As a child, I hated hearing the saying, ‘It is better to give than to receive’. I pressed my imagination as far as I could, and I could never figure how it might be better to give than to receive. When Christmas came, all I wanted was to receive presents. As a youngster, I could not see farther than my own two hands could reach.
But when I grew up and had a child of my own, I began to understand more profoundly than ever why it is better to give than to receive. We catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said it is better to give than to receive when our children enthusiastically rip into their Christmas presents. Their giddiness, anticipation, and unfettered joy makes what we receive pale in comparison to what we so gladly give. Recently, I had the privilege to experience the joy of giving at a whole new level. Our church, The Connection has been looking to find a sister church we can partner with. Long before we joined the team, they wanted to find an inner-city church, under resourced but working hard to impact their community. We hoped that our experience working cross-culturally might help us connect with a multicultural church in the inner city. We wanted to serve the “other”—people different from us. I made some phone calls to find churches that might fit our desired outcome, and the Greater LA District of Foursquare churches suggested a pastor slugging it away in South Central LA. I excitedly called the name I was given, Pastor Terry Perades of Faith Community Church. I shared the heart of our church to be a blessing and serve this church. We looked for a true partnership where we could receive from them what they had and give what we had. Soon it was clear this church fit perfectly to what we were looking for. It was like a match made in heaven. Pastor Terry and this church making a difference in their community had been praying for years as we had for a partnership like this.
I knew we connected with the right church when I heard how Pastor Terry cared for his community. As an African-American pastor, he ministers to kids coming from broken homes. He has made it his aim to be a father figure to the kids in his church, and he does. He shows up at their schools regularly to find ways to help the kids succeed. Furthermore, he loves on the children of the neighborhood. They put up a portable basketball hoop in the church parking lot and saw kids flock to play some ball. He thought, I could cook them food at one of their houses and have a few kids, or I could cook food here and serve a lot of kids. So Pastor Terry offered the kids dinner. He invited some of the youngsters to help him cook. The kids came in and helped enthusiastically. Pastor Terry did not talk about Jesus but simply exampled Jesus to these kids. At the end of the day and without any prompting, the children asked if he had any Bibles. As any good pastor would, Pastor Terry ran in and grabbed as many Bibles as he had on hand. These children from the neighborhood began coming to the church and more than that, they gave their lives to Jesus. I quickly learned the heart of a pastor in the inner city.
The beginning of a partnership took place as we talked on the phone. We then hoped to collect toys from our people at the Connection Church to bless the children of South Central LA for Christmas. Our church asked if our people could buy new toys to donate to children they had never met. As a little, upstart church, we hoped to get 50 toys for these disadvantaged children. All this happened so fast as we started the whole process the first week of December. We only began our assignment at the Connection Dec. 1. But God was in this, and the church resonated with the vision.
By the time we came to our first in person meeting with Pastor Terry the Thursday before Christmas, we had 50 toys to bring with us. Pastor Clayton and I piled the gifts in the back of his truck and drove up to LA. When Terry and Clayton met, they hit it off immediately. Pastor Terry began sharing stories of the children they were reaching. He told one story of transformation that blows your mind. Often kids come to their church unable to read, which as he said is not uncommon in these neighborhoods. He explained that as their parents work so long each day that no one has the time to help the children with their school work and reading. Pastor Terry told us how the church embraced these children who were illiterate. They helped tutor them and give them hope to excel in school. Now, some of these kids are thriving and in college. We loved listening to Pastor Terry’s passion. We could have listened to his stories for hours, but we had gifts to deliver.
At this, Pastor Terry directed us to a side room where the gifts could be safely stored until their Sunday Christmas celebration. When Pastor Terry saw all the gifts laid on the table, he began getting choked up. As a father figure to many of these kids, he knew intimately how much these gifts would impact them. He couldn’t put into words what this would mean to these kids. As he spoke from his heart, we knew we were simply walking in the steps God was guiding us into. I am so excited to be part of a church that thinks beyond themselves—a church that sees giving as better than receiving. I’ll never forget my 2013 Christmas as we began a partnership with a church doing an incredible work in LA. I am reminded once again; we are blessed in order to be a blessing.
Do you have any examples of when it was better for you to give than to receive?