A Basket Exchange

Posted on Posted in Mixed Nuts
by Bethany Butler

Earlier this year, while I was in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea in the village that I grew up in and I was invited to attend a “basket exchange”. It was organized by the local women and had over 250 participants. This particular one was set up between two villages within the same language group. Village #1 is known for making beautiful baskets and mats, something that the women in the Village #2 don’t have a lot of resources to make. So the women of Village #1 brought their baskets and mats, while the women of Village #2 brought skirts, blouses, plates, spoons, cups, buckets and pots to exchange.

The original idea was not an exchange; it was just giving because others were in need. Several ladies attended a convention, while they were at the convention they were overwhelmed with how much they had in comparison to others at the convention and those in the village they were visiting. Several of them were challenged to reach out to their community and surrounding villages and find areas in which they could help other women. The women in this village are not rich by Papua New Guinea standards and definitely not wealthy by Western standards. But, in Papua New Guinean culture you can very rarely ever give something without eventually receiving something in return, hence the formation of the “exchange”.

As I was waiting for things to start, chatting with one of my village mothers, a man whom I did not know came up and said, “Did you ask her yet?” Uh oh, I thought.  They wanted me to speak before the actual exchanging of baskets.  Mark 12:41-44 immediately popped in my mind because I had been meditating on it the previous week. The program was starting in about 10 min, so I quickly grabbed my notebook, scribbled some things down, reread the mentioned passage that I had written in my notebook and the next thing I knew I was in front of a crowd of over 400 people.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

God challenged people’s motivations for giving that day and stirred people’s hearts, and mine too. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 says it all. I get emotional when I speak, this time was no different.  Afterwards several girls that I spent a lot of time with when I was younger came up to me sobbing.  They got it. I quietly thanked God for using me in that small way to draw some closer to him.

Bethany grew up in Likan where her parents William and Robin Butler are translators in the Waran language.

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