Bloom Where You’re Planted -Eddie Daniels Story, Part Four

Eddie and his fellow prisoners on Robben Island found great strength in each other. They also had an uncanny nack for making a “boon” of very difficult situations. They made the best of their time by using it wisely. This helped them to thrive when many others would likely wither away and die.
After nearly two years without seeing the outside world, the political prisoners were allowed to go to the quarry and work. Freed from the cramped spaces of their cell and prison yard, they finally got outdoors. Initially, they were allowed to walk to the quarry. Eddie loved the walks because he could see Cape Town and Table Mountain. He could listen to the squawk of seagulls. He smelled the salty breeze blowing in from the ocean. The gentle humidity from the cool bay blew across his face.

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It didn’t take long for the guards to become concerned that the political prisoners may incite a riot if the other prisoners were allowed to see them. Remember, revolutionary leaders such as Mandela and the leaders of other political and quasi-military groups were among their number. When the guards became concerned, Eddie and company were no longer allowed to walk to the quarry. They were forced to ride in a covered “laurie,” or truck, so that they couldn’t be seen.
This was another hardship, but soon the men realized this truck also carried other groups of prisoners around the island. They began writing notes on small scraps of paper and hiding them in the infrastructure of the covered laurie. Because the guards prevented anyone from seeing them, the men were also hidden from the guards. Soon, other groups of prisoners discovered the notes and began sending secret messages back.
With this hidden communication, when conditions were bad, they were able to organize hunger and work strikes throughout the entire island. The guards were perplexed by such well organized activities and sensed they were being orchestrated by the political prisoners. Eddie beamed with a sly smile while recounting these events. He and his comrades found a way to turn an attempt to conceal them from the other prisoners into a way to communicate with their friends and even people on the mainland.
The quarry where they worked was no place for the faint of heart. Here, Eddie and his friends were exposed to direct sun for hours and inhaled toxic lime dust. Many developed lung diseases. Some can no longer shed tears because the lime set-up like concrete in their tear ducts. In this cruel environment, they made strides towards bettering themselves and each other.

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Eddie described how being in the quarry allowed the prisoners to communicate more easily. He said that if he was working on one section of rock, and someone he wanted to talk to was working on the other end of the quarry, he could chip a little here and a little there, until he chipped all the way over to the person he wanted to talk to.
In the quarry, with freedom to move and converse, the men established a system of educating themselves. Many of those who were imprisoned were doctors, lawyers and academics. They had a motto. “Each one teach one,” Eddie said.
There were many men who had degrees and held teaching positions in universities before they were arrested. Eddie was paired with some of these instructors to take classes while working in the quarry. He earned two college degrees while in prison.
While receiving his own education, he was partnered with men who couldn’t read and taught them how. In this way, the group learned and grew together. The bonds they formed forged a comraderie few of us may ever know. The bonds were so strong, relationships so tight, that they never lost touch with each other.
Eddie said he didn’t regret a day he spent on Robben Island. When offered a chance to be discharged by signing an agreement to not attack the government, he refused. He said he refused on principle. I wonder if he refused, at least in part, because to leave meant leaving his friends.
Who would you be willing to be imprisoned for? Why would you go through that for them? Do they know you feel that strongly about your relationship?

Bloom Where You’re Planted-Eddie Daniels Story, Part Three

Eddie calls his time on Robben Island a “boon time,” whereas most would consider imprisonment and forced labor a “bust.” Eddie uses a different measure of life than most of us to justify that he was indeed lucky for his time spent on Robben Island. For him, he was lucky because of who he was with, what he did with his time and what he learned from his experience.
Eddie was imprisoned with other political prisoners, in isolation from all others because they were considered the biggest threat to the South African state. They were by no means the first political prisoners on that island. According to information at the dock, the first known political prisoners held on Robben Island were Autshumato, a native who spoke Dutch, and two khoikhoi men who were sent there in 1658. So, by the time Eddie arrived, Robben Island had a history of holding political prisoners spanning more than 300 years.
For the first couple of years, prisoners weren’t allowed to leave their cells and prison yard. This meant they spent all of their time completely cut-off from the outside world. They were surrounded by high walls, allowing no one to see in or out.

