In a powerful farewell speech, the Apostle Paul gives the leaders at Ephesus some words. It’s not often in life that someone knows they will never see you again, and gets the chance to give you a proper goodbye by instilling in you lessons of faith and character--especially the person responsible for building your community of faith in the first place. But this was the case for the Ephesians. Nearing the end of his communication (and his life), Luke dictates Paul’s words:
Acts 20:34 You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. 35 In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Paul’s confidence abounds. He himself is confident of the example he left, because the investment he made was into a lasting cause: the building up of people. Even when their lives cease, their stories will live on (after all, we are still reading about them, aren’t we?). Paul understood this and did not covet wealth or possessions. He wasn’t swayed by the holidays. He had one mission at hand, and worked hard to make it happen.
We learn that he worked to support not only himself but his companions—not taking what he deserved but choosing to make room even for those who worked with him. He did this not because it was “necessary, for a time,” as we like to say, but because he know this would be how the kingdom would be built, at any time.
If we are truly seeking God’s kingdom, investing into the building up of people for an inheritance that will last (20:33), we don’t have time for the pursuit of wealth or possessions. Whatever time and energy we have is spent providing for ourselves (so we don’t have to ask others to), providing for those around us, and supporting the weak.
This is what you will see us doing, today and every day. We provide for ourselves so that we don’t have to ask you to do that. We work hard to provide for the needs in our midst, whether that be spending our weekends building a playground for the Academy kids, or our mornings harvesting spinach to share with others in our neighborhood. And, we support the weak.
This month alone we will put on another bible conference for youth in El Salvador. We will send a group of farmers to further invest in our food production efforts in Uganda. We have teachers who’ve given the majority of their year assisting understaffed schools in India and the Philippines. We are helping women get the opportunity to apprentice as birth attendants in India. And that’s just our international efforts (and not all of them).
The weak aren’t just abroad. They also exist in forgotten neighborhoods like the one where we are based. We support the weak--the elderly and the kids in this neighborhood. We feed them good food, we make sure they’re getting good grades. We even work to provide them a Community Center where they can play together in winter months.
We’ve taken on Paul’s paradigm. We don’t spend much time focused on fundraising. We spend time doing the work, and pray that faithful people will support when they see the fruit of it. We partner with wonderful businesses that provide jobs for our people so that they can afford to invest into third world development projects and trips on top of their daily needs.
They know us at Moneygram—we are sending money for hospital bills again. They know us at the airport—we’re the people with all the bags, labeled and organized and full of shoes and clothing and tools and books for the poor. Our members have foregone their own needs at times to ensure that the needs of the weak that we are associated with in El Salvador, India, the Philippines or East Africa are taken care of.
We do this, “remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ’It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” We’ve found it to be true! In putting the needs of the weak at the forefront of our minds, particularly during the holidays, when everyone finds more ways to spend, we’re blessed. Joyful. Thankful. Content.
We invite you, this year, to join us in this greater blessing. We do so with the confidence of Paul—not asking you to support us in our daily lives, but in supporting the weak. This is our burden to share. The weak are the responsibility of the strong, and we are far from the only ones able to carry them. As you carve out more opportunities to spend this holiday season, we ask that you carve out some space for the weak, the least of these that Jesus associates himself with (Matthew 25). We think your holidays will be more blessed because of it.