from needing to having

The biggest change on the path from a destructive thief to a generous giver is to see yourself as a person that has. You can be poor in material goods and still be a person that has a lot and you can own a lot and still have a needy perspective on your life. 

In 2017 we spent about 10 weeks in Albania. We worked with local churches, did prison ministry and played football with young lads and shared our testimonies. Not far from our homebase there was a great Gelateria. The ice cream there was delicious and cheap for us as Swiss. But one day Josua, our son, wanted to have pastries instead of ice cream and that was a bit more costly. Therefore I hesitated in the first instance, but then told myself to be generous like God had been generous to us in the past weeks. 

We sat down as a family, each of us with a different kind of delicacy in front of us. We shared and passed the sweets around when I saw a bill flying next to us. Josua had seen it simultaneously. I jumped up and got it. It was 500 Albanian Lek which was exactly the amount of money we had spent extra on pastries instead of ice cream. I was in awe and just so thankful for that gift from Pappa God, when the next moment I saw a poor, Roma kid standing, just behind the plant pot that had stopped the bill from flying further. He was just waiting there to receive donations from the visitors of the Gelateria. 

I thought by myself: “Why did God not let the bill fly further to the kid in need? He must have needed it much more than we do.” A scripture came to my mind that I had been wrestling with for a while:

“For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

I always found that such a mean verse. Jesus tells a story about servants that had received possessions from the Master. Some were able to increase what they had received but one had just buried it in the ground to protect it. The Master takes it away from that one and gives it to one that had been able to increase it the most. And then Jesus says this challenging phrase.  

The truth is that we all have something and be it only our hands or minds. We all have been given tools, talents to work with; language, a warming smile, strong arms, quick legs,… If we see that truth we are people that have, if not we are people that have not. At that time in Albania we were people that had, even though we were very tight on money. We saw what we had been given and Sue and I were generously using it to bring some joy to our son. When we received that extra money we knew exactly that it was an extra gift from God to bless us. We were given more and this caused thankfulness in us. 

For the begging boy it might have been just some money that he would have expected from a client of the Gelateria anyway. Not caring if it comes by the wind or the rich guy in the shop. I don`t know. I don’t see into his heart. Only God does. But the fact that he was begging showed a mindset.    

Rich or poor? There’s no objective scale to measure poverty. We can try to compare our wealth with the people in our neighbourhood, country, the world… But two neighbours can have very similar possessions; one sees himself as poor, the other doesn’t. It is primarily a state of mind. 

I really don`t want to belittle the suffering caused by the lack of material goods. And it would be totally out of place to just point to a destructive mindset when hearing a heartbreaking story of an individual suffering in poverty. And I don`t want to belittle the suffering of a materialistically wealthy person suffering from emotional pain caused by lack of healthy relationships, which I heard a story just recently. On a bigger picture view I do believe that poverty is caused by a destructive mindset held by an individual, or a region, or a country. 

In Deuteronomy 15,4 God says to his people that there will be no poor among them anymore. But will that ever be possible? Will there not always be people that compare themselves with others and feel poor? Just seven verses further God then says: “I am commanding you to open wide your hand to your brother and to the poor and needy in your land.”

God himself therefore still expects poor people among them. Following God`s command to give to the needy is as much for the one who gives as to the one in need, because it lifts him out of poverty into a position of a giver. 

In Proverbs 30, 8+9 the writer says: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the bread that is my portion. Otherwise, I may have too much and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, profaning the name of my God.” Riches can lead to superiority and poverty to stealing which profanes the name of YHWH.

But Jesus can teach us to live on both ends of the scale and still be content as Paul says: 

I am not saying this out of need, for I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances. I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. I have strength for all things in the One strengthening me.”

Jesus comes from Bethlehem, the “house of bread” and he says in John 6,33+35: ”For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”…“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.”

Everything starts in the spiritual and then comes into being into the physical. First is the idea, the information and then the deed, the creation. First we eat from the bread of life: Jesus, showing us how to live, gives us food for our spirits. Then the physical food will come too. 

South Africa – Cooperation

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing good with his own hands, that he may have something to share with the one in need.” (Eph 4,28 Berean Study Bible)

Lately in our worship time this verse really stirred up something in me. Paul doesn`t just request his audience to work with their own hands to look for their own needs, but the goal is to be able to give to the one in need. 

God made me reflect on my journey of the past 15 years through a dream at the end of April. In that dream a young man, representing my 25-year old self, said something like: “The ‘Swiss’ life design of making money and building up security doesn`t work for me. I followed the recommendation to go the traditional way, but it doesn`t give me life.” I could relate to what he said. 

What’s the meaning behind life if it’s just about making money to survive to then go back to God where we came from in the first place. “Well done my faithful son, you survived earth” Really? 

But God worked a lot in myself during the years. In 2007 I had a strong encounter with the holy spirit and after that I felt called into ministry. In the next step I found myself in the wood workshop, just me and my wood, as I like to say. This wasn’t quite what I expected. But I really had to learn to enjoy the daily task God would lay before me. One was to be there for my family, another was to serve people in their needs for furniture or a feature for their home. And sometimes he would give me a good conversation with someone, but most of the time he would just give me thoughts to work through. 

Then in 2014, seven years later, I remember exactly the morning in January I woke up with great joy to be able to get up and get to work in the workshop. I felt so blessed to have work and a good, quite enjoyable activity to do during my days. That was very unusual for me. And it was the moment when God would start the ministry thing very slowly by a path he took Sue onto. 

