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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Poor (10/25/04)

TITLE: The envelope
By Paul Servini


John picked the envelope out of the pile of memories on the desk before him. Tears welled up as he lovingly fingered it. One year ago today he had left the country, to which he had given so much and from which he had received far more in return. And this envelope told the story louder than any other.

He had gone to Chad as a missionary. He had gone to give; give of himself for others. And he had given: Time, effort, money, food, sweat and much more besides. But nothing that he had given could tip the balance of the scales against all that he had received. And nothing ever could.

He could still conjure up the memories of that special afternoon. With his wife they had just returned from the weekly prayer meeting at church. The visitors were waiting for him when he got home. Four of his students; four people with whom he had passed many pleasant hours talking, sharing, praying, dreaming together. As they began their visit John quickly realised that this was official. A few days earlier his father had died of a stroke thousands of miles away. African custom demanded a visit to comfort those in mourning. John himself had sat in this manner with many friends who had lost loved ones. How he appreciated the support he was now getting. Each of the four visitors had already called by to express their sadness at his bereavement. They were now here as official representatives of the school.

They talked together briefly for a few minutes, before one of the group read a comforting passage from the Bible. Then they prayed together. As they rose to go, one of them held out an envelope. A quick glance and John saw all the students had signed the card it contained; an expression of their love and care. It wasn’t until he had accompanied his friends on their way, that he took the card out to read what it had said. As he did so, some notes flattered out and landed at his feet. Dumbfounded, John stared at the small pile of notes. Tears welled up in his eyes. His wife sent him a questioning look. He picked up the notes. The sum was as insignificant as the two mites the old widow had put into the temple treasury; but its significance outweighed the gold reserves of Fort Knox and the Bank of England put together.

John broke down. He had come to one of the poorest countries in the world to help, to give. And now he found himself receiving far more than he had ever given. Smiling at his wife through the tears John realised, not for the first time, that poverty could afford to be generous.

Member Comments
Member Date
Corinne Smelker 11/01/04
And that is a lesson we all need to learn! I grew up in Africa, so have experienced the customs you talk about, and it is very humbling to be on the receiving end - makes you realise just who the poor one is!
Debbie OConnor11/05/04
I liked this very much, but I don't understand it all. For those of us who haven't been on the mission field you might want to elaborate further. I wanted to read more!
Debbie OConnor11/06/04
I'm sorry, I think my comment was borne out of reading too many articles too quickly in one sitting. I just reread this to try and remember what I didn't get and now I get it completely! Please forgive me. I think this is a wonderful article. Originally I wanted to know what the notes said, but on another read I can see that they were individual notes of condolance.