Originally published August 11, 2014
This has been a week fraught with emotion for the group headed to Haiti on a mission trip on Thursday. Each passing day brings the reality of the trip that lies ahead into sharper focus. I’m excited about it, nervous, joyful and — a word I can’t seem to stop using the past couple of days — overwhelmed.
On Wednesday, many of the members of our group headed to Upper Room Assembly of God in Gates, N.C., to worship and pray with team members from that church. Sunday morning, many of us were at Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk, Va., to do the same, and we wrapped up on Sunday night at my own church, Bethany Baptist in Portsmouth, Va.
Instructing His disciples on the power of prayer, Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20 NASB) I can attest to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of these three meetings this week. It is a powerful thing to feel Him move through a congregation to prick the hearts of those who love Jesus, and I can tell you that lives, including my own, were changed in the process.
Sunday night at Bethany, something happened that utterly shattered any illusion of righteousness I might have had about my decision to join this mission trip. Before I tell you about it, though, read this account of a poor widow’s offering, as recorded in the Book of Luke:
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on. (Luke 21:1-4 NASB)
Bethany Baptist is not a church full of wealthy people. We have many aged members living on Social Security, we have a sizable contingent of working-class people just making it from paycheck to paycheck. And a large percentage of those who attend are part of a full-time life-recovery ministry called Victory Home. The folks at Victory Home are cared for, given a place to live and discipled in the Word each day during a six-month program through which they come to know Jesus and experience the Holy Spirit’s power to make beauty from the ashes of their former lives. They have little or no money and are fully dependent on God, working through the ministry and the church, to fulfill their needs.
As part of the service Sunday night, an offering was collected for the Haiti mission. Pastor Mike Ellis explained that we’d already raised enough money to pay for the many ministry objectives of the trip. Anything we raised on Sunday, he explained, would go with the other funds children and others in our church had been collecting for the past several months and would be used to do other unplanned things to bless the people of Montrouis.
It would have been easy for folks to chip in a dollar or two and go home, content that they’d done enough. But this church that sometimes has trouble making ends meet — this ministry whose paid staff sometimes gives up paychecks so its bills can be paid, this group of people who have their own overwhelming financial hardships — contributed more than $1,000 to the ministry.
And a ring.
When the money was counted at the end of the service, we found a man’s steel ring in the offering plate. Etched on that ring was a cross — and, in a tiny inscription nearly too small for my weak eyes to decipher, the following:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
One of the church staff recognized the ring. It belonged to one of the young men who has been in the Victory Home program for a couple of months. It would have been the only thing he had to give.
My sacrifice of a week’s vacation and a portion of my annual income for this trip is meager in comparison.
We are truly grateful for all of the donations that have made this trip possible. Each of the participating churches has been exceedingly generous, and many people from outside those churches — more than I’m able to count — have donated money and supplies for the trip and for the ministry projects we’re undertaking.
But I am utterly humbled by this ring.
— R.E. Spears III