Tanzania is a country where most of the people still hold to the traditional value of community over individuality. One way the sense of community is expressed is in the sharing of material things. I find that this is in harmony with the character of the early church as recorded in Acts 2:44, 45: And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. (NASB)
This character of the early church stands in opposition to the individuality that is so highly prized in the U.S. and which is part and parcel of my personality. As you might expect, this cultural difference creates some tension. If a Tanzanian “borrows” something, he or she feels no obligation to return it. Because in their mind set, after all, it should be used by whomever wants it (need not being a definer of who should have it). Thus, books and pieces of luggage that have been “borrowed” have seemingly disappeared. So, I struggle to “let go” of things, which I know in my head are given to me by God to be a blessing to me and to be used to bless others. But my culture has inculcated in me the idea that what I earn is mine, and I have no obligation to share with others unless they are not able to provide for themselves. God is using Tanzanians to show me the blessings of sharing with those who are able to “do for themselves”.
I am reminded of the way God provided for the Israelites during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and of how failure to trust God resulted in that wandering. Exodus 16 records how God provided the Israelites manna six mornings each week. On the sixth morning there was enough manna for each person to be fed for two days so that there was no need, or provision of, manna on the Sabbath. What interests me about this is that if a person gathered more than the allotted “omer” each day, when it was weighed, suddenly there was only an omer per individual. If a person gathered less than an omer, when it was weighed, there was an omerful. If an Israelite kept some of his manna for consumption the next day, it had worms in it the next morning unless the next day was the Sabbath. It was spoiled. God was showing the Israelites that He is their Provider, that He is trustworthy.
If I acknowledge God as my provider and that He is trustworthy, why am I reluctant to share even with those who are not in need?
Because of this culture’s emphasis on sharing, some of our goat recipients have gone beyond what the ministry requires in sharing their blessing of receiving a hybrid dairy goat. In Basodawish, Elisante gave one of his goats to an orphanage in his village. In G’lambo, Fauta gave a goat to a neighbor. I am proud of them. They put me to shame.
I don’t want to minimize my guilt, but it is not just I, but Westerners as a general rule, who would do well to find more joy in sharing and less in “having and holding”. I encourage you to share something with someone who is not in need. You might find that you like the feeling you get from doing so.
Thank you for partnering with me as I serve in Christ’s name; as He uses Tanzanians to stretch me and challenge me to be more like Him; and as God uses Food for His Children to bless even more people who are not in the project.