Even when you have nothing, you can still give

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I heard a story recently from the woman who was there. It’s a good story. It took place in Africa where this woman, Mary, worked for over 50 years.

In Senegal there was a young mother with a life-threatening medical condition. Her family took her to the hospital in the capital city. They waited with her outside beneath the trees for two weeks. And the hospital still could not find a bed for her.

They trekked home to their village. On Sunday several students from the Bible school where Mary was president traveled with her two hours in their small bus to that village to hold a weekly church service. The people asked them if they could help the sick woman. They said they would try.

She rode the bus back with them. The next day they took her to the same hospital, and this time — perhaps because Mary was white — the hospital found the woman a bed. Surgery — the only place it could be done in the entire country — was performed. After a week of recovery she went from the hospital to the school campus for an additional week — where they tried to “fatten” her up, as she was so thin.

When they returned again to the village on a Sunday they brought with them a young woman who was going to survive. At the close of the service one of the men stood and spoke to Mary, “If we had money, we would give you money. If we had peanuts (cash crop) we would give you peanuts. If we had millet (staple food) we would give you millet. But we have none of these things, so we want to give you a sheep.”

Mary knew drought had gripped the land for five years. The animals were the village’s “bank account.” She and her students had enough to eat. The villagers had not eaten meat — or much of anything — in a very long time. This weighed heavily on her. She said, “I don’t believe we can accept the sheep.”

As soon as the words were out she knew she had made a mistake. The men huddled together, chattering furiously. When it was Mary’s turn to speak again she retracted, saying, “We will accept the sheep and make a big feast.”

On the ride home one of the students — who was from that village — told her, “What you did today was right.”

Mary said of that day, “I learned when you have nothing to give you can still give.”

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