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To give you an idea of how small their cells were, I measured the cell in paces. Putting heal to toe together, I paced cell dimensions as 6 by 7 paces.  When German Shepherd dogs were brought in to monitor the inmates and to track attempted escapees, their kennels were significantly larger than the cells of the prisoners.

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This picture, taken near Eddie's cell, shows how far away he was from many of the other prisoners.

Eddie’s cell was at the far end of the hallway. This added to his feeling of isolation. Mandela’s cell, on the other hand, was closer to the entrance of the prison yard.
Mandela was only one of the great men Eddie spent his time with. Because all were political prisoners, they had much in common. They came from different religious, education and economic backgrounds, but all were there for the same reason-fighting against apartheid.

One of the men Eddie said was, “truly inspiring,” is Johnson Mlambo. On one occasion, Mlambo was accused by a guard for throwing his soup on him, staining the guard’s uniform. For this alleged offense, he was sentenced to six lashes.
When Mlambo was taken out of the company of the other prisoners, they knew he was being punished. All of them sat in the prison yard, smashing their stones with hammers, as they did every day. Each time the door to the yard opened, or someone walked past, they looked to see if it was Mlambo.
After some time he returned, bloodied from the six lashings he had received. Considering that one lash is enough to open skin and make one bleed, six lashes would be too much for most to bear. As he walked in, the prisoners watched his every move. The guards also watched, hoping to see some sign of weakness. Any indication of pain would give the guards some sense of accomplishment in knowing they had beaten him down.
Mlambo was an educated man and a gentlemen. He always carried himself with dignity. Without a wince or grimmace, he walked the same exact path he did every day. He sat in the same place and silently began chipping away at the stones.
Together they sat. Together they continued in silence. Together they faithfully worked at their demeaning task. Together.
Eddie said that all of the men were heartened by Mlambo’s courage and strength. They found new purpose in what they were doing. By going about his business, as though it were every other day, Mlambo displayed a spirit that refused to be crushed by an oppressor. Based upon this and similar experiences, one could argue they experienced more freedom in prison than they had known in public.
Eddie was blessed because of who he was with on Robben Island. He was surround by men, such as Mandela and Mlambo, whose spirit could not be crushed. He found a purpose in demeaning labor because he was working with men he admired and loved. There was a great sense of community and meaning in what they were doing.
What about you? Who have you surrounded yourself with? Are the people in your life lifting you up or dragging you down? Why?

Bloom Where You’re Planted-The Eddie Daniels Story, Part Two

Eddie Daniels knew what consequences awaited those who resisted the apartheid government of South Africa.  In the 1960’s, a “colored person” (as he was referred to under the racial classification system) could sit in jail for six months simply for being found in the wrong part of town at the wrong time of day. Regardless, he attended hundreds of rallies and gatherings in opposition to the government. No matter the time or place or if he was allowed to be there.
For his defiant insistence to meet with co-conspiritors, he was banned from communicating with others for five years. He kept meeting with them despite the ban. Because of the hopelessness of the situation, he grew tired of working through political process to change the political system. Tired of waiting on the system to be changed, he came to the conclusion that more direct methods, much more dangerous, were necessary.
Eddie and others became convinced that the only way they could hope to up-end apartheid was by disrupting the everyday life of fellow South Africans by sabatoge. They began planting bombs on infrastructure. Focusing on pylons, railroad communication towers and a radio tower, they set about to inconvenience the public to the point that those who had political sway would see to a change in government. Even though they took great care not to harm people, this change in tactics brought their campaign from defiance to outright attack.
Eddie’s career as a sabateur was short.  In his few years as a sabateur, he managed to destroy some of his targets. Many of his bombs never detonated. He nearly managed to accidentally nearly blow himself up (admitting in his book that if he had set his charges properly, he would have died). On one occassion, he carelessly discharged an explosive in his developing studio. In 1964, he was arrested, interrogated and convicted of sabatoge-a sentence that carried the death penalty.
When asked why he didn’t get the death penalty, whilest many others did for the same crime, he said, “I guess I was lucky.” Lucky? Really?!? Spending fourteen and a half years of your life on Robben Island is “lucky”?
How is months spent with 23 hours of solitary confinement a day, allowed only one hour of exercise in the courtyard lucky? What is lucky about being forced to work in a quarry, doing meaningless work of crushing large pieces of slate or limestone into gravel?

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Mr. Daniels explains a picture of the prisoners, such as himself and Nelson Mandela, crushing stone into gravel.

How does one come to the conclusion that spending the bulk of their adult life-a time when most others are raising a family and building a career is “lucky.”
Eddie used a different measure of life spent on Robben Island than most of us to justify his assertion that he was indeed lucky for his time spent there. For him, he was lucky because of who he was with, what he did with his time and what he learned from his experience. How do you measure your life?
This blog is the second of a series on post-apartheid South Africa. If you would like to be notified of future blogs, please subscribe. Thank-you.

Bloom Where You’re Planted-The Eddie Daniels Story, Part One

Today, I was priveleged to visit one of the most unique environments in the world. Before travelling to Cape Town, I had no idea that this area boasts its own floral kingdom, with over 2,200 species of flowers. Considering there are only six floral kingdoms in the entire world, most spanning multiple continents, this place is truly unique.
We drove to the top of Signal Mountain, where many native species still thrive. The natives, in their stunning diversity, are both great and small. The Yellowwood Tree is the largest native tree. Towering above all other native plants, it takes hundreds of years to fully mature and can live for thousands of years. The Protea flower, in contrast, lends the area a resilient beauty, retaining her beauty for over a month in a vase.
Given the area’s human history, it’s environment is even more unique. One of the places we visited was the legendary Company Gardens (originally planted by the Dutch East India Trading Company to resupply ships as they sailed to and from Europe). In the garden, species from all over the world are still being cultivated and grown.
In the company gardens, many exotic and native plants thrive together.
There were Bird of Paradise (native) flowers as I’ve never seen before.

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There were roses (imported) of every color.

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Under the eucalyptus trees (imported from the east) and aloe trees (native), (native) Cala lilies bloomed.

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Unique as the flowers were, none were more intriguing than a man I met on the ferry ride to Robben Island. As a part of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program, I was blessed to spend much of the day with Eddie Daniels. Eddie spent fifteen years of his life imprisoned on the island, with almost all of his sentence served alongside Nelson Mandella.
When I saw that Eddie was sporting a Michigan State University hat, I had to sit next to him to take a selfie. We then began a conversation about where we were from. What I learned from Eddie wasn’t how different he is from me. But how similar our desires are.

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Eddie only had about an eighth grade education when he went into the workforce, as did many people who were born in 1928. He started working in print shops and factories, but wanted to be a whaler. A fisherman myself (and fan of Deadliest Catch), I was much interested by his eight month stint on a commercial fishing troller. He signed-on for the sole purpose of eventually being hired by a whaling vessel.
Eddie only spent three months on a whaler. He was still able to tell me much about size limits, how a whale was hunted and how they were processed upon capture. Regardless of one’s personal view of the whaling industry, I found we had a love for fishing in common. As a fisherman, you can’t get any bigger than whaling. Yes, we have fishing in common, but he had taken it to a much different level than I ever have.
After fishing, Eddie went to work in the diamond mines and then returned to the printing industry. I remember what it’s like to go from job to job as a young man, to provide for yourself and family. We had this in common.
Where our stories diverge, however, is where his politcal involvement became an embodiment of the struggle he and fellow South Africans went through to obtain freedom from apartheid.
Apartheid was the government’s racial segregation of people based upon the color of their skin. People were forced to move into certain communities because of their race. They were told what occupation they could or couldn’t do based upon the darkness of their complexion.
This systematic segregation was enshrined by law in 1948. It blows my mind this happened right after the fall of the Nazi regime in World War II!
Eddie was very active politically. He attended hundreds of anti-government rallies. While working and attending rallies, he said he, “bombed things along the way.” He talked about planning and carrying-out bombings as nonchallantly as you or I would say, “I had a cheeseburger.”
By some, he is lauded as a freedom fighter. Others would label him a terrorist. What would you call him?
Before you decide if Eddie is a freedom fighter or terrorist, consider what you would do if you had known freedom for nearly 20 years, before your world was taken from you because of the color of your skin. What would you call him if it was your mother, father or child who was hurt by a bomb planted by the African Resistance Movement? Can you know for certain how you would “bloom,” had your world been turned upside-down by a governmental edict?
This blog is the first of a series on post-apartheid South Africa. If you would like to be notified of future blogs, please subscribe. Thank-you.

Turtle Rescue

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a hapless turtle. She apparently hadn’t considered the difficulty of scaling the curb on the other side of the road she decided to cross. In a second, I had to make a decision.

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My choices were simple:
1. Ignore the gentle tug on my heartstrings, urging me to intervene and just keep on driving.
2. Risk my life for her life by pulling to the side of the road and picking her up to send her safely on her way.
Now, it really wasn’t that dangerous. At least not for me. We were in the entrance to a cul-de-sac, after all.
Of course you know what I decided. But before we get into the details of the rescue, there are some things you need to know about a proper turtle rescue. Some simple facts that are good to know.
According to a herpetologist, whenever you decide to try to rescue a turtle, it’s important to make sure you put it back on the ground facing the same direction it was going. Apparently, they can be easily confused if you put them down facing another direction. You certainly don’t want to confuse a turtle any more than necessary during a rescue. It’s traumatic enough.
Another thing you need to know about turtles being rescued is that they don’t like being rescued. As a matter of fact, being rescued is a terrifying experience for turtles. Even the cute Eastern Box Turtle I wanted to rescue was scared.
When I tried to pick-up the turtle, she tried to run away. Turtles are slow. So, try as hard as she did to run away, she was caught.

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When I gently grasped her by the edges of her shell, she tried to claw me. Repeatedly. And then she tried to run or swim away again. It was hard for her to go anywhere because she was suspended in mid-air.
I tried to calm her down. She would have none of it. I tried talking softly to her, but it wouldn’t work.
Despite her resistence, I quickly and carefully carried her across the road. Making sure she was pointing in the same direction I first discovered her, I placed her on the ground. I even went so far as to take her to a beautiful pond complete with a fountain. It was the closest to turtle heaven I could imagine.
This turtle rescue went off without a hitch, despite the reluctance and even protest of the turtle I rescued. It was the best possible thing that could’ve happened to the turtle. She didn’t think so at the time.

Pulling away from the turtle rescue, I couldn’t help but wonder how often we are the turtle. How often does God rescue us from danger, place us in a pleasant place, and we not appreciate it? How often do we resist His influence even though He has nothing but our best interest at heart?
Jesus said, upon His entrance into Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37b) Thankfully for us, Jesus came into Jerusalem not to cast His people off, but rather to gather them to Himself. He went much further than to cross the road, He went all the way to the cross.
Not sure if it’s morning or still late at night as I write this somewhere over the Atlantic, but either way, the following passage is a great daily reminder of God’s care and concern, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'” (Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV)

To, “An Atheist User said this…” A Kind Response

An atheist user of ________.net said this:

“Ironic thing; The Bible has no credibility whatsoever, it’s nothing but a useless piece of text used to spread mass ignorance amongst the world.

Mal. 3:6. For I am the Lord; I change not. Num. 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. (Ezek. 24:14; James 1:17)
Ex. 32:14. And the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people. (Gen. 6:6; Jonah 3:10; Sam. 2:30-31; II Kings 20:1-6; Num. 16:20-35)

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. (Luke 2:14; Acts 10:36)
Matt. 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Matt. 10:35-37; Luke 22:36)

Matt. 5:22 Whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire.
Matt. 23:17 (Jesus said) Ye fools and blind.

*cough.. bipolar much?… cough*”

