After our Christian Aid meeting yesterday I found myself scouring through my bible trying to find ‘that verse…the one about the ‘day of small things’…” It turned out to be in the Old Testament, Zechariah, Chapter 4, verse 10: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”
The occasion for this frantic search was our local Christian Aid meeting, convened to begin the work of arranging and delegating events and resources, people and activities in advance of the U.K’s single biggest ecumenical charity event – Christian Aid week.
I must admit that looking around our lounge it was practically impossible not to feel that this was a pretty small-scale beginning. Firstly, the number of folk present had reached the grand total of six. Considering the sheer size of the commuter heaven that is Haywards Heath, six people did not look like a representative size. Sixty would have been encouraging but would still remain challenging. Six just looked pretty pathetic if I’m honest.
But all is not lost I suppose. If we take a world view of things, with more than a passing nod to its most common representations of people of importance and power, if we had ‘the right’ six people in the room, things could still be seen as hopeful. A few Captains of Industry, some ‘movers and shakers’ or even a handful of Dragon’s Den type entrepeneurs would see us off to a good start, surely.
Now, with all due respect to my brothers and sisters sat in our slightly cramped lounge chairs yesterday afternoon, none of them are members of any of the above categories. A very ‘ordinary’ lot we are. Each of us is drawn from a local church with a view to fundraising in the town through our church communities. (Yet even on that score things don’t seem to have begun too well. There are several spaces empty because some of the local churches have decided, for a variety of reasons, that they don’t wish to be involved in the collecting.)
And if I’m looking at this whole thing according to the wisdom purported by the media – none of us is sexy, none of us is particularly young and energetic, none of us is good-looking (sorry folks), or charismatic, or influential or a pop star, or rich, or…you get the picture.
So we begin with the Treasurer’s report. Last year, we raised a total of over six and a half thousand pounds for Christian Aid projects around the world from envelope and tin collections in the town. Before we all start feeling a warm glow a quick look at the 2001 census, courtesy of Wikipedia tells me that the population must now be well over twenty-two thousand. That, by a simple bit of mathematics makes it an average donation of approximately 28p per person, probably a bit less.
So, we manage to convince the overwhelmingly middle class and suitably wealthy Haywards Heath population to forego much less than one cup of coffee and put it into a Christian Aid envelope. Fanfare anyone?
Looking at it on paper you wonder why we would bother! Surely we are doomed to failure?
Well, the first reason we carry on doing this year on year is, of course, that we all have a strong desire to see the poor and the oppressed of the world receive as much help as possible. We recognise that, alone, our little group of six must look like an inefficient combat to poverty. But in each of the churches taking part there are further groups of collectors and helpers who are ready to step outside their front door and go and ask their neighbours if they will help them. And, as borne out by the figures, many of these streets do.
Pretty much each of those donations not only represents the hope of help to those in need but also represents countless smiles, multiple warm words of kindness, countless ‘thank you’s’ and a general spreading about of that all elusive commodity – love for your neighbour.
Secondly, we don’t despise even the smallest donation because we know just how much all of those 28p’s can amount to! Last year Christian Aid raised twelve million pounds! That’s a lot of cups of coffee! When taken all together, our small amount becomes part of something much, much, larger that can be seen to produce much fruit in the lives of those who need it most.
Reflecting on these things has made me realise how much we can be drawn into thinking that things that don’t move or work in large quantities aren’t worthwhile. From the number of people who follow you on Twitter or Facebook (or blogs!), to the number of copies of a book or CD you can sell, to the amount of money you can generate in any given working day (even if your job is just kicking a football around a field) – we can be seduced into thinking that big numbers matter.
Which of course they do. Christian Aid wants to raise as much money as it can. If the grand total for the whole country was 28p I think we’d all agree that would be dissapointing to say the least.
But little numbers matter too. Very few of us will have the opprotunity to donate thousands or even millions of pounds to causes in the style of Bill Gates. But i doubt if any of us would find 28p was going to be a bit of a stretch. Yet, for most, we could easily afford the occasional dose of generosity and still have enough left in the bank to take us on holiday if we are honest. Even if what we call being generous may feel like a small drop into the ocean. Or collection bucket.
I believe that what matters most to God is that we bring what we have, we bring what we can and let Him take care of the rest. The important part is that we recognise the need of those around us and give or do something to help. When Jesus was faced with crowds of thousands (Matthew 14: 13 – 21) he only needed a few people to come forward with their small pieces of bread and fish and he did the rest. Whether you take the passage miraculously or poetically the message is the same. Bring what you have to God and he will multiply beyond what you could have acheived.
As our small group begins to organise and encourage others in preparation for Christian Aid week (11th – 17th May), I’m already becoming impatient to see what the final total for the U.K will be in 2014. I’m hopeful that it will be a significant amount of money by anyone’s standards, every 28p included! But in many ways it will be worth more for the value of each individual contribution than if it was made up of a series of large corporate cheques, because we each matter to God.
See what Christian Aid does at www.christianaid.org.uk