothers and sisters in this jungle village are hungry. My missionary friends have begun a special fund to buy rice and fly it in to the village. My husband and I are giving up soda for a while. We’re donating the $5 to $10 we would spend on sodas each week to buy rice for our Filipino brothers and sisters. We’re praying about other sacrifices we can make. Perhaps you would like to give up a morning trip to Starbucks or a lunch at Wendy’s. Maybe you want to give up one can of soda and a candy bar each week. If you’re interested in donating to the rice fund, please express your interest in my comment section and I’ll email you with details.
If you don’t feel compelled to sacrificially give to the rice fund, I hope you do feel compelled to sacrificially give to someone. Maybe World Vision, maybe Samaritan’s Purse, maybe Compassion International . . . maybe your local food bank, maybe a local family you know who has needs, maybe a free medical clinic . . . maybe a women’s resource center, maybe a pregnancy resource center, maybe the Red Cross. We don’t have to go to Africa to find people who have needs. There are hungry children in our own back yards, so to speak. I know some public school teachers who are so concerned about some students in their school that when they have snow days, these teachers make sure those children have breakfast and lunch. I know a woman who tutured children in a local trailer park and she provided a substantial snack each time because some of the children may not have dinner. She also made sure each child had a warm coat to wear. The woman who used to coordinate the children’s ministry at our church worked with a large group of poor children who rode our church van. She provided some healthy food at every activity, including children’s church, because she knew these children needed physical food as well as spiritual food. They were hungry.
Experiencing 30 Days of Nothing, 30 days of freedom from consumerism, is a great idea. Donating what you did not spend is an even greater idea. It is haunting that 30,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from poverty-related issues. And as Christians, I think we do have an obligation to share, to love others as we love ourselves, to treat others as we would want to be treated. If I love others, I cannot turn a blind eye to their physical needs while I wallow in consumerism and materialism. At the same time, I don’t want us to fool ourselves. If we are trying to meet only their physical needs, we are missing the point. Thousands upon thousands of people are also dying every day without the opportunity to hear the Gospel in their own heart language. Over 2 billion people have no written words in their language, thus not even one word of the Bible in their language. Most of these people have never heard the name Jesus. As we sacrificially give, let’s make sure our sacrifice can make an impact for eternity, let’s make sure we’re providing for spiritual needs as well as physical needs.