For the One Who Questions If Your Offering Matters

rwanda(1)

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The hardest part of the trip for me wasn’t the twenty-four hours of travel it took to arrive. It wasn’t the food or culture shock or the bone-deep exhaustion of jet lag. I traveled halfway around the globe to discover the hardest thing was the same struggle I have at home:

Believing my small offering makes any difference at all.

It was jarring. Surely, here in such an exotic locale where needs are more pressing I would sense a special importance to my work. Yet, which should have been no surprise, I found myself to be the same person in Rwanda as I am in Northern California.

Perhaps it’s the writer’s lot to feel I’m often more an observer of life than a participator, or maybe that’s just me. I’m always more comfortable on the fringe, looking in, drawing my conclusions from a distance. It’s safer there, my distance a buffer from the noise and needs. I’m able to satiate my curiosity without getting messy and later I offer my experience in tumbled-to-shining words.

Though when I sit in the glow of the screen I often question whether my words will hit their mark—if there even is a mark, who gets to place that mark, and chastise myself for being concerned with marks—this rather sterilized process works for me.

Until it doesn’t.

Until I’m walked over to a table laden with enormous Rubbermaid storage tubs of food. We’re inside an expansive new single-room brick church. Vats of steaming rice, roast potatoes and onions, scalding hot broth, pinkish peanut sauce, and what they called “meat” (which resembles no protein I recognize) weigh down the well-worn wooden table. I’m tasked with pouring piping hot broth onto already heaping plates. The tips of my fingers burn through the thin plastic.

Wide-eyed, shy kids crowd into the serving line. These kids are wearing their very best clothes, some faded and threadbare, some stretched too tight over distended bellies, most of which look much too warm for the ninety-plus degree day. I’m sweating through my shirt, hoping I don’t inadvertently melt into the soup. Most of the children don’t meet my eyes. They murmur murakoze into their plates. A few brave ones, probably students who have been sponsored longer, practice their English thank you and giggle. I smile, wipe my forehead on my shirtsleeve, and dole out more broth.

Am I hitting the mark? A full belly today, but what about tomorrow? In the face of crushing poverty, does my offering of hot broth and a smile make any difference?

After the meal we serve cake and play games. This is a celebration, after all. These kids have been sponsored and a church from across the world has offered this feast, an act of lavish love, along with their prayers and monthly support. I make my way back to my comfortable place, wandering the fringes of the duck-duck-goose rings, listening to the excited shouts and squealing laughter of the gaggle. Parents hang in the open windows beaming, clapping, and exultant with the chase.

I realize I have misread this situation. In the face of crushing poverty is feasting frivolous? Or, does it provide a necessary reminder of the here-and-not-yet kingdom to come.

I have been asking the wrong question. It’s not whether I’m making a difference, but how am I joining into the difference being made? The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding feast to his son. The invitations to the great banquet have been sent to all. I am not the one throwing this party, nor is it my job to elbow my way to a place of honor at the table. Today my job is to serve soup to hungry kids. Often, this is the same job I have at home, thousands of miles away.

No matter where we find ourselves today, may we not question the value of our offering. For it is an honor to be a servant in the banquet hall of our Father.

Aleah Marsden

Writer, Speaker Storyteller at Aleah Marsden
Aleah Marsden is a writer, speaker, storyteller for Living Bread Ministries, and social media manager for Redbud Writers Guild. Her writing can be found in publications like Books & Culture, as well as a handful of devotionals in the new NIV Bible for Women: Fresh Insights for Thriving in Today’s World (Zondervan, 2015). Connect with her on Instagram as @aleahmarsden.

Latest posts by Aleah Marsden (see all)

  • Oh I love this so much! This is the important question to ask! So often we talk ourselves out of acting because we think it won’t make a difference if we do for the need is to strong. This- “I have been asking the wrong question. It’s not whether I’m making a difference, but how am I joining into the difference being made?” Will be something I start asking myself more often. Thank you!

    • Aleah

      I’m grateful it encouraged you! God has especially used traveling (as I’m sure you understand!) to remind me that He is the one doing all the work, and He invites us to join in. Helps put things in perspective for me and helps take off the pressure to perform!

  • Joanne Peterson

    This reminds me of Henry Blackaby who wrote the book “Experiencing God” of the joining God in the work He is already doing. Beautiful. He wrote the book several years ago, and from your realization I am seeing this is a timeless truth. Thank you! How am I joining in the difference being made? A timely reminder of questioning the part I am playing.

    • Aleah

      I’m going to have to check out that book! 🙂

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    This brought tears to my eyes, Aleah. We all wonder the same thing, about making a difference; the way you re-frame this question is powerful. Thank you.

    • Aleah

      Grateful it moved you! May you walk into all the plans He has for you.

  • Fiona Lloyd

    Such a challenging post! I often feel like I can’t make a difference in the world, so your reminder that it is an honor to be a servant in the banquet hall of our Father is really helpful. Remembering that it’s all about Him – and therefore not me – is so important. Thanks, Aleah.

    • Aleah

      It’s a perspective I have to struggle to keep at the forefront as well.

  • “It’s not whether I’m making a difference, but how am I joining into the difference being made?” This really stood out to me. I don’t have to wonder if I’m making a difference, I just have to do what I can to join in for the difference is being made little by little through all our offerings. Thank you for such a great reminder! Blessings to you!

    • Aleah

      Yes! And bit by bit, inch by inch, we do kingdom work and are made more like Him.<3

  • Thank you for this very offering, Aleah. I’m so grateful to know you and your stories. I just love this: “I have been asking the wrong question. It’s not whether I’m making a difference, but how am I joining into the difference being made? The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding feast to his son. The invitations to the great banquet have been sent to all. I am not the one throwing this party, nor is it my job to elbow my way to a place of honor at the table. Today my job is to serve soup to hungry kids. Often, this is the same job I have at home, thousands of miles away.”

    It made me all teary. Sharing.

    • Aleah

      Thanks, friend. That was the part where I felt like I finally hit my stride. I know you know how that feels. 😉

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