The best thing about being a pastor is the love. I love my people, every one of them. Last Sunday one of them moved me to tears with her beautiful offering. This woman was born in Burundi and many years ago fled that country, with her husband, as civil war clashes between the Hutus and Tutsis killed thousands and made life there intolerable. The family subsequently became "displaced persons", moving with many others as refugees to Rwanda, Congo, and finally Tanzania, before coming to the US a few years ago.
Many children were born along the way, as the family fled with babies on the back, babies in the womb, and belongings in their arms and on their heads. In all, the family has 14 children, some grown, some left behind in Africa, and some living with them here in Seattle. Financial stability has been outside their reach. Water turn-off notices and other unpayable bills have dogged them constantly. Working two jobs, the mother then returns home exhausted and tries to get enough rest before getting up with her children and then leaving for work again the next morning.
She is perhaps the bravest and most determined person I have ever met. On Sunday she raised her hand during the public prayer time, and came to the front of the sanctuary singing. In her best broken English, she thanked God that her sister has been brought to Canada, and that her children can go to school and get enough to eat now. She points to us and says, "I love". Then she points to the sky and says, "Jesus--I love.". Then she gets down on her knees, looking up to the sky, then back up, three times. She then brings a package to the Communion table and returns to her seat.
This was a Communion Sunday; the table was decked with the Bread and the Cup. What was in her package? Was it bread? I had no idea what to expect.
In a few moments it was time for the offering to be taken and the ushers brought the plates up and down the rows. I decided to open the package for everyone to see. I unwrapped it layer by layer--scarves, a tablecloth, and a small blanket--until I got to the core. Inside that well-padded package were three neatly folded, vibrantly colored long African cloths worn as skirts. One by one I unfolded them and draped them on the communion table. Under the cloths was an envelope bearing her name painstakingly printed. I coud see through the thin white envelope that this was no small sum.
Meanwhile, the congregation watched the whole story unfold. A most moving offering, testifying to this woman's unflinching belief that through it all-- through civil war, illness, genocide, and trudging from land to land while pregnant, God's providence and love was the only constant. And she loves God back.