In my corner of the world, one of the most popular Christmas practices is to decorate one’s home inside and outside. Many put up real or artificial pine trees, adorn them with all sorts of colorful ornaments, and top them off with an angel or star. Some string up enough lights on the outside of their houses to illuminate a small city. Others simply hang evergreen boughs over their windows and doors.
Not long ago, two newlyweds kissed their honeymoon good-bye. They also purposely did not plan a wedding reception to celebrate their union. Instead, they used the money they would have spent on themselves to selflessly help people in each of the 50 states in the US. In Arkansas, they gave gifts to sick children. In Utah, they aided victims of domestic abuse. In New Jersey, they donated clothing to a homeless shelter—and so on.
In November 2014, a couple asked a waiter named Carlos for a dish that wasn’t on the menu. As former restaurant workers themselves, they were impressed by him and how he fulfilled their recipe request. The man asked Carlos what he would do if he had the money and time he needed. “I work two jobs. I don’t really have time,” he replied. He did, however, let on that his car needed a $1,500 repair job. Later, Carlos found a $1,500 tip on the table. He said of the generous couple, “Thank God for you and for what you’ve done. . . . It couldn’t have come at a much better time, so I’m eternally grateful.”
After I moved to Africa, a couple living in the US contacted me and said, “We’d like to make a financial contribution to help you with your ministry in Uganda.” Because my job at the time didn’t require that I raise funds, I thanked them but declined their generous offer.
After Nelson Mandela’s death at the end of 2013, many stories surfaced of his genuine concern for others. In 1950s Apartheid South Africa, Mandela once saw a white woman standing beside her broken car in Johannesburg. Approaching her, he offered help and was able to fix the car.
During my last year of high school, I saved up my money in order to buy extravagant gifts for my family. When Christmas came, I blew the whole $1,100 on my parents, my sister, and my grandparents. I imagined that—with college looming—I might never have the chance to be as generous with my money again.
Reconciliation. It’s God’s heart for people to be restored in relationship with one another across differences in culture, race, and class. This is vital, but sometimes it feels so big that we don’t know where to start.
When my twin sister and I were 5 years old, we began counting the money we had in our piggybanks. It turned out that one of us had more than the other. To our young minds, this just wasn’t right. So, we decided to balance our accounts by helping ourselves to our mother’s money!
Q: How can I be a blessing to people who do not know Jesus as their Savior? —Grace
A: Being a blessing to unbelievers is a matter of being sensitive to their areas of spiritual need and nurturing them through a caring personal relationship. By doing these things, we testify to the truth of the gospel, and prepare them for the…
While I was helping to organize donations of clothing for a church event, I paused to touch a cashmere sweater’s soft grey cloth. When I realized it would fit me, I considered the possibility of owning it—for free! Volunteers were allowed first dibs on the donations. Cashmere is an expensive fabric, and although I have enough sweaters, this one was calling my name. After some inner turmoil, I finally offered the item to a fellow worker, who joyfully accepted it.
When I agreed to help start a book club at my church, I was excited about choosing the titles and discussing the literary works. I wavered, however, when I had to decide where to hold the meetings. (My house often has cluttered countertops and my kitchen appliances don’t always sparkle.) Thankfully, one Sunday morning, a woman in my church offered to host the meetings at her home. I sensed a genuine spirit of hospitality, and I gratefully accepted her proposal.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the cello. But I haven’t found the time to take lessons. Since time is short, I would rather spend my time doing the things that I won’t get to do in heaven—stuff like helping a believer to mature in his or her faith or reaching out to someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus. I say to myself, In heaven, I’ll have the whole of eternity to master that instrument!
There was a season when my son Wasswa and I had 12 little guests at our dinner table in Uganda every night for 3 consecutive years. Previous to our sharing dinner with them, the children had often gone entire days without food. They began coming to our house when they heard that I would feed them. Many of the boys and girls—some as young as 3 years old—walked nearly 5 miles to reach our home, so I gave them a ride home each evening.
I sat on the gift-shop bench while my family looked for souvenirs. We had just finished climbing nearly 300 steps of spiral staircase to the top of a towering memorial. As I leaned against the wall, the display nearest me caught my attention. Filled with clear packages of coins and bills, it offered a selection of replicas of dated money no longer in circulation. One particular piece—the triangular two-bit—especially intrigued me. Similar only in color to a current coin, I mused on its worthlessness in today’s market.