Julie Hart as a 22-year-old in Tokyo, Japan.

“From the Hart” Devotional for Nov. 9, 2023

“Give All You Can”
by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. … You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9: 6-7, 11

In 1992, at the age of 23, I had the wonderful experience of spending time in Tokyo, Japan. My boyfriend at the time was performing in a show so I went to visit for a few months. I loved it! I spent my days exploring and my nights backstage with the stage crew. I would bring pamphlets and guides about festivals, restaurants, shops, and events and the crew would help me plan my itinerary for the week. They helped me learn to speak Japanese and how to eat noodles with chopsticks, neither of which I ever mastered. They treated me like one of the crew; they treated me like family.

One afternoon, I fell down a flight of stairs at our apartment complex and broke my foot. The doctors told me that I had to have surgery to put pins in it. In Japan (at least at that time) you had to pay for your operations before they were completed. I do not recall the exact amount, but it was a few thousand dollars. I had been dealing with insurance (I was way, WAY out of network) and figuring out how to get money wired to me from home.

I showed up at the show the following evening in crutches and told the crew about my accident. I laughed about my clumsiness and carried on as usual for the rest of the night. The next afternoon, two of the stage crew members came to our apartment. They had food and gifts for me and cards wishing me well. In one of the envelopes was a pile of yen (Japanese currency) in the exact amount that I needed to have my operation. They had taken up a collection from the crew so I could get my surgery and begin healing. I told them that I couldn’t possibly accept their gift, but they wouldn’t hear of me giving it back.

The thing was that because of the language barrier, there were several of them whom I had spoken to very little. Kon’nichiwa, dōmo arigatōgozaimasu, and burabō was the extent of my primitive Japanese backstage. I was still learning some of their names, but they knew mine. They called me “Juri”. And they cared enough about a clumsy American girl to give her this big gift. I never even had to ask. I never would have asked! They saw a need and they acted out of love, compassion, and generosity. I had no idea who had given how much. They didn’t want me to know. They just wanted me to get better.

I think that is the way that God wants us to give. I think that is what John Wesley meant when he said that we were to give all that we can. Because God has given so much to us, we can express our gratitude by giving to others. He is quoted as saying this:
“(Money) is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father for the fatherless; we may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death.”

As you think about this spiritual discipline of giving this week, here are some questions that might help:

As I look around in my own life, where do I see abundance?
What do I have too much of that could better serve someone without?
How do I see the church responding to the needs of others?
What can I do to support the important work of the church?

God of grace and God of abundance:
Thank you for all that you have blessed me with — food and drink to sustain myself, clothes to wear, and a place to lay my head. Thank you for the blessing of my church and the mission that we all share to both be and make disciples in this world. I pray that the gifts that I am able to share will help those who receive them know that they are loved by you.