“We need a place to distribute those potatoes that you are going to send us.”
I was the new kid on the block as field director of Europe/CIS/Middle East/Russia. Although I had spent the last 28 years in administration, the majority of my work had been stateside. I was still setting up my new office in the World Missions, World Evangelization Building when I got a phone call from my secretary. A group had unexpectedly arrived from the Ukraine and wanted to meet with me.
When I entered the room, I was met by four wonderful, soft-spoken gentlemen: Dr. Tom Rosson, Superintendent of the CIS, Bishop Alexei Demidovich, National Overseer of the Ukraine, and two Ukrainian missionaries. After a few moments of casual greetings, one of the missionaries submitted a request: “We would like to ask of you $5,000 to replace the roof on our church which has been destroyed in a recent military conflict.” “What military conflict?” “The ongoing fight between the Ukrainian Military and the Pro-Russian Separatists.” “How exactly did this happen?” “The battle moved into Donetsk, and our church was shot up, and the roof was destroyed in the conflict.”
This was obviously beyond any normal request that had been submitted to me in the past. I didn’t really know how to respond, so I asked again about the roof. When the missionaries saw my hesitation, one said: “We need a place to distribute those potatoes that you are going to send us, and if you don’t fix the roof, we will have no place to distribute the potatoes.”
“Potatoes, what potatoes?” “You are going to send us potatoes for the winter, aren’t you? World Missions always sent us potatoes.” It was obviously clear; I did not understand the gravity of the matter. A tear welled up in the missionary’s eye when he looked at me and said: “There is not enough food to sustain us through the winter, and if you don’t send the potatoes, some of our people might die. And, if you don’t fix the roof, we will have no place to distribute the potatoes.” My throat dropped into my chest.
Fortunately, Dr. David Griffis, General Director of Church of God World Missions, was available, and I told him the story. Instantly, without hesitation, he responded: “I will immediately transfer $5,000 into your field account. Tell these brethren we will fix the roof and purchase the potatoes.”
I learned later that this had been made possible through the Christ’s Birthday Offering. Each year, a portion of this offering has been set aside for the care and well-being of our Ukrainian brethren. I realized that the majority of people never see and experience what I have been privileged to see and experience. But, thousands of lives have been sustained in the Ukraine alone as a result of your faithful and caring contribution to the annual Christ’s Birthday Offering.
So, on behalf of those whose lives you have saved, and on behalf of those who have heard the gospel preached because you first met their physical need through, and by, giving to the Christ’s Birthday Offering, let me say THANK YOU! Thank you for giving to the Lord!
Then the King will say, I’m telling you a solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was Me—you did it to Me (Matthew 25:40 MSG).
Dr. Stephen Darnell
Field Director of Europe, Middle East, CIS, Russia