Some people fear their gifts are too small to make a difference, so why bother?
A donor once gave me a picture roll. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, as I already had several. I took it to my mission project in Papua New Guinea anyway. Several months later, I needed to make a trip into the remote highlands, and for some reason I decided to carry the picture roll with me. Many miles later, covered in mud, sweat and squished mosquitoes, I dragged myself up a mountain ridge. Stopping to catch my breath, I noticed a youth cresting the peak from a different direction. We introduced ourselves and began chatting.
I discovered that this young man had lost his family in tribal warfare when he was a young boy. When the fighting began, he ran into the rainforest and hid. When he returned, there wasn’t a soul alive in his village. Devastated, he turned back to the rainforest. Heartbroken and confused, he walked for days, crossing at least two tribal borders before finally stumbling into a small community—his first taste of civilization. An Adventist pastor found the disoriented boy and took him home, raised him and sent him to school.
Now, years later, the youth pointed to a distant mountain ridge and told me he was heading back to bring the gospel to his tribal people; a people, he claimed, the world never knew existed. He just wished he had a picture roll.
“What?” I asked, “You need a picture roll?” I was dumbfounded! Of all the crazy places to meet somebody who needed a picture roll! What were the chances of us meeting on that ridge? Only God could have arranged that. What if one of us had been late? Or what if the donor had thought her picture roll was too small a gift? The implications were sobering. As I handed the young man his prize, I thought, That donor is a hero!
Strange meetings like that take place in the United States, too. My family had been working in Papua New Guinea for many years and were taking a much-needed furlough. We traveled from church to church sharing with our team of supporters all the amazing stories of what God had been doing. Everybody seemed to know we needed funds for furlough expenses, and the donations came in steadily.
Then, about a week before we were to head back to PNG, somebody in the AFM office crunched the numbers and informed us that, while our furlough expenses were met, we needed to raise $200 in monthly pledges to meet our ongoing expenses in the field. Shortages like this happen periodically as supporters’ finances change or the project develops and field expenses increase. The situation is typically remedied by furlough fundraising. But our furlough was mostly behind us now, and I had only one speaking appointment left. This was an add-on appointment and would not be attended by our support team members. What’s more, I don’t fundraise from the pulpit.
We went to the church and spent the day sharing stories and artifacts from the project. Then, as the program came to an end, a gentleman walked up. He said he had heard I would be speaking there that Sabbath, and he had driven down from another state to hear me. He asked if we had any fundraising to do. I said we did. He asked how much. “$200 in monthly pledges,” I replied.
“Okay,” he said, “We will give the $200 a month.” With that, he and his wife sent us back to the field, became official members of the team dedicated to the salvation of the Kamea (Dowa) people and became our heroes and personal friends.
Through their experiences, missionaries come to rely on God to set up these divine appointments to meet their funding needs and to hand over picture rolls on jungle mountaintops. The reliance is the same, and the value of the gifts is the same. What matters most is not the size of the gift, but how much it is needed.
I wish there was a way to help more people understand this. For example, it would be easy to feel that a $10 gift isn’t worth much, right? It barely buys a cheap pizza. But that’s what I paid for my machete in PNG—10 bucks. With it I cleared jungle roads and trails, helped clear space for a school, killed venomous snakes, and (after sterilizing it) even cut the umbilical cord of a baby born on the side of the road. Who wouldn’t feel like a hero after giving that $10?
Another hero’s $10 gift bought fuel for the generator so I could show a slide presentation at a remote camp meeting. A dozen community elders watched the presentation and discussed it all night long. As the sun came up the next morning, they all decided that the Bible must be true. God was alive!
How big does a gift have to be to qualify as significant? A trainer of witchdoctors received an invitation to join a group comparing his cultural beliefs and practices with those of the Bible. Intrigued, he came and was converted. How much did the invitation cost that inspired him to come? Less than a dime. Perhaps a few coins dropped into a can at an elementary school missions fundraiser paid for it. I wonder how old that hero was.
Paul claimed in 1 Corinthians 12 that believers form a body where all parts work together, and each part plays a vital role. Verse 18 says, “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” All of AFM’s team members, though scattered over the globe, are part of that very same body. God has given us each a job to do, and no job is unimportant. When we all do our best, we achieve success. Then we can all point to each other and say, “Now there’s a hero!”