THE RICH FAMILY IN OUR CHURCH
adapted from Edie Ogan
I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little
sister Ocy, 12, and my older sister Darlene, 16.
We lived at home with our mother, and the
four of us knew what it was to do without many
My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with
seven school kids to raise and no money. By 1946 my
older sisters were married, and my brothers had left home.
A month before Easter, the minister of our church
announced that a special offering would be taken
to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save
and give sacrificially. When we got home, we talked
about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds
of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would
allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering.
When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned
out as much as possible and didn't listen to the
radio, we'd save money on that month's electric
bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs
as possible, and both of us baby sat for everyone we could
. For 15 cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to
make three pot holders to sell for $1. We made $20
on pot holders.
That month was one of the best of our lives. Every
day we counted the money to see how much we had saved.
At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor
family was going to enjoy having the money the
church would give them. We had about 80 people in
church, so we figured that whatever amount of money
we had to give, the offering would surely
be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the
minister reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.
The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the
grocery store and got the manager to give us three
crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our
change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and
Darlene. We had never had so much money before.
That night we were so excited we could hardly
sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new
clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.
We could hardly wait to get to church!
On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own
an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from
our home, but it didn't seem to matter how
wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to
fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet
got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some
teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on
their old dresses. I looked at them in their new
clothes, and I felt so rich.
When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were
sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put
in the $10 bill, and each of us girls put in a $20.
As we walked home after church, we sang
all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us.
She had bought adozen eggs, and we had boiled
Easter eggs with our fried potatoes!
Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car.
Mom went to the door, talked with him for
a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her
hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word.
She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money.
There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and
seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the
envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor.
We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like
poor white trash.
We kids had had such a happy life that we felt sorry
for anyone who didn't have our mom and dad for
parents and a house full of brothers and
sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We
thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether
we got the fork or the spoon that night. We had two knives
which we passed around to whoever needed them.
I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other
people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.
That Easter Day I found out we were. The
minister had brought us the money for the poor
family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor.
I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes
and felt so ashamed that I didn't want to go back to
church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor.
We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got
dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls
went to school and came home, and no one
talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what
we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people
do with money? We didn't know.
We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go
to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to.
Although it was a sunny day, we didn't
talk on the way. Mom started to sing, but no one
joined in and she only sang one verse.
At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked
about how churches in Africa made buildings out of
sun-dried bricks, but they needed money to
buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a
church. The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to
help these poor people?"
We looked at each other and smiled for the first
time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and
pulled out the envelope. She passed it to
Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to
Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering. When the offering
was counted, the minister announced
that it was a little over $100. The missionary was
excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering
from our small church. He said, "You
must have some rich people in this church."
Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that
"little over $100." We were the rich family in
the church! Hadn't the missionary said so?
From that day on I've never been poor again.
I've always remembered how rich I am because I have
"And He looked up and saw the rich putting their
gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow
putting in two mites. So He said, 'Truly I say to you that this poor widow
has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put
in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the
livelihood that she had.' " (Luke 21:1-4).