Story Submitted by Anna Dabrowska
You can have very little and at the same time be the richest man in the world. Is not someone a rich man who gives generously everything they have? We are taught about this kind of wealth by the widow* who gave the last of what she had. Throughout the Bible, the Lord teaches us the attitude of our heart should be of generosity. I met many people with this heart attitude while I visited the Iris Pemba Base in Mozambique, and many of them were children.
One evening I was standing out in the village and some of the children came up to me and wrapped their arms around me. In African villages, I rarely stood alone. The children were barefoot, thirsty, most in heavily worn clothes with holes. I was wearing an entire shirt with no holes, a capulana, and a pair of intact flip-flops. All of them dirty, but only in that moment. In perspective, I would be able to wash them by hand when we got back to the base. In a much broader perspective, I would return to Poland and would wash them in a washing machine.
When you are in a situation like this, you realize you really have everything. It teaches you humility. Your past desires become trivial. You see the luxury of your closet, the extravagance of your life, but it's important to realize those things are not wrong. It stops you for a moment and teaches you gratitude. When you are standing there with those in need, you think you have something to give until you discover that even though you have everything, you are missing the most important thing – a right heart, because, without that, you can not share anything.
At some point, new faces joined us. They each brought with them a piece of bread. It was their supper. Seeing them, I was convinced that I had so much and yet I felt I could not do much about I was seeing. Even if I had shared all that I had, soon I would return to my comfortable life, and they would stay in the same situation.
At that moment someone touched my arm. I turned and tried to focus my eyes in the darkness. In front of me was one of the girls who had come with a piece of bread. She smiled widely and I reciprocated. Then she broke the bread and gave me a piece. I tried to refuse as I really did not want to eat some of her little supper, but she insisted. It was extravagant. Extravagant sharing. Putting a piece of bread into my mouth, I thought of her big heart and about my quite small heart. This girl with her generosity broke the concept in my head. The concept of giving, that I must have a lot in order to give.
It soon turned out this was not an isolated incident. Many times I was given gifts of peanuts or mangos, sometimes so many that I could not fit them in my hands and so I shared them with others.
A few days later I heard Heidi Baker share that they had a tradition at the Iris school. When one of the children has a birthday, the others must find a way to give them a gift. They do not collect a small sum of money from each to buy a gift. They do not go for pizza or to the cinema. They do not buy a tablet, but they share what they have. It may be fruit picked from a tree on the way to school, prayer, a good word or time spent together. The children have to be more creative than those who have money. They have to give more of themselves, more than those who have money to pay for a gift.
I quickly learned how much I had in the suitcase I took to Africa. Initially, I had thought the things I had packed were very needed, but when got to the Iris Pemba Base, I found out that I had much more than I needed. It is amazing how quickly the perspective of ownership can change. On the last day, a few of us sat together on the stairs of the church. I could not believe it was time to go back. I did not want to leave. The packed bag was waiting for me in the room. Children came up to us and among them was Ana, who was maybe around seven years. She barely spoke English, but she asked me for shoes. I did not have any to give her. I had the ones on my feet, the other in the bag, and they were definitely too big for her. I tried to explain this to her and for a long time she was not convinced, but finally, she gave up. Then suddenly I had a thought, ‘flip-flops are quite easy to cut down to a smaller size.' I took the flip-flops and a notebook from the room – one with a decorated cover. For me, it was one of many, but for Ana, it was a treasure.
During my time in Africa, I learned I always have something to give. The size of the gift doesn't matter. Jesus said that the widow gave the most.
* Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood. (Mark 12:41-44 NKJV)