Cultivating a generous spirit
By Kehinde Ojo
The origin of missions as emanating from Old Testament, or exclusive to the New Testament after the birth of the early Church, remains debatable. But let us accept that the itinerary and ministry of Elisha described in II Kings 4:8-17 fits the profile of a 21st century missionary. The question then is: Whose responsibility is it to care for Elisha? Who should God depend on to cater for missionaries?
Stories about Elijah and Elisha clearly suggest that they depended on structures enabled by God for their needs to be met. It is likely that, given their many exploits, people cared more for what they could get out of these prophets (missionaries) than what they could do to help them. Stereotypes abound today when we think of missionaries. Those who have foreign affiliations are expected to come with a lot of foreign money and “share” with the locals. Indigenous missionaries are sometimes perceived as beggars, and many churches are not very open to supporting missionaries who are not from their fold.
The family in this story is not given to stereotypes. The wealthy woman and her family took the initiative to make their resources available to Elisha by offering him a meal after a tiring journey. Inviting guests, or better put, strangers, to meals appeared to be the norm for this family, such that “no, thank you” was not an acceptable response.
The woman persuaded (subtly forced) him to eat! (verse 8a) Wow! She is giving away her meal and she was not ready to take no for an answer. What a generous spirit! Elisha soon became a regular guest in this home, whenever his itinerary allowed. The generous family built him a guest chalet, freely releasing their resources to help an itinerant minister. They were thorough in their efforts to provide him with a comfortable stay.
Every local church, irrespective of location, has been endowed by God with time, talent and treasures to cater for the needs of missionaries. Church leaders are encouraged to open up to the missional God, accepting whomever He sends to them. The service they render is primarily to God, for the benefit of the missionary and the mission agency.
The generosity of this family is born out of freewill and primacy of service. What amazing freedom they enjoyed in their giving. Similarly, individuals, families and churches should give in order to add value, rather than focusing on what they get back. It is important to note that this couple took the initiative to give, not because they were asked, but because they were always looking for opportunities to make a difference! This virtue can be emulated by all, regardless of culture or circumstances. Here are some ways churches in Africa can support missionaries today:
Create a mission fund: The starting point for engagement in mission by any local church is to create a missions budget and possibly appoint a committee to manage the resources.
Decide who will benefit: The committee, on behalf of the local church, should prayerfully choose a missionary or mission agency that needs any kind of support or act of kindness. It may involve the use of time, talent or treasure. Money is not the only need in the lives of missionaries. As a local church or individual families, you may want to make a visit, buy a gift, offer a service, provide counsel and/or encouragement, give a donation, pray or offer a meal.
Support on a regular basis: It is very challenging when missionaries are treated with disdain by churches in respect to support. You do not need to wait until you receive a letter of appeal to make a donation.
Challenge your members: The mission enterprise is not for select church members. It is everyone’s responsibility. Information can be made available to the congregation through the promotion of mission on a yearly basis. A Sunday service can be set aside each year to receive news about mission globally and inform the congregation about the different ways they can actively participate.
Kehinde Ojo is IFES Program Director for Indigenous Support Development.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org