by Suzy Tom
In June 2016, my family and I were able to visit my sister-in-law, Michelle, who is serving as a long-term volunteer in Zambia. We got the opportunity to see first hand what Hands at Work is doing in several communities in Zambia and in South Africa. After coming back, we shared our experience with our church family, Christ Church in San Francisco. The Lord laid it upon my heart to find a way to continue to connect our church to Hands at Work and for us to be engaged in giving with thanksgiving.
We challenged the church with a donation drive for Mcheneke community in Malawi, which our church partners with Hands at Work to support. The Giving Jar concept was not a new idea, but it was something simple and visual that we could do together as a church. We acknowledged that some of our church members were already giving to Hands at Work but noted that sometimes, we could give online and not consider the significance of that offering. That was where I was. We were giving to Hands online, we were supporting Michelle, but I couldn't make my heart care about the children we were supporting. They were nothing more than faces on a poster or a video.
This summer, we were able to meet and connect with some children in Zambia and South Africa supported by Hands. Now, my family talks fondly about a boy named Shad (name has been changed). We laugh when we remember him running around, throwing an empty water bottle at the goats, with his shorts hanging halfway down his bottom. We thank God for that moment we shared with Shad and that we can continue to pray for him. We hoped that our church family would also have these heartfelt encounters with those in need, whether in Africa, San Francisco, or elsewhere, and would be thankful for them. In the meantime, we could start by being generous and thankful here in the city of San Francisco together.
For the entire month of October, we encouraged our church to come together and think about their blessings and about how their giving can overflow from the abundance the Lord gives us. For example, we suggested that if they were going to get a croissant, a latte, or a bubble drink, they might consider either giving that up and place the money they would have spent on that treat to put in the jar... OR, match it! We encouraged them to go ahead and treat themselves but to consider giving the amount that they spent on their treat, as if they were treating some child in Africa. If they were going out for a meal with some friends, they could put some money in the jar together, thanking God for the wonderful meal and for their blessed time with friends. “Let us not give out of guilt,” we told them, “but from thanksgiving in our hearts to the Lord who has given us so much. The challenge is not just to give money, but to grow in gratefulness and in generosity as a church. We love because the Lord first loves us. We give because He richly blesses us.”
We gave each family a Giving Jar and asked them to put money in the jar for the whole month of October. At the end of the month, they brought to church the money that they collected. Throughout the month, we also encouraged them to email stories about the Giving Jars or about being thankful.
At the end of the donation drive, we collected a total of $925.40! Here were a few stories that were shared:
- One day, a father and his three kids were planning to take the bus home. They were about 10 blocks away when the middle child suggested that they walk home instead and save the bus fare to put in the Giving Jar. Everyone agreed, except for the youngest (she whined all the way home).
- Someone found $8 on the street. He knew immediately what to do with the money!
- A couple, who lives in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, picks up carpoolers before heading into the city for work. They decided to put their Giving Jar in their car and have the carpoolers donate money to it, in the hopes that the riders would ask them questions about it.
We were so encouraged to hear how the Lord blessed and challenged our church family through the Giving Jars!