I led a team to Uganda earlier this year and had the opportunity to bring my son Elliott. I’ve written a few posts about our trip (see Uganda pt. 1, pt. 2 and pt. 3) and his reaction but I couldn’t resist writing about it at least one more time. Elliott had a hard time leaving Uganda. And he has a hard time being away from Uganda. That country, and his friends wove themselves deeply into his little heart. His experience there changed him forever. And while he is still a little stinker 75% of the time he speaks of his friends there daily. There is no pity, there is only compassion. Compassion for kids who are growing up without families… and a desire to support them.
Once we were home, Elliott asked if we could sponsor Derrick.
Derrick was the first one to grab Elliott’s hand as he got off the bus. Derrick showed Elliott how to eat a grasshopper. Derrick gave Elliott a nickname and called his name in secret code through the ventilation holes in the top of the dormitory. Derrick and Elliott had so much in common, despite situations that were worlds apart. Derrick just turned 10, Elliott is almost 9. Just boys. Just pals.
When Elliott asked to sponsor Derrick I said yes, of course. Thinking I would link my debit card and pay the monthly sponsorship gift. But Elliott said no. He brought money from his bank. He asked to do yard work. He started organizing for a garage sale. Then, Charlotte brought money from her bank after Elliott shared his dream with her.
And here’s where I almost made the wrong choice. As Charlotte handed me $10 from her Chinese New Year money I almost handed it back to her. I caught myself, just in time, as the words “don’t worry about this, I’ll take care of it” were coming out of my mouth. Why wouldn’t I want them to worry about it? They saw and felt the need and wanted to help their friends.
In seconds I could have squelched their natural JOY in giving. Something I pray they carry into their adult lives.
A few weeks ago I faced the same scenario. As the offering basket was being passed through church I began to pass the basket up and over Charlotte’s head until I felt resistance. I looked down to see Charlotte’s hands firmly grasping the bottom of the basket. She pulled it down, dug through her little bag and pulled out the money she had saved to buy a lip gloss. She had talked and talked about this lip gloss for some time. And she put it, clunk, into the basket with authority and purpose. As the basket went on it’s way I whispered “I thought you were saving that” and she answered “Mom, you always say we are blessed. And we have so much, the church can use it to help people who don’t have what they need.” I grabbed her close to my side as the worship music began and resisted the tears that accumulated at the corners of my eyes. She gets it. She gets it more than I do on most days. True sacrifice is choosing what others need over what we want for ourselves and taking the responsibility to stand in that gap.
So the kids are dreaming big now. Dreaming about seeing every child at Canaan Children’s home sponsored. Of taking trips and being with their friends and celebrating that God ordains us all to care for each other. A responsibility that is JOY rather than just obligation.
I came so close to robbing them of these things. So close to taking on the responsibility myself and removing their contribution from the picture. Our kids have the unscathed ability to love big and wide. Let’s let them loose.