What I am going to tell you now is actually an abridged version of one of the chapters of the book. This chapter was taken from my journal early in 2018. At that point, which was even after my first trip to Kenya, I was still struggling with the call of God upon me to accept what he had given me to do. At that time, the story of the feeding of the 5000 affected me greatly.
In thinking about what happened on the mountainside 2000 years ago, I realized that, when considering the needs of the children at the orphanage, my thinking had been in some ways like the disciples when faced with the 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!”
This is what I wrote in my journal at that time:
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.
(As I thought of this task and how I was to proceed with it, I further asked the question)
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” (as they call it), 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
The inflation of food costs in recent years has caused prices to rise significantly in Kenya, even much more so than here. I recently asked Pastor Joel what the present food budget is. He said that it is now about Ksh 310,200 – that is about $3100 a week. School costs have risen to over $2000 per month. Not even considering clothing and other essentials, that is over $14,000 per month.
After more than a year-long pause on building our own orphan school, we are at this moment resuming with the construction. We are in the process of pouring the second level concrete floor. When we stopped a year ago, the builder gave us an estimate of about $18,000 for this phase of building. After a year of inflation, the cost is now about $24,000.
These are mind-numbing costs to me. 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 little rebar and few cubic feet of cement.”
But the Lord said to Philip, “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.
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. The reason that the lad’s lunch was of greater value was because it was blessed by Jesus.
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 these children 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 on the blog site, but I try to do it only in an informative way, not an emotional way.
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 ourselves. 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 cost as much as two copper coins.
It is only through the blessings of Jesus that every need will be met.
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