Sunday, June 20, 2021


(Continuing my account of the beginning of the Log Church Orphanage in Kenya)

Journal Entry – April 6, 2018

When considering the needs of the children at the orphanage, my thinking had been in some ways like the disciples when faced with a crowd of 5000+ hungry people. Instead of taking it upon themselves to help the people, they said to Jesus, “Send them away into the surrounding countryside and into the villages so that they can buy something to eat.”

In response to that, Jesus said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat!”

In regards to the situation with the orphans in Kenya, I am increasingly thinking that he has said that also to me.

The question that the disciples then put to Jesus was typical of how we would usually think of meeting a need of this nature. They asked Jesus, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”

They wanted to know in dollars and in cents how much money would be needed to fulfill that need.

I also asked Pastor Joel how much money it would cost each day to feed the children. I also asked him about school costs, and when I was visiting them in Kenya, I also checked on the local costs of many other things, such as shoes and clothing.

When the disciples responded to the suggestion by Jesus that they should feed the crowd of more than 5000 people, they mentioned the figure of two hundred denarii. I don’t know why the disciples came up with that figure. A denarius was usually considered a day’s wages, so that figure would be about the wages for eight months of work.

Jesus and his disciples held a collective purse, so whether this was the amount of money in their treasury at the moment, I do not know. It’s difficult for me to believe that they had that much money. But for some reason, this was the figure that the disciples threw out at Jesus—two hundred denarii worth of bread.

However, even this amount, substantial as it was, would not buy enough bread even for “each of them to get even a little.” That was how the disciple Philip put it (John 6:7).

But the disciples had missed the point. And when Jesus spoke to me about feeding the orphans in Kisii, I also missed the point. I hope I am beginning to learn.

A Meagre Lunch that was Given

As the disciples were considering how to feed the multitude on that day, another of them, Andrew, now spoke up. Somewhat apologetically he informed Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

I would like to know how Andrew knew about this boy’s lunch, but he did.

Jesus said, “Bring the lunch here to me.”

I also wonder what Andrew thought Jesus would do with such a meager meal, and I wonder what the disciple said to the boy when he went back to him to ask him for his small lunch. I do not know, but I doubt if Andrew told the boy that Jesus was going to use the food to feed the five thousand people sitting on the grounds around him. That would have sounded preposterous.

I think that Andrew probably told him something similar to what the two disciples said on another occasion when Jesus sent them into the city of Jerusalem for a donkey. This was at the triumphal entry when Jesus planned to ride into the city a week before his crucifixion.

When some men asked the disciples why they were taking the donkey, the disciples simply said, “The Lord has need of it.”

I think that Andrew told the boy something similar to this: “The Lord has need of your lunch.”

I hesitate to speculate too much, but I also think that when the boy was giving his lunch to Andrew, he probably thought that it may have been because Jesus was hungry after having taught this large crowd of people for so long, and had need for something to eat.

But whatever the boy was thinking, he apparently willingly gave his lunch as an offering to Jesus. He did not give it to feed the five thousand people, since that would have been a ridiculous thought. If eight months of wages would not buy enough bread to give each even a little taste, what would a small lunch of five small loaves of bread and a couple of fish do?

The boy did not give his lunch to the 5000 people. Rather than this, he gave his lunch to Jesus. This is the important point—he did not give his lunch to feed the people. Rather, he gave his lunch to Jesus. It was Jesus who used and multiplied this meagre meal to feed the people.

Likewise, when considering feeding the orphans of Kisii, it is not my abilities that will provide for them. My meagre gifts of a few dollars can do little—almost nothing. Rather than thinking that it is my responsibility to feed the people, I turn over what I have to Jesus for his blessing, and it is He who will do the rest.

The Great Feast that was Received

As documented by all of the gospel writers, Jesus said to the disciples, “Have the people sit down in groups of about fifty each.”

When the people were sitting down on the green grass, Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish that had been the lunch of one lad, looked up to heaven and said a blessing over this small offering. Jesus then broke the loaves and fish and gave the portions of the food to the disciples to distribute to the crowd.

The people all ate, all 5000+ of them. Each ate not merely a little bit, as Philip had said two hundred denarii would not even give, but all the people ate until their hunger had been satisfied. When everyone had finished, the disciples went around and collected all of the food that remained. The remaining food filled twelve baskets.

How could this be?

It was a miracle of course, enough so that the people who witnessed this said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14).

Did the Boy Feed All of These People?

How did it become possible for the small lunch of one lad to be multiplied to the point where it fed 5000+ people? Was it because Andrew went to this boy and pled him to feed all of these people?

Did Andrew appeal to the emotions of this lad by showing him photos of the hungry people who needed something to eat?

Did Andrew have the boy look at all of the hungry people around him, and say to him, “Will you not give your food to feed these needy ones?”

This is the manner in which most relief organizations function. We are shown an advertisement with a photo of a child who is in need, with wide and sad eyes.

“Help me. I am starving!”

The situation may be true, but the tactic used is by an emotional appeal for donations to help the child.

Or we may be shown video footage of a desperate situation, and another appeal to our emotions.

“Give to this need!”

