There was not a dry eye in the church. The ushers were frozen in place and a deep hush had come over the congregation. This was one of those "once in a lifetime" moments for me as a pastor, defining the love of God in real, everyday terms; nd it was happening in our church.
Months earlier, my wife and I were on tour visiting missionaries that our church supported. While visiting one interior city in India, we came across Amy (a name that we would later give her). She was dragging herself through a garbage heap looking for morsels of food.
Our guide told us that she was probably one of the many children abandoned by their impoverished families. "Don't worry", he said, "it's just the way things are here". His calloused words fell on deaf ears as we hurried across the mud-soaked street and knelt near the little girl. She couldn't have been more than five years old.
Turning her over, we were shocked to find open, gaping abrasions from where she had dragged herself across the stones and debris, apparently unable to walk due to malnutrition. My wife shrieked, "Kenneth, there are maggots in her wounds".
Gathering her up in our arms, we ran her back to the jeep. Laying her in the back seat with my wife at her side, we hurried back to the mission. There we bathed her, fed her and dressed her wounds.
She was resilient, as children often are. Despite her weakened state, she clung tenaciously to my wife and would not let go of her. This was obviously the first parental care she had ever received. It so touched the both of us that almost in concert we blurted out to each other "can we adopt her?" Having no children of our own, it seemed like a Godsend fit.
For the remainder of our stay, we nurtured and loved Amy as much as was humanly possible. I gave her a Raggedy Ann doll and promised we would be back for her. This must have been her first gift, because for the rest of that week that doll was never out of her arms.
After what seemed an eternity of paperwork and telephone calls, Amy was finally ours. She had regained her health and quickly assimilated to American life. She learned English, started school and most importantly, eventually accepted the Lord as her savior.
Amy was the darling of the congregation. Everyone pampered her and gave her gifts. But the Raggedy Ann remained her favorite. It was this doll, or at least Amy's love for it, that brought our church to a standstill during an evening service during our mission's conference.
On evening, a young missionary poured his heart out to the congregation. His moving challenge was for believers to give sacrificially to the Lord's work. At the close of the service, a special missions offering was scheduled. When the offertory prayer ended, the ushers turned to pass the plates. The usher in the center aisle started to move past Amy, who always sat in the front center row.
Before the usher could move past her, Amy reached out and grabbed his coat sleeve. The man immediately stooped down and said "what is it dear?" Amy, apparently moved by the message, started to place her Raggedy Ann in the offering plate. It was her dearest possession and in child-like understanding of the sermon, she was sacrificially offering it to the Lord's work.
At the last moment, however, Amy quickly drew her doll back and clutched it tightly. By this time, the attention of the entire congregation had shifted to Amy. The ushers stood still and the pianist faltered as they watched Amy battle with her emotions, wanting to do what she thought was right, but not finding the strength to do so.
After a few more embattled attempts, Amy finally placed her doll in the plate and, well, that is where this story began. Everyone was in tears. A small castaway, who once wandered garbage heaps, just preached one of the strongest sermons ever delivered in our church. As a result, missions offerings skyrocketed and several young people surrendered to become missionaries.
When asked later why she did what she did, Amy simply answered "Because I knew it would make my Father happy". I didn't ask which father she meant, earthly or heavenly, but I think both were very happy with her that day.