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An empty offering

April 26, 2013

In Tanzania, the offering is a very important part of the service. Most of the churches survive on very little and often times designate second (and even third) offerings for specific purchases. The process of collecting the offering looks quite different than in America (at least for the churches I’ve attended). A basket is placed at the front of the room and everyone makes their way forward. Whether folks have an offering to present or not, everyone makes the gesture of placing their offering in the basket. I’m actually not positive what the goal is, but I think the idea is that no one should feel embarrassed for not having anything to give.

At one of the services I attended, three offerings were taken. The first is almost always the “general” church collection. I didn’t catch what the second one was for, but the third was to help a man pay for his wedding (which is very, very common there). At the end of the church service everyone made their way outside and gathered around a pile of fruits and veggies. Then, the auction began! In this town pretty much everyone has a shamba (small farm) where they grow a variety of crops. When you don’t have money to give, you bring a bunch of bananas, a handful of peppers, or a bag of potatoes. The items are auctioned off to other congregation members and the money collected is added to the church offering. Fascinating, right? Since people tend to all grow the same things, often times no one really wants the auctioned items. That’s when folks — typically guests — are “nominated” and then given the items that are paid for by someone else. I was given a lovely pineapple that day!

After this service I started thinking about the offerings that we present — or more specifically, that I present. Not just the money we put in the plate as it passes, but what we give of ourselves during the week. The sacrifices we make. I too often feel like the person walking forward with nothing in her cupped hand, handing over an empty offering.

Anyone with me on this?

I too often look for an answer outside of Christ. I have had several recent conversations with friends who are struggling in one way or another. I feel like I have little to say in the way of advice or resources. Then,  the previous week’s sermon hit me like a pound of bricks. Specifically, this line, “When you make it Christ + anything you will always cling to the anything.” Powerful, right?

How’s that for a nice, heavy post on a Friday?! How about a picture that will make you giggle to lighten the mood a bit?

My favorite family — totally unaware that big sis is about to bop baby brother upside the head! 🙂

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