“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”

Philippians 4:17

The text which I wrote above this little news article from Jamaica came to my mind when I saw the eight crates of clothing which the Hudsonville diaconate had packed, crated and sent to my address here on this Caribbean island. There stood those crates in the Montego Bay Freeport. They were bulging at the seams. These were love-gifts which had been placed upon the altar of consecration to the Lord. 

However, they were not yet in my possession. That takes time. There are many steps in the process. First, one must go and see the representative of the ship-line TRANSCONNEX-JAMAICA, INC. for the original-bill of lading. Then one must go and see where he can obtain a broker who will transact this business for him, since the churches here are not yet incorporated, and recognized by the government. One must deal with a broker because the value of the merchandise must be declared with Customs. The Wharfinger needs his fee for having stored the goods at the warehouse. After the goods have been freed and customs-duty has been paid one must obtain a truck to bring the 3200 lbs of clothing here to Coral Gardens where we live. 

This all occupied about a week! 

The enthusiastic deacons over-evaluated the clothing sent, so I needed a new Form B 23 sent from Grand Rapids and Florida with a lower evaluation, lest the customs-duty would be almost like rapacious banditry. We got by with paying $59.00 customs-duty for the clothing. Had these churches been recognized there would have been no need of a broker nor would there have been customs-duty. 

Finally the Saturday came when the truck brought the clothing to our house. Three Jamaicans came. They had no device with wheels to unload these boxes which ranged from 375 to 450 pounds in weight. And these crates were placed in our “maid’s room,” all but two. I feared that the door frame would be taken off the house! But all went well. I did not need to repair the door, or apologize to the landlord. And now these ponderous giants had to be unpacked, sorted and delivered to the various churches on the island. Although our motto was “hurry slowly,” it soon became evident that Mrs. Lubbers has her own way of keeping that motto. Methodically and with dispatch she went at this task, and our home at times looked like a clothing store. I reminded myself that this was the Mission Center of the island? and dutifully put the cardboard boxes in the Ford Cortina and brought the clothing to the various churches. 

It is a blessed task to bring this clothing to the people here. And at the same time it is necessary to bring them with firmness and good instruction and with directives from the Word of God. 

Time and again the words came to my mind “not that I desire a gift. . . . .” At each occasion we spoke a few words from the Scriptures impressing upon the hearts of the saints that these were gifts which represented the love and mercies of Christ through the sanctified hands of the saints in the States. If this bringing of clothing was on Sunday, we would try to have a special meeting in which we presented these clothes. You must know that we have now brought the clothing to all but two of the churches here. In the smaller churches Mrs. Lubbers would have the clothing selected and would give these to the people personally. 

Yesterday we were to the Belmont congregation. It was a good day. We might teach Catechism-Sunday School on Article 13, First Head of Doctrine. The entire class had learned this by heart. We might teach for fifty minutes, employing our blackboard for illustrations. Later we preached onEphesians 5:15-20. In the afternoon at 3:30 we presented the clothing and spoke for thirty minutes on the passage from Philippians 4. It was possible to make many appropriate applications of this passage. I could point out that perhaps they were like Paul, not so much desiring the “gift” as that they saw in it, the “fruit which abounds to the account” of the many who made this clothing-drive a success, by the grace of God. At least that is what should be the reward which every donor should be seeking and looking for. They should be looking toward the day when Christ shall say: I was naked and ye clothed me, hungry and ye fed me, imprisoned and ye visited me. We should know that inasmuch as we have done this to the least of Christ’s children, we have done it unto Him. 

And this all had wide implication and application for those who receive these gifts. They in turn were to receive them with thanksgiving, that there might be a double harvest of grace. They should say not that we desire the gift. They should learn to say with Paul: for I have learned to be content in whatsoever state I am, both to abound and to suffer want.

Yes, this “talk” started out a talk but soon it captivated the audience and it became a sermon of teaching and admonition. And the Word was received well with spiritual minds. 

The elder at Belmont responded that they received this clothing as the special care of Christ for them His sheep, and that they were indeed thankful to God for being remembered. They saw in this clothing the evidence of the love of Christ through His people, the evidence of a living faith. 

This clothing was over-estimated in its value by the Hudsonville deacons. They simply have no value at all in a commercial way. The Jamaica Government plays the part of the mendicant when it requires Custom-duty from us. It says in effect: you may give gifts to the poor of our land provided you pay the duty. The Customs Officers’ really blush when I tell them this and they hold the customs down to a token. But they do not thwart our purpose. For the real value of this clothing is that it helps the poor, and expresses our love to these churches who are by our United States standards: poor, poorer and poorest. And in the midst of it all we hear Paul say: Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! 

It is a great lesson in thankfulness and gratitude that we are given by the apostle Paul in prison. He did not write these words from an ivory tower. He wrote as the prisoner of Jesus Christ. From this example of the great apostle to the Gentiles we take heart. Often the way is trying, as a servant of Jesus Christ. 

When we see this expression of the love of Christ-in these tangible gifts, in the many letters which we receive, we say with Paul: But I rejoice in the Lord greatly. . . .! 

Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice.