A few months ago I was talking to my kids about a book I was reading and we also talked about the famine in Africa right now. My generous Ella (9) suggested we begin saving money in a jar for Africa. (You can read that post here if you missed it.)
Ella decorated the jar and we have been adding money ever since. I've been excited to tell you how God has worked in our family to fill our little jar! Right away two of our kids nearly emptied their piggy banks into the jar. I worried a bit initially about how our Africa fund would grow. (It's not like our kids get money on a regular basis. They get some on their birthdays from great-grandparents and that's it- and birthdays were still months away at that point.)
I rarely have cash on hand and felt bad that I wasn't adding to our jar, too. Then God reminded me of this: Every single time I go to the grocery store, I use my debit card. And every time I do that, there's a prompt that asks if I want cash back. So I started pressing "YES" and began adding more money to our jar. (I will often hand that money to Ella to add to the jar-- she gets so much joy from doing so.)
Then there's Mark's story. He agreed to write it out for you: "For those of you who don't know, I am a mail carrier, walking from door to door. Whenever I find coins or a dollar on the sidewalk or in the street, I pocket the money. (And I usually leave it in my shorts pocket as a reward to our laundry washer, Ella.) When we started our Africa jar, I decided to put any money I found on my route into the jar. Recently, I was out on my route and saw a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk. I was thrilled, because I never find so much; it's usually just change. I've found a $5 bill once or twice in over ten years of delivering the mail, but $20 -- unheard of. I pocketed it and then set it on top of the fridge when I came home that night, thinking briefly about putting it in the jar, but selfishly not doing so. I left it there for a week, every now and then wondering what I could treat myself to with this unexpected cash. I mean, it was something extra, outside of our budget... was there a CD I'd been pining after or ...? Then one night before going to bed, I saw the money on top of the fridge and God reminded me that I had committed to giving 'whatever I found' to the Africa jar. Not only did He remind me of my commitment, but He also squelched my selfish resistance by saying, "Trust me on this. I'll take care of your needs; so just put the money in the jar and watch what I do." I promptly dropped the money in the jar. The very next afternoon, I was back on my route and as I stepped from my truck to go into a business, I was shocked to see another $20 bill in the street! I probably had a pretty silly grin on my face for the rest of the day, amused and amazed at how quickly and specifically God responded. The first thing I did when I got home that night is to have Stacy drop that $20 into the jar."
[Stacy here again.] Isn't that great?! ;) I love that story. The kids said they're going to start praying that daddy will find hundred-dollar bills from here on out. :)
We've decided as a family that we are going to give our jar money to Make Way Partners. The president of Make Way Partners, Kimberly Smith, is the woman who authored the book Passport Through Darkness (linked to earlier in the post. You can read about their ministry here if you are interested in learning more.) Recently I read on Kimberly's blog that their annual orphan-food-purchase quote is a staggering half-million U.S. dollars. (Two years ago they paid about $90k. Last year the price was $150k). This year, the drought has made the food prices escalate. Our contribution is a very tiny part of what they need, but we're praying that God will use it and multiply it and we are so grateful that we are able to give even that small part.
I want to add, here- before I finish this post- that I hesitated to even write this. I don't want it to seem at all like I'm "tooting our own horn" by sharing about this. And I am mindful of the verse in Matthew that talks about giving in secret. I earnestly hope and pray that God is glorified through this. My motivation for writing this here is twofold: 1) Maybe you will be encouraged to start a giving jar with your kids and 2) Perhaps someone reading this would be encouraged to give to Make Way Partners or another such organization. (Or maybe you can just start praying with us that Mark will find a stash of cash on his route! ;))