Cynicism hisses that there’s a futility in extending mercy. We hear the heartbreaking stories again and again, but is there ever any respite? What’s the point in being the hand of mercy when evil is so strong, and there are so many needs closer to home?
Just when the hopelessness threatens to paralyze us, we’re confronted with what God has done through the Easter Sacrificial Offering over the past 30 years.
Consider Adel, who attended vocational training in Egypt as a result of Tenth’s sacrificial giving. On the last night of the course, Adel told his fellow trainees, “Before coming to the course, I used to sell different kinds of wine and drugs to the youth in my village, dig for antiques, and live a sinful life. I even brought some drugs with me, and I took drugs on the first day of the course. In the first spiritual meeting, something happened in my heart and I felt as if God was talking to me, and I decided to accept him in my life. I also phoned my wife and told her to throw away all the drugs in my home, and I told her that I had decided to live in a different way.” As a result of the vocational training he received, Adel works in a barber shop and, to his family’s delight, his life has changed dramatically.
Similarly, year by year we hear amazing news from the Tenth-funded vocational program for previously-trafficked women in Ghana: all the women clearly confess Christ. To the cynical heart, it almost sounds too good to be true. The women in the program have their lives turned around, meet Christ, and are able to provide for their families as a result of a mere $1,000 investment per woman on our part. Rev. Sachie, who leads the program, has countless stories of the women who have been freed to be witnesses to their own villages, returning with the hope of Christ and the ability to make an impact in their communities through their baking and soap-making businesses. You can see it in the photos of the beaming women at their graduation ceremony.
Since the founding of the church at Antioch, congregations around the world have regularly taken relief offerings to support Christians and mercy ministries in other parts of the world. This kind of giving profoundly demonstrates the unity of Christ’s body. It also provides an appropriate—if inadequate—response to the sacrificial mercy that Christ has shown each of us. The church universal proclaims this gospel not only in word, but also in deed.
Tenth has participated in this two-thousand-year-old tradition of giving by taking an Easter Sacrificial Offering (ESO). In fact, the annual Easter offering at Tenth seems to predate any of our living memories. Our best guess is that the offering was initially held in 1949. That year, the PCUSA (Tenth’s denomination at the time) began participating in the “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering. This was an interdenominational response to the horrors of World War II. On March 18, 1951, Tenth’s bulletin included this: “The SACRIFICIAL OFFERING, for the evangelical Christians in other lands who are suffering from war’s devastation, will be received next Sunday, March 25.” Dr. Bruce McDowell recalls Fred and Lena Garibotti and Gene and Martha Betts as being particularly instrumental in continuing it over the years at Tenth. Punctilious Presbyterians that they were, the congregation established a committee to solicit and select projects to support through this offering.
The ESO provides a remarkable window into the last 30 years of world history. The first offering went toward famine relief in sub-Saharan Africa and aid to refugees from the Afghan-Soviet and the Ugandan civil wars. In the 1980’s, the ESO supported AIDs patients in Philadelphia and post-apartheid reconciliation efforts in South Africa. In 1990, Tenth provided Bibles and medicine to Romania following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Over the past 20 years, the ESO has raised more than $2 million for these and other similar projects. In many cases, these have not simply been one-off “interventions.” Instead, ESO has allowed Tenth to cultivate and deepen long-term relationships.
So when cynicism hisses in your ear, remember this. God is effective in our ineffectiveness. God is faithful in our faithlessness. We ask that you look to the past to see how God has used Tenth to build his Kingdom, and look forward to see how God might use your gifts as you offer them, according to your ability.
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