I just had a great coffee date.
Nothing like a few hours and a good cuppa joe to bring clarity and passion back into life!
My darling-est friend sat across from me and reminded me of the beloved story of the loaves and fishes from the book of Matthew. Actually there are two similar stories there, which start out with a huge crowd of hungry people and both times Jesus was offered an inadequate amount of bread and fish to try to feed the masses. Both times thousands of people ended up fed from the meager offering.
IT WAS MULTIPLIED!
Our present-day loaves and fishes story began just over a year ago when our family had the idea to buy a fish tank for the orphanage our Elisee is from. The tank we had in mind holds over a hundred gallons of water and up to 400 North African Catfish. With this tank, the orphanage can raise enough fish to feed the kids AND enough to sell in the market. The money made would then restock the tank with new fish, buy grain or vegetables and the kids are eating for free! This cycle can replay up to 5 times a year per tank.
The amazing Patrice (our friend who runs the orphanage in Benin, Africa) has dreamed of this fish tank on the orphanage’s new property. While we were with her several years ago, she took us to a farm in another village to see one in operation. It was an unassuming cement well-sort-of-thing with a tin roof. The water inside was smooth until a loaf of stale bread was thrown on top. Then the water came alive with enormous fish surfacing, rolling and battling for bites of the bread. It was such a ruckus! I was astonished at the quantity and size of these fish.
Our Elisee LOVED the picnic we ate at the Farm!
SO the Schuiteboer’s decided that giant stinky fish were our new family goal! It was Spring and we all had yet to celebrate our birthdays-or any holiday for that matter. We decided to use each celebration- for a whole year- as an opportunity to ask for or make donations toward “Elisee’s Fishtank.” The kids eagerly gave up the idea of birthday presents and experiences- opting for small parties at home with cake and ice cream- and our invitations asked for no gifts but money for the Fishtank instead.
And guess what??
Our friends and family BLEW US AWAY!!
I should have known… I mean these are some seriously generous, creative and passionate people. I knew that already but when the first party came around I sat down in the garden with a gaggle of 6&7 year old girls and a globe, their eyes came alive. Each girl was so thrilled to learn about Africa and Elisee and fish! They asked questions and shared their own ideas and then came an abundance of cleverly wrapped donations. Money was wrapped up in packages, cards, hand-drawn pictures, and folded into origami fish for goodness sakes! My sweet Makenna raised $77 on her 7th birthday for a brother she hasn’t met yet!!
Summer is our Birthday season. We have a June, a July, 2 Augusts and 2 Septembers. It’s sort of like a Marathon of Birthdays where we take off and build up speed for the finish line of Carter & Elisee who are one day apart. The glory of this particular birthday season was the jar we kept in our kitchen with “Elisee’s Fishtank” written on it. Each birthday brought another chance to fill it up and watch our collection grow. Each celebration brought a sense of pride and ownership to the person being celebrated who got to put their “presents” in the jar and dream of a hundred kids eating until their bellies were full.
Our jar filled and overflowed and we were sure it was getting close to the amount needed. After our crazy birthday season we knew Christmas was ahead of us. It was our one last hurrah before the end of the year and our goal was to have the money raised by Patrice’s birthday-to share our birthdays with her as a complete surprise just for her. I added up the money as the kids eagerly waited & sorted change. The atmosphere was sort of static as we waited to hear a big number.
HOWEVER, here’s the deal, this whole idea was a huge undertaking. The fish tank itself is darn expensive. It requires a backhoe and cement trucks and supplies that are not easily found in the African Bush. We were shooting for the stars. We have some seriously amazing people who gave and gave and the Schuiteboers saved every bit of change and allowance but we came up short. Like WAY short. We still needed $2000 for the tank plus a little extra for the fish and the cost of sending so much money across an ocean. We were more than a little discouraged, but isn’t it just like our God to hold out for the big finale!?
One week before Christmas I added my birthday money to the jar. I was glad to relinquish my annual new pair of shoes and pretty dishes in hopes that Patrice would have her dream come true in just days. I tallied the money again and prayed for God to provide a miracle and not just any miracle… A miracle of ABUNDANCE. Days later, over dinner, someone gave Collin a white envelope. Yep. You know… All good checks come in white envelopes. This incredible couple usually makes a big donation at the end of the year to an organization of their agreed choosing, but this year they decided to split the donation and send it out in chunks. The amount they gave to us was enough to send a fish tank’s worth of money to surprise Patrice for her Birthday AND pay off the kid’s school bill. What!? We didn’t even think to ask God for that yet! (So it was a little overdue…Prayer worthy? Not quite yet!)
Guys, God is a God of MULTIPLICATION! His abundance is far-reaching and SO MUCH MORE than we imagine! I have been blown away more than once, but let me tell you, this literal loaves and fishes story is one that will stick with me for a long time.
Where does God want to blow YOU away?
In what way is he planning to show you His ABUNDANCE?
Have you asked him yet?