Everything's still going great here in Hawaii. We just keep teaching and baptizing!
For this letter I wanted to talk about the importance of tithing. Tithing is kind of a big deal in our branch because of the fact that we're only a branch. In order for a branch to become a ward, there has to be at least 15 full tithe payers. Our branch averages around 200 people at sacrament meeting every week, but we are still a branch because almost all of the members only pay a partial tithe.
For our fifthdiscussion, our branch president talked to the adults in the ward about tithing. He drew out the average income for a Marshallese household and after paying rent, electricity, and tithing, there was only about $400 left for everything else for the rest of the month. That includes gas, car, food, clothes, and everything else you might need. The Marshallese people are very poor, so you can see why it's hard for a lot of people to put that much faith into paying their tithing. It would mean possibly going without food, or not having enough gas to get to their jobs.
A lot of them also feel embarrassed or inadequate because their tithing wouldn't amount to that much. But our branch president gave a really good example by sharing the story of the widow's mite. He said that our Savior had a deeper love and respect for this woman, not because of the amount which she cast in, but because of her willingness to give everything she has to the Lord. He told his disciples that with those two small mites, the widow had cast in more than any of the others. Because the others gave of their excess, but she gave all.
I really feel so blessed and humbled to work with these people because of the sacrifices they make for the Lord. There are many times when the members don't eat with us, because they are giving up their dinner to feed the missionaries. They put their best food out, even if it means they might not eat for a couple of days that month. I feel like the world could learn a profound lesson about charity from these people. They are so happy when they have so much they could be unhappy about.
Relating this to tithing, we need to put the Lord first. In D&C He says "I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise". If we pay our full tithe, regardless of the circumstances, the Lord has promised us that he will open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing, so much that we won't have room enough to receive it. In those same verses where that promise is found, it also asks this question: Will ye rob God?
I like to teach the principle of tithing by telling the people that the Lord has given them all that they have, and he's only asked for a little bit back in return. We should be more than ready to give at least 10% back to Him, as a sign of our gratitude, and willingness to obey.
I know that if we put the Lord first, he will always take care of us. If we show that faith, then he will bless us in ways we could never imagine.
So it may be in tithing, or it may be with something else. But I hope this week you'll all remember to put God first!