The latest step on my journey about work and money was when I read a book of Rabbi Daniel Lapin “Thou shall prosper”. He describes how money actually is the appreciation of a service you have been able to provide for someone else. It is a sign for healthy relationships that honour what you can provide to them by giving you money for your work. And he describes how people like to say when a company donates to a charitable project: “That’s about time that they give something back to society.” … as if they would have been taking away in the first place. No, they created value and jobs that have not been there before.

How much this is true came clear when I saw Migdol. When you see thousands of people without work opportunities and no fulfilling activity, where two thirds of monthly government grant are spent on Alcohol and there is a lot of tension between the ones that have and the ones that don’t. That’s where you see that good corporations are a sign for good relationships. 

The thief takes away without giving anything back, but the one that works with his hands has found someone in need that he can work for. They can cooperate now. And meet needs. The verse in Ephesians 4,28 describes the path from a taker to a giver mentality.

South Africa – Reconciliation

A few weeks ago, shortly before we went to South Africa, I had a dream in which my oldest brother was preaching. But two guys of our church were talking so loud with each other that we all had a hard time understanding him. 

One guy represented Politics because of his job he has in real life. The other one represents War and Superstition because of his name. My oldest brother had been a Jesus figure in my dreams quite a few times already now. Politics, War and Superstition are very dominant “personalities” in South Africa. They are making a lot of noise that makes it hard for the voice of Jesus to be heard. And South Africa has a lot of great preachers, teachers, prophets,…! 

The time when I woke up from the dream led me to the Greek word for “send”. It appears the first time when Herod sends forth to slaughter all the boys in Bethlehem that were two years old or younger. He wanted to make sure that he has no rival in the king that was born to the Jews. He shed a lot of blood but was not successful in his mission. Jesus survived. 

The second time the word appears when the Prince of Peace sends his disciples to declare the kingdom of God being near. As a sign of his power he sent them to heal the sick and raise the dead. What a difference! One comes with the power of fear through the shedding of blood and the other with the power to heal and raise from the dead. 

A similar situation existed within the camp of the jews at the times of Jesus. Different approaches were chosen to fight for freedom and peace. The Zelots built one camp. They wanted to reach freedom by fighting their “oppressors“ with weapons. But Jesus didn`t join in that violent fight. He had a different way of fighting for freedom. Martin Luther King had an opponent in Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. They wanted to reach the same goal but with violent means.  

freedom fighters vs. freedom fighters

With these words I woke up on the 27th of March `22. Opposing approaches on the quest for freedom wrestle for influence in South Africa. The Economic Freedom Fighters EFF for example are a left wing party in South Africa who are fighting for freedom but mainly bringing fear and blood. In Galatians 5 Paul says: 

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. … For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, „You must love your neighbor as yourself.“

True freedom comes from knowing Christ. We will join the freedom fighters in South Africa that are led by Jesus bringing love, healing, restoration and reconciliation.

Südafrika – unsere Zukunft?

Nach unsere Ankunft in der Schweiz schwirrte uns der Kopf. Alles war so schnell gegangen und war so intensiv gewesen. All die Begegnungen und Eindrücke hatte sich tief in unser Bewusstsein eingegraben und wir sprachen davon im Sommer als ganze Familie nach Südafrika zu reisen und unseren Kindern dieses wunderschöne Land vorzustellen.

„Und jetzt? Wie sieht es heute aus, mehrere Wochen nach eurer Rückkehr? Wollt ihr immer noch dahin?“ – Ja! Wir planen immer noch mit der ganzen Familie in den Sommerferien nach Südafrika zu reisen. Die Ideen, was wir da tun werden, haben sich aber seit unserer Rückkehr etwas geändert. Erst wollten wir „Kurz-Einsatz-Teams“ mit nach Migdol nehmen, um dort ein tolles Programm für die schwarzen Kids anzubieten. Viele weitere Ideen schwirrten in unseren Köpfen herum, aber nicht alle sind hilfreich und umsetzbar in Migdol.

In unseren wöchentlichen Video-Telefonaten mit unseren Freunden Danie und Kathleen, lernen wir immer mehr über dieses grosse Land, in welchem sich die Generationen und Rassen nach Versöhnung sehnen. Selbst in manchen Kirchen ist Apartheit immer noch nicht aus den Köpfen und beeinflusst dementsprechend die Handlungen der Menschen.

Wie können wir Versöhnung bringen? Versöhnung auch innerhalb der Kirche. Wie erreichen wir längerfristig gute Beziehungen die zu Versöhnung und Zusammenarbeit aller Rassen und Denominationen führen und für alle ein Gewinn sind? David liest momentan Bücher über Entwicklungshilfe in Afrika und unsere Frage lautet stets: „Wie könnte unsere Unterstützung / unser Investment aussehen? Was bringen wir mit, das dort Versöhnung bringt?“ Sicher wir sind Schweizer, Diplomatie ist kein Fremdwort für uns 😉 David hat eine tolle Geschäftsidee, die Arbeit und Begegnungsorte schaffen kann.

In all dem beten wir um viel Weisheit. Bete doch mit und teile uns deine Einrücke mit. Wir freuen uns und sind dankbar für einen guten Rückhalt im Gebet.

Wir wünschen uns, dass in Südafrika eine Veränderung geschehen kann und für folgende Generationen eine Grundlage geschaffen wird, auf die sie bauen und aufblühen können. Wir wünschen uns, dass in Südafrika verschiedene Völker im Einklang miteinander, mit ihrer Geschichte und ihrem Land leben können.