Our social worker at the welfare office here in New Zealand promised help if we needed it. They told me we would be looked after. We believed them. Three months had now gone by. It is Christmas, when goodwill and peace abound. December being a busy month, tensions can run high; but we can handle it. Trouble is it was going to be on the cutting edge for our family.
I got very little holiday pay because I had only been working a few months. The factory was to be closed for a month arou ndChristmas. My wife and I went down to the welfare office. They didn’t want to know us. We tried to explain our situation. It was like talking to a brick wall. “You’re working now,” they said. You are no longer eligible for assistance. But I pay my taxes. I vote. The police don’t live outside my house.
Back at home the phone rang. It was my wife’s sister. She was calling to accept our invitation. She and her three children would love to come and stay with us over Christmas. I was about ready to tear my hair out. Without being sarcastic, the opening line of an old hymn entered my mind. ‘Oh God our help in ages past’, it goes.
My sister-in-law and her three children arrived. It was the night before Christmas and we had a ball. Nothing was going to spoil our family gathering. We decided to eat drink and be merry. Our children were happy. Why let money interfere with our festivities? Nonetheless things did begin to get tight. We used wisdom with extra water in the stew. More flour went in the beans. When the sugar ran out, honey and jam became a substitute.
Then there are those priceless gems at the back of the pantry. Things like ingredients for some dish you only ever made once. Mostly half empty bags of stuff that’s not seen the light of day for a long time. They all went.
By the grace of God, and sheer tenacity we made it through to the third week. My sister-in-law helped, too, where she could. Being a single parent had put limits on her as well. Eventually things did run out. So in our family devotions we had been asking for God to look out for us.
This particular time, I felt led to write out a shopping list. None of us had any money. We just knew that God would provide. With out being flippant or over confident, I asked our family what groceries were needed. Butter, tomatoes, lettuce, bread, flour, etc. Then my wife said she wanted a block of cheese.“That is not a need;” I explained to her, “it’s a want. This list is for needs. Food needs.”
“I don’t care ,”she said. “I want a block of cheese.”
Being a good husband I wrote it on the list. There was enough tension in the house and I didn’t want us to start bickering. If there was going be an argument, I would rather wait for something worthwhile to fight over certainly not a block of cheese.
I opened up the Bible at no particular place. The list went on top, and then we all laid hands on it. The children in the house that wanted to pray and did so. The adults then asked God to provide. We then thanked him for what we were about to receive. Three days had gone by with no answer. No knocks on the door. Not even any visitors. No angels. No money in the letterbox. Nothing at all was received.
We were down to eating flour and water mixed in a paste. When we got tired of that, we fried the mixture in fat. The good news is it was a big bag of flour. Even better, the factory was due to open up again. I knew there were some wages due, but it was only two days or so. It was not going to be much. However, it would be something. I went to work and did my eight hours for the man.
At the end of my shift, I was getting in the van to come home. In my pocket were the few measly dollars the pay clerk had given me. I was thinking about how to spend them wisely. The factory owner’s secretary waved out to me. She showed me some boxes of groceries. After thanking her, I placed them in the van.
At home, I parked up and started to reflect. My wife came outside. She climbed in and I told her what happened. We took the boxes inside and showed them to the family. Together we began opening them. Everything on that list we prayed for was there, and right on the top of one box was a family-sized block of cheese.
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