During my sharing I highlighted to them Jesus' love for the world and for Burundi in particular. I told them with the help of pictures about our work and about the many kids in Africa who come to hear the message of Jesus at our Festivals of Hope.
I challenged them to realize that they can make a difference in the lives of fellow kids across the world. "In our case," I said, "it takes just a $ 1.50 to sponsor a kid in Burundi to come and hear the Good News of Jesus at the Festival of Hope."
When I asked them who had a $ 1.50 in their piggy bank, all of them raised their hands. During question and answer time one cute kid asked if he can give all his piggy-bank savings to sponsor other kids to hear the good news of Jesus.
"Sure," I said. "Go and discuss it with your parents and if they say it is o.k., Jesus will be very pleased with your generosity."
Well, throughout the summer these kids at Westwood have kept giving every Sunday toward our outreach in Burundi. At the beginning of the month of August we got their first check of over $ 400. I am told to expect another $ 300 or so from them from their August offerings. But that is not all...
On Monday this week I got a call from Westwood accounting department that two kids, Joseph and Sophia, had placed in the kids offering $ 500. I was totally blown away. I strongly suspect the two went and discussed with their parents about giving their entire piggy-bank savings to sponsor other kids in Burundi to come and hear about Jesus.
Joseph and Sophia's generosity, and that of the entire kids church at Westwood, got me thinking about two stories in the gospels. One is that of the rich young ruler. The other, of Jesus rebuking the disciples for obstructing the little children from Him. In Mark's gospel, the two stories follow each other (Mark 10).
The young ruler was zealous for God, he worked hard to please God. He tried to become righteous by obedience to the law – but he had not submitted to God’s righteousness; he had not yet believed like a little child. His possessions stood in the way to eternal life. Jesus said to him "one thing you lack...;"
But then how many commands does He give? Count them! There are five imperative verbs in this sentence: "go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." Go! Sell! Give! Come! Follow!
The ruler must do one thing to have eternal life; he needs to follow Jesus. But he can’t follow Jesus while still a slave to his possessions. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, "You cannot serve both God and money." "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
The ruler’s problem is one of the heart; he sees the attraction of Jesus, he knows Jesus is living out life the way God intends – but he’s used to his way of life, he loves his wealth and can’t imagine life without it.
Contrast the ruler's response to that of Joseph and Sophia at Westwood. They are straightforward, trusting, have a sense of wonder, and they are generous. Definitely not innocent nor perfect. That is not what Jesus means. But like the child whom Jesus places before his disciples in Matthew 18:2, their hearts have a beautiful quality about them. They willingly and freely give their piggy-bank savings so that one other kid in a remote corner of the world will have the pleasure of running into Jesus' arms.
To the kids at Westwood Community Church, Chanhassen and those at Oakwood Community Church in Waconia, thank you for standing with us at SWIM Ministries as we take the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.
So, how are we doing with our fundraising efforts with two days left before we leave for Burundi? Well, not to us but to the Lord alone be the glory! When I blogged five days ago our need stood at $ 19,000. Three days ago it had shrank to 13,000. Then two days ago it had shrank further to $ 9,000. Today, thanks to Joseph and Sophia, we now just need $ 2,000. But what is that to our God seeing kids with great faith like Sophia and Joseph?
As of this morning, I have an outstanding marching-gift challenge of $ 5,500. There you have it. Pray for the marching person to step forward so we may meet our difference.
Faith is...Responding to Jesus' invitation to come and follow Him like a little child.
"Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." "...Do not hinder the children in Burundi from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."