From my platform seat at Mopulu Mennonite Church in Ngaba, Democratic Republic of Congo, I can see everyone in the congregation during worship. Children near the front are captivated as a series of choirs come forward to praise God: women’s choir, men’s choir, young women’s choir...and children’s choir. Even the youngest know they are valued and needed.
As happens in many churches in Africa, the offering is a celebration. With the congregation singing joyfully and musicians giving their best, age and gender groupings process one at a time to a table holding five offering baskets.
In sequence, adult women, adult men, young women, young men, children dance forward with their gifts. Some give to every basket, others to one or two.
MWC Regional Representative Francisca Ibanda explains to me that the various baskets are for “the normal offering, the social help offering, the offering for construction, the offering for the preacher and the offering for whatever special day is being celebrated.”
The joy and generosity of givers reminds me of Israelites bringing offerings to build the tabernacle. “The people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us,” Moses exclaimed as abundance poured in for building the tent of worship (Exodus 36:5).
What lessons the children at Ngaba are learning!
With five baskets, they learn budget allocation: some resources for people in need, some to support church leaders, some for facilities, some for program.
Giving is part of obedience to God; giving is a joy.
I have helped with fundraising for Mennonite World Conference and other church entities. People who “give until it hurts” paradoxically are happy. Christians in the West could learn from African sisters and brothers that bringing tithes and offerings in a visible, joyous way can be an act of worship. The next generation is watching and learning.
—J. Nelson Kraybill, MWC president (2015–2021), lives in Indiana, USA.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier April 2019.