Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions and distribute the money among all, according to what each needed. (Acts 2: 43-45)
When Jordan and I first started talking about the work of the stewardship committee, these verses were a big part of forming our ideas about the vision that we were praying over for All Angels’. We were inspired by the way that the early believers did life together and how they lived out of generosity towards God and each other. They held their possessions lightly, holding them on outstretched hands for the inclusion, care and health of each other. Jordan and I started to envision what it would look like for All Angels’ to more fully embody that kind of spirit (both in our church and in the larger community) and we got psyched! Yes, we are stewardship nerds.
To help us explore these ideas, we did an exercise with our committee early on where we all shared personal experiences with generosity that helped shape what it means in our own lives. I wanted to briefly share my story and why it showed me the power of generosity.
I was 23 years old and had been traveling for a spell in South America after I completed graduate school. This particular day, I found myself on a small bus from Quito, Ecuador going to a town called Banos. This was a common bus route and the buses were often quite full. I suspect the same “capacity” regulations that I was used to in the U.S. did not quite apply in Ecuador.
Though I am an introvert, the children in the two seats in front of me and on my left eventually got the best of me with their charm and curiosity. In my broken Spanish I chatted with them, showed them my Walkman (yes, I am showing my age!) and let them take turns listening to my music. A couple of the children were brave enough to try my Altoids and I will never forget their wide eyed surprise and dismay at the spiciness of those “candies.”
A common practice in Latin America is for food vendors to hop on a bus at the first stop in a city, sell their wares and then hop off at the next stop. A couple of hours into the bus ride, the family purchased two bags of snacks from a food vendor, one for their family of 7 and one for me. This simple act of generosity worked to include me in their circle of affection that day — a stranger from a different country and origin, but accepted and cared for. It was a powerful experience.
Human beings are not born generous, we are birthed needing and taking and consuming to survive. We have to grow into our generosity, and that learning does not happen in a vacuum. Many experiences, such as this one, have shaped my understanding of what it looks like to live a generous life. Yes, theoretical and theological ideas about stewardship and abundance are important, but I have found that it is the consistent doing of practical acts on a regular basis that actually sets the foundation for what my life’s generosity looks like.
Over the course of my life, I am constantly learning and relearning that I am not bound by the things I have, but that I am free to give because God’s provision has always been abundantly and freely given to me. I need consistent reminders to trust that sense of abundance because my human nature, my fear, and my anxiety about my own security are always at odds with my heart’s desire to live life openhanded. 18 years later, I am still so grateful for that family. For me, they have been one of those consistent reminders of the power of living in and pouring out generosity – of what happens when we offer and share what we have with others, whatever that might be.
— Martha Lee
Martha Lee is a parishioner and co-chair of the Stewardship Committee at All Angels’ Church.