Christmas is a time for giving. It is also a season for reflecting on the gracious generosity God displayed in sending the gift of Jesus to a darkened world.
One Christmas became memorable for me precisely because of a stranger’s simple, generous invitation.
In December of 1977, my wife Jani and I were living in Dallas, Texas, where I was in the middle of doctoral studies. Since Jani’s brother Albert was studying at the University of Guadalajara, we decided as a family to rendezvous in Mexico to celebrate Christmas south of the border. So, as soon as my last blue book exam was submitted, Mom and Dad Iguchi joined us in Dallas. Together we flew to Mexico City for a few days of sightseeing before winging to Guadalajara to spend Christmas with Albert.
The sights of Mexico City were intriguing. We climbed the Aztec Teotihuacan Pyramids and watched a bullfight. Ole! Then we headed to Guadalajara, one of Portland’s sister cities. Because Albert was involved deeply with a Mennonite church in the city, we were invited by “Heddy,” a Canadian missionary, to stay at her apartment over Christmas. She was planning on being out of town and graciously made her home available to us.
An Unusual Invitation
We had an incredible time celebrating Christmas together, but what I remember most is the serenity and graciousness of many people, from our host herself to a man joyfully shining shoes on Christmas day in the city’s piazza. But most memorable was an unusual invitation. We drove Heddy around the city as she completed errands before her departure. Stopping at her bank, she introduced us to the bank manager. This man, who had never laid eyes on us before, greeted us and immediately invited us to his home. “No one should be alone at Christmas,” he said simply.
Though we declined because we had other plans, the sincerity of his generous offer struck me in a way I’ll never forget. I could not help but think of the gift of God who graciously sent His Son to earth on that first Christmas centuries ago, making it possible that our joy might be full. I was reminded that Christ came to all people, regardless of class, socio-economic status, education, vocation, nationality, ethnicity, or gender. I was convicted that I needed to show greater generosity to others, not just at Christmas but all year round, as an expression of my gratitude for God’s gracious gift.
God's Grace and Multnomah Students
God continues to be gracious to our students at Multnomah, too. One of my Grad students, Annet Kyomugisha, tells a remarkable story of how the generosity of God’s people made it possible for her to study at Multnomah. She, her husband Fred, and their daughter Deborah travelled to Portland from Rwanda in the fall of 2008. Fred, one of my theology students last year, is now in his second year at Multnomah pursuing his MAPS.
Annet desperately wanted to enroll in seminary, too. She realized how important her education would be for their work in Rwanda. From a human standpoint, the financial need seemed impossibly great. Yet she had enough faith to apply to the seminary, though without hope that funds would be available. When her application was accepted last summer, she put it on the shelf and continued to pray. Then, one day just before school began, something amazing happened.
“That morning, I received a $1,000 check in the mail from a friend in Portland,” she said. That same afternoon, a friend from Washington, D.C., and then a friend from Texas called, inquiring about their financial needs. Fred explained their desire for Annet to enroll in seminary. One person pledged $5,000 for her education, and the other promised $4,000.
“I did not send out letters requesting financial aid,” Annet explained, “so it is still not clear to me why these generous people decided to respond the way they did.”
But respond they did. Eventually, $16,000 was given from these three people, and she was able to begin classes this fall.
Two things struck me about Annet’s story. One was her remarkable faith. She applied to Multnomah when she had no earthly reason to believe it was possible. Yet she believes in a God of the impossible. Had she not applied, her matriculation might have been delayed a full semester. Annet’s experience seems to say, “Step out in faith and trust God to provide the way.”
Joy of Generosity
The other important lesson is that God’s provision and timing is always perfect. He provided what she needed just at the right time. More than that, he involved other believers in the process, allowing them the joy of generosity. Because of their gifts, a beautiful couple poised to make a strategic impact on the spiritual and theological landscape of Rwanda, may return to their native country equipped for the task God has for them.
Transformed by the generous Gift of God,
Daniel R. Lockwood