Why I Agreed to Receive Financial Help from Someone Who Needed It Herself


My pride was blinding me to an important truth: that healthy relationships revolve around mutuality, not one-sided generosity.

The familiar ding rang out from my computer, notifying me of a new email. I went to check it and discovered an email money transfer, sent at an unexpected time from a very unexpected source.

The sender’s name was Shelley, a single mother from our congregation who worked three jobs in order to take care of her son. She was always busy, always juggling her work schedules, and desperately trying to spend time with her child while also providing for him financially. It wasn’t easy to do both, and now she was sending me money that she said was specifically for me, not the church.

Shelley was sending us this generous gift because our family had gone through “a series of unfortunate events” that indeed seemed like it was out of a Lemony Snicket novel. During 2018, I had serious medical struggles, suffering 40 seizures over the course of five months. This meant countless specialist appointments and expensive medications, not to mention the pain and uncertainty that accompanied such a dramatic medical issue. My driver’s license was suspended, so my wife also needed to take time off work to drive me to and from these appointments in neighboring cities.

During this time, our town had a major flood, which affected our home and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage. We lost many of our belongings, including most of our children’s toys. To top things off, our four-year-old son was scheduled to have surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids.

While I kept pastoring during this time, there was much uncertainty about my ability to continue. Had things gotten any worse, I would have had to resign from my position and apply for social assistance—or, to use the more common but pejorative term, welfare. …

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