Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back.” I’m not sure what that means literally; the ducks always snap up any bread I throw out on the water! But spiritually it speaks about the investment of our gifts and our very selves in service of God and God’s people. If we give ourselves in that way, in due time something will come back in some form to encourage and bless us.
As I have worked giving trainings around the world, sometimes it’s like casting the bread upon the waters and it just disappears. Or actually, I disappear; I go back home and perhaps never visit that country again. But recently some of the ripples from training that I have done came back to me. Each of these ripples was a gift from a friend named Ruth.
Ruth Mooney is an American Baptist International Ministries missionary in Costa Rica. She served earlier in El Salvador and in Cuba. Ruth has for a long time been one of my missionary heroes. She is sweet, fun with a beautiful laugh, but also with a clear purpose in her service of the Lord. She has done fantastic work in curriculum development in Christian education for churches, particularly around the issues of peacemaking. Back in 2006 I visited Costa Rica to facilitate workshops on conflict transformation. Ruth was in one of my workshops, making me a bit nervous because I thought I should be in a workshop led by her! But that’s the kind of humble missionary Ruth is.
This ripple about the training bread thrown out on the water came back to me from Ruth. She said her team completely restructured their basic teacher training workshop to incorporate the experiential learning model I’d taught. They have since given the re-designed workshop twice to enthusiastic reviews. They sought to let the teaching flow out of the activities of the group, letting people discover new things for themselves with the facilitators adding in to just help clarify or give words to understand what the group was experiencing for themselves. They created their own role play. The evaluations told them the team had succeeded in what they hoped to do. That God would take a little that I could offer to strengthen the work of a colleague I respected so much shows the blessing that comes as we let God weave us all together in Christ’s divine service.
The second ripple came from a Ruth whose last name I’ll leave out. She works in an African country with a lot of political turmoil. She is involved in campus ministry. Back in 2006 my wife Sharon and I led a series of workshops in which Ruth was a participant. She enjoyed them so much she arranged for us to do a session with the students in her ministry. The sessions Ruth particularly found helpful were those on Mainstream/Margins and the Sermon on the Mount where I dramatized “transforming initiatives.” Following our training she was involved organizing a series of major workshops for 250 student leaders and graduates on democratization and peacemaking.
In one of the workshops where they were examining “turn the other cheek” and other transforming initiatives, one student was transformed himself. He told Ruth he had often read the Bible but stumbled over this verse in Matthew 5.39. He could not accept the passivity of the typical interpretation. But when he saw it dramatized and how the call was to claim one’s humanity nonviolently and not merely be a victim, it all made sense to him. He told Ruth, “Today I have become a Christian.”
Each of these missionary Ruths had already been involved in fantastic mission work for many years. As their partner in mission I was able to come alongside them in their work and help add a few tools to their wonderful skill sets. They made those tools their own and have continued with their work. Ripples are going forth stirred by us all, or perhaps we might say even better, stirred by the breath of the Holy Spirit.
Do you cast yourself on the water? Do give of yourself to help another directly or to support a friend or colleague in their ministry? Do you stir the waters with your gift? Eventually you might be given the grace to see some of those ripples come back to you, revealing ways that your work has served our Lord, even in ways you perhaps did not foresee. I thank my Ruth friends for sharing these ripples with me. The power of their own ministries has sent ripples that have touched and encouraged me.
Thank you for the casting of your gifts of prayer and financial support upon the water to enable my ministry. I trust that some of the ripples of what happens come back to bless and encourage you. So thank you!
Besides these missionary journals, I also send out “trip notes” from some of my travels for those who would like to be more closely connected to this work. If you would like to receive the “trip notes” send me your e-mail address to email@example.com.
If you would like to support my peacemaking mission financially, you can go to the “Give” page on the International Ministries website:
You will find my name on the pull-down menu under “Global Consultants.” Again, thank you very much.