Yesterday we celebrated our sweet four year old’s birthday. Our first gift from Papa God, we named her Johanna Joy (God’s gift of joy). For all who know her, Johanna is truly a bringer of great joy. Like any proud mama- my heart swells at the enormous privilege of loving, training and stewarding her well…..I say stewarding because she is not mine….even though she was biologically born to me…Johanna belongs to the one who formed her in the womb- our Heavenly Father. She is His daughter first and mine second. A very rich truth indeed. Something I am only beginning to understand…Since she is a daughter of the Most High King Jesus, how can I daily walk this out? When she is melting down? When she sick? What about on her birthday?
How many times have we read or spoken “It is better to give than to receive.” As Christians, if we truly believe this, what are we modeling to our children? A birthday celebration is just an easy example. If the day is centered around a child receiving, is our child perhaps missing out on a greater joy?
Please, please, please hear my heart. I am not against the traditional western birthday celebration! Of course we need to celebrate these amazing little people and lavish our love on them through gifts, cake, parties, etc. However, I do strongly believe the traditional birthday celebration can be improved by giving!
In Africa, many children never experience a birthday day celebration. Many families struggle to provide one-two meals a day, so something as luxurious as cake and presents are not an option. Because of this, children grow up not really knowing their birth date. A great example- Johanna’s best friend and neighbor, Panach.
We live in an informal settlement in South Africa where unemployment is crazy high and HIV ravages the community. Due to the felt need- our ministry started a daily feeding program for local children and adults. That is where we first met Panach. Johanna and Panach hit it off as fast friends. When walking her home one day, we discovered she living right down our street! Soon Panach became a daily part of our lives….racing to our house after school and staying till dark. We affectionately introduce her as our “day daughter.☺”
Since birthdays are in important part of our family, we asked Panch about her birth date several times…she never knew quite how to answer…Jan? Feb? As Johanna’s birthday got closer, Panach began to say “Feb 26” which was Johanna’s birthday.☺
So we asked Johanna what we should do? Like any almost 4 year old, she thought about her answer carefully. She was really looking forward to her party. “Maybe we can have the party for me and Panch?!”
We were already asking the Lord how we could use this opportunity for Johanna to give and not just receive. She already prepared special gifts for her local friends (little goodie bags with art work, fruit, candy). But now Johanna had another special mission…to love Panch well and give her the best birthday ever! And because sweet Johanna tapped into God’s truth- she super enjoyed her own special day with deep abiding joy!
Last year, an eight year old girl named Eden, asked everyone to give a financial gift to MCV (Michaels Childrens Village- the childrens village we help oversee in SA) instead of receiving presents on her birthday!. Although her love gift made several kids quite happy on their birthdays in Africa, we are pretty sure Eden experienced the greatest joy of all!
Fellow mamas- search out opportunities for your children to give especially on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas, etc. And model Christ-centered giving before them….it is the fast track to JOY in your home!!
Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving]. 2 Corinthians 9: 7
He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. Proverbs 28:27
In everything I have pointed out to you [by example] that, by working diligently in this manner, we ought to assist the weak, being mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed (makes one happier and more to be envied) to give than to receive. Acts 20: 35