DON'T DESPAIR: A Boomerang Bonanza--and A Mission's Story at the Same Time

DON'T DESPAIR: A Boomerang Bonanza--and A Mission's Story at the Same Time



I wish that I was the first to find this story… It makes me laugh every single time I remember it.

Years ago when I was quite low, I was driving on the north side of the city of Edmonton, and turned the radio on—only to hear Chuck Swindoll tell this astonishing story… it immediately cheered me up—and does to this day, whenever we are in a tough spot.

The year was 1910—right after the great missionary conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. A young American woman from the US West coast sensed the call of God to share the gospel in the interior of Africa. Her entire family were believers, every last one of them—and her church was astonished that she would do such a thing—yet they got behind her, and began to pray for her. Eventually she took a very long train journey across the continental US to get to New York City to take the ship to the West coast of Africa.

She arrived a few days before the departure, and was staying in a mission house with a family in an upper story room with a large slider window overlooking the street. Of course, she would likely never see her family or her friends again. She was delighted to receive a letter, with scores of handwritten notes from people in her church, telling her how much they loved her, how they would pray for her, asking her for a list of needs, so that they could help out any way they could from their side of the earth.

There was a separate envelope, with a very special gift inside—a special hand crafted card, with a note from all her family. Inside was a ten dollar bill—her family, friends and church had scraped and saved and scrounged to be able to send her that gift.

Remember this was 1910—a nickel would buy you a meal out, a roll of bubble gum was a penny. It was more than a month’s wages for an average worker. Of course, the cards and letters, and the sacrificial gift of money—well it moved her to the depths.

She went over to the window and leaned her head against the glass, closing her eyes as hot tears of gratitude flowed out of her to thank God for all the wonderful people in her life.

She opened her eyes and looked out onto the street—there was a scruffy, unshaven, shabbily dressed man leaning against a light standard. His hair was dishevelled, and he was looking down as he leaned against that post. It was clear he was considerably more than down and out, and extremely depressed.

The missionary lady saw him and felt compassion for the fellow. She started to pray—and as she did, she sensed to take a sacrificial act to bless this man.

She found an envelope, put the $10.00 bill inside and wrote two words on the front.

The two words were “DON’T DESPAIR”.

Then she opened the old-fashioned slider window, and called to the man, who looked up. They locked eyes and he nodded; she waved the letter, and then dropped the envelope. He picked it up and read the two words. Opening the envelope and seeing the money he nodded again with an enormous grin on his face. She giggled, laughed, waved and said, “I’ll be praying.”

How would you have reacted? A month’s wages, falling out of the sky! Wow. The man went skipping away, obviously overjoyed.

Press pause!

After the missionary lady she did that, she wondered at her sanity—that was an enormous gift to give to a total stranger, but she realized that she was surrounded by love, and prayer, and purpose. This man had nothing. With that done, she went about her day, making final arrangements for her sea voyage to Africa.

The next day, early, early in the morning, while it was still quite dark, there was a banging on the front door of the missions’ home where the lady was staying. The couple didn’t want to answer, but the banging continued, waking everyone in the house. Eventually, when four or five were awake and concerned, they answered and met a clean-shaven man, in a fresh shirt, pressed clothing, and combed hair. He had an enormous grin on his face. He insisted on seeing the young lady on the second story.

Eventually they woke her and in her dressing gown she was descending down the banister stairway. He was in the front entry landing; she was about 5 or 6 steps up from the bottom, surrounded by five or six from the mission house.

“Here’s your $50.00!” the man said, as he handed the lady a manilla envelope, his eyes sparkling with delight!

“$50.00?” she said. “Why I gave you $10.00, and told you ‘Don’t Despair’!”

“Yes, you did!” he said. “And you were right! ‘Don’t Despair’ came in 5 to 1!”

To say, “God works in mysterious ways!’ would be an understatement. It is so easy to be misunderstood—even when our intentions are good!

When I heard Swindoll tell that story, despite my lousy mood, I burst out laughing—and whenever I’m tempted to despair, I remember that crazy outworking of events…

And it reminds me of all the times that God supplied. And He did. Almost always, God’s supply came when I was doing something generous—giving, rather than taking, serving, rather than being served.

In these days of being stuck in the house, most of us are depressed with being house bound, or unable to work, or just plain old lonely. It’s worse if we are ill, or our body isn’t working like it should… And our temptation is to despair.

Yet somehow, find a way to give to another, and as you do, the despair loosens its grip on our souls. And something wonderful gets set into motion…

That missionary understood what Jesus meant when our Lord said this:

Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out an unfailing treasure in heaven… for where your treasure is, they your heart will be also.

Luke 12:33a,34 NASB

She was astonished to discover the power of something else that Jesus said. In fact, the return likely made her laugh for years to come. Here is what Jesus said about giving and receiving:

Give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together and running over, shall they pour into your bosom… Luke 6:38 KJV

© David Chotka 2020