For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)

photo (4)Tonight I delivered food boxes to people who would not otherwise have a Thanksgiving dinner. It is an annual outreach into the community by our church. Working with an elementary school counselor at a school with significant poverty, we identify the most vulnerable families and deliver a meal to their homes. For several weeks leading up the the event, people give food and money sacrificially to make this possible. Alpen Rose Dairy donates turkeys. Winco foods provides discounts on staples. A host of helpers at our church came to get them all delivered.

It is a pretty organized event. There are addresses, names and phone numbers on the prearranged boxes. We need only show up at the door with the box and wish the family a Happy Thanksgiving. The address of this particular apartment was clearly labeled on the box. We knocked on the door and surprised the residents with our gift. After a few moments of confusion we realized that there was not a match between the name on the box and the people who lived in the apartment. With an apology for disturbing them we departed to find the rightful recipient. The family was clearly disappointed that they would not receive the help.

We tried to call the phone number on the box label. It was a non-working number. So we returned to the door of the family we had surprised and gave them the gift. The mom said, “I don’t know how to thank you. We were going to have grill cheeses for dinner on Thursday. I told a coworker of mine about our situation and she said not to worry, but that God would provide. And so He has! Thank you!”

When we returned to the church we found the right phone number for the family who had been the intended recipient. They said the box was already delivered to them. Apparently, one of the children of the family to whom we had given it recognized the name on the box as a classmate. So they brought it to the rightful recipient. They were back to grill cheese.

It gets better. The rightful recipient knew that the other family had greater need, so after taking just a few items they needed, they gave the meal back to the family that gave it to them. These two families who both have need were sacrificial towards one another, though they barely knew one another. Each of them tried to be a help to the other. What grace! We went back over with yet another box and blessed both families.

Last week I visited a friend who had given her kidney to a neighbor with a life-threatening kidney disease. She is a healthy mother of two who learned that her blood type made her a suitable donor, so she went under the knife and gave her neighbor the gift of life. She didn’t want any fanfare. It was a fairy quiet event between the two families.

These stories of grace are humbling. Generous people at every turn were willing to set something aside for another. And God is pleased. People who give sacrificially are showing the best of what it means to be made in the image of God.

God is a gift giver. He sent His perfect Son into an imperfect world and gave a gift that is still freeing the hearts of those trapped in the bondage of sin. As His people, we are compelled to reach into every messy corner that needs a touch of Jesus and to give ourselves sacrificially to the work of God in loving others. That is mission – giftive mission.