BookTalk-Logo-SMALL-Color-FilteredLess than twenty-four hours after a national radio interview regarding On Our origins was uploaded to the world wide web, one of my students emailed me a post directed against our shared beliefs (listen to interview here). The atheist’s attack, which I was asked to respond to, (above) said some things I most certainly take issue with.
There are many views of the Bible throughout Christianity. Some say the Bible contains the Word of God, others that it is the Word of God. Some view it as error-free. Others feel the need to sift through it to discover the heart of what God intended in differing portions. Regardless of how we approach it, the Bible is a significant part of the foundation of Christian faith. Through the Bible, God reveals Himself, His Son, His Spirit and makes His love known to humanity.
One need read no further than the previous sentence to see that I have a very high regard for the Bible. It bothers me when others call me ignorant because of my belief. It also bothers me when someone says disparaging things about my God.
But instead of reacting with angst and hate, I’d rather use this as an opportunity to reflect on a few things:
1. How Christians should treat those who don’t agree with them.
2. The importance of making a positive case for the Bible and God of the Bible.
3. Framing attacks on faith as opportunities for witness and building understanding.
It would be too easy for me to react to those with whom I disagree sarcastically. We have been raised in a culture that teaches if you think you are right, go ahead and treat others with contempt. This isn’t how we are called to witness.
I’ve heard Christians reference Jesus overturning tables in the Temple and speaking tersely to the Pharisees as justification for being less than charitable to those with whom they disagree. In my tradition, there are too many who fancy themselves to be Martin Luther, adopt his tenor and tone, but fail to love people as he most certainly loved his. I wish that there were more who embodied Christ’s love and followed in Luther’s faithful proclamation; but too often Christians who speak in a disrespectful manner come off to outsiders as self-justified hypocrites.
I Peter 3:15 is often quoted in our circles, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” But this is only a portion of the verse. The verse ends, “yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Unfortunately, many have good reason to take offense at the Church because Peter’s admonition is oft only half-heartedly followed.
The same sentiments that can make us react with hate can tempt us to defend our faith in a way that is negative instead of positive. In other words, too often our goal is simply to prove the other person wrong. The Gospel is much better served when Christians teach what is right about our faith.
The meta-narrative of the Bible tells the story of a loving Heavenly Father that fills His creation and people with life. Instead of reacting to someone by trying to disprove evolution, why not tell the story of creation? Then one is free to explore topics as diverse as cosmology, geology and biology in a way that describes the inter-connectedness of all forms of light and life instead of arguing about scientific minutia.
A positive case for Christian morality can be made by simple reference to the greatest commandments of Christ in Matthew 22. God’s law always encourages people to put others first by serving them and meeting their needs. Society needs citizens who put others first. Instead of arguing over a neutral basis of human morality, why not explore the selfless and sacrificial nature of God’s love that brings honor, respect and value to all life? Instead of berating and belittling our outspoken critics, why not exalt people who exemplify the Christian ethos such as Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol?
Kent and Nancy are the medical workers who contracted Ebola. They literally put their lives on the line to bring healing to others. Now that they have contracted Ebola, they have been infected with the disease they came to help cure.
This gives us a timely and powerful picture of what Jesus did for all. When Christ took human flesh upon Himself, He was “infected” with sin and died on the cross. But through His death and resurrection we have now been healed. Their actions embody Christ’s love and the Christian ethos.
We pray for Dr. Brantly’s healing. We commend him for taking such risks for the sake of others. Nobody can deny his courage, love and sacrifice. When defending the faith, we should focus our attention on what’s praiseworthy to make a positive case for faith.
Only after we show people the respect they deserve will they listen. We must teach in a way that doesn’t seek only to prove someone wrong. We must show them how life, love and reason resound throughout the scriptures and how scriptural principles work in real life.
The best witness is seasoned with love and respect. It’s salted with wisdom that comes from knowing God in His Word. With this recipe we can begin to debunk much of the ignorance in the world that passes as understanding.
The same atheist who blasted the Bible as riddled with contradictions only knew the Bible well enough to copy-and-paste the same contradictions that have been bouncing around the internet since its inception. Were he to examine the scriptures with an open mind, he may begin to understand that God and His love don’t have to change in order to make sense of most of his supposed contradictions. It is his ignorance that is on display, not God’s purportedly bi-polar nature.
Here are some of the passages that supposedly contradict each other from the post:
Mal. 3:6. For I am the Lord; I change not. Num. 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. (Ezek. 24:14; James 1:17)
Ex. 32:14. And the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people. (Gen. 6:6; Jonah 3:10; Sam. 2:30-31; II Kings 20:1-6; Num. 16:20-35)
In citing these scriptures, the skeptic fails to acknowledge the context of each passage. They are drawn from diverse passages with entirely different circumstances. To rebuff this misuse of scripture, one can use the illustration of a parent who on one day disciplines her child and on the next may commend the same child.
Does a loving parent “change” every time she tells her child something different? The same mother who loves her child may on one day tell her child to clean his room because it’s a mess. The very next day, this same parent may tell her child they don’t need to clean their room because it is already clean.
I suppose this mother has somehow changed? I think not. The parent has said contradicting things on different days because the condition of the room changed.
The atheist also took issue with Jesus telling the disciples He didn’t come to earth to bring peace to the world but a sword in Matthew 10:34, whilst telling the same disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…” Christ has brought peace to earth by waging war against sin, satan and the world. These oppose God’s way of life and love.
In a fallen world, where good and bad are realities, peace only comes through conflict. This battle climaxed when Christ insisted on doing what was right and good to the point that it literally cost Him His own life on the cross. When Christians follow their Lord, they bring peace through conflict.
Christians daily battle against sin, temptation and evil at work in the world. Fighting disease (like Brantly and Writebol) brings peace in the form of healing. Battling dysfunction in families (counselors and Christian therapists) restores relationships. When people fail to resist evil, life dissolves into chaos. When we fight for what’s right, Christ’s love at work in the world through faith brings us peace.
Another supposed contradiction is found in Matthew’s gospel. Matt. 5:22, “Whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hellfire.” Matt. 23:17, (Jesus said) “Ye fools and blind.” Here, we do well to consider who is right to sit in the judgment seat and why.
In Matthew five, Jesus warns his listeners that words spoken in hate are murder. In anger, it is easy to condemn someone, but fallible human beings don’t have the authority to judge each other. This judgment is God’s prerogative.
In Matthew 23, Jesus (who is God) condemns those who presumptuously sit in judgment over others. He is right to condemn those who sin because they are trying to sit in God’s seat of judgment. When Christ judges, He is exercising the right He has been given by His Father. So again, there is no contradiction here.
When an atheist seeks to condemn God, they judge a god they have imagined. Their god is far less than the God of the Bible. We have nothing to fear in their attacks.
A well-educated Christian may have nothing to fear in their attacks, but many others aren’t equipped to deal with them. We, therefore, are called to meet them where they are. Christians do well to exemplify Christ by speaking the truth with gentleness and respect. In this way, even if others don’t hear a word we say, they will see Christ in how we react to them.

