A Few Plastic Chairs…
Our church, which meets in a living room, is always overflowing. Each Sunday in the sitting room of the Ndoto office, dozens of people gather to study the Word of God chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Each Sunday, we pull the couch and desk chairs and benches and anything we can find together to make seats for those who will come. We always run out seats and space. About a year ago, we started renting chairs from the community center. While this helped accommodate our church members, it was eating up our weekly offerings. A decision was made to rent fewer chairs and to squeeze people together to try to save some of the offering money to create a more sustainable set up.
Our church has a few adults, but it is largely a youth church. The majority of our people are between the ages of 12 and 28. Most of them are students. The few who work make only a few dollars a day. At the end of a service, the offering basket contains coins. Very rarely have I ever seen a bill of any sort. You see, the church (in general) in our context struggles with the “health and wealth gospel.” In our area, many pastors abuse their power and God-given calling and use the church to guilt, pressure, and extort money from people to make themselves rich. As a result, we try to show our people there is a different way.
On an average Sunday, we count the coins – the $.01, $.05, $.10, and the $.20 coins that land in the basket by the door as people leave. Usually there is between $1 and $2 in that basket. When we see the occasional $.40 coin, we know someone is giving generously. If there is ever a bill in the basket, we are overcome by the sacrifice that accompanies that gift. It is a widow’s mite situation, and we hope our people feel the freedom to give out of what they have with no shame.
After we paid for the chair rentals each week, we saved the rest of the money. Sometimes, that would mean saving $.50 and sometimes it would be $.10. We committed not to struggle with how much was saved but agreed to thank God regardless.
After a year of saving, we took the coins to the bank and exchanged them for bills. We were thrilled to find that over $100 USD had been saved! This meant we could buy some chairs for the church, and we could bless Pastor Michael and our two Sunday School teachers with a gift for their tireless work throughout the year. After blessing the three of them, we were able to buy 10 good chairs. Can you believe that? Ten good chairs. We opted to spend a little more on stronger plastic chairs so they will hopefully last a long time. We bought 10 chairs at $10 a piece! Tears welled up in my eyes at the supermarket. I felt the closeness of God, and I was so proud of our young people and our Pastor.
10 plastic chairs might not mean a lot to some. But, to us, it represents the provision of God for a church trying to share the true gospel in a dark place. For us, it shows that young people can be entrusted to help take care of their church. Those chairs are an example of those who are materially poor doing it themselves, little by little. It is the first step of many to come in a vision cast by the Pastor for a church that is growing faster than we can keep up with it.
I love those chairs. I feel a sense of protection over them – wanting them to be taken care of well. When Pastor Michael announced the purchase to the church, it was met by applause and cheers! I suspect our God in Heaven rejoiced then, too. He must be proud of His children. He is honored by their sacrifice. He is blessed by their commitment to Him. And from the outside, all because of a few plastic chairs.