This is a blog by Kato Nkhoma, writing for Stewardship.org
It was a beautiful Sunday morning. With joy in our hearts and songs on our lips, we were getting ready to go to church.
Yes. Africans are a singing people. We sing while working, when we are sad and of course when we are happy.
That’s why I love church in Africa. It’s a vibrant, colourful gathering of all the saints and one can’t but help looking forward to the church services.
Hold on. Perhaps you are wondering who I am and why you should even listen to me. I get it. Let me give you a bit of my story.
My name is Katopeka Nkhoma, but to keep it simple just call me Kato.
I am a missionary serving in one of the villages of a small Southern African nation called Botswana.
A Zambian raised in Zimbabwe, I crossed the borders into Botswana at the age of 23. The villages in this sub Saharan part of the world needed the gospel desperately, and the labourers were few. I decided to answer the call and venture into the unknown.
Ten years later, married to a native, we continue to transform this nation one soul at a time. A nation whose economy is being slowed by HIV; one of the highest in the world. Child headed families have become the norm, with the eldest child sometimes forfeiting school in order to work for the family.
For these reasons the gospel has become an urgent need here.
And so the final custom before leaving for church is always the most important for me; giving our two children their offering. For me, this is an important lesson on its own. A lesson on the value of generosity.
As I handed them the usual coins, my daughter’s demeanour suddenly changed.
“What’s wrong dear?” My mind was already racing with the possible answers. Stomach-ache? The water hadn’t been its usual colour that week. Or could it be the flu that was doing its seasonal rounds?
Her answer a few thoughtful seconds later knocked me to the ground.
“You always give us coins for the offering but last week I saw the offering being counted and there were so many notes in it. Who gives those notes?”
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realised the impact of her words. If not us, who gives the notes?
I realised I had been conducting my generosity school wrongly, and it took a little child to show me the error of my ways.
This might seem like a toddler’s trivial curiosity to you, but in it, I heard God teaching me an important lesson.
If Not Now, When?
I always found comfort in telling myself that I will teach my children the value of giving when they grow older. But that conversation changed my entire philosophy.
Children don’t learn through what we tell them, they learn through observation.
I made a decision that day. I was going to actively teach my children the “generous life”. Generosity is not easy to teach, after all it’s not a skill but a state of the heart. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 provided me with the perfect blue print to follow:
1. Talk about giving
Bedtime became an informal classroom. I strategically infused lessons on giving in their bedtime stories. There is no better way of shaping a child’s heart than story telling. I believe this is the reason Jesus used parables to convey His messages.
2. Show them the needs of others
Living in a village, it’s not difficult to identify a person in need. To make it easier for them to relate, I let them tag along when I visit a family in need. The journey home becomes a discussion of what they observed. Usually, being kids, they don’t notice material things.
In such situations I contrast their lives to the lives of the family we would have visited. When the need of that family dawn’s on them, the response is always the same: “Why don’t they have……?” This is my cue for the third step in my “Three Steps To A Generous Child” programme.
3. Teach them to respond
Many times children, and adults, get hung up on the “why” of a situation. My answer to this question is always the same.
The “why” is not important. The important question is, “What can I do to help?” This is a critical part of the equation. Many people see the plight and suffering of others, but few have learnt to respond.
It has now become second nature to my children. Every time they encounter a person with a need, they always look at me and chime, “What can we do to help?” Sometimes the answer costs me a pair of shoes or a meal out, but the price is always worth it.
Knowing that my children will grow up to be empathetic and generous is worth more than all the clothes and food in my possession. Which is really not much but that’s besides the point.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6