Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I'm not really sure where I am going with writing this morning, but for some reason this topic has been on my heart and in my head for a few weeks. I think maybe I need to make this commitment here as a measure of accountability.

Despite the title of this post, the topic is money - and how I spend it. A few weeks ago, for some reason, I stopped and thought about the fact that I spend about $5 a day on coffee during the week. That is roughly $1,250 a year - on coffee. I spend it largely without thinking about it and as a habit. In the scheme of things it is not an expensive habit, but it is money that I spend rather needlessly and carelessly. And, it is just an example of money that I spend that certainly could and should go to something better.

Then, the following week, I went to a meeting where we discussed our church's mission in Kenya. We have decided to help with the construction of a school in a rural area on the western side of the country that I visited with others while we were there in November. We recently learned, however, that the government is requiring the school to have water and toilets - something that we would take for granted here, but a big deal there. You may have a mental image of what that means, but you likely are wrong. The school is a series of buildings constructed of branches and mud. Toilets means holes dug in the ground somewhere of sufficient size, etc., to handle the demands. And water does not mean connecting to a water system. It means a cistern system to collect and use rain water. They need both of these things quickly so that they can continue operation while building new buildings and expanding what they can do for the children of the community. The total estimated cost of these two things is about $3,000 US.

While most of us certainly do not have $3,000 in our wallets, it is just not that much money - I could get there alone simply by giving up coffee for a few years. On the other hand, it is prohibitively expensive for the people living there. People at the meeting that I was attending where it was discussed quickly started to come up with fundraising ideas to raise the money - selling donuts, etc. I started thinking about whether I could ask my firm to make a contribution, or other sources for getting the money together in a hurry.

A few days later I attended a meeting of the celebration and design committee at my church - the group that develops the worship services. I did not know it before deciding to attend, but the focus was on an upcoming sermon series related to stewardship. The typical November money series at church that a lot of people just skip so that they can attempt to avoid feeling guilty for not tithing or increasing their offerings and giving more. In any event, during that discussion a friend of mine who was in attendance shared that for 27 years she had acrylic fingernails so that they would look nice. Then, recently, she did the math and thought about how much money she had spent over those 27 years on her nails. Then and there, she decided that money could be much better spent and gave it up.

I'm not sure that I am completely ready to declare that I will give up my $5 a day habit. But, I want to start by giving it up for one day a week. Sure - $5 a week is only about $250 a year. That is definitely not a lot, but used in the right way, even that little bit will make a difference. I know that the Lord will use even this little additional money that I am talking about here to do great things. Think of the boy who gave his five small loaves and two small fish to Jesus, who used them to feed the five thousand, with twelve basketfulls left over. John 6:1-15 Once I recognize that I don't even really notice, that it really isn't even a sacrifice, maybe I will try to step it up to two days a week, and so on.

While this will not answer the question of the $3,000 needed for water and toilets, I think the math really brought it all home to me. If I would give up spending on money for coffee for a few years, that very small gesture alone would have a profound impact on many, many lives both now and in the future. That is just not much of a sacrifice to change lives.
I'm not writing this to challenge others, or to suggest that anyone reading this does anything - I haven't even done it yet myself. As I said at the start, I'm writing this as a means of holding myself accountable by declaring that I am going to start this process.

Tomorrow's trip with the coffee group will be purely social for me.

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