“X amount of dollars will accomplish this amount of work or feed this many people!”

All of us have mailboxes (and now email inboxes) full of these sorts of appeals. The needs are real and the money to meet those needs is an actual dollar and cents amount.

“Will you not commit $25.00 or $100.00 a month to feed this child?”

“Can’t you give up your daily cup of coffee so that this child can eat?”

It is that perspective that is presented to us. It is put upon us to meet these needs. If we do not meet them, who will? We are made to feel guilty for having so much when these have so little.

I understand that all of this may be legitimate, and our emotional response may also be appropriate to a certain degree, but in my experience, once the appeals are kept on the level of the emotional, it only builds upon itself. Those trying to “raise the money,” now have to come up with new ways to urge an emotional response out of donors. More pictures to evoke our emotions. More ways in which to elicit an emotional response.

The Lesson of the Lad’s Lunch

But by trying to meet the needs in this way, I think that we are missing the lesson of the lad’s lunch. If we think that it is by our salesmanship and by appealing to the emotions of potential donors that we can raise the amount of money that is required to meet the need, it would have been good for us to be sitting on the mountainside next to the boy on that day.

Andrew did not ask the boy to feed the people. The lad gave the lunch to be brought to Jesus. The lad gave his lunch to Jesus!

God is not really expecting us to fill the needs of those around us. Quite simply, we cannot do it. This is the way that I feel about my involvement with the orphans and the other people of the Log Church of Kenya.

I cannot fill those needs. I have only a meagre lunch. But what I do have, I can give to Jesus. It is Jesus who will take the little that I give and it is Jesus who will fill the needs.

The Balance Sheet

From our perspective, we focus on the dollars and the cents that it will take to do a certain amount of work. If it takes three dollars a day to feed a child at the orphanage, then it will require ninety dollars a month. There are now 32 orphans, so that calculates out to $3,330.[1]

This is what it takes. This is what we need when we go to the grocery store.

It is now some months after my initial trip to Kenya, and along with feeding the children, I along with Pastor Joel and the church in Kisii are praying about building a sleeping room for the children. We want to build them a nice building of bricks instead of a mud building. It will be much better for many years to come.

To build this, we have gotten cost estimates. These estimates come in actual, real numbers. These are not some imaginary variables whose value is unknown. They are rational numbers – integers that can be placed on a number line that expresses their value. Bricks cost 17¢ apiece, and like the number of people on the mountainside on that day, we will need more than 5000 bricks to construct the building.

And that is only the beginning. There are of course many more costs that will need to be met, and many other necessities. To purchase all of the materials requires an actual number of Kenya Shillings.

When faced with such a need, we tend to be like the disciple Philip.

“We have only two hundred denarii. What is that when faced with such a need? It could purchase no more than a few bricks.”

Philip missed the point. He was looking at what he could do instead of believing what the Lord could do.

But the Lord said, “Bring me the boy’s lunch.”

Two Small Pennies

It reminds me of another story in the Bible when Jesus and the disciples were observing people putting money into the treasury of the temple. As they watched, some wealthy people came to put in large amounts of money. From the context of what is written, it seems that they were making a great display of how generously they were contributing to the temple.

But then a poor widow came. Very quietly and not wishing to be noticed, she dropped in two small copper coins, two mites—a very insignificant amount.

It is what Jesus said about all of this that interests me. “This poor widow has put in more than all the others.”

Jesus used the word “more.” This is a quantitative word. It means of greater value. It is used to determine the value of real numbers on a number line. Ten is more than one. Ten is of greater value than one. On a number line, ten is placed to the right of one, because it is of greater value.

Jesus did not say of the widow in a patronizing way, “Bless her heart, she gave what she could.”

That is what we might say about a child putting in two pennies in the church offering plate, while at the same time trying to see how many 20’s might be in there and perhaps even a 50 or two.

No, Jesus said that she gave “more” than all of the extravagant gifts of the wealthy people.

God’s Number Line

On God’s number line, the two mites that the widow dropped in the treasury would be placed to the right of the sum of all of the entire amounts that all the others had dropped in. That is because what the widow put in was of greater value. It was more than all the others.

On God’s number line, the lad’s lunch of two fish and five small barley loaves would be placed to the right of the two hundred denarii. This was because the lad’s lunch was of greater value. The two hundred denarii would not even give all enough to have only a little, but the small boy’s lunch fed the 5000 so that the hunger of all was satisfied to its fullest.

The reason that the lad’s lunch was of greater value was because Philip was looking only at what the money could do. He was thinking in dollars and cents. He was not considering the blessings that God would endow upon a gift righteously given.

With the boy’s lunch, Philp witnessed the blessings of Jesus upon what the disciples considered an insignificant amount of food in the face of such a great need. Philip and the other disciples saw what Jesus could do. 

Not Emotion, but Devotion

I see in this story of the lad’s lunch that the spirit or the attitude in which a gift is given means everything. I see this also with the example of the widow with two mites.

It is for this reason, that when I tell of the work and the needs of the orphans and the church people in Kisii, Kenya, I am trying very hard not to play around with the emotions of those who read my words. I could show many photos of poor children and say what will happen to them if they do not receive some help. I could try to make potential donors feel guilty if they did not do something.

