There's a phenomenon in our community called "swap." Swap is an ongoing feed on our social networking forum, where we can post the things we no longer need, or the things we are in need of. People search for props for plays, materials to make crafts with kids, and any other random thing you can imagine. We keep one another from having to buy an item that another may have to give away.
Swap can also be an event, as it was this last weekend. There was no entrance fee. You didn’t even have to give something away in order to get something in return. You could give, or take, as you were able. It all happened without money. As the kids who attended exclaimed, “it’s free! it’s free! everything is free!”
Amanda Aaseby, mother of four, with a fifth on the way, ER nurse and health administrator for the Academy of G.O.D., planned this particular swap meet. I watched her answer a call from her family and explain “I can’t talk right now, I’m organizing a swap...It’s like a garage sale, but everything is free.” People didn’t just bring boxes of junk. Amanda had an organized system, with different rooms for different sizes, colorful signs, and clean up crews. When I asked her what motivated such a concerted effort, she replied, “I knew of a few people who needed things, but couldn’t afford to buy them. I figured if I knew of a few, there were likely a few more, and a few more.”
It's pretty incredible the amount of stuff that Americans have--even bible-studying, God-fearing ones. It seems to happen without even trying. Whether "it was on sale" is the rationale, or Christmas gifts are to blame, it's difficult to find an American closet that couldn't use some weeding out. The swap gave us the social pressure to clean them out now, not later.
Biblically, we aren't supposed to have more than what we need. God teaches this to his people in the wilderness through the manna he provides--enough for each day, no more, no less. If they gathered more, it would just rot. But each one was supposed to have enough:
Ex. 16:16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’” 17 The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.
This lesson was supposed to extend beyond the wilderness, and beyond food. It was a lesson on God's provision and our interdependence in our worship of him. While the swap isn't the only way to practice the lesson of manna, it is one result of the value that has taken place in our hearts.
Several of the individuals I talked to at the swap didn't end up taking anything home with them. This wasn't because they didn't find anything that fit, or anything they liked, but because they had already determined that they had enough. They were content. Satisfied. They had their needs met, and were not searching for more.
On the other side, people were able to find items that they needed. There is humility and vulnerability required to ask, to take, to fill a bag and not feel bad about it. People sorting through piles were not competing for the best find, but rather holding shirts up to one another saying “this would look great on you,” or “how about this for our friend from Burma? She just had a baby and needs some smaller items.”
Life has a lot of changes. Kids grow. Pregnant bellies expand. Waists shrink. Feet swell. Things break. When we swap, we are able to make room for most of life’s changes by sharing our excess, and taking when we need, until everyone is satisfied.
Turns out, after the swap, we all had enough, and there was still a lot left over. Our regional teams were able to collect necessary clothing for individuals in their regions, which will travel with our teams this summer. The Latin America region gathered necessary items for nearly fifty of their neighbors. The East Africa region gathered clothing for over thirty of their cooperative families and friends. We did all of this, without ever exchanging a coin. But that’s not all--there was still more. We are distributing other items to families in need in our own neighborhood, and immigrant and refugee communities throughout Nashville.
It’s amazing what you can find if you take the opportunity to look, especially if you consider whether or not you need it, the last time you used it, or if someone else could make better use of it than you. Learning about the Lord who sent manna every morning, and considering that Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread, requires something of us in response. We need to evaluate. We need to consider what happens to things that are held onto for too long without use. The item isn’t the only thing that will rot. There is damage done to our own soul, if we see a brother or sister in need, and do nothing.
1John 3:17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?