Mac was a former Adventist, and he called me “Padre.”
I was a young district pastor, and my two churches were 72 miles apart. Twice a week I’d make the 144-mile round trip to the smaller of my two churches, once on Thursdays to visit my members and have prayer meeting, and once on Sabbath mornings to preach at 9:00 a.m. before returning to preach at my other church at 11:30 a.m.
I became acquainted with Mac and his wife, Shari, after I had asked that congregation of about a dozen members for names of former Adventists to visit. I visited with Mac and Shari sporadically for a year or two. Then they began inviting me over for Thursday-evening supper. At that very first meal, Mac handed me a $20 bill. “Here, use this to buy yourself a hamburger, a tank of gas, or something.”
“Thanks,” I said, “but my travel expenses are taken care of.” When he insisted that I take the money, I slipped it under the place mat at the table when they weren’t looking.
The next week Mac met me at the door with two $20 bills. “Take this,” he urged, “and no more monkey business.”
But instead of spending the money on me, my wife, or our two small children, I put those two bills into a tithe envelope and dropped them into the offering plate when it was passed around at church the·next Sabbath.
This went on for several months. And frankly, sometimes I gladly would have used that money for something truly important—like food or gas. My wife didn’t work outside the home at the time. But I didn’t think I should profit personally from the generosity of my parishioners.
One weekend found us particularly low on funds. Thursday’s supper at the McPhersons’ brought another $20 bill, which I put in a tithe envelope and dropped into the offering plate. But that Sabbath, after I drove my usual 144-mile trip to preach at two churches, I had to return to the first town for a funeral that afternoon. I had met the bereaved family just the previous Thursday. They were from out of town and were not Adventists. The deceased relative had some Adventist background, and they asked me to officiate at the service.
When I got to the chapel, the funeral director handed me an envelope with a copy of the obituary and a check for the honorarium, an amount three times larger than usual. “Why such a large honorarium?” I asked the funeral director.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “But the family specifically asked me to give you that amount.”
I’m not a worrier. I’ve never been destitute. I’ve never been rich. But I have, on occasion, rejoiced in the small tokens of God’s love I’ve received.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. l can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12, 13, NIV).
This essay is taken from the book Over and Over Again! (Silver Spring, Md.: North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, 1998), pp. 201, 202; 215, 216. Used with permission.