My husband, Scott, is a wonderful gift giver. Early in our marriage he would give things that sparkle and delight. Diamonds and sapphires were his expressions of love that came from working hard making them the all the more valuable. Beautiful art found near and far marked our travels and surround me as I write today. With time the gifts became hearts of stone, or coral, or wood. He would search as we traveled creating a collection of objects that I deeply treasure. He gave to Africa New Life Ministries, a charity I love, to help build a hospital for our twenty-fifth anniversary. Yes, this man I love is a great gift giver.
However, the gift he returned home from his recent travels, was an unexpected, meaningful gift that delighted my heart.
He traveled recently with John Maxwell who has a A Reckless Dream of transforming lives, transforming communities, and transforming nations through value-based leadership curriculum. This man knows he was called by God and therefore not bound by the possible, but the limitless. Countries like Paraguay and around the world receive this beautiful gift from the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation (JMLF).
As Scott walked in the door we embraced, holding on to each other for a long time. We had been together most of the time during the last few months as Covid and a series of surgeries kept me homebound. This was our first long time apart.
He excitedly told me of all the life change he witnessed through the impact of the JMLF Country Transformation Initiative. However, one of the stories stood out to me as I have heard John talk about it previously. It was truly exchanging ashes for beauty as described in Isaiah 61:3.
The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura also began with a reckless dream. The dream of teaching music to impoverished children from Cateura who toiled and gathered from the largest landfill in Paraguay. Displaced and disowned children soon found beauty in the joy of music and playing instruments. However, as this dream grew, there was a need for more instruments. The inspired Founder, Favio Chavez, found the answer in the landfill from which the children had come. Instruments created from tin cans and discarded wood became the source for more music and more lives to be transformed by its beauty.
“The world gives us garbage, and we give them music,” [i] is written on the walls of the practice hall of this now famous orchestra. They play for Kings and Queens, Presidents, and in concert with musicians where stadiums are packed. It is said one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. In this case, one world’s trash is another world’s treasure.
John in his graciousness supports this beautiful vision with each trip that he makes to this country. He is given a beautiful instrument of wood and metal and string that will one day make wind music as if God had created the score. I have seen John give one of the violins to a dear friend of his. The excitement was shared among all of us who witnessed. He chose to give again on this recent trip, and I can imagine the loveliness of the moment as the instrument of transformatio was handed from child to recipient. The joy would be evident upon each face. However, I can see John’s smile and envision tears in his eyes as he watches with delight. He has lived out the truth that it is better to give than to receive. He is also a giver of good gifts.
Scott described the story of the transforming power of a child’s life changed by someone believing in them. We had seen this same transformation take place in the lives of children in Rwanda where we have partnered with Africa New Life Ministries for over a decade. He knew how much I would love to have heard this orchestra and see these children. That I would be inspired by those who made something from nothing.
Though thousands of miles apart, he never stops thinking of me. He knows my heart and it beats the same as his. Therefore, this man of mine asked humbly if he may follow in the footsteps of a man he loves and give to this story of stories. The answer was yes and the gift in return was a violin.
A slender, light, instrument that charms the soul now held in my hands. I turned it over and over as I marveled at the most wonderful source of delight.
Ashes for beauty. Garbage for music. Trash for treasure.
Yes, it was no ordinary gift.