I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say they didn’t like giving money to overseas missions, because, “How do we know the money gets there?” Here’s how I know.
When I was a child in Sunday School, our mission offerings went to the African nation of Madagascar. Kids today have heard about Madagascar because there have been some really funny animated movies made about it; you know, the one with the I Like to Move It, Move It song. But I remember Madagascar because there was always a big map in my early Sunday school rooms, and the island nation of Madagascar was highlighted. I could find Madagascar on a map before I knew where Wisconsin was located. Each week we would bring our nickels and dimes and quarters for the Sunday School offering, and our teachers would tell us how those offerings went to help the poor children of Madagascar. It was for food to feed them, for missionaries to tell them about Jesus, and for teachers and books so those children could go to school. I was inspired by that, and it felt good about being a part of something big like that way over on the other side of the world.
Fast forward four decades. I’m not five years old any more, but in the second part of this story I am forty-five. I was at a missions conference, and one of the speakers was a pastor from Madagascar. His speech was about the tremendous growth of the church in Madagascar over the last several years. He told about how missionaries and teachers from the United States came to Madagascar with the Gospel of Jesus, and how there are now thousands of churches and millions of Christians in that small nation.
This man was about my age, so I was very interested in his message. I talked to him later in the conference. I told him about our Sunday School’s focus on Madagascar missions all those years ago, and how we especially heard about the Christian schools there. He said he went to one of those schools and that was where he heard about Jesus. He described how happy he was to be freed from his old tribal religion that was filled with fear and hopelessness. His whole tribe was converted, and because of that, and the many other changes brought by the missionaries, life is much better in his village. It was a joy to talk to him, and to realize that when I was a child in Minnesota, faithfully bringing my Sunday School offerings, he was a child in Madagascar learning about Jesus because of those offerings And now, back in the United States, our church conference was being blessed by his powerful story and teaching.
I look forward to many conversations like that in heaven where we will have plenty of time to meet all kinds of people. My present congregation helps support a congregation, orphanage, and school in Haiti. The leader of that ministry is Pastor Widelson, who I met when he visited our congregation last year. Sometime here on earth, or more likely in heaven, I might have a conversation with someone from Haiti, and Pastor Widelson’s name will come up. They will say, “He was our pastor,” and I will say, “Yes, I met him when he was at our church in Hanover.” And they might say, “O yes, St. Paul’s in Hanover. We heard much about your congregation. You helped us, and because of that help I had a place to live after my parents died, and I received an education, and I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Thank you. You helped me have a good life.”
I think this is at least a part of what Jesus meant when in Matthew chapter six when he talked about storing up for ourselves treasures not on earth, but in heaven. What better treasure could there be than a life made better here on earth, and a soul in heaven forever?
Matthew 6:19-21 — (Jesus said), “ “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 28:18-20 — Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
O God of all the nations of the earth, remember the multitudes who, though created in thine image, they have not known thee, nor the dying of thy Son their Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that by the prayers and labors of thy holy church they may be delivered from all superstition and unbelief and brought to worship thee; through him who thou hast sent to be the resurrection and the life to all men, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Francis Xavier, Missionary to India, Japan, and Borneo (1506-1552)