As you read this, I am in Cincinnati on a mission trip with our parish youth group. Each year we travel somewhere to help spread God’s Gospel through our words and actions. We strive to put what we teach into meaningful experiences both for our teens and for those we help. This year we are working with the Franciscans for the Poor to minister to the poor and the homeless. I always feel so blessed when I am able to be a part of such a worthwhile experience.
But this year I almost wasn’t able to go. You see, going on a mission trip is not cheap. It costs money to go and help others. One thing my family has very little of is money. We are the working poor. We struggle most months just to make ends meet. We often rob Peter to pay Paul. Money is a constant worry. I had no idea how we would afford to finish paying for the trip. While my position as a chaperone was paid for, my two daughters who would also be going on the trip were not.
As the deadline to have our fees paid drew near and then passed without me being able to pay what I owed, I had no idea how I would find the remainder that was due. We had offered to work for others, we had participated in the fundraisers meant to help pay for the trip, and others had donated to our children’s accounts. Still, we didn’t have enough. I didn’t want people to know how much we were struggling and so I told no one. Instead, I worried. I cried I prayed that God would help me find the money to send my girls on this important trip.
Unbeknownst to me, our youth group leader put out a call to our parish family telling them that there were kids in need of help to pay their final dues for the trip. Immediately, several people stepped up to help out. I would receive a text that day not to worry about our balances – they were paid in full. I cried. God is so good.
Before we left for the trip, I had to figure out how to afford the incidentals of traveling. Not only did I need to feed three of us while on the road, but the group was planning other activities while we are in Cincinnati. I had to come up with the money to do these things as well. The task seemed daunting.
In preparation for this trip, we have done many things to save money and cut back. We have not turned on our air yet so that the extra money from the electric bill might help pay some of our way. In the heat of the Atlanta “almost summer” there have been days where this sacrifice was overwhelming. I also looked at our budget to see what I could skimp on and what I could possibly cut out. When I went shopping for my husband and kids that would be left at home, I made lists of the simplest meals I could find with ingredients that wouldn’t cost much to make. I stayed at home as much as I could through the week to conserve on gas. I gathered our loose change and converted it to bills. Even with all of this I knew it would be tight as illnesses and emergencies kept cropping up taking precious funds meant to spend on this trip.
You may be wondering why I am even writing about this. Maybe you think I am looking for a pat on the back. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be honest, I haven’t been sacrificing well. I have worried and cried, doubted and been angry. I have wondered if it is all worth it. I have asked God over and over again why it has to be so difficult to do something good for others and why does it seem as if those of us who have the least are often asked to give the most?
The truth is that sacrifice calls for us to give more than we think we can. It stretches us to the point where we think we will break and then asks us to stretch a little further. It is giving from our needs – all we have – and not from our surplus. Sacrifice is understanding that we may never be rewarded for the good deeds we do, but it is also trusting that when we give ourselves to God and to others, He in turn will provide for all our needs as well. Sacrifice is a gift we give freely and pray that others will receive grace from the gift we give.
Not everyone sacrifices in the same manner. Christ doesn’t call for us all to sacrifice equally. In fact, He calls us to be like the widow who gave her two mites. Others gave much more than she and yet Christ tells us she gave the most. She did so because she gave out of her needs and wants, not out of her surplus. Christ asks us to look at where we are in need and want and give from there. When we do, we truly sacrifice.
As I write this article, it is the day before we are supposed to leave. I still haven’t figured out all our financing, but I know it will be alright. God always provides for us and I have no doubt that in the last minutes He will provide the way for me to insure we have all we need. I know my small sacrifices can never compare to His great sacrifice for us, but I pray He will use our sacrifices to draw others near to Him.
Friends, pray for us as we serve the homeless, the sick, the poor, and the forgotten. Pray also that we each will search our hearts to see where Christ is calling us to sacrifice for Him and for others. Pray that we do so with an open and giving heart. It’s easy to give from our surplus, but pray we each will give from our wants and needs. It is only then that we truly serve one another the way Christ asks of us.