‘I took change from the offering basket . . .’

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I remember passing by a church, a mosque and two shrines before arriving at school in the early ’90s, back in my home town in Albania. They had been turned into warehouses for cooperatives during communism, but when democracy came they got quickly brushed clean and warmed up with candles.

On exam days, many of my school friends would stop by and put their coins in the cracks of the walls of these “holy places” so that God would help them. On our way to the end-of-year exams they did the same. I suppose the atheist in me got all stirred up and I pulled a banknote out of my pocket, saying “Look, I have this money and I will not throw it in the shrine. Let’s see if God makes me fail the exams.”

This was my pocket money! My dad gave it to me so I could treat myself after the exams. Which I did. Also, I did do better than I expected at those exams.

But by the end of that decade I found myself looking for answers bigger than the ones on the exam papers. It must have been the second or third time I had visited the Adventist church in my town when around came the offering basket. I pulled out the only banknote I had in my pocket and put it in the basket and then took out some change for the bus home. The deacon’s jaw dropped and I realised perhaps this was not a good idea. In my mind this was still my money and I was being generous because I really liked the mission story and I wanted to help. I did learn to plan my giving ahead after that.

I left Albania and went to study in Rome, where God surrounded me with loving Adventist church friends who would openly talk about their joys and struggles of tithe and offerings. About this time I started seeing money as being more God’s than mine. I started giving tithe from the little salary I earned at my part-time job, student sponsorship, birthday money, etcetera.

Later on, when I got married and moved to Ireland, the joy of my first salary was so great because now I could return tithe! What a blessing to experience God’s provision and be able to respond to Him with a “thank you” in a tangible way through tithe. Having reflected on this aspect of my faith journey, I’m humbled.

From an atheist to a follower of Christ. From “this is my money” to “this is all His”.

“’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And try me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’” (Malachi 3:10, NKJV).

Lindita Vani works in communications and women’s ministry for the South New Zealand Conference.

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