Thursday, December 29, 2011

Easier to Give or to Receive?

As a cross-cultural servant, I feel comfortable being a giver.  I came to the Middle East to share, to give, and to serve, but often God turns things around and puts me in the position of receiving.  I don’t quite know how to handle receiving from those we came to serve. It doesn’t feel as natural to me, but I’m learning.

Last weekend I received a gift that brought tears to my eyes.  Our small fellowship had a party to share the Christmas message with friends.  We planned games, food, and a program.  Before the party started, I was tired from all the preparation and feeling a bit anxious inside. Would any of our mslm friends come?

The doorbell rang, and it was two brothers from our old church: Serdar and Sercan. They had come to encourage and support us in our new work. They walked in the door and handed a gift to my husband and me: a beautiful copper plaque with Psalm 23 engraved in the center, embellished with flowers around the edges. Psalm 23 has special meaning for me, and when I saw that plaque, my heart flooded with humbling gratitude. Later I showed it to other guests, who were able to read David’s words for the very first time in their lives.  

God answered our prayer and gave us a wonderful celebration. Our guests enjoyed the games. We sang carols together, read the Christmas story, and shared a 5 minute message. After everyone left, Sercan stayed behind to tell us how happy he was about what we are doing. I looked at the plaque again and admired its beauty: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” I was touched by the love and support of these two simple Turkish brothers.

I received other gifts from national friends:

A beautifully decorated cake that a woman made for our party. She along came with a friend, and I met her for the first time when she walked in our door with the cake.

A faux pearl necklace and the most elegant cake serving set I’ve ever seen.  My Turkish sister gave me these and brought gifts for my husband and children as well. She has given or lent me countless items over the years.

A gift becomes more precious when you suspect that the giver has fewer resources than you do. It is humbling to receive it. I’m challenged by the generosity of Turks; I think I’ve received from them proportionally far more than I’ve given. I also think that putting myself in a position to receive spiritual encouragement and material resources from Turks changes our relationship. It puts me in a position of depending and learning, and I suspect it makes them more open to receiving from me as well. Whether that’s true or not, I accept their gifts as special graces, signs of God’s great love for me.

Have you received gifts or encouragement from the nationals where you live?  Do you feel more comfortable giving or receiving?


Linda said...

God was so COOL to prompt the brothers to bring you a gift you could show to others--and so they could read Psalm 23 for the first time ever! He's so good at arranging such things.

It's definitely harder for me to receive than to give. Here's a link to one of my blog posts about that:

I've been praying for you throughout this very busy season. Thanks for letting us know how God has been answering those prayers.

Be of good cheer,

Shanda said...

I think I have kept almost every gift. I have things hanging on walls and sitting around that my husband doesn't like and some he even dislikes. But they are all memories of someone who cared!

OliveTree said...

Linda, your link was a great story of receiving. Wow, I've never been in a situation quite like that. Your story reminds me of a time in El Salvador, at a small town church when a woman pressed a crumpled dollar bill into my hand. It was so hard to take from her, but I did it.

us5 said...

"...i accept their gifts as special graces..." what a lovely phrase! a friend at church gave me a Christmas card last week, painstakingly written in English, and full of sweet encouragement. i was so blessed...and humbled by this 'special grace.'

Kris Thede said...

Yes it can be hard..Dec. 31 we received 2 gifts of fresh beef from neighbors and Jan. 1st two bowls of traditional pumpkin soup from neighbors. Somehow the plate of cookies and treats we gave don't seem to add up. But when far from family and friends and celebrations like we were raised it is nice to feel part of the community and be encouraged. Happy New Year 2012!

OliveTree said...

I know just what you mean, Kris, about the plate of cookies not adding up. Have felt that way so often myself.