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The Special Gift

God rewards this 12-year-old, her pastor and her church for her faithfulness to His promise of multiplication—a promise of much greater effect.

It's one of Toronto's most popular radio contests. The tenth caller to CHUM-FM tries to Beat the Bank, by having a chance to open a vault containing money before an alarm sounds. Contestants can stop the contest at any time and walk away with whatever amount the current vault contains, but if they decide to play on and the alarm sounds, they lose it all.

"I wanted to give something," she said, "but I don't have a job and I don't receive an allowance."

Highly entertaining, you find yourself playing along as the contestant chooses to keep the current prize money or tries to beat the bank for the $250,000 grand prize. The caveat for those who decide to walk away with the cash on hand is that once they have ended their turn, the D-jay opens the remaining vaults to see how much money they could have won. Sometimes the next vault contains $10,000 or $50,000; but at other times the alarm sounds and a grateful contestant thanks the D-jay as if it was his money the station was giving away. What would you do? Settle for a sure thing or take a chance and risk losing it all?

I'm not sure if Ralph Mills, the senior pastor of Bethel Gospel Tabernacle (BGT) in Hamilton, has ever heard of Beat the Bank or if he even listens to adult contemporary FM, but earlier this year he faced a similar dilemma.

In February 2003, 12-year-old Lilly Tjeng and her mother Indra, newcomers to BGT, made an appointment with Pastor Mills to present their gift to "Decrease our mortgage, increase our ministry," a five-year capital campaign to eliminate the church mortgage. They mentioned that they were prepared to give $3,000 but felt that God wanted to "multiply" the gift.

Lilly showed Pastor Mills a painting she had made for the church, of a bouquet of flowers, entitled Special Gift. She explained that she got the idea from a message Pastor Mills had preached several weeks earlier on using what is in your hands to bless the Lord. For Lilly, a humble young girl who exudes maturity and poise well beyond her age, the sermon gave her an idea.

"I wanted to give something," she said, "but I don't have a job and I don't receive an allowance." Sure, she could drop her mother's envelope into the offering plate but, as she explained, "It wasn't real. It seemed so fake to me."

Lilly is an award-winning artist (see Bethel Girl Wins Art Contest) and her hand often holds a paintbrush. She believed God was telling her to use this ability to give something substantial to the Lord's work. In her personal devotions, Lilly was impressed by how God often multiplied a person's humble gift to bring about a greater effect. "I really believe," Lilly explained to Pastor Mills, "that God wants to multiply my gift as well." So instead of donating the $3,000, Lilly and her mom decided to use the money to print 500 limited edition lithographs of Special Gift, which would be donated to the church for debt reduction.

"Pastor, how do you argue with the faith of a 12-year-old girl and God?"

Pastor Mills couldn't get over the enthusiasm and faith of this young person but wondered privately now the congregation would respond. All of his misgivings vanished when one of the board members said: "Pastor, how do you argue with the faith of a 12-year-old girl and God?"

Inspired by Lilly's faith, Pastor Mills preached on God's principle of multiplication on May 25, and how God can use young people to accomplish His will. He used a boy's lunch to feed 5,000 people; He used a teenager named David to defeat a giant warrior named Goliath; and He was going to use a 12-year-old girl named Lilly Tjeng to help beat down a mortgage that in 1998 stood at $1.7 million. At the end of that service, people surrounded Lilly, worried that 500 prints might not be enough to satisfy everyone in the congregation. About 1,400 people attend BGT on any given Sunday.

On October 26, Bethel burned the church mortgage. In total $74,200 had been raised through Special Gift, confirming that God is still honouring faith and humility and blessing any person and any ability that is surrendered to Him.

Rick Hiebert is the editor of Testimony.

Originally published in Testimony, December 2003.




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