The Worship Tree
Narrator: This quarter we’ve met children from three countries. Can you name them? [Let children identify Madagascar, Namibia, and South Africa. Point to each country on the map.]
Today is Thirteenth Sabbath. Today we give a special offering to help the people in Madagascar, Namibia, and South Africa share God’s love through several specific projects.
But one of those projects is especially for children, and today _______ [name of storyteller] will share that story with us.
Storyteller: The aging tree stands on the corner of the property near the road. Its bark has been peeled off by years of weather and a few curious hands. Its roots are worn smooth from providing seats for children and weary adults. But the tree’s heart is strong, and its branches provide cooling shade for those who sit under it. This tree is a special tree; it is the children’s place of worship every Sabbath. Here they sing songs to Jesus and listen as their teacher tells them Bible stories. The tree is their Sabbath School classroom.
No Church in Ingwavuma
The growing congregation in the town of Ingwavuma [ihng-gwah-VOO-mah] in northeastern South Africa worships in the community hall, a one-room building. Because there’s no classroom for the children, they worship under the big tree in the dusty yard. When it rains, they crowd into the community hall and worship with the adults.
The church members share the community hall with many other groups. One day the women may gather to knit and talk. Another night the town council discusses important matters in the community.
Early on Sabbath morning several Adventist believers prepare the community center for worship. They arrange the chairs for worshippers and set a table and four chairs in the front for worship leaders. Soon the worshippers gather, singing songs of love to Jesus as they arrive. No piano accompanies them as the melody of their strong voices flows through the windows and into the community, beckoning others to hurry to Sabbath worship.
Time for Worship
The children gather under the worship tree a few feet away. They too sing their songs to Jesus, and their sweet voices rise above the adults in joyful praise. They clap along with their singing to keep time. After much singing, the teacher leads the children in prayer, asking God to be with them during Sabbath School.
“Who can recite last week’s Bible text?” the teacher asks the children. Eager hands wave as if to say, “I can! I can!” One by one the children recite the Bible text they have learned. Then it’s storytime. The teacher tells the children a Bible story. She shows them a picture from a book, and the children lean forward from their perch on the tree’s roots to see. She asks a question about the story, and again hands shoot into the air to answer.
God Shall Supply
When the teacher finishes the story, she recites the day’s Bible text. “Today’s text is important,” she says. “It’s found in Philippians 4:19 and says: ‘My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’ Let’s say it together,” she encourages. “My God… [encourage children in class to repeat after teacher] shall supply all your need… according to His riches in glory… by Christ Jesus.” The children and the teacher repeat the verse together several times.
“Who can tell me what the verse means?” the teacher asks.
“It means that when we are in trouble we can ask God, and He will help us,” one boy says.
“It means that if we don’t have food to eat, we can ask God, and He will provide food,” a girl says quietly.
“It means that God is telling us that we don’t have to worry about things we need, because Jesus knows, and He will give us what we need,” another boy answers.
“These are good answers,” the teacher says with a smile. “God does know our needs, and He will provide, just as He provides grass for our cattle and sunshine and rain to grow the rice and vegetables we need to eat. He sees our needs and will provide.”
A Special Place
The teacher paused for a moment before continuing. “Today God is asking children around the world to help meet a special need. What is that need?”
Hands shot up throughout the group. Teacher nodded, and a boy stood up and almost shouted, “A church!” Others nodded in agreement.
“Yes, God has heard our prayers for a church—a building dedicated to worshipping God and sharing our faith with the people in our community. Thanks to God we have the land, and some members have bought bricks to begin building the church. But we don’t have the money to finish it. However, today—this very day—around the world, Adventists are giving their Thirteenth Sabbath Offering so that we will have a church in which to worship. And children are giving their offering so we can have a Sabbath School room just for children!” The teacher’s eyes glistened with joy.
An Offering for Ingwavuma
“So many want to come to Sabbath School, but their parents don’t want them to meet under the tree. When we have a worship hall of our own, those parents will gladly let their children come to worship and learn stories from the Bible.
Let’s pray that as we give our offerings today God will bless the offerings of children and grown-ups around the world so that we can build our church on the hilltop and it can be a light to our community.”
The children bowed their heads as one of the older children prayed for the special offering. Then the children sang another happy song as they gave their offerings to Jesus.
Boys and girls, as we give our Thirteenth Sabbath Offering today, let’s pray that the boys and girls in one small town in Africa will bring many others to their new worship hall to learn about Jesus.
[Prayer and offering]
Next quarter the South American Division will be featured. Special projects include churches in Brazil and Peru. First quarter 2013 will feature the South Pacific Division. Special projects include medical clinics in isolated regions of Papua New Guinea, Bibles and Bible lessons for children in Papua New Guinea, and audio Bible players for several island nations of the South Pacific.