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From the Rev: The Widow's Oil

There is a story told in the scriptures of the Hebrew prophet Elisha and a widow who had two sons. The woman’s husband had apparently been in service to Elisha at some point, but since his death she was unable to provide and unable to pay off debts that were owed. As 2 Kings 4 relates, Elisha asked the woman two questions – “How can I help you?” and “What do you have?”

As I drove this past weekend to meet with and counsel a player, I looked at the gas gauge and reflected on this story and how some of you have supported the ministry of CrossTraining over the past few years. Interestingly, the woman in the story cannot (or at least does not) answer Elisha’s first question, “How can I help you?” Some of you that have been following CrossTraining and its growth and evolution over the past 10 years or so have walked with our little organization – and many times we have not been able to answer that question, either. Whether due to the youth and inexperience of our leadership (i.e. me) or due to the seeming overwhelming amount of work, there have been many times when we weren’t sure “how” we needed help – we just knew that we did.

The wise among you have not stopped at the first question though, you have asked the second question which is vital for helping people (and organizations, too) get unstuck at times. Reflecting on ‘what one has’ is a helpful way of looking at the resources, talents, skills, and blessings that already exist and offering those things to other who have power or abilities beyond our own.

The woman knows that Elisha is connected – to God. And she cries out to him for her needs – her need for salvation, help, deliverance for her sons. Elisha commands her – to take what she has and pour it out. In a sense, Elisha tells the woman to take the very last of what she has and to use it (by faith) in an outpouring. The miraculous result is a lot of full oil containers.

Sometimes people wrongly believe that the oil was unlimited – not so. The miracle is  limited by another factor – the number of empty jars made available in the village. Would there have been more oil? Perhaps, but we will never know. What we do know is this (1) the oil was enough to pay off the debt and (2) the oil was enough for the widow and her sons to live off of. Before considering whether this is some proof text for a prosperity gospel, we ought to consider that once the sons were able to start work of their own, they would have been responsible for caring for mom.

The key point of the narrative, as I reflect on CrossTraining and the ministry over the years, is the word “enough.” Over 10 years, God has faithfully provided for the ministry – whether in Denver to the Colorado Rapids or in Portland to the Portland Timbers. There has always been “enough” to pay for the ministry expenses and “enough” from our other jobs and work to provide for CrossTraining chaplains and their families to live off of. And there is so much that we owe to those of you that have prayed for and financially supported the work that we are doing. 

Sometimes, ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem to do justice to how we really feel about our supporters who have stood behind us time and time again. But, if I could take just a moment here, again, to say it – “Thank You.” You have helped us to multiply the work and things that we are able to do and for that we are tremendously grateful.


Rev. Brad Kenney

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