In Jo Chesson’s office in the Conference Center there’s a homemade check on poster board, a prop used in in a presentation by the children from Calvary UMC in Frederick, who made a donation to Nothing But Nets.
There’s a mistake on the check. A last minute gift was added, so white masking tape with writing on it in magic marker covers the money figures. The check is for $253.50
The additional donation was given by a girl who contributed money she had been saving to buy herself a Nintendo Wii. As much as this girl yearned for a Wii, something in her heart yearned to help children in Africa more.
She knew that every $10 she gave would buy an insecticide-treated bed net to keep mosquitos from killing children in Zimbabwe. The ideas of malaria and mosquito-born disease killing one person every 30 seconds are much more distant thoughts than the fun video games could provide. But she acted like a disciple. She gave.
The adults in this girl’s life would prefer that her name not be mentioned. They believe her gesture is just as meaningful as those from the other Sunday School students at Calvary. They may be right. But it’s a gesture that is being repeated in a surprising number of instances by children who want to reach out and give sacrificially to other children.
Chesson has seen it time and again as she travels around the conference promoting the Nothing But Nets initiative. Someone’s imagination is sparked by the lives and suffering of those they never met and they act. They give.
There’s an old Charlie Brown cartoon. Michael Lindvall writes about it in his book “A Geography of God.”
“Linus is chomping on a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and stops to observe his hands. He says to Lucy, ‘Hands are fascinating things! I like my hands … I think I have nice hands. My hands seem to have a lot of character.’
Waxing eloquently, he goes on, ‘These are hands which may someday do marvelous works! They may build mighty bridges or heal the sick, or hit home runs, or write soul-stirring novels! These are hands,’ he cries out to Lucy, ‘which may someday change the course of destiny!’
Lucy looks at Linus’s hand and says, ‘They’ve got jelly on them!’”
Too often, we dismiss our hands, our potential, the ability of our imaginations to reach out and change the course of destiny. Or, we hesitate to get our own hands dirty.
Chesson herself struggles with this. She is the project coordinator for the partnership between the Baltimore-Washington and Zimbabwe annual conferences. Last week she got an e-mail about deteriorating conditions in Zimbabwe. Run-away inflation is causing extreme hunger and shortages of medication. Teachers at a school the conference supports have been attacked. People in that region are eating their dinners and then traveling into the woods to sleep because soldiers are burning down homes in the middle of the night.
Chesson hears these stories and wants to make a difference, she want to put her hands to action. And so she promotes the HOPE Fund and Nothing but Nets in her off hours.
We’ve all got jelly on our hands. And we all want our own version of the Nintendo Wii. But the children at Calvary have the right idea.
We all need to get out the masking tape and make some changes to what we’ve intended to give or to do. That, Chesson says, is the real heart of discipleship.