What a gift! I can’t remember receiving anything nicer. I will always cherish it and remember where it came from.
But when this story began, it seemed like the whole thing was a big mistake. I was a little upset about it and a quite a bit embarrassed too. On a previous trip to Kenya, I had met a man named Lawrence. He asked me if we could start a child sponsorship program through CRF at his location. He had many orphans living at his home, and the poverty in his community was terrible. At the time, CRF had too many children to sponsor in our other works near Kisumu—so I told him that maybe we could do it at some time in the future. Well, the time came when we could add some children in that area, and I asked our team in Kenya to contact Lawrence and do the due diligence needed to start the new program. James Were was very excited about this new work because it was being developed on property that he had donated in Miguena. In fact, it was at his old house. So we got our newest work going.
After we got the new program started and had already sponsored children there, I realized that the Lawrence whom they had been talking to was a different Lawrence than the one I had communicated with previously.
I visited our newest program not knowing exactly what to expect. What I found were some of the sweetest children I have ever met. They were orphans, and they desperately needed the support of sponsorship. Some of them had been orphaned so recently that their parents had yet to be buried. The people taking care of the children with Lawrence were all widows. Some had been widowed because of AIDS and now were being given a chance not only to survive but also to have a purpose. This was truly a James 1:27 kind of place. And Lawrence was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever heard. He shared the stories of child after child. The room was full of tears and full of hope. And I saw how God had moved in the strangest way to get us to this place.
The orphans there presented a little program for our visiting group. And at the end of their singing and sharing, Lawrence gave us a gift. It was incredible. The hand carved plaque was made of beautiful wood and stained and painted in exquisite fashion. On one side was a map of Kenya. On the other side was a map of Africa. On both sides it said “Christian Relief Fund.” And at the central point was the word “Hope.”
This was no ordinary gift. They had spent a considerable amount of money. When they were questioned about why they didn’t spend the money on food, Lawrence said, “Didn’t you read the story of the woman with the alabaster jar? She wanted to give her best.” We didn’t really need this gift, but I have never been more thankful for one.
I experienced a similar event in Eldoret, Kenya. As I was worshiping with my brothers and sisters at the Kipkaren church, Francis Bii pointed to the bottle of wine that they were going to use in communion. Francis smiled his big smile and told me of the story of the wine. There was a free trip donated in the previous year for someone from Eldoret to visit Israel. Francis was selected. When he went to Cana of Galilee, he acquired a special bottle of wine that was considered to be holy since it was from the site of where Jesus turned water into wine. Francis was not aware that he could not take the wine out of the country and was stopped at customs because of it. For some reason, he got to keep it. What a valuable possession this wine was! It simply could not be bought or acquired. Yet Francis had a bottle of it. And he opened and shared it with all of us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It was another gift of the best.
Francis teaches the church that there is always someone needier than you. At the Kipkaren church they take up their regular contribution, and then they have another basket where they give money to help widows. I think this is very biblical but seldom practiced.
I understand giving to the poor. But what I have learned is that those of us who are “rich” still need to receive. It is very humbling and yet extremely gracious when someone truly sacrifices for you. It makes me thankful. Does it lead me to bless them and others in return? I’m sure it does, but that is not the point I’m making here. I think that along the way of my “wealthy” life, I have forgotten my own neediness. And it is only through the gift of one who has to really sacrifice to give that I discover my own poverty of spirit. And thus I am blessed. — Milton Jones, CRF President
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