This is not a simple thing to avoid, since I actually do want everyone to get to know the children and people of the orphanage. It is also true that the stories are heartbreaking. I show photos and I tell stories, but I try to do it only in an informative way, not an emotional way.

By appealing to the emotions of my readers, I could perhaps persuade some people to give out of a coercion to do so, or that they would give merely out of impulse. But those are not the type of gifts that God blesses.

The subtle fact is, at the core, it is not my intention that people give gifts to help the orphans. Rather than this, we are to give our gifts to Jesus. It will be Jesus who will help the orphans.

The needs are so great, we can never meet them by trying to pay for everything. Two hundred denarii will not do it. An eight month pay check will not do it. The need is so great that it will take as much as the value of a boy’s lunch. It may take even as much as two copper coins.

It is only through the blessings of Jesus that every need will be met.

It’s not About the Quantity, but the Quality of the Gift

Seeing that it is God who provides the quantity needed to feed the children, and that he is not constrained by the actual amount that is given, the question might be asked if it then is not important how much we give.

If a small boy’s lunch can feed five thousand and two copper coins have more value than the great quantities of monies given by the wealthy, then might it not matter if much is given, or only a little?

But to think in this way misses another of the points of the lad’s lunch or the two small copper coins. Notice in both of these instances, the people gave everything that they possessed. The boy gave his entire lunch. He did not hold back one loaf of bread for himself and one of the fishes. In speaking of the widow’s coins, Jesus said that it was all that she had.

With these examples, Jesus is pointing out it is the quality of gift that is important. The boy and the widow gave with their entire heart, and it is the heart that gives that God can bless. He blesses those gifts given out of pure worship. He blesses those gifts that have been given not to pay down a debt, as we would to pay off a credit card, but those gifts that are given because the giver has given out of his or her devotion to God.

“Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give,” Paul writes, “and not out of regret or compulsion. For God loves one who cheerfully gives” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

When one gives because he or she is made to feel guilty if they do not, the gift is not given cheerfully. It is given out of compulsion. It is given in response to pressure. It is given only to ease one’s conscience.

This is not my desire for the orphanage. If this were the case, then I feel it would be my responsibility to provide the money. It is God who has rescued these children from the world and it is He who has taken on the responsibility to provide for them. He is only looking for those who will give so that he can bless and multiply what each one gives.

The Thermometer of Coercion

Perhaps we have all seen one of the favorite fund-raising graphics used in the world. It is a poster of the giant thermometer that is drawn with increments of dollar amounts needed to complete a project, such as constructing a new church building.

At the very top is the goal. That is the amount needed to complete everything. Everyone watches the red mercury in the thermometer slowly rise over the weeks and months (sometimes years) as the people give more money.

The message in this type of poster is that it is all up to us. It is our debt at it is we who must come up with the quantity to pay for it. We are under compulsion to give so that this debt can be cleared.

It is understandable that we think in this way. It is what the world’s economic system has taught us. But in seeing these posters, I have always wondered, “Where is the blessing of God in this? Should this not also be on the poster? Do we not take that into account as well?”

If I were to make a poster, I think that I would instead incorporate the image of a small lad, giving his lunch of bread and fish to Jesus. In the background, sitting on the mountainside would be five thousand people, or at least however many could be drawn into the poster.

The caption would read something like: “What is this small gift in the face of such a great need?—If given with devotion to God, wait and see what Jesus will do!”

He Who Refreshes Others Will Himself be Refreshed

There is one more lesson in relation to the boy’s lunch that we cannot leave unspoken. After his lunch was blessed by Jesus, that small bit of food fed more than five thousand people. Included in this great number was the lad himself!

The boy who gave his lunch to Jesus was not left with nothing to eat. He also was given of the food and ate until he was satisfied.

Imagine the joy of this lad when he saw what Jesus did with his gift of five loaves and two fish. The boy gave bountifully, and he received bountifully!

Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38 BSB).

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house. ‘Test Me in this,’ says the LORD of Hosts. ‘See if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you blessing without measure’ “(Malachi 3:10).

Renewed in Our Thinking

We are a people who think with the ledger. We have the balance sheet in our hand, working our pencils and trying to figure out how to feed the multitude. We are not alone in this. Philip and the disciples thought in this way, and some others of the great saints of the Bible calculated in the same manner: 

Moses said to the Lord, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” 

The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” (Numbers 11:21-22)

For many Christians in our present day, the Lord’s arm is much shorter today than it was in the days of Moses or in the days of the boy with the lunch. But in reality, God’s arm has not diminished. It is just that we have stopped depending upon His power.

The lesson of the lad’s lunch is that Jesus is simply asking us for an offering to be given to him. The quantity is irrelevant. What is important is the willingness of the giver to give with an open heart. It is an offering to Jesus.

After that, it is Jesus who will do the work and who will fill the need. It is not emotion that will fill the needs of the orphans. It is devotion.

Devotion to Christ.

[1] As of the writing of this journal entry. We today have 49 orphans, plus the worker’s and their children, making a total of 62 people that are fed at the orphanage.

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