Stunned – and Inspired – by an Honorarium

“Don’t come with me – this is for you,” said my translator last Sunday.

I wasn’t sure I had heard him right. I was feeling a little scrambled, having just preached in English, from French preaching notes and a French Bible, with translation into Lingala, at a church in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. My partner and I had arrived late the previous night, after more than 48 hours of travel through Amsterdam and Johannesburg, for a week of training Congolese pastors in Bible comprehension and sermon preparation. It was wonderful to be back in Africa again, and my jet-lagged brain was doing its best to absorb the experience.

I had earlier descended from the platform, along with the other pastors, to participate in the church offering. As was often the case when we lived in Cameroon many years ago, the offering basket was kept on a table in the front of the church, and members walked (or danced!) forward during a song to bring their offering. Church leaders are expected to model that generosity, so we had started the process (no, I didn’t dance).

But this time, I was told to stay on the platform while others went down. I wasn’t sure I had heard my translator right, or what he meant when he said, “This is for you.” I simply enjoyed the music as others came forward and placed a few DRC Francs into the basket.

unnamedAs we were preparing to drive away after the service, the meaning was made clear to me. A church leader handed me an envelope, on which was written my name and the phrase “Galates 6:6,” indicating a verse in the book of Galatians. Inside the envelope I found 28,000 DRC Francs, the equivalent of about $20. I quickly looked up the verse: “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.”

I was stunned. I didn’t know the life situations of all of the folks who participated in that offering, but I had a general idea. Estimates of average income in the DRC hover around $400 per year, yet the cost of living is significantly higher than that of the U.S. 70% of the population lives below the global poverty line, but Kinshasa is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world.

There is not the slightest doubt that I was by far the richest person in the room that day. I knew that, and my Congolese brothers and sisters knew that. I did not need the money they gave me – they needed it much more. But that was not the point. They felt compelled to respond in obedience to a verse in the Bible, and nothing else mattered.

They read the Bible, and they did what it said.

A financial gift to a speaker is referred to as an “honorarium,” and the word took on new meaning to me that day. I humbly accepted their generosity, honored beyond words by the most significant honorarium that I have ever received.

I had flown across three continents to teach people how to understand the Bible, and I was glad to help where I could. But the week had begun with an example of biblical understanding, and biblical obedience, that I will never forget.

The people in that service are my role models. I aspire to follow their example in my own faithfulness to God’s word.

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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20 Responses to Stunned – and Inspired – by an Honorarium

  1. Mary Lively says:

    That story speaks to me on so many levels. It shows God’s faithfulness to – get you there, clear your mind to teach, let you experience some fruit of your labor, show the Word as powerful, see that people are all the same when it comes to the Gospel, give you perspective, remember we are only stewards of His money and then He allows you to share this with us. Love you Gaston. You and Murf are a testimony of God’s faithfulness. Thank you!

  2. Larry Reitz says:

    Your story triggered the release of hormones to my ocular area.

  3. Kermit Hunt says:

    Keep up the good work, the God work, my good friend!!

    Blessings, Kermit

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  4. Sharon says:

    A post that humbles, and also inspires.

  5. David Gordon says:

    Wow! wow, wow, wow,wow,wow!

  6. Steve Rowe says:

    What a blessing! Awesome!

  7. Bob and Sara Amstutz says:

    Thank you for sharing your trip experience we all miss you and Murf and the rich experiences you have shared.

  8. Becky Ashlock says:

    It is humbling and reaffirming. Warm Fanta is the most spiritually refreshing beverage I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.

  9. Ken Royer says:

    What a great testimonial. Thank you for your faithfulness in giving — and receiving.

    Our loving greetings to you,

    Ken Royer for Mary too

  10. Penny Mullen says:

    Wow it amazes me how those who have so little give so generously ! Praise GOD for Missionaries who teach the poor to so love our God and emulate HIM!

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