Rich Redefined

What makes one rich? Sunday, I challenged our confirmands with a new definition of riches. St. Paul wrote, “In [Christ] you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.” (I Corinthians 1:5-6 ESV)
What does St. Paul mean when he says Christians are made rich? What do you think makes a person rich? If we are to appreciate the gift of God’s riches in Christ, Jesus’ disciples must learn to think of riches more like God than the people around us.
To help rethink what it means to be rich, I read this story to our class. Consider it a modern parable. Feel free to share if this story is a blessing to you.
The Rich Family in Church

by Eddie Ogan
“I’ll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was like to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money. By 1946, my older sisters were married, and my brothers had left home.
A month before Easter, the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.
When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn’t listen to the radio, we’d save money on that month’s electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us baby sat for everyone we could. For 15 cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to make three potholders to sell for $1. We made $20 on potholders.
That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we’d sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in our church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the Pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.
The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn’t care that we wouldn’t have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.
We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn’t own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn’t seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet, but we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. That was us. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt so rich.
When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us girls put in a $20. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch, Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes!
Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn’t say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 bill, and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn’t talk, but instead, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them... (Matthew 18:1-2 ESV)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them…
(Matthew 18:1-2 ESV)

We kids had had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn’t have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the fork or the spoon that night. We had two knives which we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn’t have a lot of things that other people had, but I’d never thought we were poor. That Easter Day I found out we were poor. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor.
I didn’t like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed that I didn’t want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew we were poor. I decided I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time.
We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn’t know. We’d never known we were poor.
We didn’t want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn’t talk on the way. Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they need money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, ‘Can’t we all sacrifice to help these poor people?’

Some of the hundreds of children served by 4Kenya'sKids. Many of these are total orphans. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40 ESV)

Some of the hundreds of children served by 4Kenya’sKids. Many of these are total orphans. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:40 ESV)

We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering plate. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn’t expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, “You must have some rich people in this church.”
Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that ‘little over $100.’ We were the rich family in the church! The missionary said so…”