She could hardly move, the bent over elderly woman whose hip had thrust its way so out of joint that she needed a cane to walk. Even then she could only inch her way forward. It was offering time at the Rose of Sharon Church in Kabwe, Zambia; the band was playing as the singers told of Elijah and the coming of salvation and how Jehovah saves. The offering basket is not passed among the people in most African churches. Instead they stream forward to put their contributions in at the front of the church, and that’s the way it is at the Rose of Sharon Church.
There was a stream of people smartly stepping forward in two lines, one from each side of the still to be finished worship center with its dirt floor and mostly boarded windows and wide open doors on a wonderfully beautiful California-like day. All around her they came quickly, surrounding her as they passed her to put their offering in the basket and return to their seats, some moving in rhythm with the music, others just walking normally. She seemed to be in slow motion, almost stopped as the rest appeared to rush by her. You could see the determination in her: she was going to give to her God even if it meant she started first and finished last. Where she finished was not her concern; giving was.
I noticed her from the side of the room where I was sitting up near the front on a sofa, the seat of honor that I shared with my friend Boston Mwebela. What started out as peripheral vision soon filled the center of my attention. She did not have a paper bill in her hand, just a coin of some kind, a mite I thought, the widow’s mite, even though it turned out she wasn’t a widow. Slowly, slowly, slowly she made her way to the basket and put her precious coin in. What sacrifice! What determination! What worship! From her poverty she gave her wealth to the Lord who became poor to give His life to her.
I don’t think I’ve seen a more committed giver in all my life than that nameless and bent ancient servant of the Lord. Could I be as determined to give as she was? Could I give as much as she gave? Who among us could?
When I stood up to speak I saw her sitting with her husband on the end of the last row of the first section of seats and when I exited I reached out and shook her husband’s hand and took her hand for just a moment. I had no time to talk with her, just a second to touch a hand that had been touched in such a special way by our Savior’s hand, a hand of gratitude, of sacrifice, of thankfulness.
If only I had such a hand.