30 November 2014

Lessons from the Widow and her Mite

My favorite thing to do in Niger on a Sunday is drive an hour up the road, weaving around broken-down-trucks and boys-driving-the-harvest-home-on-donkey-carts, to attend a tiny village church.

Humble, in every sense of the word, this small community of brothers and sisters faithfully meets to give thanks for the little they have; together they learn how the Living Word of God should change their daily lives.

We were some of the first to arrive, which gave us ample time to greet others fully and to be received with great welcome and joy.  As we were invited to choose our benches, a small elderly woman approached the side door of the church.  I didn't know it then, but this Little Old Lady was about to teach me a profound lesson.

She felt her way through the open door, and swept a long stick back and forth ahead of her, searching for obstacles.  I helped her to our bench where she would sit between me and my dear Hausa friend, E.  This old Tsohuwa was fully blind, she had been a widow for many years, and she now split her time living between the homes of family members--a week here, a few months there.

As she climbed over the bench to sit down, we greeted one another . . . How is your tiredness?  And the cold weather that is arriving?  And the health of your body?  And the members of your family?

I must have gotten the accent right, because for the rest of the service she whispered to me in Hausa as if I understood every word!

When we had finished singing the first hymn, Tsohuwa leaned in and asked me to to tell her when--but that was all I understand.  

'I'm sorry, Tsohuwa,' I whispered, 'I don't speak much Hausa, I don't understand.'

'Now, be sure to tell me when iajvlksj ak lkjaskja ek,' she repeated.

I shook my head, indicating that I wasn't understanding . . . which did neither of us any good, considering her visual impairments (#OTfail).

'Now, be sure to tell me when iajvlksj ak lkjaskja ek,' she said again, only this time raising her voice, as if the problem was actually my auditory function rather than my language deficits.

I turned to E. to bail me out.  'She's saying she wants you to make sure that the offering plate doesn't pass her by, since she won't see when it comes.'

For a moment, everything around me stopped.  The lines etched on her face and hands were evidence of the hardships and sorrows she has lived through.  Her clothes were dusty, ragged and worn.  Even her cane was little more than a cleaned-up tree branch.  She had nothing.  But we were not to let the offering pass without giving her a chance to contribute.

After a few more songs, announcements, greetings and the amazing women's choir, it was time for the collection.  A simple basket woven from dried reeds was handed around the small room.  As it made it's way to us, I whispered to Tsohuwa, 'Here it comes.' 

She lifted her shirt, exposing a bit of her aging stomach, and felt her way to the inside corner of her tattered wrap-around zunni.  She fingered the knot she had tied and loosened it to reveal a pair of small coins that she stashed there for this very moment.

I guided her hand to the basket as she gave her treasure back to God.  

Before I realized it, tears escaped down my cheeks.  

In that moment, I was witness to The Widow and Her Mite.  

As my Bible leapt off the pages before me, I was overcome by the reality that I only know what it means to give out of abundance.  I work amongst the poorest of the world, but I don't share their poverty.  I put my money in a wallet and a bank account . . . I don't tie coins into my skirt.  

I tried to listen to the sermon being spoken by an elder at the front . . . but I was distracted by the one this old, blind, widow was living beside me.  
Sitting across from the offering box, Jesus was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. He called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t affordshe gave her all." (Mark 12:41-44, The Message)
I had put some bills in the offering too . . . but I gave what I'll never miss.  She gave what she couldn't afford.

I've been thinking over this all week.  How am I giving extravagantly?  Do I give what I can't afford?  Do I give my all?  Do I give my {money/time/energy/emotion/kindness/imported-chocolate} out of abundance, or do I give the last of what I have?

But more than that, do I give until I have nothing left, believing that I have a Father who will continue to provide what I need?

The truth is, I have a long way to go and a whole lot to learn if I am ever to become like my little blind Tsohuwa who untied the corner of her dirty skirt to give her all to Jesus. 


Matt said...

Wow. Praising God for what He's shown you and for being able to catch a glimpse of it myself through your writing. He is worthy.

Abby said...

This is just what I needed to read.

Joyful said...

Beautiful story. The heart of a true giver.

Tarlee83 said...

Hi Deborah, I'm an OT from Australia who has applied to do the 2 year TIMO internship starting in Oct in Niger. I would love to get in contact with you. I have been following your blog for a while now.

Deb. said...

TIMO!! That's great!! I'll send you an email.