by Linda Post Bushkofsky
More than two decades ago my husband went to a dinner one Sunday evening in the church basement of a small congregation on the northwestern Minnesota prairie. A Lutheran missionary serving in South America was in the area, and members of the congregation had gathered to meet him. The congregation offered prayers each week in support of the missionary and provided some financial support too.
After dinner, the missionary offered a slide show presentation, explaining his ministry setting. He served in a rural community in Guyana where most of the people made their living by farming—not so different from most of the folks who were attending the gathering that Sunday evening.
After the slide show, and while people were mingling with one another over coffee and dessert, someone asked the missionary if there was anything special that he needed in his work.
He thought for a minute. Well, they had enough Bibles. The children who came to the small school also operated by the church had a reasonable quantity of school supplies. But what they could really use was a tractor—not the large tractors used by many Midwestern U.S. farmers, but a certain kind of tractor that was especially economical and useful in meeting the challenges faced by Guyana’s farmers.
One of the people sitting at the same eight-foot-long table as the missionary asked how much one of those tractors might cost. The missionary wasn’t sure about the exact figure, but he estimated that it would probably come close to $10,000.
The Minnesota farmer who asked the question said he could write out a check for $1,000 that very evening—and before you knew it, others in the crowd had whipped out their checkbooks as well. By the time everyone had left for home that evening, the missionary had enough money to buy the tractor that the farmers needed. No one was more surprised than he was, since he had not expected to make any fundraising appeals on that evening. He was simply there to thank the congregation for the support they were giving already.
That’s often how it is: just when we least expect it, gifts and blessings come our way. You spot a rainbow driving home from work, or a cardinal lights in your garden. You smile and say thanks. You are feeling blue, and a friend calls. You’ve been feeling disconnected, and a letter arrives from a loved one. You’ve been blessed. The same is true in our life together in Women of the ELCA. The programming might be growing stale in your unit, and someone comes up with a great new idea to try. Or your enthusiasm for a longstanding service project is lagging until a new woman gets really excited about the project and her excitement is contagious. With each gift or blessing that you receive personally or in community, the cycle of giving continues.
As you prepare for a Thankoffering service, consider the gifts and blessings you have so generously received. May your Thankoffering reflect those gifts so that the ministry of Women of the ELCA may, in turn, be a blessing to others.
Consider this your personal invitation to join with Lutheran women across the organization in giving thanks on Saturday, November 5, at 3 p.m. CDT for an online Thankoffering Service. Advance registration is required. You may make a Thankoffering online; select “Thankofferings” in the pull-down designation list.
Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director, tries to practice thanks-giving every day. If you’d like to try that too, take a look at Giving Thanks to God—All Day, Every Day, a free resource from Women of the ELCA.
A version of this story appeared in the November 2005 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather).