Shirts for Christmas
“Discontent makes rich men poor while contentment makes poor men rich.” Anon
Sixty plus years ago times were tough in Brazil. Money was scarce especially for a young couple, Rev. José and his wife Irene who were planting a church in the outskirts of the city of São Paulo. They were facing a bleak Christmas for they needed to set aside money for surgery on their five year-old daughter Cleide. Their surgeon had recommended surgery on an umbilical cord hernia for she would begin school the first of the following year. And though the surgeon promised that he would not charge a fee, yet the hospital needed to be paid.
Pastor José and Dna Irene with daughter Cleide about this time of financial need.
With no money, José and Irene went to a Japanese friend for a loan and promised to pay it back month by month. But that meant there was no money for Christmas. Nothing! It was Irene’s practice each Christmas to buy her husband a fine white shirt but this year she explained there would be no such gift. Generally Irene would take his old shirts and turn the collars to hide the wear, however this was not an option that Christmas for every old shirt José had was already reworked as much as possible.
Irene laid out her dilemma of having no shirt to give at Christmas and with that José replied, “Don’t be sad Irene; all the shirts in the world belong to God. If He wishes to provide a shirt as a present that would not present a problem.” So in prayer José and Irene laid the matter of a shirt before the Lord.
A few days later, still before Christmas day, a sister to Irene who lived nearby saw that a truck moving a family had dropped a bundle in front of her house. She checked for the owner and watched for any truck looking for a box—but no one came to claim it. Opening it she found fine linens and shirts. Her husband and others of the family tried on the size 37 shirts but they found out that not one fit. Then thinking of José she brought the box to him, wondering if there might be somebody in the congregation that could use them.
Just the moment when Irene saw the shirts were José’s size she started to cry for she was sure the box of ten shirts was sent by God. The shirts, most of them almost new fit José exactly. Pastor José had more good shirts on hand than ever before in his life. She then told the story of how José had declared God owned all the shirts in this world. God had provided not just one shirt but many shirts for Jose’s Christmas.
But God’s answer to prayer did not end there. During his many years of ministry as a pastor José never again had to buy a shirt. Always shirts were given to him from one source or another. Always José had shirts on hand…good shirts until the day of his death. The shirts always came to him from unexpected sources
Still, the story has not ended. Remember the little girl Cleide that had surgery? Well, later in life she married Luiz Roberto who had grown up in abject poverty and later with his talent in music has sung in citywide crusades. Now get this—ever since he became José’s son-in-law until the moment I began to write this blog, he has never had to buy a shirt.
Years later this is the family who experienced the Miracles of Shirts. Luiz Roberto, Cleide, Dna Irene and Ivan. At this time pastor José had passed on to his eternal reward.
But the miracle of the shirts has not only touched Luiz but that of his son Ivan. Cleide told me that she gets so many shirts for him from a variety of people—yes, so many shirts that she has to give some away. Apparently the answer to José and Irene’s prayer of faith is that the blessing of shirts falls from one generation to another. There is more! One day Luiz Roberto was chatting with the pastor who had followed José and he told Luiz Roberto that through the prayers of José, that the same blessing of shirts came to him.
As I think of José and his family giving their lives to start a church I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Luke 6:38a, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap…” José himself after telling this story would quote, “My God, according to his riches, will supply all your needs according to his riches in Glory through Jesus Christ.”
Now a final note: Often when we have been in Brazil with work teams we have stayed in the home of Luiz, Cleide and Irene. Just before I wrote this story, I chatted with Luiz just to be sure I had the details right. Apparently it is all straight. Surely one of the proofs of the goodness of God at this Christmas season is this story of “Shirts for Christmas.”