Matthew 19:23 (New International Version)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
One of the pets in the Yahr household is my turtle, Methuselah. I rescued him when he was the size of a small coin and now over 7 years later he is bigger than a softball. With my love of turtles this story of a missionary stuck out to me. I thought I would share it today.
Startled, I stared up at the smiling young man who had suddenly appeared on my path. I had been enjoying a much-needed reprieve from the vigorous demands of mission life in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where I was spending the summer as a relief missionary. Besides learning how to catch jellyfish, I had been relaxing by walking the length of the hot, sandy beaches, lounging under the palm trees, and climbing over the rocks at the waters' edge. In fact, I had just come down from a towering pile of granite when I was confronted with this unlikely question.
As I stared at the Haitian, he lifted a very dead turtle and began shaking its head up and down. Something about this particular scene didn't set quite right with my stomach. "Ah-n-no thanks," I managed, quickly averting my attention to something-anything -else.
Thinking that this was the end of our conversation, I moved forward; but the young man must have made it his personal goal to become my friend, for he followed me, talking non-stop about his life, his dreams and his ambitions.
I was quite impressed by his friendliness, but I was still taken by surprise when he stopped in his tracks and asked me if I wanted to visit his village.
"Is it far from here?" I asked.
"Not at all," was his response. "It's just over that hill."
I smiled and shrugged: "Why not?" It was obvious that this would make the young man happy, and besides, an afternoon thus spent was bound to harbor adventure of some kind!
And so it came about that I followed him to a rustic village full of straw-roofed huts. The local inhabitants sat in the shade of their shelters, cooking their dinners, weaving baskets carving statues to the strains of Jamaican music by Bob Marly blaring in the background. I soon found myself surrounded by a group of curious children. Though my new friend quickly shooed them away, their antics, along with the tranquil air of the entire village, made it obvious to me that though the people were clearly not wealthy in anyway, they were content.
My new friend led me directly to a plaster-covered hut consisting of two tiny rooms. As I entered, I could see that the one to my left was obviously a bedroom, for there were several straw-stuffed mattresses on the floor. The room where I stood appeared to be a combined kitchen/family room. It contained a broken, three-legged table and a single chair. My new friend insisted I sit on this, and I was soon introduced to an exuberant older woman, his mother.
"Why don't you stay and eat with us?" she asked me eagerly.
Though her obvious generosity touched my heart, resurfacing visions of that poor turtle touched my stomach and it lurched anew. If I stayed, it would most certainly go on strike! Besides, no one from my group knew where I was, and they would worry if I didn't return soon.
The young man and his mother seemed sad when I declined their kind invitation, but when I told them how much it meant to me for them to be my friends and to share their beautiful village with me, they beamed.
That young man and his mother will probably never know what kind of an impact he had on my life. Though I was a complete stranger to all of them and though they were obviously not well to do, they took me in and tried to share what little they had. Through their actions, I was able to see a picture of Jesus.
Jesus once commended a poor woman for giving away all that she had: "But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on.'" (Mark 12:42-44)
We can learn much from people like Jesus' widow and the turtle-selling friend of the missionary!
Dear Lord we pray that today that we will give of what we have willingly to You. Help us to share with those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.