What a compelling story from one of our supporters!
Three dead hens lay on the floor of the cage; their feathers littered the ground. I burst into tears. I loved those cheeky, brown, annoying chickens. They had laid their lovely brown eggs all summer and then well into winter. Eggs to enjoy and eggs to share.
Now here they were, stiff and awkward, lying on the floor of the cage; the cage that had trapped them instead of protecting them.
If only I'd come up here in the dark last night and shut the cage door. We'd got home late and I knew they'd already be asleep on their roosts. 'They'll be alright,' I'd thought. I hadn't seen the two killer dogs running through our property for a couple of months. I'd prayed for God to protect them. Why hadn't he answered my prayer? I cried all the way back to the house.
As I walked, I asked God just that. He told me that He had answered my prayer. He'd answered 'No'.
He had to have a reason. Then I thought of Fahad (name changed for privacy reasons). Just ten years old, this soccer-loving Ugandan boy had a large, ugly cancer growing out of the side of his neck. He was malnourished because his mum, a kindergarten teacher in the slums of Kampala hadn't earned any income for over a year, due to the schools being closed with rampant Covid-19. He'd become badly anaemic and had also picked up a lung infection. His mother, watching him get sicker and sicker had lost all hope. He was dying.
That's how Praise had found him, as she walked around the slum distributing emergency food packets, desperately trying to keep people from starving. She realised that time was critical for Fahad, and had immediately sought medical assessment of his condition.
After tests and scans the answer came back: there was hope! He could be cured. When he was told this, Praise saw him smile for the first time.
At first, he needed intravenous antibiotics to heal the lung infection as well as multiple blood transfusions to heal the anaemia.
Next some good nutrition to build up his strength, then he'd be ready to handle the chemotherapy to kill the cancer, and finally surgery to remove it.
The cost of saving Fahad's life was estimated at NZ$20,000. They'd be needing all the help they could get!
Maybe God was asking us to be a part of Fahad's healing?
We had a nest egg sitting in our bank account. But it was for our retirement, I argued. Fahad wasn't our responsibility. The needs 'out there' were so great. There'd always be another and then another desperate cry for help. Where do you draw the line? When all your money was gone?
I had wanted to help Fahad. Somebody had to. Lots of somebodies. But it might cost too much.
Then my hens got killed. And I cried. And as I walked, weeping, back to the house I thought,
'If I'm so sad that three of my hens died, how will Fahad's mother feel when he dies?'
I knew God was going to speak to me during my Bible reading that morning. And I knew what he was going to say. I was up to the last chapter of 1.Timothy. God kicked off the subject with verse 6:
'But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.'
Somehow I was expecting that verse to pop up. I was getting uncomfortable. My world view was under the spotlight, and it wasn't measuring up to the standard of the Word of God. But there was more to come!
Verse 17 hit even closer to home:
'Command those who are rich in this present world, ('That's probably me,' I thought, 'compared to most people in the world') not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.'
'Hey,' I thought. 'He has promised to richly supply us with everything for our enjoyment. Not just enough to survive on, but everything we need for enjoying life. So why do I need to hang on so hard to our money with a promise like that? Has my money become a cage that trapped me instead of protecting me?
Verse 18 talks about the how: this is where the rubber meets the road:
'Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.'
Hmmm... some to enjoy and some to share. Like the eggs. Some to help pay for part of Fahad's life saving treatment. Then verse 19 described the results of this sharing;
'In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.'
Well, I reckon that sounds like the treasure in Heaven that Jesus talked about. Matthew recalled him saying:
'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven... for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' (Matt 6:19-21)
'Hang on,' I thought. 1 Timothy 6:6, where I started this journey told me this:
'For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.'
But that's not entirely true. We can store up treasure in Heaven. So we can take it with us when we go. Or perhaps more accurately, send it ahead before we go. It's a bit like the verse in Matthew 16. Verse 25 tells us that
'Whoever shall save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for me will find it.'
Maybe that also applies to our money?
I thought of the guy that Jesus told us about, recorded in Luke 12v16. He got so wealthy that he planned to tear down his barns to build bigger ones. However, he didn't even make it to his retirement. He never got to take life easy, eat, drink and be merry as he'd dreamed about. Was wanting such a life a sin? It was uncomfortably close to my view of retirement. But God judged him for it!
Maybe that's a red flag alert.
Maybe it's time to repent.
Not necessarily to fall on my knees and ask for forgiveness. Or maybe that, too.
But more importantly, just change direction.
See the blind spot.
Change my attitude towards money.
Change the way I view it, and how tightly I hang on to it.
My philosophy had been, 'I'll just give this much. It doesn't hurt us too much and goes so much further over there in the third world.'
But how about the idea of giving and setting no limit?
For me to be able to even consider doing that, God needed to give me a real wake-up call. An attention grabber. Something to prompt me to play my part in giving sacrificially so that a boy might live.
Something like... dead hens.