The Envelope

Journal Entry: The early 1980s were a scary time for parents with toddlers. A week did not go by without the media reporting children developing Reye’s syndrome, an often fatal condition following a viral infection like the flu or chickenpox. The medical community did not know how or why some developed Reye’s, and others did not. The parent’s greatest fear was that there was no known cure.

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Springtime, 1980.

I was our Sunday school class secretary and treasurer. One of my duties was to start the Missionary Offering Envelope at one end of the sixty-member class, collect it at the other, and count the offerings. Usually, the envelope made its way through the entire class in a few minutes, like they were playing a game of “hot potato.” After recording the amount—often $3 to $5—I turned the cash over to the Sunday Superintendent.

Our son, Jeff, was five when he contracted an extreme case of chickenpox. Pox blisters covered him from head to foot. When his fever spiked, we tried controlling it with baby aspirin, but that did not work. It kept climbing.

I did not want to leave them, but Liz, my wife, assured me that Jeff would be all right while I went to church to perform my “secretary and treasurer duties” and come straight home. Reluctantly, I left them and drove to church.

Pre-class time was chaotic: people talking, laughing, and fellowshipping. But I was not in the mood. I wanted to fulfill my duties and return home.

Come on, come on...let’s get started. I gotta get home, I thought. As soon as I could, I started the envelope.

I paced.

Ten minutes passed.

What’s taking so long? It’s usually done by now.

The minutes passed like hours while the envelope dillydallied from person to person.

Where is it? Who has it now? I should’ve stayed home. Lord, can’t You speed this up?

My mind was racing. The stress was more than I could bear.

It took forever, but the envelope finally snaked through the entire class. To my amazement, it overflowed with money. No one made a particular appeal or announced a special need, yet the envelope was filled to capacity with cash.

Bummer! Now, I have to count it...

I recorded the amount and left to find the Sunday Superintendent, but he was not in his usual location. I was ready to explode from the stress of searching for him. All I could think about was handing him the cash and making a beeline for home. But he said, “We’ve already put all the offerings in the safe. Just keep it until next week.”

I did not want or need this extra stress and responsibility, but I slipped the envelope into my coat pocket and left.

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I arrived home to find our son’s condition worsening. Liz said, “We’ve got to take Jeff to the Emergency Room. I’m really concerned and scared.”

I drove to the nearest hospital as fast as I could. By now, our son was unresponsive, nearly in a coma. After hours in the Emergency Room and many tests and examinations later, we received the dreadful news: Reye’s Syndrome.

Jeff’s doctors transferred him to Children’s Hospital. Liz could ride in the ambulance, but I needed to go home, grab a few things, and follow by car. I knew his stay at Children’s could be extensive since his prognosis was so grim.

I kept thinking about the news reports that 30% - 40% of kids with Reye’s had died, and a third of the survivors had significant brain damage. I felt hopelessly out of control of events I did not understand.

When I arrived home and grabbed the items Liz wanted, it occurred to me I would need gas for the car and money for parking, meals, and whatever. I checked my wallet and the “cookie jar.”

Between paydays often meant slim pickings moneywise. It was late Sunday, the banks were not open, and there were no ATMs on the way to Children’s Hospital I knew of—still, I needed money.

Then, I remembered the missionary envelope full of cash—tens, fives, and ones—from our Sunday School class. There was more than enough to cover the immediate expenses during Jeff’s initial hospitalization until I could get to the bank.

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God demonstrated in a very tangible way that He provides for his children.

Without a doubt, I know the Holy Spirit was at work in my Sunday School class. They did not realize God was using them to demonstrate His love and provision to a family about to encounter a desperate need. The Spirit did not shout from the podium; He simply whispered, and they heard Him and responded.

So, if you ever feel compelled to give money, time, or whatever, it could be the Holy Spirit allowing you to demonstrate God’s love, mercy, and provision to someone who desperately needs to know He is real and cares for them.

Oh, by the way, I returned the cash and much more.