“I knew before I came to Africa that I would face the issue of poverty cycles, but I didn’t know there would be poverty cycles in ministries as well. I was so emotional about my friend’s situation that I wanted to do something. In Chinese, we call this feeling ‘turning over the table.' Chinese are usually reserved people so turning over the table means that someone could not hold back the emotion any more,” explains Ivy. “They have to do something to express what they are feeling.”
“Hey, there is someone willing to have a fund-raising event for us,” said my dear missionary friend who I respect a lot. With limited resources and manpower, he faithfully reaches out to vulnerable children in the area. It always amazes me to hear him call the street children by name. I was so happy to know that he would finally be getting some resources to help the ministry.
“BUT it will not happen now because they need photos and stories,” he shared in a calm tone. BUT that was not how I received the message. I felt it was unfair. I knew his phone was broken and that writing in English is not his gift. How could he be expected to do these things without any help? He could not get resources (prayer and financial support) because he was lacking resources (photos and stories).
I knew before I came to Africa that I would face the issue of poverty cycles, but I didn’t know there would be poverty cycles in ministries as well. I was so emotional about my friend’s situation that I wanted to do something. In Chinese, we call this feeling ‘turning over the table.' Chinese are usually reserved people so turning over the table means that someone could not hold back the emotion any more. They have to do something to express what they are feeling. Jesus could understand what I felt. He was not happy to see people selling in the temple and literally turned over the table. Not the smiling and gentle face we are familiar with from pictures—Jesus made a big move in the temple.
“It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it 'a den of robbers.'" — Mark 11:17 (NIV)
Jesus was not happy because this was the space for all the nation to pray. This area was designed for the Gentiles to worship. Now the Jews just occupied this place for their own convenience to worship. They didn’t want to prepare the animals to sacrifice beforehand. They just wanted a fast food style of religion. They became spiritual consumers. They wanted the benefit of the faith but didn’t bother about other people’s situations. They didn’t get that the point of worship was to get closer to God, which eventually leads to reaching out to others who God loves.
The place (the resource) for the nations to worship was occupied by the vendors. I wonder how often we occupy God’s resources for our own convenience. It might sound good but lead us to a selfish individualism faith. It’s not wrong to have good food, nice chairs and a big building for the church. However, there are so many other people in this world who have very little resources poured out for them to worship the true God.
How do we spend our energy, our time and our money? All these resources are given by God and His desire is for the nations to come to Him. There are more than three billion people who have never heard the good news—how do churches respond?
Many ministries struggle because they don’t have good communication skills or high-quality videos to explain what they are doing. They also don’t have connections. All they have is a heart and passion for God which should be enough for any ministry.
Just like Jesus turned over the table, we should not just let things stay the same. This time, I made a move. I explained the situation and requested for a team to help with media. In a short time, we were able to come up with the resources together for this ministry. My friend was able to receive the funds.
Is there anything bothering you? Pray about it and it might be time for you to turn over the table to help others see the need.
Ivy, previously a city girl rushing into the Taipei metro everyday, now enjoys walking around beautiful villages at Lake Tanganyika, Zambia. She likes to listen to people's stories and write newsletters (really a rare species). Her dream is to become the shortest giant in the world.